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.

Click picture for close up view