Rock Wren Record

by Aden Troyer | Sep 1, 2023 | 0 comments

Rock Wren on boulder
Rock Wren. Photo © Zack Abbey / CC-BY-4.0.

The parking lot was full. People milled around, all carrying binoculars, spotting scopes, or cameras. We found another parking area nearby, grabbed our optics, and hiked along a well-kept path through high grasses and cattails. We were in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, and we were chasing a bird.

Palm Warblers flitted from one tree to another or hopped on the paths, bobbing their tails as they always do. As we neared a wooden bridge spanning a rock-lined drainage ditch, someone said, “I heard a Marsh Wren. It’s in those reeds.”

American Kestrels were flying back and forth across the grassy areas when a much larger dark falcon appeared, circling and climbing on fast-beating wings. “That’s a Peregrine,” one of the birders said. “It stays at a quarry near here.”

That falcon was climbing, and as we watched, it folded its wings and went into a dive. Then we noticed a flock of Rock Pigeons all bunched together, twisting and turning as the Peregrine rapidly closed the distance. As the hawk neared the terrified pigeons, they exploded in every direction. The predator zeroed in on a dark bird which zigzagged frantically and actually escaped the talons of the much faster bird!

Near the area where we heard the Marsh Wren, we saw Swamp, Savannah, and Song Sparrows, all either feeding on grass seed or hopping from rock to rock, catching insects.

At the wooden bridge, birders stood elbow to elbow, talking about the rare bird. “It was here at first light this morning, then disappeared,” someone remarked.

That was encouraging, but the crowd waited nearly two hours until our friend Chad, peering through his binoculars, quietly said, “There it is.”

The small washed-out gray bird with peach-colored sides hopped from one rock to another, occasionally dropping between larger boulders and disappearing for a time. The crowd oohed and aahed, and cameras clicked as we stared at Pennsylvania’s first confirmed Rock Wren—a bird seldom seen east of the Rocky Mountains.

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