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Wow, what a birdy day around NODAWAY COUNTY yesterday!  Just the  right 
amount of new and still falling snow, blowing snow, and perfect  timing to be out 
and about driving the county's back roads which were drivable  to marginally 
drivable (slightly insane) but were unexpectedly loaded  with all of those usual 
field and brush dwellers everywhere that are  otherwise nowhere in sight 
beyond the usual chance encounter.  With my  brother in town from NYC and an 
obsessive compulsive wikipedia contributor  (online encyclopedia he has authored 
25,000+ pages so far, heavy on Missouri  especially the NW, and still going 
strong, no end in sight!) we were on a  'wiki-expedition' yesterday so he could 
tidy up some loose ends about Nodaway  County, visiting some obscure to bizarre 
locations and taking pictures for  inclusion in wikipedia (Possum Walk west of 
Clearmont for  example).  Any birding for me was meant to be just casual at 
best; bring  the bins along in the unlikely event we might see something of  
interest.
 
Turns out, all the birds out and about yesterday, especially on the  roads 
which kind of took me by surprise when otherwise it's usually pretty  hit or 
miss and relatively quiet everywhere.  It was a big day for ground  birds, large 
flocks of Horned Larks everywhere and usually embedded  with them a Lapland 
Longspur or two to many.  Several  large and pure flocks of LAPLAND LONGSPURS 
were also seen,  sometimes 40-60 or more at some stops, great up close and 
personal  looks, most notable ones along rt. C just west of Clearmont, the main 
road  into Bilby Ranch CA, and another big one on 390th St (County map) SE of  
Graham.  If we had just focused on searching for longspurs county wide  all day 
long, the numbers would have likely been in the thousands!    It seemed like a 
perfect set up for Snow Buntings but no such luck this  time.  Maybe today as 
we take on the SE quarter of the county.
 
The most unexpected sighting was an adult RED-SHOULDERED HAWK seen along  rt. 
113 about a half-mile south of Quitman.  We initially  just whizzed past it 
figuring at first glance it was just  another Red-tailed.  It was perched only 
10 feet up on an  overhanging branch along the edge of a wooded area and edge 
of the  road.  I haven't seen a Red-shouldered Hawk in Nodaway County since  
the mid 1960's!  Having not resided in Missouri since the early '70's  but 
still visit regularly, I'm not familiar with many subtle changes in the  status 
and distribution of some birds in Missouri.  So, to address  someone in the 
know, is a Red-shouldered Hawk in Nodaway County and NW Missouri,  especially in 
February, still kind of unusual??
 
In just a quick drive by, the adult NORTHERN SHRIKE was promptly seen  again 
with no effort at all around noon along rt. DD a half mile west of  Skidmore.  
As reported a few days ago, it was once again out in the  middle of the bean 
field just north of the 5th utility pole west of the Nodaway  River bridge.  
The shrike was an easy spot, very active, and at least at  that point in time, 
the only bird in sight.
 
I'm probably not going to make it to Squaw Creek this trip.  Such a  trip 
would seem almost anticlimactic since the SW corner of Nodaway County has  been 
absolutely inundated with countless thousands of Snow Geese all week long.  
There are always Snow Geese around this time of year and it's always that  ever 
present sight and sound which makes late Feb - early March one of my  favorite 
times to visit just for that reason, but with this  trip I have never seen 
them in such numbers persistently concentrated right  there.  Early a couple 
mornings ago when I was headed down to one of my  parcels of farmland SE of Graham 
to spend the day doing an inspection and some  annual cleanup and trail 
maintenance, I topped the hill and to my  utter astonishment, found myself face to 
face with upwards to 50,000(!) Snow  Geese which had randomly chosen MY land 
and field of corn stubble out of  all the choices available in which to settle 
and feed, covering the whole  thing like..., well..., proverbial snow.   Phew, 
what an  incredible sight and thrill.  Of course since I needed to work  out 
in there, they didn't stay long, but just long enough for me  to 
photographically record this special and quite personalized  lasting memory.  After all, at 
least for a few precious moments right  then, these were MY geese.  In the 
course of such, I was able  to pick out a few Ross's Geese amidst the noisy 
horde and tick off another  new species for the farm list.  Woo-hoo!  And when 
they left, you  can imagine the ascending black and white cloud and the deafening 
cacophony that  accompanied their departure!
 
P.S.  Maybe a tad off topic here, but with the Snowy Owl over in  
Breckenridge, I might mention something else for anyone maybe interested.   I mentioned 
Wikipedia (the online encyclopedia) early on here.  When from  Seattle I 
initially started researching and googling Breckenridge for  maps on the Internet a 
couple weeks ago, I stumbled across a Wikipedia entry on  Breckenridge, 
Missouri.  I glanced over it and thought, hmmm, this reads  like something my 
brother might have written.  I asked him about it and  sure enough, it was!  I knew 
he was obsessive / compulsive, but I  had no idea how much so!   Kansas City, 
St. Joe, yikes, practically  everything in there it seems is by his authorship 
and he's lived in New  York City for the past 30 years!  As for his entry on 
Breckenridge and  Caldwell County, there is an obscure, interesting, yet ugly 
chapter in  Missouri history centered there.  As exciting as the Breckenridge 
Snowy Owl  has been for many, sometimes learning something 'new' about the 
places we  chase off to in our own obsessive / compulsive pursuit of birds also 
have  obscure little gems of insight to round out our knowledge and enrich our  
experience.
 
On Breckenridge, see:  
_Breckenridge,  Missouri - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia_ 
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breckenridge,_Missouri)   
 
One more day, then I'm headed back to the wet & rainy Pacific  Northwest.  
This has been one of the best and most memorable trips  back to Missouri in 
recent memory.  Mind numbingly busy, productive,  and great mostly casual birding 
to boot.  Thanks to everyone who have  contributed to make it so.  Here's 
wishing great birding to  all!  
 
Richard Rowlett
Seattle, WA
(formerly, Maryville, MO)
**************Get a jump start on your taxes. Find a tax professional in your 
neighborhood today. 
(http://yellowpages.aol.com/search?query=Tax+Return+Preparation+%26+Filing&ncid=emlcntusyelp00000004)

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