I was expecting big things after the passage of the cold front on Tuesday evening. The next morning I anxiously took a look around the grounds for any birds that may have come in behind the front. I was secretly hoping for a Northern Saw-whet Owl.
I’ve looked for saw-whets every year here at the Museum during November and December. I’ve yet to find one. They’re small owls, about 7 or 8 inches and weigh 5 ounces or less. They move south from their northern forest breeding grounds (they also nest here in the mountains of North Carolina) in winter and like to roost in dense thickets or conifers during the day.
I did not find a saw-whet owl but it wasn’t a complete wash. Although the temperatures were in the low thirties, I found a butterfly! I also saw a handful of Golden-crowned Kinglets, and what seemed like more White-throated Sparrows. Both the kinglets and sparrows had been seen in October, but this rather strong front brought in more.
I was pishing in order to bring the kinglets in a little closer so as to get a better photo and a titmouse flew in to give me the once-over.
Of course, titmice are year round residents here, but the bird flew in, I like titmice, and I took a photo.
By the way, if you don’t know what pishing is, I’m here to tell you. It’s the sound one makes to attract birds. It sounds like it’s spelled except that I might remove the first i, the ing, and just use the psh, maybe adding a few more Ss and Hs and repeat it three or four times. Like this pssshhh, pssshhh, pssshhh, pssshhh!
The sound is supposed to mimic the alarm call of some of the birds you’re trying to attract. When small birds hear this sound they sometimes come in to see what’s going on, maybe there’s an owl to mob? Today, it brought in the kinglets and titmouse, and a half-dozen or so Butter Butts. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t work at all.
Maybe I’ll get lucky and find a saw-whet tomorrow?