Greg Goes Birding

I’ve got a lot to cover in this post, and lot’s of pictures to upload, so let’s get right down to business, shall we?

I must admit I’m still reeling from an embarrassing faux pas in my last post. You may remember that one: I tried to speak “Vulturese” to a tower-ful of vultures. It was my attempt to follow Scott Anderson’s bird photography advice, which was to learn their language and become a bird-whisperer of sorts.

The fact that I got a couple dozen vultures to pose for me on my very first attempt gave me the false sense that I was a natural born bird-whisperer. Well, as it turned out, I got those pictures despite myself. Scott was real nice when he told me I had more work to do because the language I was speaking wasn’t Vulturese — it was Crowish — but still, I was ashamed. I felt like the kind of imbecile who would learn to speak the German language for a trip to China.

I HAD to redeem myself, so I pulled an all-night study session in Bird Linguistics. The very next day, (yesterday) my cramming paid off. I was riding along, minding my own business, when I spotted four ostriches in a field to my left. Maybe you can see them in the feature photo at the top of the page. They’re up near the cornfield. They were huge.

Thanks to my newfound bird knowledge, I came to my senses. Ostriches do not roam the countryside around here. Neither do emus. And they were too skinny to be wild turkeys. “Oh my gosh,” I thought to myself, “I think those things might be sandhill cranes.” I zoomed in with my zoomily, zumerific Samsung phone to confirm. And I spoke to them.

“Coo-o-o-o, hoo-o-o-o-, wonkloo-o-o-o ahloo-o-o-o-o-o-o” I called to them in my best vibrato. [Translation: Dudes, please sit still long enough for me to get a little closer.]

Not only did they sit still, a couple of the others moved up the hill for this noble pose on the horizon.

I was pretty proud of myself for spotting these interesting creatures. I was even more proud when a couple of motorcyclists noticed me taking pictures and then they stopped to take pictures of their own. It would never have happened had I not just learned to speak Sandhillcranian.

Let it be known that absolutely NOBODY around MY Town sets out on their bike with the intent to spot some sandhill cranes. Eagles, ducks, herons, robins, sparrows — maybe. Sandhill cranes — no. I just got lucky.

Emboldened by yesterday’s success, I set out today specifically to test my bird speaking skills and my avian photography skills. As you will soon see, my day was a huge success on both counts.

“CooOOO-hoo hoo hooooo,” I called in my lonesome voice. [Translation: Hey there Mr. Mourning Dove, please wrap those little feet around that skinny wire just a little longer so I can take a picture.] It worked. He did it.

No birds in this picture. I just wanted to show some scenery from the ride. It had been quite a few miles with no bird sightings.

Then I came upon a pair of cardinals in front of a farmhouse. “Wreet wreet wreet wreet wreet,” I trilled. And sure enough, they sat rigidly still while I took this picture from behind of them staring at the view-blockers.

Sure, those pictures are pretty fantastic, but the next sequence of pictures might be my piece de resistance. Birds of prey are easily my favorite birds. When a big hawk flew across the road to a telephone pole ahead of me, I was ecstatic.

There he is, on the right hand part of the next telephone pole’s crossbar. I hoped he would hear me yelling “CHREEEE-eeeee-eeee!” [Translation: “Don’t move, I’ll be right there.”]

Apparently he didn’t hear me because he flew off to the next pole. I’ve seen that kind of behavior before while biking in Montana and North Dakota.

This time the hawk allowed me approach from behind without flying away. “ChREEEEEeee!” I said in appreciation. I proceeded on right underneath him, where I got a picture from the front. That has never happened for me before.

“Chreeee-chreeeeee, CHREEEE-EEEEEEE-eeeeeeeee” I said. [Translation: “Thanks for the pose. Now I’d like to catch an in-flight photo of you. Can you help me?”]


I had a few more mile to go before reaching the magical number of 42-miles. Luckily, I had one more significant photo op.

