Most of the birds I see fly or float around me as I walk on the beaches and explore the colorful confusion of low tide. These days I recognize most of them right away, as they are the same familiar characters I watch day after day.
Here is a diving duck I noticed from a pier in Seattle that puzzled me at first. It shared the same golden eye as the gorgeous male Barrow’s Goldeneye it followed, but otherwise it didn’t share most of the key features, and despite the aphorism, sometimes different species do flock together. Other marks were different; my duck had a brown head with a faded streak by its bill, and the other a glossy black head with a clear white crescent, mine showed white smudges on its wings, and the other displayed a row of distinct white spots on black feathers. I knew this wasn’t a female Barrow’s Goldeneye, as they have a yellow bill, and no crescent at all. It definitely wasn’t a Common Goldeneye either. I was stuck, as I am so often in my pursuit of birds. Then I found a drawing of a male Barrow’s Goldeneye, first winter, and matched it with this beautiful bird.
Some species of birds change drastically over their years of growth, just like some people do. A year ago I wouldn’t have recognized myself these days, having the time to explore low tide, walk along a pier in Seattle, and puzzle over the identification of one young Goldeneye.