Killing Two Birds With One Stone (Well, Not Really)

This morning I thought I’d let my wife sleep in after a busy week by taking Evan, 5, and Marin, 2, out of the house. What would I do with them? Go birding, of course! When I asked who wanted to go birding, I was answered with two very enthusiastic “Me!!”s.

Since it was another day where the temperature was near zero, we birded by car. Our target bird was a Cedar Waxwing. Just two days earlier I had seen several with a bunch of American Robins in a couple of crab-apple trees in Willmar. Well, we got there and there was nothing. In fact, we struggled to see common species. Evan was getting crabby, but this was due to hunger and not lack of birds. After a quick stop at the McDonald’s drive-thru, everyone’s spirits were lifted and we were back to birding.

We drove on country roads to the north and west of Willmar seeing occasional common species, like House Sparrows and American Crows, but nothing exciting. Then I turned a corner and our luck started to change. I spotted a male Northern Cardinal fly across the road. The kids didn’t see it, but it pushed us to keep driving. We spotted a couple of crows in a ditch near some turkey barns – a sure sign of carrion. “What is it?!” Evan asked. When I told him it was a dead turkey, he shouted, “Cool! Can we turn around and go see it?”. So we did. I was 5 once too.

Later as we drove past a federal Waterfowl Production Area, I spotted a bird perched horizontally on a wire – the Northern Shrike! This time Evan saw it and got to add it to his life list. It was a treat to see this rare visitor again. It gave us a good look before flying from its perch. As we wound our way home we were traveling down a curvy, gravel road when I saw what looked like a half dozen filled Hefty bags on the road ahead – Wild Turkeys!! Marin even got excited to see them. I tried to get close enough to get a picture, but they dashed into the woods and then flushed. I had no idea they could run so fast. After this sighting, it was time to head home. Birding is fun, but after two hours, both kids were at their limits for patience.

I can’t wait until that new, super-zoom Canon gets here next week. We could have had some cool pictures today. I’m sure we will put more dust on the van when it gets here. Even though it’s super cold outside, there are cool birds out there that can be seen from a warm car. Plus, the company of two young birders is tough to beat.

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