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Nature’s Best By Elma Chapman - Rock Wren


It’s wonderful, beautiful, unique, mysterious, absurd, unreal, and also maybe a tad bit ridiculous – the event that started occurring on May 16, 2013. It is definitely a happening that never will go forgotten in my lifespan.

The morning was as common as any. Normal routines were being followed. As always, I hung around the woodland edge in hopes of getting my year list up. I’d just got done finding the Philadelphia Vireo (bird number 159) when I heard my brother John Allen, 13, yelling for me to come. The tone of his voice betrayed something unusual, but he’d used that tone before. I dashed over to him and his chores came to a dead stop. I focused my binoculars on the bird he pointed out.

“You won’t believe this!” I exclaimed.

“What is it?” he wanted to know. I didn’t know yet; the sun was against me. “Bushtit” flitted through my mind, but no, those are blue and belong in the woods. This bird was brown and in open fields.

It flew away with an undulating flight and luckily landed in the field again. It bobbed on top of a dirt mound, it had buff on its flanks, it bobbed, it had black barring on the white undertail coverts, and a black eye line. It had a long, curved beak, it bobbed, it had dirty white on its chest and belly, it had black legs and it bobbed. The overall impression was of a big wren, a Canyon, I guessed. It also had light to warm brown upperparts with slight barring on the wings. And guess what: it hopped on top of a stone and bobbed again! I told John Allen to keep track of it while I went for a bird guide.

In the wren section of the Crossley ID Guide I located the spittin’ image and behavior of the Rock Wren! (We found the buffy tipped tail later.) I looked it up in Birds of Northern Indiana and read it had been seen once before in October 1977. To say I was excited would be an understatement; I was shaking all over.

Pumping to the phone, I dialed the Michiana Bird Hotline and reported it after the beep, also begging for a confirmation. We kept close watch of the Rock Wren the whole forenoon. It wasn’t till afternoon that the first photographers came. And then they CAME! The visitors turned out to be 48.75 percent of the fun.

Birders’ questions and answers:

Where was it seen first?Between two large railroad tie posts in a barren, short-grass field.

Does it ever sing? No, it was never heard.

Is it a he or a she?Hard question. Probably a female because it never sings.

Where does it roost?In a pile of iron panels and cement chimney blocks, or under a hay wagon.

How close can you get to the Rock Wren?It has flown right up in front of me. About 20 inches. It has been cooperative enough for over 1,000 pictures, I believe.

How did you get started birding?I was inspired by birding the day Dad came home with a stack of the previous volume of Feathers and Friends. The fact that my older brother is a birder may have had an impact. This is my second year birding and my three younger brothers’ first year.

We didn’t find the Rock Wren this morning (Monday, May 20), but you might be able to find out if he’s still around by calling the Michiana Bird Hotline at 1-574-642-1300 ext. 4098 or 260-562-2155 ext. 3.

Have fun with your feathered friends in the future.