Re: McCown's Longspur in Fish Lake Valley

Observers: Kristie Nelson
Remote Name:
Date: 08/07/2004
Time: 07:33 PM -0400


McCown's LS would be very unusual, especially given the date. Not to damper the thrill, but longspur ID (and sparrows in general) is complex, and longspurs are quite variable. I would not take that the breast looked clear (especially given the viewing conditions) as a reason for it not being a Chestnut-collared, which is the expected longspur of this region. The two can be very similar, and using multiple field marks, for these two particularly call and primary projection, would help nail ID. It pays to get a real good look at a longspur, especially an out-of-range/date and tricky one like MCLO. Even experienced birders with longspur experience make mistakes on these guys. Particualrly noting things like details in primary projection/feather alighnment, tail pattern, call, and also bill shape/color, overall shape, etc. are good. I'd be hesitant to make observational conclusions on a bird in the headlights at night. Since the tail pattern (white) was not noted, the suggestion of female house sparrow and Black-throated sparrow makes me wonder about Dickcissel. Not to spoil the fun, but just want you to know that longspur ID is very tricky, especially without much experience or knowing what specifically to look for (and MCLO in July would be spectacular). Check out lower Dechambeau area (Short-eared owl meadow), or places with lots of Horned Larks in mid-late October and longspurs should be around. They are really fun birds. All the best, Kristie