LOUISIANA BIRD RECORDS COMMITTEE REPORT FORM
1. English and Scientific names: Cassin's Sparrow: Aimophila cassinii
2. Number of individuals, sexes, ages, general plumage (e.g., 2 in alternate plumage): 1-3 adults on different dates between 05-01 and 06-01-2011 consisting of 2 adult males and 1 ad female.
3. Locality: LOUISIANA: (parish) __Bossier_______________________________________
Specific Locality: _Cane's Landing on Red River in Bossier City, near both downtown Shreveport and downtown Bossier City________________________________________________________
4. Date(s) when observed: 05-01, 05-04, 05-07, 05-08, 05-14, 05-21, 05-28, 05-30, and 6-01-11. I returned on 06-08 and 06-11 but did not detect any Cassin's, albeit after lingering quite some time and again using very brief playback.
5. Time(s) of day when observed: different times on different dates, but usually in a.m. and mostly fairly early at dawn or shortly after
6. Reporting observer and address: Terry Davis, 2327 Walnut st, apt C, Bossier City, Louisiana. 71112
7. Other observers accompanying reporter who also identified the bird(s): 05-01-11: Jeff Trahan, Rosemary Seidler. 5-04-11: Hubert Hervey. 5-07-11: Marty Guidry, Charlie Lyon, Dave Patton and Paul Conover. 05-14-11: Justin and Devin Bosler. 05-21-11: 3 birds for certain are observed. With Rosemary Seidler (in part). 5-28-11: Hubert Hervey, Jeff Trahan, Larry Raymond, Jeanette Hotard. 5-30-11: Jeff Harris, Christine Kooi.
8. Other observers who independently identified the bird(s): Nancy Newfield, John Sevenair, Jay Huner, Matt Pontiff (who also strongly suspected a 2nd male) Mary Mehaffey (who saw a 2nd male). There are others I cannot remember at present.
9. Light conditions (position of bird in relation to shade and to direction and amount of light): Most visuals were with bird(s) to the n, nw, ne, e and sw.
10. Optical equipment (type, power, condition): Brunton eterna 11x45 in used but good optical condition. Viewed through various spotting scopes.
11. Distance to bird(s): various, from 10-15 feet to 75-100 yds
12. Duration of observation: various, from a few minutes to on-and-off at +,- 1 hr.
13. Habitat: Along Red River in close proximity to urbanization in all directions. Open, grassy field with tall weeds and some bare dirt at immediate area- Weeds mostly giant ragweed, Johnson grass+ others, sapling black and possibly sandbar willow, cocklebur, Helianthus sp., Brazilian vervain, cottonwood saplings. The first bird appeared to be using and skylarking along the top/adjacent plateau of a small slope comprised mainly of 2-4' giant ragweeds (4-6' in later surveys), cocklebur and various grasses- this adjacent to the slope, which was comprised mostly of dense, short 1-2" willow saplings with a substrate of smaller weeds and bare sand to the bottom of the slope and continuing across the now dry remnant of a pond (formerly surrounded by larger willow saplings and former location for breeding Willow Flycatchers before being bulldozed beginning the previous fall.) The 2nd male was mostly observed to the e and along a line of weeds bordered by a higher bare dirt area recently bulldozed with much push-ups, sticks, and debris- both natural and man-made. The female was mostly seen in an area of slightly shorter grass adjacent the dirt rd running e/w toward and away from Red River, which is bordered by a fencerow comprised of taller grass, weeds and scattered hackberry, black willow and large, roughly triangular concrete pylons spaced fairly closely at their bases e to w. This fencerow borders the s side of the entire area.
