YRARF 2016 did not lose any days as a result of wet weather. It was a hot and humid event - temperatures were in the mid- to upper 80s! As we walked in the incredibly dry fields there was no clue that Louisiana endured the Great Flood of August 2016.

The festival kicked off with pre-festival Pineywoods, “Beat the Crowds,” and the Falcon Rice Mill trips on Wednesday. The Pineywoods trip found typical species of the longleaf pine savannah.  The Crowley sewer ponds and Falcon Rice Mill was fun and informative. Morning birding with Beat the Crowds was productive. Following a yummy lunch at the Regatta Restaurant in Lake Arthur, Beat the Crowds headed to the fields. It was dry and DUSTY: dust was a ’10,’ on the scale of 1 to 10. We nonetheless tallied about 30 YELLOW RAILS, 2 Virginia’s, and one King Rail (but NO Soras). Although rail numbers were low compared to some years, we had some exceptional views of Yellows, which froze right at our feet in the dry dirt and rice stubble = cell phone photos.

The official start of YRARF opened with booths at the Hampton Inn, followed by our Welcome Reception at Mike’s, then off to the fields. After assembling the entire group field side, the combine suffered mechanical failure that postponed the harvesting by about two hours. With a replacement combine onsite, patience paid off and Thursday also tallied at least 30 YELLOW RAILS, several Soras and Virginia’s, and one King. The Banding Workshop was able to band seven Yellows and deploy nanotags on five of those.

While waiting for the rice fields to dry on Friday morning, participants either repeated the Crowley-Falcon Rice Mill trip, went with leaders around the Thornwell area, or ventured forth on their own. Friday afternoon in the rice fields was hot, but perhaps not quite as dusty as Wednesday. The rail tally was another 20-25 Yellows, with a few Virginia’s Soras, and Kings and additional individuals caught for banding. With no events scheduled for Friday evening, a spontaneous late afternoon facilitator-led field trip to Lacassine NWR Pool Unit was able to add additional species to the festival list.

On Saturday, satisfied with Yellow Rails, most participants headed off to the Cameron Coast or Pineywoods leaving only a few folks for the AM trip to the Roanoke-Thornwell area and ricefields. Saturday’s fields were a little bit wetter - but the combine flushed fewer rails in general. It wasn’t until the last 30 minutes of harvesting that Yellows were flushed - with four spotted, and two captured and banded. There were several Virginia’s and Soras, plus one cooperative King - the last rail flushed. The Pineywoods trip scored a Henslow’s Sparrow but missed Bachman’s Sparrow and Brown-headed Nuthatch! Participants on the Cameron Coast trip had a great time and were able to find some migrants in the cheniers, explore coastal beaches, and were able to see most of the expected coastal species plus, got a bonus stake-out Greater Kiskadee in Sulphur. Sunday’s coast trip also went well and found most of the expected species.


Yellow Rails and Rice Festival 2016

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