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the Louisiana Waterthrush, ‘for the record’

5:19 am

The county’s second-ever Louisiana Waterthrush near Julian was found this past Sunday and seen reasonably well by a good number of birders later that day. But ever since then, the bird has either been missed by most folks looking for it or seen only very briefly (a few seconds or less and also sometimes partly obscured by veg) or heard only briefly by a relatively few. To confuse matters somewhat, on one of the two days that I was there (Monday) a number of folks thought they heard the bird call but it turned out to probably be a chipmunk or squirrel and/or a Black Phoebe, and then today in an area where the bird has been reported to have been heard there was a California Towhee giving somewhat similar, standard “chink” calls. At some sites where the bird has been reported to be seen only briefly and partly hiding, there is a partly-hiding Song Sparrow in the blackberry thickets along the edge of the creek which could conceivably get one’s heart racing if seen only very briefly or incompletely.
It is important to note that Louisiana Waterthrushes indeed can be quite skulky and shy, so they need not be nicely out in the open much of the time! And some of the reports since Sunday may be OK. BUT, for an exceptional rarity such as this, we reviewers need to make sure that reports which extend the date-span need to be reasonably well documented. If we believe they fall short, they will not be added to the databases. For eBird they will not be validated. This does not mean that they are necessarily incorrect, but rather that the documentation is insufficient. In the case of eBird records, they will then no longer appear in rare bird alerts or in the species and hot-spot maps, but they remain on people’s personal eBird list, and folks can then choose what to do for their own purposes. We reviewers are NOT the personal list eBird police, but rather the keepers of what we all want to be as accurate a county database as possible.
Determining exact date-spans for birds such as this Louisiana Waterthrush can be rather difficult. So, we ask birders visiting the site to–if you believe you have the waterthrush–please make every effort to document your report either with photos, a reasonable recording, or written notes following a sighting of reasonable time length and preferably by multiple observers. Granted, sometimes this is easier said than done.
–Paul Lehman, San Diego
P.S.  Thursday at Lake Cuyamaca, the injured, over-summering Common Merganser continues near the dam, and the total of 11 Great Egrets at the drying upper end is a large count for the mountains in November.