By Bruce Stambaugh
A month ago, a wayward little bird, a Rock Wren, ended up far from home smack in the middle of Ohio’s Amish country. Its arrival caused quite a stir. Over and over again, the wren flitted from a farm to a residence to a barnyard to a business and back.
Here it was two miles east of my home at a crossroads colloquially dubbed Bowman’s Corners. The buildings, the pastures, the animals, hardly resembled the wren’s native habitat in the American southwest. Nevertheless, the wren made itself at home for 10 days, and then just disappeared.
Word of the rarity quickly spread, and birders from near and far came with binoculars and cameras with long lenses to catch a glimpse of the dusty-colored wren if they could. Since the only other Ohio sighting of this bird had been in December 1963, I wasn’t surprised at all the commotion.
By the end of its short visit to the world’s largest Amish population, the pallid bird had taken on rock star status. It was a Rock Wren after all.
People from all stages of life came from miles around hoping to catch even a glance of the vagabond bird. Young, old, women, men, boys and girls, novice and internationally known birders flocked to view the Rock Wren. In total, more than 500 birders came in search of this special appearance. Many got to see the fickle little bird while others did not despite their patient waiting.
The bird was the great equalizer. World-class birders stood side-by-side with youngsters gawking to see what all the fuss was about. When the secretive bird reappeared, a birder’s hand went up, excitedly waving. Other birders hustled to the spot to get a peek or to take a photo.
There was no class system, no pecking order, and no discrimination among these birders. If a birder saw it, he or she made sure others got to as well, even if it meant lending their own binoculars for others to spot the wren.
Fancy, expensive automobiles sat beside plain black buggies. Boys with suspendered denim pants, and straw hats stood alongside strangers old enough to be their grandparents. They were there for the same reason, and nothing else mattered than to catch a glimpse of the Rock Wren.
Those who were kind enough to host the posse of birders during the wren’s Amish country vacation seemed to enjoy the people as much as the bird. Of particular note was an older couple from the Cleveland area. Their story earned the respect and admiration of several, and served as an example of the dedication of birders.
The elderly gentleman was 95, and his wife was 90. Avid birders, they were undecided about making the two-hour drive form their home. Finally, they committed to coming, and they were not disappointed. Their zeal for birding brought smiles all around.
In its happenstance landing at Bowman’s Corners, the Rock Wren helped make new friends of those who sought to see it. More importantly, despite gender, age, wealth, education, birding experience or life’s station, they gathered as one through a common interest, a genuine love of all things created. The Rock Wren had woven its magic, innocently converting strangers into friends.
The Rock Wren was a splendid surprise. The gracious hospitality availed by the property owners of Bowman’s Corners that enabled so many folks to see this precious bird was no surprise at all.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.