14. Behavior of bird / circumstances of observation (flying, feeding, resting; include and stress habits used in identification; relate events surrounding observation):
1.05-01-11: 1 indiv/1st male, possibly another heard. I arrived for survey and first heard the bird singing at 3:30 p.m. to my northeast at 100+ yards. The wind was brisk sw and numerous Dickcissels were calling. I heard the song twice again to confirm then called Jeff Trahan at 3:50. He arrived shortly thereafter and we spotted the bird perched atop a ragweed at 4:25 p.m. We briefly used playback to secure closer looks. Jeff obtained photos shortly thereafter. We were able to identify the bird by the songs, calls, long graduated tail with faint spots at outer tips and by the rufescent-tinged crown with fine streaking when seen at close range. Rosemary and Mac Hardy arrived later. Rosemary was able to see a Cassin's perched briefly on one of the large concrete pylons on the s side of the e/w dirt rd toward river and also was able to identify the brief songs that we heard late in the day. I strongly believed I'd heard two separate males sing briefly earlier in the day but was not positive of this. I observed an indiv perched on a pylon as I left.
2. 05-04-11: 1 indiv/1st male. Hubert and I arrived at the exact location around 0730 and watched the bird sing and skylark frequently for 30 minutes, often very close by- with some visuals as close as 10-15 feet as the bird skylarked and then would occasionally "float" down in our direction. The bird almost seemed as if to be showing off for us. It was noted that this bird seemed to have more of a random pattern to landing after skylarking bouts, seeming to continue on forward or off to the side landing at a different location. This was unlike the bird found in 2008 at Viking dr., which would skylark out in a large foreward semi-circle, then letting wind drift it back,landing at or approx near the same point skylarking began. Skylarking began with bird exiting perch or hidden location within undergrowth beginning rather quickly in flight giving first note of song. The bird then slows in flight while going upward as the second trilled portion of song is uttered, accompanied by notably exaggerated spreading of tail and wings. The wings are flapped/fluttered at an extremely shallow arc at this time, then final two notes given at top of arc with head thrown back and bill pointed skyward, somewhat perpendicular to the more horizontal, although slightly raised plane of the body at the time. On some occasions the final two notes were given moreso as the bird dropped back into the vegetaion or onto a perch. I'd heard the bird on my way to the location while still s of the dropoff, which is at least 400 or so yards s of the exact location. The song really carries.
3. 05-07-11: 1 indiv/1st male. Marty, Charlie, Dave, Paul and I observed the bird for 20-+ minutes on and off as it sang and skylarked beginning around 0845. I arrived later at 1039 a.m. and recorded the following frequency/ time-lapses between skylarking bouts- f after time= full sklarking with song, other numbers/amount of seconds only indicate song only: 58sf, 15sf, 15sf, 15, 8, 8, 15sf, 8, 8, 8, 9, 7, 9, 10, 15, 15, 49f, 1m,23f, 1m,5f, 55f, 15f, 9, 10, 5, 10, 10, 13f, 9, 15f, 21, 1m,59f, 38.
4. 05-08-11- 1 indiv/1st male I arrived on-site 4:35 p.m. and conducted another brief skylarking/song frequency survey. Male 1 was first heard at 4:40 p.m. with full skylarking. It was hot and noted that the song was much less emphatic and barely audible at times. Much panting/gular fluttering was noted. The bird sat perched atop a single ragweed for the duraton of the count, although singing quite frequently: 4:40 p.m., f, 15, 10, 10, 10, 11, 13, 10, 12, 11, 14, 10, 8, 9, 12, 13, 11, 13, 20, 14, 12.
5. 05-14-11. 2 indivs/ 1st and 2nd male. There are 2 indiv CASP for sure. Devin, Justin and I arrived on-site shortly after 10:30 a.m. We heard the 1st male again from 400 or so yards south of the location before we arrived against a fairly brisk n wind. We watched the bird for 25-30 minutes in which it sang many times but skylarked less frequently than on earlier a.m dates- approx 75 to + songs in the duration. After we'd been listening for several minutes, we heard another individual sing, which song appeared to originate from approximately a little less than a 100 yards east of the first bird. We heard this separate song 8 times, 3 of which were simultaneous, or nearly so as song from the first bird during the observation.
