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Some news is, ...well um..., some news I guess since I haven't seen any postings from up this way in months.  Nodaway County is still locked in winter's grip and it's been really really quiet until the last couple days, especially yesterday (Saturday), as life started stirring in response to the welcome late week warming.  Visiting here from Seattle all this past week, very busy on business with little dedicated time for birding apart from just the roadside serendipitous kind.  Rivers and creeks are wide open and ice free, but ALL ponds and lakes are 100% locked up frozen tight with not even the slightest hint of so much as a crack in the ice at larger bodies like Mozingo.  This may not be Minnesota, but Mozingo must be good for ice fishing though as I saw some folks hunkered over holes drilled in the ice out in the middle.
 
No Snow Geese seen or heard at all up this way but that could change literally any minute now as the weather continues to moderate and warm.  They're close, and suddenly present in substantial and growing numbers along a line extending from Squaw Creek, Savannah, Chillicothe and south.  The only geese or waterfowl of any kind around Nodaway Co at the moment are scattered Canadas and they have been moving around a lot more and quite suddenly in the the past couple days when before, the largest aggregation of 600 or so were just hanging out daily in the corn stubble along US136 east of Maryville north of the sewage ponds and seemingly just patiently waiting for a lead in the ice to open up.
 
Apparently no Northern Shrike this year at the site west of Skidmore where a bird has spent every winter since first discovered in Nov 2004.  I've made eight passes through that area so far at various times of the day thru the week with careful scans of the usual favored spots and perimeter, but no shrike.  2004 thru 2009 is quite an amazing run and a testament to one bird's fidelity to just one spot in a region awash with countless other areas that would appear even better.  Loggerhead Shrikes seem to be more numerous than some years with three casual sightings on roadside overhead utility lines one morning, with two a few miles apart along rt.V between Maryville and Skidmore and another along rt.113 just south of Skidmore.  I don't know whether that's noteworthy or not, but I just haven't noticed Loggerhead Shrikes around here like I used to decades ago, so thought I'd just mention it.
 
Up until yesterday (Sat, Mar 6), only a few Lapland Longspurs were noted scattered about and Horned Larks have been surprisingly scarce too.  I often like to drive the north-south rt.H between rts V & A southwest of Maryville with all it's open country and fields and seems ideal for longspurs and other like birds.  Until yesterday, I hadn't seen or heard any at all. Still hopeful, I made yet another run and drove into a HUGE spectacular swarm of some 5,000 Lapland Longspurs, by far the largest mass of longspurs I have ever seen, swirling about and packed into the corn and bean stubble along both sides of rt.H, 3-4 miles south of "V".  The ground along the road and on both sides was literally 'alive' and crawling.  All being so close, that flock demanded close scrutiny and I sorted through the whole swirling quivering mass as best I could.  If there was ever going to be something 'different' (snow buntings, other longspurs), this seemed like the place.  Sorry to say though, there was no hint of anything but Lapland Longspurs.  (Up on the Waterville Plateau of eastern Washington where I'm from, we sort through the swirling hordes of hundreds of Snow Buntings in search of that odd Lapland).  When I came back along rt.H about an hour later, all the longspurs were still present right where I'd left them, and I gave it another go, final result, all Lapland Longspurs.  Regardless, it was an absolutely awesome and most rewarding spectacle. 
 
Apart from the longspurs, my 'best' bird so far was seen from the warm comfort of my cozy motel room where from the window, I was startled to serendipitously discover and add a *NEW* species to my Missouri list with a pair of Eurasian Collared Doves spotted on a light post in the parking lot at the Maryville Comfort Inn.  It's been just a matter of time for that one and I had just kind of forgotten about the expansion of these recent arrivals into NW Missouri.  Since, I've seen a few others scattered around the city of Maryville, most notably at 1st and Main and at another spot in the SW part of town, and there are probably a few more around as well.  Out in the country, a single Eurasian Collared Dove was flushed from the roadside (rt.J) in the middle of the wind farm array a couple miles south of Conception Saturday afternoon.
 
Richard Rowlett
Seattle/Bellevue, WA   
 
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