Sprague's Pipit at the Little Big Econ WMA (Kilbee Tract), 1/4/2015
Yesterday I met up in the early morning with a couple of my friends to explore the Little Big Econ WMA. Our biggest hope was to find the Vermilion Flycatcher that has been hanging out along the Econ River. We found that bird without much trouble, though it was very early in the morning, and we had terrible light (so I'm not sharing a photo). From there we decided to walk northeast to see if we might pick up some nice sparrows. We didn't have high hopes, since it was rather windy, but we did pick up a Grasshopper Sparrow and a Le Conte's Sparrow. The Le Conte's Sparrow was pretty amazing. It flushed and flew into a clump of grass right in front of us. Then it crawled out of its hiding place and sat exposed for about 10 seconds while we fired off as many photographs as we could, then ducked under cover. It did the same thing again, allowing us to get even more shots. Unfortunately it was always facing away from me, but at one point it turned its head to the side, giving me my best photo of the species yet.
Le Conte's Sparrow
But the highlight of our morning was when a strange-sounding pipit landed in front of us. All of us thought its flight call was very unusual. It was raspier than any we'd heard before. I played a Sprague's Pipit call, and it certainly seemed closer to that than an American Pipit. So I walked around and took as many photos as I could before it flew off. My photos confirmed that it is indeed a Sprague's Pipit. I found out yesterday afternoon that this is a county record, and there are very few if any confirmed sightings of this species south of Gainesville. From what I've been told, it's the farthest south this species is currently verified in Florida.
Here's my eBird checklist from the morning; we saw a total of 61 species. Not a terribly high total, but still probably my favorite morning of birding in Seminole County.