58-B-2017 LeConte’s Sparrow

STATUS
Accepted
DATE VOTING COMPLETED
1ST ROUND
7-0
HOW MANY OBSERVED?
1
DATE SIGHTING OCCURRED
DATE REPORT PREPARED
REPORTER
Bryce Robinson
OTHER OBSERVERS
I found the bird on a Golden Eagle Audubon Society field trip at the Ted Trueblood WMA. I spotted the bird skulking in the reeds downhill from the parking area, along the road on the south side just after the fence ladder. Most of the field trip participants were able to get looks at the bird. Unfortunately I was unable to get any photos at the time of the initial observation. The bird continues, and many birders have since been able to document it through photos and video.
LOCALITY OF OBSERVATION
Ted Trueblood WMA, Elmore Co., ID, USA. The bird has spent its time in the reeds downhill from the parking area, along the road on the south side just after the fence ladder.
HABITAT WHERE THE BIRD WAS OBSERVED
Marsh. Dense reeds adjacent to the roadway. Similar habitat to what is preferred by Marsh Wren.
SIGHTING DURATION, CONDITIONS, and EQUIPMENT USED
Initially we observed the bird for about 15-20 minutes. Weather was cold(~35 degrees F) but sunny, no wind. I first spotted the bird naked eye, then obtained clear view through my Zeiss Conquest 8x42 binoculars. Sun position was about 170 degrees, and we were looking into the sun to observe the bird. However, the bird was skulking in the reeds so we were generally looking down and not directly into the sun.
DID YOU TAKE NOTES?
Yes, another day after the observation
DID YOU CONSULT A FIELD GUIDE OR OTHER REFERENCE WORK?
Yes, later the same day
WHICH GUIDE(S) OR REFERENCE(S): DID YOU CONSULT?
Sibley Guide to Birds, David Sibley, 2016.
DESCRIPTION OF THE BIRD(s)
Small Passerellidae sparrow, relatively short tail, strong streaking on flanks (thin but prominent), gray nape with reddish streaking, orange wash with grey on face, pale bill. Distinctly shaped like Ammodrammus in bill, head, and body structure.
BEHAVIOR OF THE BIRD(s)
Unfortunately the bird didn't vocalize. It was extremely skulky, remaining in good cover amidst the reeds for the entire time we observed. Occasionally it would come higher in the reeds, but it mostly disappeared near the ground for minutes at a time.
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU POSITIVELY IDENTIFY THE BIRD, AND WHAT CLINCHED THE IDENTIFICATION FOR YOU?
I knew the bird was an ammodrammus when I first looked at it through my binoculars. It took me about ten seconds or so before I settled on Le Conte's, after seeing the orange wash, streaked flanks, gray on cheeks and nape.
HOW DID YOU ELIMINATE SIMILAR SPECIES? WHAT WERE THEY?
Eliminated from other Ammodrammus sparrows by gray nape with fine red streaks (appears purple gray in field), crisp marking on flanks.
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THIS (AND SIMILAR) SPECIES?
Interestingly, I was part of the same field trip group at the same location that found Idaho's second record of LeConte's Sparrow in 2014. Apart from personal study in field guides, this has been my only exposure to the species.
DESCRIBE YOUR GENERAL BIRDING EXPERIENCE
I have been birding since I was 8. I have been seriously listing for about 6 years. My birding expertise is probably best described as above average.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION (If any)
Although not photographed at the time of the initial discovery, this bird has since been photographed multiple times.
WERE PHOTO(S), VIDEO, AND/OR AUDIO OBTAINED FROM THIS SIGHTING?
None

FIRST ROUND VOTING:

Cliff Weisse
Accept

I feel the description is sufficient to support identification of LeConte's Sparrow.

Shirley Sturts
Accept

Field marks given were convincing plus the fact that it was later seen and photographed by several experienced birders

Carl Lundblad
Accept

Good description by Bryce, Great Find! I found this photo online (https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S40812453), and it would be good to get it incorporated into the official documentation of this record. I seem to recall seeing additional better photos posted somewhere, but can't find them. We should encourage multiple observers to submit documentation for review species, especially when others have additional (physical) documentation that the finder was unable to secure. 20 people reported this bird to eBird, but the IBRC only got a single submission and no photos?

Dave Trochlell
Accept

I thought that the description was convincing, and seemed to eliminate other similar-looking sparrow species.

Jay Carlisle
Accept

well described and I saw the bird in question on the same day

Darren Clark
Accept

Description is good and diagnostic photos were later taken

Doug Ward
Accept

While would have preferred all field marks to be included in the observer’s description (ie; tail shape, back, & crown patterning), good discussion of the key identification points, particularly structure, were provided. Great bird!