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Hello again Zach.  I uncovered another piece of information with  reference 
to Nodaway Valley, Snowy Owls, and even you _Canadian  owls spotted in 
Missouri - Northwest Missourian: Community_ 
(http://www.nwmissourinews.com/news/community/article_c7d39890-52bf-11e1-98dc-0019bb30f31a.html) .  So, it  
seems you're a zoology student at NWMSU (maybe under Dr. Easterla?).  I was  too 
in the beginning when I started at NW in 1965, Dr. Easterla in his first  
year there and became my mentor of sorts and in essence introduced me to  
modern day birding which since evolved into a life in the field as a  marine 
mammal and seabird biologist which is now winding down as I  gradually phase 
into retirement.  An amazing introduction that first Fall  of 1965, my first 
Red-breasted Nuthatches and Pine Siskins, neither of which I  had ever heard 
of before.  That Fall/Winter of 1965-66 was also an  epic NW Missouri 
winter finch year, Red and White-winged Crossbills  and Common Redpolls, the fun 
never seemed to stop.  I even flunked out that  first semester, thanks 
entirely to the newly discovered world of birds,  derailing my otherwise 'tornado 
chasing' career aspiratons, and  set out to explore and travel every single 
inch of road in all of Nodaway  County, ...and did!  I had been bitten by 
the bug pretty bad.  Don't  let that happen to you :-))  Having to sit out a 
semester, drive a  taxi around Maryville, an interesting and eye-opening 
experience in and of  itself :-)), and bird, bird, bird, I came back and the 
rest is  history.
 
Anyway, back to the Missouri Snowy Owls and apparent die off due to  
suspected starvation, perhaps just a little mouse here and there scattered  over 
largely vast monocultural farmland isn't really sufficient  to sustain them 
for too long, unlike a huge explosive burst in lemming  populations during an 
Arctic summer.  Out here in the Pacific Northwest and  coastal areas of 
Washington and SW British Columbia, the large numbers of  Snowy Owls are doing 
fine, but their prey are almost entirely found in the  abundance of much 
larger fare, waterfowl, a variety of ducks, coots, larger  shorebirds, gulls, 
and Western Grebes, judging from pellet analysis and  piles of avian body 
parts strewn about.  Perhaps that's what  sustained the congregation at 
Smithville Lake for as long as it has  (or did), ...water birds?  During winters 
where local prey isn't  critically low and the owls remain on or near their 
home turf but  perhaps lemmings difficult to access, I have heard and read of 
accounts  that Snowy Owls actually head out to sea, particularly the middle 
of the largely  frozen over Bering Sea (Alaska) where most of the world's 
population of  Spectacled Eiders mass tightly in the polynyas there and upon 
which Snowy Owls  find easy pickings.  Similar reports come from far at sea 
and open  ocean in the high North Atlantic where Snowy Owls subsist on 
seabirds  and apparently sit around on icebergs (and the occasional transiting  
ship) when in need of something to sit on and rest.
 
I look forward to future reportings from Nodaway Valley  CA (I plan to 
visit there myself next week sometime), and elsewhere  from the most extreme NW 
corner of Missouri (Nodaway, Holt, Andrew, and  Atchison).  Apart from Squaw 
Creek NWR, that far corner seems to be kind of  a 'dead zone' for reports 
appearing on MOBIRDS given they are so few and far  between.
 
Richard Rowlett, formerly Maryville, MO
currently: Seattle, WA 

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