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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.

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

    The stiff-tailed ducks: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1018&context=bioscihandwaterfowl

    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 http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/White-throated_Swift/id, 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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