6. 05-21-11. 3 indivs heard and observed, 2 males, 1 female. Two brief bouts of copulation in quick succession observed between the second male (the male heard only infrequently before this time). With Rosemary Seidler in part. First heard male approx 75 yards to the south of the dropoff before arriving, which is 400-+ yards s of the site. Both males are singing as I arrive at 0610, although second male not showing itself frequently as the first approx 100 yds to the east of the second and skylarking frequently. I walked east behind pylons and stood up against one approx 30 feet s-e of the red metal gate. The first male observed singing from ragweeds at edge fairly close approx 75 feet w of metal gate, approx 40 feet away to my west. I finally spotted the 2nd male a ways to the n/ne of the gate (approximately 75' away) after he begins skylarking and landing on sticks, an upended car bumper, and Brazilian Vervain along the weedy edge adjacent a higher bulldozed, mostly dirt area with much sticks, concrete and debris. As soon as I'd gotten set up beside the pylon, I had also began hearing high-pitched "ti" calls given in fairly fast succession which appeared to be originating from very close by in the grass at the edge of the rd across from my position. I wondered whether it might be a female as the other bird was skylarking frequently to the west and 2nd male to the n/nw. Shortly afterward, the female exited the grass low, flying slowly on exaggeratedly-fluttering wingbeats toward the gate and perched on the 3rd rung from the bottom on the n side of the gate, sitting low or near even to the low weeds below the gate. 2nd male skylarks, landing closer in a large weed nearby. The female is giving continuous, soft "ti" calls rather rapidly. The 2nd male then skylarks again, flying with more exaggerated wingbeats, landing in a tall Helianthus closer to me, only slightly n of a center point approx mid-way between myself and the female. He skylarks again and lands on the gate right next to the female, sitting for a few seconds in alert posture while the females calling intensifies accompanied by much wing-fluttering. He then mounts the female for approx 1 second before quickly darting into the weeds to the north, then immediately returning and mounting the female again for 2-3 seconds. The entire time, I briefly looked at intervals to the west and observed the 1st male skylarking and singing to the w. Rosemary Seidler arrived later and we were able from memory to see ad here male 1 but had a tough time locating the other pair by that time- brief song from the 2nd male. I also noted that some directions and specifics of the sightings originally reported in the forwarded list to E-bird/Labird and my field notes were slightly off in relation to observations. I got a little hurried with my writing as the events unfolded before me this day.
7. 05-28-11: 2 certain, probably 3 indivs seen and or heard- males and prob female. We arrived rather early to find song had pretty much ceased. We heard, lower, more whispered songs from 2 males but frequently skylarking male not in usual area. There were only a couple of louder renditions and 2 brief skylarking bouts. We also briefly saw another bird perched low in a hackberry very close by, immediately to our e. Thin begging calls which did not sound like Dickcissel were emanating from the grass near where I'd seen the female exit on the previous trip. After very brief playback, the probable female was also observed exiting the grass giving a string of"ti" calls continuing into a dry, rather complex "song" reminiscent of flight song of male Indigo Bunting, while flying low over grass, then dropping just e of the gate. The male was observed and heard to the n-e of there just prior to that. This could possibly have been a male but I felt quite certain at the time that it was the female.
8. 05-30-11: 2, probably 3 indivs seen/heard. I arrived on-site at 0938 and heard the first "ti" calls at 0942. Jeff Harris and Christine Kooi joined me later. The first song was not heard until 1034 when a male sang twice and later another. We observed a male perched up and singing. A female exits grass again at the same spot at 1102 a.m. at fairly close proximity and gives the strange flight-song before dropping back into grass.
9. 06-01-11: 2 indivs/1 male, 1 f. I arrived on-site at 0530. The male sings at 0549, then 3-4 times but no skylarking bouts are observed. Female observed flying low over grass near same spot while giving string of soft calls, but not continuing into the strange, dry "song"- after very brief playback of single song is used to record indivs for atlas. I was in somewhat of a hurry this day to take care of personal business/work.
10. 06-08-11: I arrive at Cane's early but do not detect Cassin's after trying for some time. A Bell's Vireo sings incessantly nearby, also a Willow Flycatcher. Up to 4 WIFL had been detected on single previous surveys of the area this spring.
11. 06-11-11: Arrive early again. No Cassin's, but BEVI, WIFL, some others still vocal.
