LOUISIANA BIRD RECORDS COMMITTEE REPORT FORM
1. English and Scientific names: Smith's Longspur (Calcarius pictus)
2. Number of individuals, sexes, ages, general plumage (e.g., 2 in alternate plumage): 10 on 12-18-11 (including 3 or more males, rest females) and 34 on 2-11-12 (including 8-10 males, rest females)
3. Locality: LOUISIANA: (parish) ___Caddo_________________________________________
Specific Locality: Shreveport Municipal Airport- open fields near runways/area west of Kennedy and W 70th 70th_________________________________________________________
4. Date(s) when observed: 12-18-11 and 2-11-12
5. Time(s) of day when observed: On 12-18-11= between 3 p.m. and 3:45, Justin followed a gp slightly longer. On 2-11-12= approx between 2:30 and 3:15 p.m.
6. Reporting observer and address: Terry Davis, 2327 Walnut, Apt C, Bosier City, La 71112 firstname.lastname@example.org (318) 934-2133
7. Other observers accompanying reporter who also identified the bird(s): On 12-18-11= Justin Bosler and Rosemary Seidler. On 2-11-12= Larry Raymond, Danny Dobbs and Dr Jay Huner.
8. Other observers who independently identified the bird(s)
9. Light conditions (position of bird in relation to shade and to direction and amount of light): 12-18-11 = Good, but more brief views than on 2-11-12 (except for Justin, who observed a few of the gp on the ground to the northwest for a short time afterward) with later afternoon light and birds to east, north, west and south when circling. 2-11-12 = The birds were observed for one of the best and most extended periods of the survey history. We were successful finding them earlier in the day than usual and had views at close range on the ground, then flushed and followed several more times.
10. Optical equipment (type, power, condition): Brunton Eterna 11 x 45's in good optical condition
11. Distance to bird(s): From 20+ feet on the ground, although several indivs flushed on separate occasions nearly underfoot/ a couple of feet away during the surveys. In flight from close by to nearly .5 miles away as they often continuously circled in a very wide arc, then tightening that arc in the general area near us and original flushing points in preparation to land.
12. Duration of observation: 12-18-11 = 20 minutes off and on for Rosemary and I. Slightly longer for Justin. 2-11-12 On and off for 45 minutes or more.
13. Habitat: Open, flat, poor-soiled and sparsely grassed with native clumping types such as Aristida, Andropogon, others (very little Andropogon in the immediate vicinity of Smith's observations). The area was covered with bare ground within and below the thin, wispy Aristida. There was quite a bit of grayish lichen-like moss growing in the immediate vicinity, in the small bare patches between clumps of Aristida- but very few other plants. An additional note is that the birds were only found well away- at least 2-300 yards from any trees or other obstacles on the open ground
14. Behavior of bird / circumstances of observation (flying, feeding, resting; include and stress habits used in identification; relate events surrounding observation):
12-18-11 = I only had a brief look at one probable female on the ground this day. Justin might have had a better look when following the birds to the northwest after a subsequent flushing. We had good looks in flight but late afternoon light not near as good to separate from LALO with while in flight by plumage. The birds did not circle as much on this date before putting back down.
2-11-12 = We were within mere feet of the entire group on the ground three times, yet only were able to observe a few indivs on the ground during those times. Although the grass was only a few inches tall and rather sparse, they were yet very hard to see/locate as they crouched and remained still. Often on previous surveys, we'd note indivs beginning to scurry like mice after we'd stood still for awhile, not so on this occasion. The only movement on ground noted was birds seen that remained after first flushing and kept in view after landing, then crouched and almost immediately melted into the thin grass. The group was noted to stay in flight on at least two occasions after flushing for a considerable length of time- up to 5+ minutes. Often they would fly far and wide making a 1/4+ mile circle several times around us, then tighten this circle in preparation to land nearby once again. They seemed to slightly respond to playback of song (no rattles on copy used) with an indiv noted giving a few stuttered, short notes of possible song in flight- and also by tightening the circling more notably around us after we used it.
