Yesterday while running some errands we made a brief stop at the Fairview Wetlands near the Salem Airport. There was a sharp wind and because of the cold we only spent thirty minutes on the trail. The most striking sighting was this tight group of three Northern Shovelers.
One of the things I love about birding is the multiple layers of experience to enjoy. You can simply appreciate and enjoy the beauty of these colorful birds on a cold gray winter pond. Or you can look closer and notice the difference in plumage and be aware of male and female. And then you can further think about migration and appreciate more what is going on in the bigger picture.
These Northern Shovelers are probably winter visitors, traveling from breeding grounds in the far north to either stay in the area for the winter or travel further south. Looking closer at this trio you will notice three different plumages. On the right hand leading is a male in breeding plumage. At the end is clearly a female. The one in the middle is the interesting one with a plumage that almost suggests a combination of the male and female. It is possibly a first year immature male, or a male in non-breeding plumage. I need to do more research, which brings me back to why I love birding so much. I enjoy it in the field, I am challenged to photograph and preserve the moment, and then I have the opportunity for further research and learning.