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Happy Smew Year!

December 31, 2011

Yes, dear birders, we were supposed to see a Smew (Mergellus albellus) here in Toronto this morning and… you guessed it. Sadly, the Smew was gone before we arrived at Whitby Harbour, but in its place I finally made eye contact with a glorious  Snowy Owl (Nyctea scandiaca)! My first Snowy owl ever! (remember? Last year, I spent a good hour and a half looking for a Snowy in a white field, and all I saw was snow!) What a perfect way to end 2011.

I saw a great close-up of the bird (our fearless leader brought a scope!) and watched the owl rotate its neck 270 degrees. The Snowy looked almost like a mechanical toy! It would have been great to catch a glimpse of the Smew, but I wasn’t as disappointed as John Vanderpoel must have been. JV is finishing up his Big Year and the Smew would have brought him into first place! He’s currently at 743 (+1) birds for the year and flew into Toronto yesterday morning to add the Smew to his list. Alas, it was not to be and by 3pm he was en route to Arizona to get a flycatcher of one sort or another. Good luck, John! (Information source: friendly and highly knowledgeable birder [with a charming British accent and a scope] whom we met in Whitby; same birder who wished us a HAPPY SMEW YEAR!) Honestly, the lack-of-smew didn’t disappoint me as much as it would have if the smew in question had been a MALE. Now, here’s a taste-test for you (hint: the male is at the top of the picture):

We continued onward to Thickson’s woods and saw a tremendous Mockingbird sitting atop a tree (a few minutes later, we caught the same delightful Mockingbird chasing a fat Robin). And a Downy, and Chickadees, and Starlings, and a Tree Sparrow (I think!). I forgot to mention the exquisite Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola) and Red-Breasted Mergansers (Mergus serrator). We stopped for a delicious breakfast at Scrambles (“Where Ajax meets for Breakfast” and you should too…), located across the street from a rather unfortunately named diner called Daddy’s Little Grill.

Happy New Year everyone! May 2012 be a happy, healthy, bird- and word-filled year!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Lucy permalink
    January 1, 2012 11:05 am

    Thank you for your delightful blogs! You have a way of adding new insight to birding with your observations.
    Happy Smew Year to you too!
    Lucy

    • January 2, 2012 11:57 am

      Thanks for reading, Lucy! I must admit, I do have a soft spot for bird puns…

  2. Jocelyn Ball permalink
    January 9, 2012 2:20 pm

    Interesting! Wow, people actually flew in to see the Smew!? It was here probably about 3 days, the 26th to about the 28th. We live an 8 min walk to Whitby Harbour and discovered the frenzy after being down there the 26th, and seeing a huge mass of what we thought were some sort of duck, swarming in the sky. We looked into it and read that we missed seeing this rare to NA Smew. This whole Smew thing over Christmas has sort of been exciting and fun, even though we did not see her. Apprently, it’s been since about 1968 since a Smew was last spotted in Ontario.
    The snowy owl has been there for a long while. It was there this past weekend again.
    Your photo here of her is lovely. I do not own a zoom lens so can only enjoy her through binoculars and viewing others’ photos.
    On a side note, I don’t care for the name of that restaurant either, but believe it or not the food is excellent.
    Jocelyn Ball, Whitby.

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