You can’t imagine how long I have been trying to work the verb pish into a headline. Now that it’s done I can regale you readers with the rest of the article.  

Ah, these are the good times for bird watching.  Among the highlights from yesterday included a Baltimore Oriole singing in a magnolia tree.  A sight like that and for a split second you might imagine you were in the tropics. 

Of course there was my brief encounter with the aforementioned warbler – a Common Yellowthroat – who was skittering between a row of junipers and a different magnolia. I saw him (he was a masked male) twice and the second time he paused long enough in the magnolia for me to pish him.  It worked.

Pishing is used to try attract birds closer by making a loud psssssh sound.  I guess it must hit a generic, white-noise-every-bird-frequency.  I learned this from other birders on field trips.  It does seem to work on occasion,  but sometimes I feel kind of silly doing it.

Anyway, the Yellowthroat was indeed captivated for a moment by the strange noise, and he jumped ever closer to the source – me.  He got to about six feet away, and he either ran out of branches or he realized he’d been snookered by a hominid.  That was that, and he flew off to continue his business elsewhere.

I was thrilled.   I might observe plenty of flora and fauna, but the memories that stick are these odd little moments when the distance between man and wild creatures shrinks briefly. Now, I can’t tell you if that Yellowthroat will remember me but I sure won’t forget him.            

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Dave Coulter

I have been a horticulturist for thirty years working in the Chicago area and beyond. I have lived in Oak Park for over thirteen years. My writing has recently appeared in the journal Ecological Restoration...

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