The Inalienable Right to Pish


Yes, you heard me.


Pishing, it turns out, is a birder thing.  Which I know because this past weekend was International Migratory Bird Day, and it happens that there was a big bird doin’s  just less than an hour from here, at Salinas Pueblo Missions National Park at Quarai.

Northern Waterthrush

TOTALLY COOL Northern Waterthrush, a warbler. Yes, we saw it by the edge of a small pond/large puddle.

It just so happens that I love watching birdies.

For sure I need to learn the resident birds of this area, which are different from the birds in the valley I saw last year (including the niftymost flock of nighthawks, the wonderful gobbling sandhill cranes,  and a gorgeous black phoebe).   Here up against the east side of the Sandias, so much of what I’ve seen is new to me.  This flycatcher, that nuthatch, a different variety of the junco…

After the bird drought I found while living east of Flagstaff for a decade, it is a veritable feast.   So add in International Migratory Bird Day and…  Well.  I swoon!

On this particular IMBD,  we had not only the birds, but the guides–birding gurus Hart Schwarz  and Tyler Huning.  Inevitably the birding group–thinned somewhat by a cold, cloudy day and high regional winds that manifested as only a brisk breeze in the birding zone–spread out, and I ended up with Hart Schwartz, futilely and not too stealthily trying to siphon his brain.  (sadly, my brain is not nearly big enough to hold all that knowledge).

It was Hart, after a discussion of the ethics of pishing,  who declared mankind’s inalienable right to pish.

Piiishhhh psh psh psh!

Yup, like that. Apparently sometimes–say when you’ve had a bird singing and it’s gone quiet–you can spur it back into activity by pishing it. There was some discussion over whether this was “okay,” (birding ethics lesson!) and in short order, all was settled. It is, I have learned, a basic right of mankind to pish!

Something oddly reassuring about that.

Plus, of course, it was the perfect opportunity to make all the expected puns.

Not that I would do anything like that. Puns. No no, not me. Certainly not a cheap and easy pun.



Anyway! The official bird count will be up on the Park’s event page, and I’m sure it’ll be much longer than my own list.  Off the top of my head?  (And not counting the ones we heard but didn’t see): Wilson’s warbler, northern waterthrush, lark sparrow, spotted towhee, violet green swallow, lazuli bunting, dusky flycatcher, yellow warbler, kinglet(?), catbird, turkey vulture, raven (not sure which), crow, bushtit(?), ladder-backed woodpecker, morning and collared doves…  Oh, I am running out of brain again!

(And that’s not counting the Swainson’s hawk we saw on the way, or the summer tanager we saw on the way back! Also, total bonus:  going through the teensy no-intersection townlets as we trundled along the bottom edge of the Manzano mountains, we came across Ray’s One Stop:  Gas-Groceries-Liquor-Woodyard. Indeed, something for everyone!)

But mostly, I just plain had fun with a group of complete strangers who quietly and amiably had instant fun together, in Pursuit of  Bird.  Boy, I hope I can go to this event again next year!

Wilson's warbler

Wilson's warber. Totally adorable. Flit! Flit!

violet-green swallow

The violet-green swallow, who finally perched at the top of a juniper and posed for us after teasing us for hours

Lazuli Bunting

Lazuli Bunting--the final bird of my outing, and how perfect is that, to cap off the day?

PS: And at the homestead…brown-headed cowbird, house finch, and Cassin’s flycatcher…
PPS: Those piccies are from (and linked to) their respective pages on the Audubon Guide site!

About Doranna

My books are SF/F, mystery, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense. My dogs are Beagles, my home is the Southwest, and the horse wants a cookie!
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7 Responses to The Inalienable Right to Pish

  1. Peggy says:

    What gorgeous birds and of course pics.

  2. Adrianne says:

    Wow!!! Such pretty birds! And so many!!! What kind of camera do you use?

  3. Doranna says:

    Zoicks! The piccies aren’t mine–they’re from and linked to their pages on the Audubon Guide site. I added that line to the blog. Egads. I was tired when I wrote this or I wouldn’t have stumbled into that goof!

  4. Doranna says:

    PS Adrianne, the camera is borrowed, and is an aging Nikon D70 that alternately delights me and drives me crazy. The latter because it’s so automatic and insists on making all my decisions for me. There are ways around that but I’m just figuring them out. (Don’t get me wrong, there are times I want that, but there are other times I need to manage lighting or depth of field…)

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Hurray for the birds! Wilson’s Warbler migrates through here–I see them just about every year–and we get a Northern Waterthrush if there’s water in the creek in the fall and winter and early spring, but no Violet-Green Swallows (Barn and Cave.)

    Boo on brown-headed cowbirds (population increased by human land use decisions, and they’re nest predators–females lay prolifically in the nests of smaller birds like small buntings, finches, vireos, and warblers.)

    We had a kettle of Swainson’s hawks one day when Richard and I were out on the land–amazing! Never seen anything like it, and of course I stood there with my jaw hanging down and the binocs on them…and did not take a picture! DUH!

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Oh–on the pishing thing. Occasional pishing when birds are not otherwise stressed I think is fine–I do it, so it’s fine, right? But I won’t pish for a couple of months now–birds are on the nest and don’t need to be taken away so a blankety-blank female brown-headed cowbird can peck their eggs and put in her own. And where birds are under constant stress (small park, many birders every day) I think pishing is one more stressor they don’t need. It’s like the people who think you should be always available every minute–they want you on call–I think birds deserve privacy too.

    But I’m not an expert. Just someone who also loves to watch birds, has pished birds out to at least the edge of cover, but…respects a bird’s desire to be private sometimes.

  7. Doranna says:


    The cowbirds are not the problem here that you have there, thank goodness.

    I think pishing is like everything…it’s got to be done thoughtfully, within the context of the circumstances. 8) Like all tools, it’s all about how it’s used. On this birding day, it was used once.

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