Chestnut-collared Longspur at Happy Canyon Rd x Alisos Rd, 2018-12-21
Wim van Dam
This morning I scoped the flock of 80+ Horned Larks at Happy Canyon Rd x Alisos Rd in Santa Ynez. As luck would have it, I found a female CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPUR, which hopefully stays around for the Cachuma CBC. Below is the description etc. from my eBird checklist (https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50845768), which has a recording of the "kiddle call", which I heard several times.
To get to see this bird you will need a scope and some patience and luck. Your best bet will be to scope from Happy Canyon Rd while hiding behind the fence. This means that you will be looking south, so you either have to hope for cloudy conditions are time it late or early in the day. This is a nervous flock of birds, but if you give it enough time they will sometimes get pretty close to the fence. This flock of Horned Larks is much closer to the road than your typical Armour Ranch Rd flock. Please, under no circumstances trespass into the field: this not needed, you will just flush the birds, and you will get us birders into trouble with the owner of the property.
If you just want to ID the bird it's probably best to wait until you hear its flight call.
This sparrow/sparrow-like bird was in the flock of 80+ Horned Larks feeding on the recently plowed field at the SE of the Happy Canyon Rd x Alisos Rd crossing. I heard and recorded the diagnostic kiddle call as it was flying as part of this flock. It was smaller and more chunky than the Horned Larks with a short but pointy bill. Among the Horned Larks it was walking slowly through the field in a crouching manner. It never perched or hopped and was less agitated/active than the Horned Larks. It was visibly eating the seeds from the field.
This was a light gray/beige colored bird with noticeable but delicate streaking. Most notable were: the dark brown/black-ish auricular edge and malar stripe, the light colored throat with light streaking below on the chest, the brown streaking on the back, and the dark brown stripes on its crown. I did not see any other rufous or black markings. I did not register the bill or leg color, nor the primary projection. Overall this bird looked like a pale/washed out Vesper Sparrow without the rufous coverts. I ruled out Vesper Sparrow based on the paleness of the streaking, its longspur-like behavior, and the kiddle call, which I heard several times and managed to record (at 2.5 seconds in the attached file).
Wim van Dam (Solvang, CA)
SBCO #378+5: Blue-footed Booby