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Despite a busy busy 8 days of business, farms, taxes, friends, and relatives, and the awesome week-long summerish weather, I managed to squeeze in a few birds and serendipitous birding moments here and there, keeping it all tightly local, including exploring the 'new' (to me), Nodaway Valley C.A., not once but four times over the course of four days, Andrew Co side twice, Holt Co. side twice and each visit brief due to time restraints, but wow, what a cool place that is!  A mini-Squaw Creek and not having to go the distance, and I simply didn't have time to go down there anyway, plus I felt like I 'owned' Nodaway Valley each time I was there since there was no one else or even clues of such ever in sight.  Nodaway Valley CA is literally ONLY 5 minutes from the SW Nodaway County farm tracts so it's clearly inexcusable for me now not to at least pop in for a look-see during ALL future NW Missouri ramblings. Now, I think I know where all of those Bald Eagles are coming from that have become a regular and now expected sight soaring about over the farms for all of the past 15 years when before they were exceedingly rare or never seen.
 
With optics limited to just the 10X bins around my neck, some of the ducks and waterfowl and potential shorebirds out there in the middle and far reaches were out of range for proper scanning or patience.  Still, highlights included most or all of the expected dabbling ducks and a few divers including a couple pair of Canvasbacks, and a few RedheadsRing-necked, Bufflehead, and 'More or Less' Scaup (dunno really, but 'Less' most likely I suppose).  Geese included scattered Canada and perhaps a thousand Snow but no Ross's or White-fronted.  Five Trumpeter Swans were in one of the big pools and an Eastern Phoebe in the far southeast corner along the grass levee adjacent to the bottom land timber (and home of a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers so I'm told) on the Holt side Fr 3/16 and Mo 3/19.
 
Shorebirds were on the increase with each visit each day, mostly Greater Yellowlegs, a dozen or so roadside Snipe, Killdeer everywhere of course, and likely a few other expected early migrants.  Shorebird habitat is really looking good out there in places, especially on the Andrew Co side.  So, it's going to be up to you all now to keep me informed and entertained with your Nodaway Valley shorebird reports during April and May while I vicariously live in the memory and visualize the feel of shorebird migration from far far, very far away, way the hell out in the middle of nowhere, mid-tropical Equatorial Pacific (Samoa-Palmyra-KingmanReef) next month thru May where I will just have to settle for the routine seabirds (read: 'yardbirds', 10-12 Pterodroma petrel species / day, et.al.) and the whales and dolphins which are the primary purpose of this research effort, false killer whales (Pseudroca) in particular.  But, we do have 24/7 Internet on our not-so-little NOAA research ship and I will be monitoring MOBIRDS ...daily!
 
Although the birding at Nodaway Valley was fun and 'new', the best for me personally were found right there on my farmland during the afternoon, Fr 3/16.  Sparrows particularly were notable including a flock of 18-24 Harris's Sparrows (pure flock, nothing else), all ages and plumages and singing like mad all over the place. That's the biggest flock of Harris's Sparrows I've seen around here, or anywhere, in at least 40 years.  Elsewhere about the property were early singing Field Sparrows (two) and even the Tree Sparrows were singing.  Fox Sparrows too were scattered about, the handsome 'red' ones and a nice change of pace for me from the more familiar drab 'sooty' ones out where I live in the Pacific Northwest that seem to occupy every blackberry bramble there is in the western Washington lowlands during the winter.  Another Eastern Phoebe was seen and Turkey Vultures were streaming north all week long, not in huge numbers, but steady one or two or three at a time.
 
My eyes, and ears especially, were always open for longspurs, but none were detected anywhere although I'm sure some were around.  Just about any farm field and hundreds of square miles of such all looking more-or-less the same appeared quite suitable given there was no snow or ice to concentrate some in more easily viewable areas like roads and roadsides without having to launch any assaults out across a million corn and bean fields or prairie pasture land.
 
In a vast landscape of generally monocultural farmland, the other 'big deal' (to me) apart from the Harris's Sparrows on the SW Nodaway 120 acre farm tract were what appears to be a healthy increase in Bobwhite Quail, two coveys totaling some two-dozen birds.  I've been managing portions of this mostly cropland specifically for Bobwhite for the past 15 years the farm has been the ONLY place during all of my once or twice a year visits where I ever, even serendipitously, see or hear one, but never fail not to leave empty handed without ever really having to try.  Anyway, this current bump in number is quite significant and a recent if not all time record.  There are always at least a few around but numbers had dwindled to just two or three several years ago when there was bump in Bobcat presence and predation there.  Bobcats seem to have settled back now, either naturally or perhaps through some intervention control and trapping since for awhile it was an issue affecting many around the area.   
 
Finally, and as I fly fly away, I want to leave you with this way cool video.  Nothing Missouri oriented but this is pretty amazing not to mention pretty funny.  I actually know people who can transform themselves and look exactly this!  You might too :-))   Enjoy.
 
Dennis Paulson, Slater Museum, Tacoma, WA, esteemed ornithologist, naturalist, and writer ("Shorebirds of the Pacifc Northwest" and much more) expands a bit with his comments as to what is really going on here and why (copy/pasted below).
 
From Dennis: "That is a fabulous video, even though it's presented as a big laugh.
 
The White-faced Scops-Owl apparently sees the Barn Owl as a potential threat, but not so large that it can't intimidate it into keeping it's distance.
 
The Verreaux's Eagle-Owl, on the other hand, is a big predator that occurs in the same area that could be intimidated in no way by a scops-owl, so the little guy transforms into a dead stump. And the almost automatic assumption of that shape is really obvious when the eagle-owl moves around to the other side and the scops-owl keeps turning it's appropriate side toward it.  And look at the way the feathers seem to move around on the head; perhaps it can do that just by changing their orientation; I'm still not sure if the skin actually moves.
 
This is entertainment that is more educational than they think!  One video of it calls the camouflage pose the 'Evil Dracula' pose, completely missing the point."
 
Richard Rowlett
formerly: Maryville (native)
currently: Seattle, WA (30+ years)
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