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Hooded Mergansers

November 11, 2012

Oh birders, gone are the days when I found ducks particularly tiresome, noisy specimens that all looked the same! How ignorant it appears I was, just a few weeks ago! Yes, intuitive birders, you guessed it. I saw my first Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) yesterday morning at Humber Bay Park. (I went birding with the delightful people at CCFEW on a walk led by the remarkable Glenn Coady). The morning started out with the obligatory owl search (alas, nothing), and then we happened upon this otherworldly sight:

Photo from here.

And I was smitten. I already knew I had a slight crush on the Red Breasted Merganser (mainly for its hairdo in the spring), but had no idea what was in store for me when I locked eyes with the Hooded Merganser. It was as if I had discovered a new species! A fashion statement of a duck! And it was a duck-y morning for us, with good looks at Redheads (Aythya americana), Long Tailed Ducks, Buffleheads (another longstanding favorite), scores of Gadwalls, Greater and Lesser Scaup (would that I could distinguish them!), the obligatory million Mallards, and many others including one with a wonderfully erect tail, whose name I promise you I’ll remember soon. (Thanks to Rick Wright, I now know it was a Ruddy Duck!)

The day was particularly extravagant because it began and ended at my favorite coffee shop, Birds and Beans (first with a fabulous cup of coffee and an obligatory breakfast muffin in the shape of a cookie, and then with a green tea). It turns out the path from Humber Bay East now extends all the way to the coffee shop! What a feat of urban planning and engineering!

But perhaps the best news of all is that my birding wardrobe is finally complete: I splurged and bought myself a pair of thin merino wool long underwear and they’ve changed my life! There I was, flirting with the Hooded Merganser in my REI weather-resistant, stretchy pants (in which the saleswoman claimed to have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro!), my Icelandic wool sweater (purchased at the factory in Vik, a small village famed for the Elves who inhabit the vicinity — they probably knit my sweater!), my Zeiss binoculars, my windproof jacket, Goretex hiking boots, Smartwool socks, a hand-woven wool hat with a pointy tip that makes me look a little like an elf, and now, extraordinarily thin yet warm long underwear. I swear, the Hooded Merganser appreciated my outfit.

Oh, and I also saw a Red breasted Nuthatch, a charm of Goldfinches, a pair House Finches, Golden Crowned Kinglets, a hyperactive Downy, chickadees, and a whole team of mute swans, and a lone Cormorant. By the way, I learned that the gulp of Cormorants on Leslie Spit numbers at least 17,000 pairs! That’s neither here nor there, but I just looked up the collective noun and couldn’t resist.

And now, a trivia question for you, courtesy Glenn Coady: What is the fastest flying (in level flight) bird in Canada? The winner will be profiled on Birds and Words!

All in all, a fantastic morning, Hooded Merganser, long underwear, coffee and all.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. November 11, 2012 3:35 pm

    The stiff-tailed ducks:

    Canada’s only member of that tribe is the badly named ruddy duck.

  2. December 17, 2012 11:42 am

    Did you get good answers to your question about fast flyers? My standard response to the question is “anything with a merlin on its tail.” But I suspect that the true answer is white-throated swift.

    • December 17, 2012 2:18 pm

      Sadly, the question was ignored by my dearest, most faithful readers. I think the red breasted merganser might be swifter than a white-throated swift:)

      • December 17, 2012 2:34 pm

        Rb mergansers are speedy indeed, but they’d have a hard time exceeding 200 mph, which is the speed generally cited for white-throated swifts.

      • December 17, 2012 2:37 pm

        OK, so perhaps White Throated Swifts are indeed the Ferraris of North America, but judging from this map, they rarely appear in Canada, right? So perhaps the my poor red breasted merganser still wins on Canadian soil…

      • December 17, 2012 2:42 pm

        They’re common breeders on the cliffs of the Okanagan.

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