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D'oh!

Well I may have goofed on my Lapland longspur.  It may have been a Smith's longspur.  My initial ID was actually Smith's, based on the amount of white in the wing and the call.  I have little to no experience with longspurs, having only seen one Lapland longspur years ago.

When I flushed the bird I immediately thought that it was a Sprague's pipit based solely on the fact that I was in the Sprague's pipit place and that it had white outer tail feathers.  I realized right away that it was not a pipit, the flight was wrong, the call was wrong, and it had a distinct white patch in the wings.  I did not immediately realize that it was a longspur, although that was my suspicion.  After the bird disappeared and I could not immediately find it, I consulted the Nat. Geo. CD and the Sibley Guide.  When I heard the call of the Smith's longspur, I immediately thought, "That's it!"  The call of the Lapland on the CD as well as the description in the text of Nat. Geo. was a dry rattle mixed with "tew" notes.  Sibley described the Lapland call as similar to Smith's.  The Smith's having " ... sharp clicks more widely spaced and falling slightly at the end; whole pattern reminiscent of rattle of cowbirds."  I have also heard that the Smith's has a more metallic quality to it.  To me, the call resembled the dry rattle that meadowlarks will sometimes make.  The distinct white patch in the wing would lean toward Smith's as well.  Using the Nat. Geo. guide alone, the bird is obviously a Smith's.  The illustration shows no white at all in the coverts of the Lapland.  I tend to trust Sibley more.  He shows some white in the coverts of the nonbreeding male Lapland.  I managed to convince myself that it was just a Lapland.  Sibley's illustration showed some white in the wing of Lapland, so that had to be it, right?  I did not realize the significance of the two white outer tail feathers until a friend Emailed me saying that it sounded like a Smith's.  I have to work this week, yes I do occasionally work, so I will be kicking myself on a daily basis.  I may manage to get back up this weekend.

I would appreciate any feedback on how to ID Longspurs and especially anyone who may have the time to get a photograph or recording of the bird as it would be a first state record if it is indeed Smith's

Here are the directions and details.

Appalachicola Municipal Airport
Approx. 3 miles west of Appalachicola on US98.
Pranty Pg. 59
Gazetteer Pg. 60  C2
Drive north to the hangars.
Ask the proprietor for permission before walking the property.
The bird was in the short grass between the two runways immediately north of the hangars.

20 Nov 00   1500 hrs

Flushed a longspur from the short grass.
Outer tail feathers white.  Appeared to be entirely white on two outer tail feathers.
Very noticeable white or light patch (lesser coverts) on wing.
Call a dry rattle, reminding me of meadowlark.
Called repeatedly while flying back a forth about 3-6 m above ground.
Initially observed flying away with the sun at my left.

Identification:  Probably Smith's, you be the judge.

David Simpson
Sebastian, FL
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