Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pishing Above Aspen Grove & Sundance Ski Resort

You may be wondering, "What in the heck in "Pishing? Is that a typo?"  Pishing is a sound some birders make with their mouths when they suspect small "tweety" birds are hiding nearby in dense brush or foliage. The sound draws the attention of some small birds to the point of bringing them out of their hiding places.

When I first rekindled my interest in birds a few years ago I had two broad categories for them. Raptors were the cool birds, of course. Tweety birds were all the little singing birds. Needless to say, my interest in and fascination with birds has grown to include and appreciate every species I encounter. Consequently, I've added "pishing" to my tool bag for locating, identifying, and photographing the tweety birds.

I attended a  purchasing conference at Aspen Grove, near Sundance Ski Resort in Utah County, a little over a week ago. It was a Friday and the first winter-ish storm of the season had passed through the area and left a thin blanket of snow in some of the higher elevations. The sun was still hidden by clouds, but I captured a few images looking up from Aspen Grove before leaving the conference.

Fall View From Aspen Grove Lodge in Utah County, UT
View Toward Mount Timpanogos From Aspen Grove Lodge in Utah County, UT
Aspen Grove is on the other side of the mountain, so to speak, from my home so I drove back up and over the top of the mountain to return home. As I was starting that drive I looked back and admired a scene of mixed seasons. The light layer of snow revealed some of the lower runs of the Sundance Ski Resort in the distance. Maples turning orange-red, evergreens, and deciduous trees that were still showing green leaves added color to the scene.

View of Aspen Grove From Alpine Loop Road in Utah County, UT
Driving a little farther and higher took me to a vantage point allowing a better view of the ski resort as it was beginning to be shrouded by heavy clouds.

View of Sundance Ski Resort From Alpine Loop Road in Utah County, UT
While admiring the scenery I heard sporadic "peeps" coming from the trees on the hillside below me so I decided to give "pishing" a whirl.  And out came some cute little tweety birds! Black-capped Chickadees showed themselves first, but it was the Mountain Chickadees I decided to photograph since I was enjoying time in the mountains, after all. This one struck a nice pose as it came up for a look at the "pishing" guy.

Mountain Chickadee Above Sundance and Aspen Grove in Utah County, UT
Within a few minutes several more Mountain Chickadees were curious enough to fly in from their hiding places. One particular bird was drawn more to plucking some seeds from the blossom of a Mullein plant. I've heard most people pronounce that as "mool-uhn."

Several Ruby-crowned Kinglets made their way into nearby cover and slowly gained the courage or enough curiosity to move into the open. This little guy is really only about four inches long from head to tip of tail. He came close, but kept his ruby-colored crown feathers well hidden except for a tiny red dot that can be seen near the center of his crown. If you are like me you'll need reading glasses to see that tiny dot of red.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet Above Sundance and Aspen Grove in Utah County, UT
Here's an image I captured previously in southern Utah just to give you an idea of how much red was hidden by the bird above. During breeding season these males can reveal red feathers that cover nearly a third of their crown.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Tonaquint Park in St George, UT
Red-breasted Nuthatches were last on the scene. They are, in my experience, often the last to arrive at the pishing parties.

Red-breasted Nuthatch Above Sundance and Aspen Grove in Utah County, UT
I think it was coincidental that a Steller's Jay passed through and landed on the bare branches of a nearby tree. They don't generally respond to strange people making "pishing" sounds on a hillside. I always enjoy seeing these black, white, and mostly bright blue jays. They are generally found at the higher elevations of coniferous and mixed wood mountain forests.

Steller's Jay Along Alpine Loop Road Above Sundance and Aspen Grove in Utah County, UT
Steller's Jay Along Alpine Loop Road Above Sundance and Aspen Grove in Utah County, UT
The conference I attended was fun and inspirational. The drive home was peaceful. The world is a wonderful place because of good people and the beauties of nature. I felt blessed when I returned home to family after a wonderful Friday.


  1. Awesome photographs Jeff. Amazed at your close ups of these beautiful birds in their natural environment. Can't beat the back of Timp in the fall. Keep em coming!


    1. Thanks, Todd. I can't tell you how many times each year to say something about how much I love our Mountains. And they are just minutes away! Mount Timpanogos and its surroundings impress me from every angle and in every season.

  2. Beautiful! I love Sundance for its ever producing beauty and especially the birding! Nice job!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Tonya. I can never get enough of our mountains and resorts.

  3. Jeff, your photo of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet Above Sundance is fantastic!

    1. Those Kinglets are actually quite hyper despite their soft puffy looks. It's hard to get them to sit still for photographs. It helps to have good light and to catch them at the right pause from their twitchy, jumpy behavior. Digital photography allows quantity to eventually produce quality with birds like that. Thanks for commenting.