Tag Archives: Rock Wren

A little bird helped turn strangers into friends

rockwrenbybrucestambaguh

This was actually the very first photo that I took of the Rock Wren. I was so excited to see it, I didn’t realize that I had captured it singing until I downloaded the shots to my computer. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

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.

bowmanscornersbybrucestambaugh

The Rock Wren roamed around Bowman’s Corners, a little crossroads in Ohio’s Amish Country three miles south of Mt. Hope, OH. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

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Filed under Amish, birding, column, news, Ohio, photography, writing

The day I almost died but didn’t

homemadedonutsbybrucestambaugh

Homemade glazed donuts.

By Bruce Stambaugh

It happened in a flash, as scary moments often do. I was mere inches from serious injury if not death. My guess is we all have events like this.

I don’t mean to overdramatize this. The split-second incident helped me further appreciate both what had previously occurred that day and what I was about to encounter.

I had already had an illuminating morning. I got to help my Amish neighbors run some timely errands. They had made dozens of glazed donuts for an open house at a nearby greenhouse. My task was to deliver the golden goodies and their makers to the party. It was hardly a chore.

whereithappenedbybrucestambaugh

Where it happened, without our granddaughter present.

I also got to see the wayward Rock Wren again. Why this cute little creature landed two miles east of my house smack in the middle of the world’s largest Amish population, I have no idea. I just know it did, and the property owners were more than hospitable to any and all who wanted a chance to see this rarity.

Hundreds came to view this bird that belonged in the Rocky Mountains. This was only the second recorded appearance of this species in Ohio. After taking too many photographs of this feathered rock star, I returned home.

I checked to see if the mail had been delivered. With a small hill to the north, I have been especially careful about crossing our busy county highway for 34 years. The vehicles tend to zip along despite the posted speed limit. Just like my mother taught me, I looked both ways, and crossed to the mailbox, which sets well away from the road.

I grasped the handful of letters and turned to retrace my steps. At that exact moment, a car driven by a young man roared by going south in the northbound lane. As he passed two other vehicles, his rearview mirror nearly clipped me.

barredowletsbybrucestambaugh

Barred Owlets.

I don’t think the young driver ever saw me. He was too focused on getting wherever he was going. At first, I stepped back to catch my breath even though the roadway was now clear.

Then I smiled. Rather than be mad or frightened, I immediately became filled with gratitude for many things. Being kept safe topped the list. Others included the fulfilling experiences and interactions I had already had that day.

I determined to be even more grateful for the rest of the day and all the days that followed. I would he thankful for the people I meet along the way, too.

My life continued. I visited friends near Mt. Hope that had a pair of Barred Owlets roosting on a tree near their home. The afternoon sun beautifully highlighted the cute, cuddling pair.

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Our hardy meal of morel mushrooms, an over easy egg, and locally cured bacon.

Another friend had given my wife and me our first morel mushrooms of the season. Neva sautéed them with olive oil and a dash of salt, and we downed them with over easy eggs and some locally raised and cured bacon.

It may have been one of the best meals I had ever eaten or was glad to eat, given the close call. For dessert I relished the relationships with friends and family as much as the savory mushrooms and bacon.

My mailbox episode was an important universal lesson. We need to express our gratitude whenever and wherever we can as often as we can. We just never know when we will no longer have that chance.

rockwrenbybrucestambaugh

Rock Wren singing.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Filed under Amish, birding, column, family, Ohio, photography, writing