Trip Report

Franklin's Gull - Cameron, LA by Simon Thompson Neotropic Cormorant by Bob Butler Rice Fields - Jeff Davis, LA Scissor-tailed Flycatcher by Bob Butler Virginia Rail by Tim Carstens Yellow Rail by Tim Carstens Vermilion Flycatcher by Tim Carstens
  • Franklin's Gull - Cameron, LA by Simon Thompson
  • Neotropic Cormorant by Bob Butler
  • Rice Fields - Jeff Davis, LA
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher by Bob Butler
  • Virginia Rail by Tim Carstens
  • Yellow Rail by Tim Carstens
  • Vermilion Flycatcher by Tim Carstens

 


Yellow Rails and Rice Festival Trip Report
Oct 29-Nov 3, 2019
with Simon Thompson and Keith Watson

 

Some of us drove and some took a plane, but we all ended up at the hotel in Iowa (“Eye-oh-way”), Louisiana at the correct time! Thank goodness for cell phones, so we could at least keep track of each other on our cross-country perambulations!


Our “Beat the Crowds” rail trip that first afternoon was postponed due to the heavy rain earlier in the week, so we all joined a very pleasant, albeit foggy, trip along some quiet side roads in the rice country. One of our first birds was a Dickcissel, closely followed by great views of both Sedge and Marsh Wrens – all excellent birds to start our trip. Flocks of Greater White-fronted Geese flew over and we had our first (of several) Vermilion Flycatchers of the tour. A brief stop in a pine lot was amazing with a day-time roost of 20 or so Barn Owls – more seen in one day than many of us had seen in our lifetime! One of the attractions of the festival was the food, although vegetarian options can be challenging at times. After a classic Cajun sausage meal our first evening, we moved on to crawfish etouffee, catfish bites, shrimp and a veggie plate – definitely something here for all of us. Our afternoon activity was walking (well maybe clambering) through a very tufty and overgrown field looking for sparrows. Sedge Wrens were the default little brown bird that we flushed, but eventually Casey spotted a very furtive sparrow which turned out to be a Henslow’s. Despite our best attempts to see it, it remained furtive and only offered glimpses to everyone.


Waterbirds are a predominant feature of the area, with huge flocks of White-faced Ibis being abundant, along with White Ibis, and Roseate Spoonbill. Flocks of Snow and Greater White-fronted Geese were constant sights and sounds as they flew overhead and the most abundant duck was Northern Shoveler with smaller numbers of Gadwall, Blue-winged Teal, Mallard and Green-winged Teal.


Thankfully we had low ticket numbers for the combine rides, so we could head out birding before returning to the rice fields for our turn on the combine harvesters. One of our first stops was the wonderful water treatment plant in Crowley. Here we were able to walk around at our leisure and enjoy the vast numbers of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Redhead and American Avocet. A large flock of Tree Swallows was feeding low over the lake and it didn’t take us too long to find Cave, Barn, Northern Rough-wing and even Bank amongst the horde! The combine rides and observing the rails as they escape from the harvest are the undoubted star attractions of the festival and while the rails are easier to see from the sidelines, how often can one ride a combine harvester? Covered in dust and chaff we all saw Sora, King, Virginia and Yellow Rails as they flushed from the fields, but the bumping of the combine made using binoculars and cameras almost impossible. However, as the combines cut the rice swaths into smaller and smaller sections, the rails became concentrated and soon flew out into the adjacent fields. This is when the photographers had a fighting chance of getting pictures.

 

Cameron Parish is probably the most bird-rich parish in Louisiana, so we spent the next 2 days exploring the marshes, cheniers (coastal woodlots), shore and fields of this coastal parish. A flock of Sandhills soared out of the morning mist, revealing a single image of black and white flying alongside them – a Whooping Crane. Although it was a distant apparition, we all got to enjoy in-flight views of this rarity.


Loggerhead Shrikes, American Kestrels and both Vermilion and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were “wire-birds” along the roadsides and pairs of magnificent Crested Caracaras sat on nearby fences and trees, as multiple Northern Harriers quartered the fields. A picnic in Peveto Woods; a Baton Rouge Audubon Sanctuary was a great place for late migrants, such as Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireos, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Blue Grosbeak and a handful of warblers: Tennessee, Bay-breasted, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided and Magnolia. The adjacent beach held the common and regularly-occurring Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers, along with the more uncommon Piping and Snowy Plovers, while the mixed tern and gull flocks contained all of the expected species, such as Ring-billed and Laughing Gulls, Caspian, Royal and Forster’s Terns, as well as Gull-billed Tern and several Franklin’s Gulls hiding among the many Laughing. Highlights of the trips had to be the stake-out Say’s Phoebe in a sports field, a picnic lunch in a quiet cemetery, a pelagic Harrier (why?) and a Hermit Thrush that we “chased” up a road in the marshes.

 

It was then off to the closing dinner for the 2019 Yellow Rails and Rice Festival; an evening of heavy hors d’oeuvres and socializing- a very pleasant end to the week. It was then some morning birding before some of us drove and some of us took a plane back to our respective homes.

 

Birds Seen on our Last Rice & Rails Venture 2019 (173 species)

 

 

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Snow Goose
Ross’s Goose
Greater White-fronted Goose
Canada Goose
Egyptian Goose
Wood Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Mallard
Mottled Duck
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Canvasback
Redhead
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Ruddy Duck
Pied-billed Grebe
Eared Grebe
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Inca Dove
Common Ground-Dove
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Yellow Rail
Clapper Rail (Heard)
King Rail
Virginia Rail
Sora
Common Gallinule
Purple Gallinule
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Whooping Crane
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
American Oystercatcher
Black-bellied Plover
American Golden-Plover
Snowy Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Piping Plover
Killdeer
Ruddy Turnstone
Stilt Sandpiper
Sanderling
Dunlin
Least Sandpiper
Long-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Snipe
Spotted Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Willet
Lesser Yellowlegs

 

 

Laughing Gull
Franklin's Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian Tern
Forster's Tern
Royal Tern
Common Loon
Anhinga
Neotropic Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Least Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
White Ibis
Glossy Ibis
White-faced Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Bald Eagle
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Barn Owl
Eastern Screech-Owl (Heard)
Belted Kingfisher
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Common Flicker
Crested Caracara
American Kestrel
Merlin
Peregrine Falcon
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Phoebe
Say’s Phoebe
Vermilion Flycatcher
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
White-eyed Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo

Loggerhead Shrike

 

Blue Jay
American Crow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cave Swallow
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
House Wren
Sedge Wren
Marsh Wren
Carolina Wren
European Starling
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird
Eastern Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
House Sparrow
American Pipit
Grasshopper Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Nelson's Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Henslow’s Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
Eastern Meadowlark
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Great-tailed Grackle
Tennessee Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Palm Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Northern Cardinal
Blue Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Dickcissel
Cabbage White
Cloudless Sulphur

Ocola Skipper

 

 

 

Mammals

 

Inshore Bottle-nosed Dolphin
White-tailed Deer
Hispid Cotton Rat

 

Butterflies

 

Monarch
Viceroy
Common Buckeye