A male Smew (Mergellus albellus), was discovered on
January 21, 2007 on a small pond in a rural subdivison in Soulsbyville, Tuolumne
County, California. I had planned to fly to the San Francisco Bay Area on
January 28 so I kept a close watch on the CalBirds mailing list during the days
prior to our departure from Maryland. On January 29, I made the 2.5 hour drive
to Soulsbyville, hoping that the Smew would be there. It was! I felt even
luckier when the bird failed to appear on the pond after that day.
Smews, members of the Merganser family, are cavity nesters in forests from Scandinavia across
Russia and Siberia to the Kamchatcka Peninsula. They are rarely seen in North America.
Their winter range extends from the coast of the Mediterranean, Caspian and Black seas,
Asia Minor, Middle East, northern India, China, Korea and Japan. How this bird
ended up in Soulsbyville will always be a mystery.