• Dale Bowman

Shushing: Ramble with the Lady

First time I met Joel Greenberg, years ago, he started ``shushing'' next to some thickets in Chicago's North Shore before dawn.

Thought of that this morning when I heard all kinds of small birds around town as Lady, our family's mutt, and I rambled off. Portions of the fall migration must be passing through town.

``Shushing'' or `pishing,'' may date back to St. Francis of Assisi, according to a Wild Birds Unlimited blog.

Pretty simply, ``shushing'' or ``pishing'' is making that sort of sound with your mouth to draw birds out of thickets. Here is the basic description from the WBU blog entry, which captures the essence:

A birder can coax birds out from the cover of trees and undergrowth to investigate the pishing noise. Some birders just say the word “pish, pish, pish.” Others use a shushing style. One characteristic that seems to work is a prolonged, unhurried and even-toned quality in the sound.

Effectiveness aside, it was quite stunning the first time I met Greenberg, maybe the smartest guy I know other than my second oldest brother, putting his lips together and making odd sounds to pull out birds.

Greenberg is the man who wrote the Bible of Chicago-area outdoors, ``A Natural History of the Chicago Region.'' Years later, we would do a radio show together for public radio for a year.

Truly smart people have eclectic interests and that is certainly true of both my second oldest brother and Greenberg.

Maybe there is some connection between curiousity and smarts.

I digress.

Still dark when we rambled off this morning.

That had an unexpected bonus as I had a brilliant view of Venus in the eastern sky over the northern old clay pit. At least I think it was Venus, according to what I found on, a fun site.

Sandpipers sounded all around the town pond shorelines as Lady and I stretched out an extended ramble.

I needed the two miles of an extended ramble this morning after the meal my wife made last night of chicken breasts in a wine-reduction and heavy cream sauce.

Good Lord.

I digress in delighted memory of the meal.

In the near darkness, I could make out the V's of at least two muskrats swimming in the north pit. Apparently they did not see us or did not car, because neither splashed off.

Back on the edge of town, the eastern skyline was beginning to lighten, but so barely that the main light still busted a hole in the darkness at the grain elevators. (Hello, Charles Demuth.)

Downtown, the scarecrows and and corn stalk decorations are starting to go up in preparation for town's big festival this weekend. This week the town will become more visually interesting every day.

Two rabbits hopped around the yard near the evergreens south across the alley from the bus barn.

Though the predawn was spilling fresh light, we reached our front steps before full dawn.

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