15. Description (include only what was actually seen, not what "should" have been seen; include if possible: total length/relative size compared to other familiar species, body bulk, shape, proportions, bill, eye, leg, and plumage characteristics. Stress features that separate it from similar species): Small to medium-sized Emberizids, brownish above in back and wings with distinct darker streaking on mantle and edging to remiges and tertials. Thin whitish wingbars and notable very white lesser wing coverts above with darkly/blackish-scalloped edges in males. Warm brownish rufescent greater coverts also absent with wings appearing more unicolor separated them from Lapland. Less heavy-billed than Lapland and noticeable thin, crisp whitish eyering separating from that species as well. Auriculars also appear to be less heavily/well-formed along the moustachial than LALO, also faint break toward the rear of the auriculars but post-ocular stripe only slightly more-so well-defined than Lapland. First impression of a Smith's to me on the ground is the auriculars show more of a capitol C, whereas that of Lapland looks more-so fully enclosed. Adult male Smith's again appear to be distinctive due to wing pattern, although this can be partly, almost totally obscured when relaxed. Below they were notably buffier, with adult males showing this best. I still believe females and female-type Lapland can be very tough to judge on the amount of buffiness below, especially when in flight in the orangy afternoon light which can cast a buffy appearance even on pure white. However, when well seen on the ground, the Smith's were noted to have only faint and less-distinct smudgy streaking versus the more heavily-streaked Laplands with whiter lower bellies when seen on the ground on 12-18-11. Longspurs in general, certainly SMLO and LALO, are fairly rapid fliers. Because of that, judging the slightly less amount of white in outer rectrices would be much easier in a late morning survey with good light. I find this very tough for the most part in mid-late afternoon light while in flight.
16. Voice: I find this to be our best defense, especially concerning females since they always make up a larger portion of the group and are tougher to separate from Laplands in flight- when observing in available harsh afternoon light.
On 12-18-11, The first thing I heard were Laplands with their distinctly softer, faster more crispy rattles with less-countable indiv notes= "pr't't'tic along with high, descending, clear, sweetly whistled "bew" or "peer" calls- versus Smith's harder and slower Brown-headed Cowbird-like "b'b'b'bit" rattle call- with indiv notes more countable and lacking any sweet, descending whistled calls except a softer, ascending meadowlark-like "whree". The Laplands were also the first to both flush and be observed on the ground on 12-18-11. The smaller Smith's gp flushed afterward with their harder calls and intermixing with a larger gp of Lapland ensued. Lapland rattles and "peer" calls way outnumbered those of Smith's while the gp was observed in flight, although we were able to ascertain at least 8 indivs Smith's upon flushing before they mixed with Smith's, with two others added during subsequent observation of the gp by Justin.
2-11-12- All sight on ground and calls in flight eliminated Lapland- except for aggressional "yid-yeet" or "zyid-zeet" calls which are closely approximated by Lapland and Swamp Sparrow, the latter of which would almost never figure in, due to habitat preferences, anyway. This call seems only to be given when one bird in a gp flying overhead makes sudden swerves toward another indiv in the gp. Also frequently heard this day were distinct, soft, sibilant/buzzy and level "szyn" calls, also the frequently given, softly-whistled and ascending, meadowlark-like "whree". Due probably in response to playback, a couple of birds were also heard to give a brief string of high, short and sweet, yet slightly buzzy notes, possibly winter attempts at song. I would phonetically describe this as "p'p'pree'pree" and variations.
17. Similar species (include how they were eliminated by your observation): Lapland eliminated above in both plumage detail and sounds. Chestnut-collared and McCowns both eliminated by much more white in the outer rectrices and Chestnut-collared certainly by sounds. I have zero experience with McCown's. They appear to be very drab in winter plumage from studied material- yet some vocals, especially the rattle, sound quite close to Lapland in some recordings.
18. Photographs or tape recordings obtained? (by whom? attached?):
19. Previous experience with this species: Short periods of winter only in the past 15+ years, although much study of materials has been done, especially in earlier days. Rarely observed in fall or winter in other areas away from the airport. Once or twice in n Caddo, near Hosston, then a tired, therefore seemingly super-tame gp that fell out in the tiny patch of Aristida available at Bodcau spillway spillover field during a BSG trip there to find Henslow's Sparrow. The indivs were observed very high overhead going south, then dropped in and were followed, then observed from mere feet away, then began walking and feeding as if we weren't even standing there.
20. Identification aids: (list books, illustrations, other birders, etc. used in identification):
a. at time of observation:
b. after observation:
21. This description is written from: _some___ notes made during the observation (_____notes attached?);_some____notes made after the observation (date:__12-18-11 and 2-11-12___); _____memory.
22. Are you positive of your identification if not, explain: Yes.
23. Date:__2-26-12________Time 7:24 p.m._______