Thursday, January 22, 2009

"You know how to pish, don't you?" *

"You put your lips together and go psssh!

Well, no matter how I tried, my pishing efforts were never successful. Last year I bought Pete Dunne’s “The Art of Pishing” which included a CD of how correct pishing sounds like. I followed all his instructions, from plain pishing to imitating the sound of an owl. All that happened was that the front of my shirt became drenched from all that spewing from my lips.

Last Monday at San Joaquin Wildlife Santuary in Irvine, through my feeble attempts at pishing, I tried to coax the following to show themselves out in the open: a Common Yellowthroat, a Marsh Wren and a few Song Sparrows. Yes, I did the “pssssh!” sound and the “lu-lu-lu-lu!” of an owl. No response. I saw some fluttering behind the tall reeds, but that’s about it. Thankfully I was the only one there, otherwise people might get curious why I was so frantically wiping off my binoculars which was hanging from my neck.

So I moved on. Catching a glimpse of some movement behind a tall brush, I took a deep breath and was about so burst forth in an ear-splitting pish when an Anna’s Hummingbird suddenly alit on a branch just a few feet away. It stared curiously at me and then flashed me with the most gorgeous shining gorget I have ever seen.

Satisfied that it succeeded in preventing me from puckering my lips and making a fool of myself, the tiny angel of a bird flew off.

Things got a lot better after that. Rounding a corner, I was surprised to see a Northern Harrier perched on a bare branch. At about 30 feet, that was the closest I was able to get to this raptor species.

The ponds were full of ducks and all three species of Teals were well represented: Blue-winged,


and Cinnamon.

After lunch, I visited Bolsa Chica and easily refound the White-winged Scoter. This time it was much closer and I got even better shots than the last time.

* To Have and Have Not, 1944


Kyle said...

Ah, to pish and to pish not. Wonderful!! Loved both the movie ref and the pishing experiences. I laughed so hard that two of my co-workers popped their heads around the corner to make sure I was okay.

The one and only time I gave pishing a try, my kids were with me. They laughed so hard that my son almost fell over. I've never had the guts to try again. ;-)

Kyle said...

Oh, and great pictures, by the way! I especially love the hummingbird and the Cinnamon Teal. Beautiful colors on both!

Bob Kaufman said...

Thanks, Kyle. It's comforting to know that I'm not the only one who is "pishing challenged" :-)

Also, for the month of January, I decided to have my blog titles to be take offs from well known movie quotes.

Anonymous said...

Hey Bob, thanks for the wonderful comment on my Burrowing Owl post :-)

I bought Pete's "Art of Pishing" book also but haven't read it yet. I have been in the complany of some great "pishers" though and have gotten the hang of it myself.

As a matter of fact, on one of our Audubon outings a few weeks ago, we kept hearing Song Sparrows in the bushes along side the road but not seeing any. After a while, someone said, "I sure would like to see one of those sparrows." At which point my friend Ken said, "you want to see one?" and made, if I recall, four pishes and boom, the Song Sparrow popped right up to the laughter and amazement of all!

Don't give up on pishing! Keep practicing and you too will be able to see more birds, get more photos, and maybe amaze your fellow birders!

Wai Yien said...

nice, very nice...keep it coming

Wendy said...

I'm not a great pisher either. I did try a few times on my walk along the river yesterday, and was actually surprised to get a slight response. A few birds moved in a little closer, to see what was up? One even cocked its head at me, like, "what in the world are you doing?" It was fun.

Diane AZ said...

What an interesting assortment of birds you saw at San Joaquin Wildlife Santuary. I can't get over the shimmering color on that Anna's hummingbird. We get Anna's here in Tucson, but I never got such a close look at one before. Great pictures!

flowergirl said...

Ha ha... everyday you learn something new! Pishing - I thought it was those spam emails one gets!! So there's a book out on how to make bird sounds?! Wow!

I really enjoyed reading this, and the lovely hummingbird - its a beauty!

Anonymous said...

Your Anna's Hummingbird picture is gorgeous. I kept going back to it - such great detail!

Jeff Richardson said...

Hi Bob,
I just wanted to check with you and see if you minded that I used one of your photographs as an example for students to see how to properly cite images they get from the web to use in their projects. I am a technology coach for grades 1-5 students in Hoover, Alabama and I am teaching them how to be good digital citizens and give credit to those who create content that they use from the web. How I came across your image was through a google search, which is what most of our students use to find images to add to their projects/writing. So I chose it and created a few screenshots so they can see how to get the info they need to properly cite those images they use. If you have an issue with this, please let me know and I will be happy to take down your image/info. To view how I have used it, go to

Jeff Richardson