“Honk wawonk nyonk ronk ronk ronk.” [Translation: Could you geese kindly gather in a group for a picture?”

Of course, I thanked the geese for their cooperation. Unfortunately, I did not get the same cooperation from a couple of goldfinches, a Baltimore oriole, and a blue jay while on the bike trail back into MY Town.

Hi. My name is Greg and I ride my bike a lot. That is to say, I ride my bike almost every day. I go on long rides and short rides. Sunny rides, cloudy rides, and rainy rides. I like commuting, errand-running, day-tripping, overnighting, and touring on my bike. I ride on city streets, highways, gravel, single track, and snow with equal enthusiasm. Sometimes I ride fast and sometimes I ride slow. I try to keep my feet on the pedals at stop lights and I do not dismount when I hop up on a curb. I have a roadie bike, a mountain bike and a touring bike. I try to accept any challenge a bike ride can throw at me without complaint. But I don't like bugs.

8 response to "Greg Goes Birding"

  1. By: Bill Stone Posted: July 26, 2020

    Good work, bird-whispering and multiple-bird-linguist Greg.

    That reminds me of a story about my buddy Jeff. (The same Jeff who, after his wife ordered him to hire someone to do the work, sneakily climbed the tree in his backyard while she was gone and dinged himself up pretty good when he fell out of it.) Anyway, Jeff told me and Cap’n Will that when he was in college he spent a lot of time in the library listening to tapes so he could learn bird calls. Of course, we quickly pointed out that’s probably one of the many reasons he didn’t get a lot of dates while he was in school. So, Greg, be careful with all those bird languages.

    • By: gregblood Posted: July 27, 2020

      Yes, I remember the “Jeff falling out of the tree after promising he wouldn’t go up there story.” Apparently Jeff and I have something else in common besides lying to our wives about doing risky things: I spent a lot of time in the college library too, but it wasn’t to learn birdcalls. I did most of my studying there, but the things that kept ME from getting dates was either my fascination with the Dewey Decimal System or the number of hours I spent reading album reviews in “Rolling Stone,” “Hi-Fidelity,” “The New York Times,” and other publications. Another possible reason was that I still LOOKED and acted like a high school sophomore when I was a college senior.

  2. By: Scooter Posted: July 26, 2020

    VERY impressive, Greg. And you’re way ahead of me. I was just going to suggest that those ostriches might be sandhill cranes when I reread the post and saw that you were already there. Nice!

    And great work with the hawk! I recognize that behavior – one hopscotched down a line of poles ahead of me just a few days ago. Typical behavior for a red tail, which presumably it was. And your verbalization looks perfect, but an audio would have been very nice.

    • By: gregblood Posted: July 27, 2020

      Thank you for the compliments, but I know I haven’t really accomplished the level of bird photography you have. But your suggestion of providing some audio of my birdcalls is giving me some crazy ideas.

  3. By: Rich-Illinois Posted: July 26, 2020

    Nice avian photos — a small squadron of gold finches (?) fly ahead of me on south 7th street, hopscotching along — just as I get close they fly ahead again, no way to get a decent photo.

    Actually, I’m pretty good with bird calls: ——> Here birdie birdie, HERE birdie birdie!!

    • By: gregblood Posted: July 27, 2020

      There is no doubt in my mind that goldfinches are the hardest birds to photograph. They won’t sit still, and they’re incredibly fast. I tried several times to take pictures of them criss-crossing in front of me while I pedaled. Every time I looked at the results of my pictures, nothing was there. Goldfinches are the vampires of the bird world.

  4. By: The Navigator Posted: July 28, 2020

    Ha, ha – what a fun read! Thanks, Greg. You’ve got some great bird photos, too.

    I had a boyfriend once that used to throw potato salad on his roof to feed the crows… yes, it was a sign… that relationship did not last all that long 🙂

  5. By: Lednar De Nalloh Posted: July 29, 2020

    Dear Bird Whisperer. What’s Magpie for “please don’t attack me”. Swooping season starts soon.

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