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: First impression, as with former 2008 sighting was of a very drab and apparently more brownish-gray than grayish brown, med-largish sparrow with conical bill/lacking bulky bill/bowed culmen of Bachman's and also distinctly different song. Proportionately long-tailed- brownish-gray above with somewhat graduated outer rectrices at tip with very small but distinctly whitish-gray outer tips. Finely darker-streaked and notably rufescent-tinged crown and postocular stripe/spot. Thin, but noticeably paler whitish ocular ring. Laddering/darker but very thin transverse lines in outer rectrices were noted at very close range. The crown was also observed to be peaked when alert, much like White-crowned Sparrow. Below, the birds were observed to be grayish-whitish with faint streaking mainly at sides of breast. I found the laddering in tail easier to see than the streaking at sides. Back/wing-plumage softly but distinctly demarcated with paler streaks on a darker background. The birds appear to my eyes as more grayish overall than brown. The female appeared to be slightly drabber than the male although I did not notice or record an appreciable difference in size between the two when observed side by side. The first male was seen more frequently during the early surveys. Closest views were obtained of this indiv consistently throughout earlier surveys. It appeared slightly more rufescent than the male found in May of 2008.
16. Voice: Males were heard giving the distinctly-patterned song consisting of a fairly rapid initial note varying in loudness, then followed by a usually louder and quite metallic trilled portion of song, then ending with two notes varying in loudness- this sounding somewhat like "sih'KRE'E'E'E'E'E" soo-see"....... The song was given both while perched and during skylarking bouts. Song seemed to increase in intensity and frequency after first two surveys, then wane quite noticeably during latter surveys. Other details of song noted was that it did not seem to be given moreso in pairs with longer pauses between, as with the bird found in 2008. NOTE- In the song pairings of the 2008 male, the final note of 2nd song seemed to drop. Both the "song-pairing" and differentiation of final note in a 2nd song was not noted as much with the above 2011 birds. Males were very infrequently heard giving the very short and extremely high-pitched "ti" calls- and then only very briefly, with at least one-half to a few seconds between these calls, and then only after low-volume and single-song playback briefly-used, etc. The female, however, was noted givingthese calls both more closely-spaced and more frequently without any playback, yet also more intensely after brief playback (NOTE-) The calls given by the female after brief playback (and once without it) were often very close. On three separate occasions they were heard continuing into a longer complex, dry flight song given as bird emerged from grass, flew across and just over it, then stopped as the bird dropped. This sounded very reminiscent by pattern, but not by sound (much drier,lacking any sweetness of INBU) to male Indigo Bunting flight song. This would begin from the female unseen in grass giving closely-spaced "ti" calls, then increase into very closely, spaced/almost dryly-trilled notes just before and as bird exited grass, then continue into closely-spaced but longer and drier notes until the bird dropped back into the grass. A decent written phoneticization from beginning to end might be "ti ti ti ti tititititsitsitsitsittitstreestreestree..." The female exited the grass giving the call notes in rapid succession on the final survey day but did not continue into the complex "song" on that day.
17. Similar species (include how they were eliminated by your observation): Eliminated from Bachman's by habitat, song, also being less rufescent above and smaller bill with straighter culmen, transverse "laddering" in outer rectrices.
18. Photographs or tape recordings obtained? (by whom? attached?): Jeff Trahan obtained and sent excellent photos. Matt Pontiff also obtained photos, possibly others. Regrettably, I did not learn to use my i-phone microphone (by accident, while on-site, no less!!) until a latter survey in which the birds were not present
19. Previous experience with this species: Identification aids: (list books, illustrations, other birders, etc. used in identification):
a. at time of observation:
b. after observation: Much studying also over the years of field guides and songs. James Beck pointed out the song and we listened to many between hill country and LRGV Texas in April of 2000. I discovered a male in Bossier in May of 2008 that was closely studied for the time period in which it lingered.
21. This description is written from: ___many__ notes made during the observation (_____notes attached?);_____notes made after the observation: some immediately or shortly thereafter (date:_____); __some, such as remembering exact position in relation to bird and then correcting directions from notes into this form are from___memory.
22. Are you positive of your identification if not, explain: Yes.
23. Date:__Wednesday, August 17th, 2011________Time: 11:35 a.m._______