48 birdwatchersdigest.com • January/February’ 17 • bird Watcher’sdigest
habitat wasn’t normal for this
species, he notified an advanced
birder in the area, who verified
the find. It was a distinctive
black rail call.
Word soon spread. The farmer halted his haying efforts and
prepared to host the hundreds of
birders who were sure to descend
on his property. He knew birders
would want to add this rarity to
their life list, and that is exactly
what happened as the bird stuck
around long enough for most
birders to hear the distinctive
calls. A few were able to actually view and photograph it. As
it turned out, it was not one but
a pair of black rails, and they
nested there, producing a brood
of seven chicks.
Earlier that spring, a rock
wren appeared at an Amish-owned and operated business
in Holmes County near Mt.
Hope. The company happened
to employ one of the area’s top
birders, who is also Amish. He
knew the bird was a rock wren,
and he also knew that it was far
out of its normal range.
A second opinion was
obtained to verify the find before
the report of the rock wren was
broadcast. Again, hundreds of
birders descended on the area to
try to see the second rock wren
ever recorded in Ohio. Many
were successful in catching a
glimpse of the bird; a few even
got to hear it sing.
answer as to why the greater
Holmes County, Ohio, area
records so many rare bird species.
The answer is simply that with all
these trained eyes and ears alert
during daily activities, unusual
birds and bird calls seldom go
The discovery of a black rail
on an Amish farm in neighboring
Coshocton County, Ohio, in early
June 2014 perfectly proves the
point. The unusually wet spring
delayed even horse-drawn equipment from getting into fields,
including for haymaking, one of
the first harvesting activities of
the growing season.
By the time one Amish farmer
was able to enter the hay field for
the first cutting, the hay was both
thicker and higher than normal.
While he was mowing the crop,
the long stems of the mixed
legumes became entangled in the
mowing machine. To remedy the
problem, the farmer had to turn
off the machine’s gasoline engine.
Then he heard an unusual
birdcall. A farmer who was cutting hay in an air-conditioned
tractor cab likely wouldn’t have
heard the bird. The Amish man
suspected the call was that of a
rail, but he didn’t know which
one. He stopped what he was
doing, hurried down the hill to
his house, and looked up rails in
his bird guide.
When he realized that it might
be a black rail, even though the