My best Baltimore oriole underbelly photo…
One morning a week or so ago, Myladylove gave me a bleary stare over her tea mug and said I was "annoyingly cheerful."
"Moi?" I replied in a particularly dreadful French accent.
"How can you regularly get up in such a state of mind?" she asked, trying with only moderate success to arrange her facial expression into some semblance of a fearsome glare. Not that it would have kept me from laughing at her.
I'd just carried the tray with our breakfast into the front room, placing laden plates, glasses of juice, and refill pots of tea and coffee, on the table. Myladylove was still sipping at her first infusion of caffeine-rich Earl Grey. I stepped around her and opened the blinds so we could look out at the river and yard while we ate. At the sudden light—obliquely angled, mind you, and not all that bright—Myladylove recoiled like a vampire running late for her daily dirt nap.
"ARRGGGHHHH!" she said, trying again for that fearsome glare, but this time looking more like a squinty-eyed Mrs. Magoo…though I thought this similarity was probably not something I ought to mention while she had that half-mug of hot tea in her hand.
"Exactly how am I annoyingly cheerful?"
"You whistle…and whistle…and whistle!"
"Hmmm," I said. "I do whistle…and rather well, I think. I am a good whistler, and I vary my repertoire. Let's see…this morning I did some blues, a bit of gospel, a Hank Williams tune, an old Ricky Nelson song, and—"
Myladylove cut me off—and this time did manage her fearsome glare. "Yeah, but how can you jump out of bed so…perky!"
"Ahh-h," I said. "In point of fact, I staggered out of bed nearly two hours ago. I was not perky, you just weren't conscious. But now I've already had several cups of coffee, answered e-mail, taken Moon the dog out for her walk, checked the river…and waited around for you to wake up. I'm hungry and possibly a bit wired—but I always let you sleep-in on your day off. And I didn't whistle the first note until I heard you moaning and stirring in there; thereafter I whistled skillfully while fixing us a hearty breakfast."
Myladylove's expression softened, a sure sign the tea's caffeine was finally kicking in. "I love it that you cook…and that you let me sleep in, and have my breakfast ready when I finally get up. That's just wonderful!" She grinned at me across the table. "And you are a great whistler."
I thought about this conversation a couple of days ago while working in the yard. Since first light, the sweet May air had been filled with the exuberant, high-volume whistling of a Baltimore oriole. Actually, it was plural—orioles—since there were at least two birds around. They were whistling—a sort of near-continuous call-and-response exchange—which I presume was in hopes of attracting a mate. Apparently they considered their competitive situation desperate, although I think a whistle every couple of minutes ought to have been sufficient. Either you got or or you don't, and a show of self-assurance never hurts.
Did I mention this was a loud exchange? And while we're at it, is there a louder whistling bird on the planet than a Baltimore oriole? Sure, Carolina wrens are pretty good, volume-wise—but orioles are better. WAY LOUDER! Moreover, orioles whistle and whistle and whistle, endlessly, with every breath, for hours on end.
The loud and continuously whistling creatures were working their way through the tops of my yard's numerous sycamore trees. I don't know what they were finding to eat up there, but something good—and plentiful—because they kept going from tree to tree, up and down the riverbank, covering and recovering this chosen feeding ground. And they did this for 12 hours straight…whistling all the while.
Yes, I tried to get a good photo. Tried and tried and tried. These sycamores are very tall and the birds were usually smack in the tops. A 1200mm lens instead of 200mm one would have helped. Maybe. At least it would have provided a better view of an oriole underbelly, which is what you get when you stand beneath a tall tree and shoot straight up at a bird far above. I managed numerous oriole underbelly shots, but they would have been notably better underbelly shots with a longer-reaching lens.
Of course sometimes I couldn't see the birds. Oh, I could hear them whistling, loud and clear, but I couldn't actually see the whistler. You might think a bird only slightly smaller than a robin, decked out in Halloween dress of brilliant orange and black, and located somewhere in the top of a tree whose leaves are only partway filled out for the season, would be an easy mark. You'd be wrong. At least I regularly had trouble spotting them, which was frustrating given the racket they were making.
Anyway, I shot and shot and shot trying to get a better photo; I stalked and maneuvered and did my best…and not infrequently I stomped off in frustration and went back to my yard work, which, I ought to mention, is why I haven't put up a post for several days. Between days of rain and Myladylove's hospital adventure weekend-before last, plus the aftermath of follow-up doctor appointments and tests—and always factoring in my usual margin for personal sloth—I've been long on chores and short on time.
But at least the other day…I didn't have to do my own whistling while I worked!