Smew at Whitby Harbour near Toronto

Adult winter male Smew at Whitby Harbour on 28 December 2011. Found by Jim Robinson on 26 December 2011. At first we aged this Smew as in first winter plumage. However, in December 2017, Sebastien Reeber, author of Waterfowl of North America, Europe and Asia aged it as an adult molting into winter plumage. He says it is in active prebasic molt and is distinguished from a first winter by the adult tertials and tertial coverts, alternate lower scapulars (broad, rounded and dark grey) and black mantle.


Two previous records of Smew have been accepted by the Ontario Bird Records Committee: one was a female on the Niagara River between Fort Erie and Chippawa from 21 February to 30 March 1960, and the other also a female was at Normandale near Long Point on 9 and 10 December 1973. (2000 OBRC Report by Kayo Roy in August 2001 issue of Ontario Birds). Subsequent to the Whitby Smew, an adult Smew was at Long Point (Inner Bay) from 8 to 11 March 2012. (2013 OBRC Report by Brandon Holden in Ontario Birds, August 2014)


The Smew put on a great show, at times coming very close. 27 December 2011.


This photo shows white feathers molting in on crown of the Smew's head. 27 December 2011.

Photo shows white feathers on Smew's head on 28 December 2011.


Group of Smew watchers. On the right end is Jim Richards whose friend Jim Robinson found the Smew. The tallest in the back row just right of centre is Glenn Coady who first posted about the Smew on Ontbirds and baked shortbread cookies for everyone - plate on ground. I'm third person in from left. Glenn's wife Paula took the photo. 27 December 2011.


On 30 December, John Vanderpoel (right in green jacket, with Ron Pittaway) flew to Toronto hoping to add the Whitby Smew to his Big Year list. He was very close to equalling the record of 745 set by Sandy Komito in 1998. Ron Pittaway and I picked him up at the airport and took him to Whitby. Unfortunately the Smew left two days before. Even so, John's total of 743 species (plus 1 provisional) for 2011 is a remarkable achievement. Photo by Jean Iron.


 Link to  John Vanderpoel Big Year