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Friday, November 03, 2017

Yellow Rails and Rice Festival

 Lifer #666 Yellow Rail, check!
The Yellow Rails & Rice Festival is the reason I visited Louisiana. Took me three days to arrive, and on Thursday, the day started with a field trip with other festival participants. The group traveled by caravan, which I lost, then found, then arrived & parked on the roadside.

The group of birders was given a bag of tangerines by the farmer of the little orchard where we sought a 'target' bird (seen below) a cooperative Couch's Kingbird.

So here I was, in the field, lifting my camera, discovering, I'd left my flash disk back in my hotel room.

In the course of the morning the group & I saw White-tailed Hawks, Eastern Meadowlarks, Inca and Ground Doves, the list went on and on. I saw as much, but photos? Only one I managed by digiscoping the Couch's Kingbird on someone else's spotting scope. *sigh*

The first thing I did when I got back to town in the late afternoon was buy a flash disk that now lives in my wallet. If I ever leave my camera disk home, there is now back-up. Ought to have learned that lesson back in Arizona, the last time I forgot to pull the disk from my laptop. DUH! 

On the second day of the festival I actually got over my usual hermit ways, and as the birders gathered in the morning, I asked if I could ride along with any other birder. *GASP* I know!

Red Crayfish

I buddied up with a v. nice lady birder and she drove us all morning as a caravan of birders checked out birds in the Louisiana countryside. Also saw lots of other wildlife, such as toads and crayfish. Friday morning turned hot & muggy. I went so absolutely red from the heat that people kept asking if I was alright. I was, but I looked as red & overheated as I felt. Could not believe it could be so hot in November - silly me, eh?

After Thursday and Friday morning's field trips, field tours assembled at the Thornton rice fields and the search for Yellow Rails was on!

The whole point of the festival is to view the rails and other birds that fly up out of the rice as the combines power through the annual harvest.

I took a ride in the cab of a big-arse rice combine. Here's a short clip of the cab ride.

Even more fun than a combine cab ride was riding the slip n' slide, mud splattering ATV too. The ATVs are right in the heart of the action, trailing the combines and allowing close looks at the birds hiding in the rice field.

view from an ATV
looking through a mud splattered ATV windshield
King Rail fleeing oncoming combine

Birds would burst out of the scruffy rice chaff as the combine trundled along. Sora, Yellow and King Rails, egrets & ibis either tried to put distance between themselves and the combine, or took advantage of it as a help in nabbing grasshoppers, snakes or frogs for din-din.

Yellow Rail 

It was the afternoon of day one I saw my lifer Yellow Rail, that flushed from the field and for whatever birdie reason, it landed right in the middle of the birders on the sidelines. It was immediately scooped up and given a massive photo opt. Not sure the bird appreciated it's 15 minutes of limelight. The bird banders were on hand to get measurements of the bird & other data.
My 'lifer' Yellow Rail got the once over from bird banders
Mist nets are on the right: set up for catching fleeing birds
Banding Station on the side-lines
King Rail, ready to have its stats recorded
However fun both rice field afternoons were, the heat & humidity sapped my energy. By the time I made it back home both days, I was wiped.

On Thursday I went to the evening Cajun feed down at the lake. The chow was excellent, as was the company. Still it was soured for me, when I spotted 3 flags at equal heights, flapping in the breeze: the American flag, the Louisiana flag and the Dixie confederate flag. Ought to not surprise me that after so many decades, the losing side's, forgotten until it was revived to intimidate people should still be flown. Even in Germany, people there would not allow the swastika Nazi flags to alongside the German national flag. Schwein Hund rot-Häise...

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