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Some Maine passerines Merlin couldn't identify


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Hi everyone.  These passerines, which appeared to be sparrows, were on the ground at a sandy road edge near an open marsh in southwestern Maine.  No clear field marks, as I was driving, but I got a decent recording.  Apparently the call isn't in Merlin's database, as it ID's as Spotted Flycatcher.   The spot is dense with Swamp Sparrows in breeding season but (assuming these are juveniles) they don't sound like Swamp to me.    Song and Chipping are also very common in this location.  Thanks for any help.

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While not found at All About Birds, xeno canto lists this as a Swamp Sparrow's flight call.   These birds, however, were feeding on the ground.  So must be a not so common SWSP call.   Anyway, I've got it.  Thanks everyone.

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 cf:   https://xeno-canto.org/337069

What is it then, Hasan?  There are several more Swamp Sparrow recordings that match the one above on xeno canto, all categorized as flight calls.   These birds were feeding on the ground and making the same call, in a spot where Swamp Sparrows are the most commonly found.  There are several of them calling in my recording.   eBird hasn't removed my ID or contacted me about it after several days, so I'm sticking with it unless someone can correct me.

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I don't know what it is, and the mark of a skilled birder is to know when to admit they do not know.

However, I do know that the chips Swamp Sparrow make usually have a distinct rich quality, which this lacks. The call in this recording is rather generic sounding, at least to my ear (does not mean that someone else might be able to identify it, but would require a lot of skill and experience), and it could easily be from a variety of species. Flight calls are often different from the sounds made on the ground, and often requires careful examination of the spectrogram to identify. The reason you are noticing a similarity to the flight call is simply because the flight call resembles a more generic sparrow seet note.

Its extremely unlikely that the recording would be flagged because the species is common and the general assumption is that you identified the bird through other means, and happened to record the chip notes. Identifying birds by their chip notes is very difficult and it's basically impossible to prove with certainty this didn't come from a Swamp Sparrow. Hence, if you claim it came from a Swamp Sparrow, it's not going to get flagged 

Edited by Hasan
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No suggestion for an alternative?   I saw that they were sparrows along the edge of a marsh, and I neglected to mention that they didn't pump their tails when flying, and to me appeared slightly too large to be Chipping Sparrows.  In Maine that leaves very few options, and local birders know this is a great spot for Swamp Sparrows.   Additionally there are at least 5 recordings of Swamp Sparrows (by different birders) on xeno canto that match mine to a tee, and you can call it "generic", whatever that means, but it's certainly loud and clear enough to hear several of the sparrows that were giving the call.   You said nothing concrete that gives me any indication that they are not Swamp Sparrows, and again I refer you to xeno canto's database. 

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I guess we can wrap this up?   There might be someone who still disagrees but I think my evidence is pretty solid.  Merlin is useful and mostly accurate but still noticeably imperfect.   When it can tell a semi-distant Red-eyed Vireo from a PhiladeIphia, then I'll be flabbergasted.  I think of this app as an evolving beta version which will no doubt get better over time.  I also think that my recording would be useful to add.   And, no offense to anyone, but I never said they were "chip notes", they're obviously NOT chip notes.  Seems that anyone who knows anything about sparrows would be aware that most species have a wide variety of calls, with fall juveniles making the variability even greater.   It's also interesting to me that while these recorded calls are similar, the frequency pitch varies among individuals in my recording and in other recordings.   So the sonograms will display a variance as well, but recognizable signatures.

Edited by sanddog
typo
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