Squeezing a Lifer out of a Busy Life

I’m quite shocked, frankly, at how quickly it came.  I’ve long been familiar with the busy lives that kids and teens lead both in and out of school.  Parents have long shook their heads and rolled their eyes while saying, “Just you wait.”  Though expected, I never realized just how soon our family would be caught up in the tornado of our kids’ extra-curricular interests.  Mondays are the worst of it.  Evan has both piano lessons and Cub Scouts that day, and they are not back-to-back nor are they immediately after school.

So on Monday, September 22nd when I picked Evan up from school and we had an hour to kill before piano, it dawned on me that we had enough time to check out Carlson’s Dairy, the premiere shorebird spot in Kandiyohi County.  Randy had called the day before with a fantastic report: a lone American Avocet, Long-billed Dowitchers, and Black-bellied Plovers.  The latter two would be lifers.  Unfortunately we couldn’t get out there the day Randy called.  So hopefully there might still be something waiting for us on this burst of Monday birding.

Turns out there was.  I found three dowitchers.  We had never seen Long-billed or Short-billed, so it was a lifer for sure.  I marked it as a Long-billed Dowitcher since Randy had made that call the day before based on the date of migration.  We were in the middle of the migration window for Long-billed Dowitchers and had just passed the Short-billed Dowitcher window.  Later on I was able to use the humpback shape and excessively long bills to confirm they were dowitchers of the long-billed variety.

Long-billed Dowitcher

Short-billed Dowitcher

Long-billed Dowitcher and Short-billed Dowitcher Lifers!

Long-billed and Short-billed Dowitcher

I’ve always been amused by birds that scratch themselves like a dog or cat, but it was especially delightful to see a dowitcher itching.

Short-billed Dowitcher

Satisfied with a lifer and the best photos I could muster (shorebirds at Carlson’s Dairy are always far from the road), it was a bonus to see some other cool birds.  That American Avocet was still around.  It was pretty swell to see my first one in winter-plumage.  They are not a bird that we get every year during spring and fall migrations. In fact, when I uploaded my photo to the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union’s website, it was recorded as a first fall record for Kandiyohi County.  Neato.

American Avocet in winter plumage

American Avocet in winter plumage

I also wasn’t expecting to see a Northern Pintail.

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail

There really was nothing left to see other than some common migrating shorebirds and waterfowl.  We came and scooped up the goodies in the half hour we had to bird before having to get to piano lessons. The lifer Long-billed Dowitcher and the American Avocet made for a tidy haul on this brief excursion.  It was efficient lifering – the best, and often only, kind of lifering in a whirlwind life.

6 thoughts on “Squeezing a Lifer out of a Busy Life

  1. Hey Josh, congrats on the American Avocet and Long-billed Dowitcher! It’s always fun to get lifer shorebirds! Looks like there’s a Pectoral Sandpiper in the mix too in your pictures. When life is busy and you have limited birding time, it does make your next birding outing all the more exciting though! Lifering, what a great term!

    • Thanks, Tommy! I’ve warmed up to the shorebirds in the last year, and I’m looking forward to filling out my list of regular migrants. I still need Short-billed Dowitcher, Hudsonian Godwit, Black-bellied Plover, and American Golden Plover. I’ve had plenty of chances on all of them, but finding the time to get out to Carlson’s is another story.

      I take Pecs for granted. They and Least Sandpipers are just always around, like extras in a shorebird movie.

      Lifering is a great term, but I gotta give credit where credit is due – I think I first saw Laurence use it.

  2. Great post Mr. Josh!!!
    Long-billed Dowitchers are awesome, as well as American Avocets. Man sounds like you have a busy life, I think you should just move to an island along the keys in Florida and homeschool your kids : )

    • Thanks Laurence! I’m afraid that sums up most of my birding, the small window part that is and not the skillful part. But satisfying it is, albeit in a chaotic, stressful way. Some day, perhaps when I’m an empty-nester, I shall spend a day, a full, glorious day birding some place cool like one of MN’s IBAs (Important Birding Areas).

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