There were flooding rains during the week before the festival but fortunately, by “Beat the Crowds “-Wednesday, the area dried out - just in time for the kickoff of YRARF 2015.  "Beat the Crowds" field trip started with volume: hundreds of Greater White-fronted Geese, thousands of dark ibis, hundreds of shorebirds and tens of thousands of blackbirds.  Highlights included American Avocet, Gull-billed Tern, Eastern Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, Peregrine Falcon, Vermilion Flycatcher, Cave Swallow, Yellow-headed Blackbird, and Bronzed Cowbird.  During the afternoon rice harvesting, we tallied about 35 YELLOW RAILS, 5-10 King Rails, and 50-100 each of Sora and Virginia rails.

The Wednesday
Pineywwods trip had cooperative Bachman's Sparrows, Brown-headed Nuthatches, and other species typical of longleaf pine savannah.  And, new this year, we added a pre-festival Cameron coast trip, had a Groove-billed Ani, an assortment of arriving winterers, late fall migrants, and coastal resident species, including Clapper Rail, Snowy and Piping plovers, Franklin's Gull, Common Ground-Dove, Western Kingbird, and Nelson's and Seaside sparrows.

The official beginning of YRARF on Thursday tallied about 30-35 YELLOW RAILS, possibly as many as 10 King Rails, about 100 Soras, and about 25 Virginia Rails.  Other highlights included several American Bitterns, a Harlan's-like dark morph Red-tailed Hawk, Cave Swallow, and at least one Le Conte's Sparrow. 

Friday morning field trips visited the Crowley sewer ponds and Falcon Rice Mill, Cameron Prairie NWR, the Thornwell area and a pontoon boat trip on Lacassine Bayou. Noteworthy species included as Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Wood Stork, American Avocet, Wilson's Phalarope, Crested Caracara, Peregrine Falcon, Vermilion Flycatcher, Cave Swallow, Sprague's Pipit, Lark Sparrow, and Yellow-headed Blackbird, not to mention massive concentrations of many species such as geese, ducks, ibis, shorebirds and blackbirds (go to eBird to see recently posted eBird lists). 

Friday afternoon in the ricefields was underwhelming with regard to Yellow Rails with only about 5 reported during rice harvesting - and bad weather was approaching.  The fields were filled with Soras, including an amazing 48 captured for banding by the Banding Workshop crew, smaller numbers of Virginia Rails (a couple banded), and at least a couple of King Rails.  Other interesting species seen in the vicinity of the harvest site included Snow and Ross's geese, American Bittern, several Bald Eagles, and a few Le Conte's Sparrows.

Saturday’s stormy conditions caused major disruptions to all regularly scheduled activities.  The field day was canceled because due to the weather there was no harvesting. The Pineywoods trip and Lacassine Bayou Pontoon boat tours were also cancelled.  Cameron Coast and local AM trips did ‘go’  but rain relatively light and intermittent until late morning became heavy and steady for the remainder of the day.  

Sunday’s coast trip went well with most of the expected species found.


Yellow Rails and Rice Festival 2015

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