Louisiana: Red Beans & Yellow Rails Birding Wrap-up

We had great success the first morning of our Louisiana: Red Beans & Yellow Rails tour with more than forty sightings of the usually quite difficult-to-see Yellow Rail!

Hitching a ride on a combine is a great way to spot rails. (Photo by participant Bill Byers.)

We coordinated with local farmers to get up close and personal as they do their normal rice harvesting, which secondarily creates a birding phenomenon. The large combines circle the fields, and with each pass Yellow Rails flush ahead of the combine. Some fly off a good ways while others land in the tracks and stand for a few seconds before burying themselves again in the thick cover. I even saw one rail freeze as the combine, which cuts the rice about eight inches high, passed right over it, then the rail ran off. If you don’t want to be standing in a marsh at night hearing them ticking away, this is the way to see a Yellow Rail.

This Clapper Rail, on the East Jetty, was one of several rail species we saw well on the tour. (Photo by participant Bill Byers.)

And the number of rails of all species in these fields was impressive, as we saw 25-plus Virginias, Soras, and a few Kings as well. When you look at how many rice fields there are in this part of the country, the potential number of rails is staggering.

Of course the Yellow Rails stand out, but also impressive were the evening flights of Snow and White-fronted geese and White-faced Ibis. We watched many thousands of these descend on a flooded field at dusk. Good views of Nelson’s, Seaside, and Bachman’s sparrows along with a wide array of shorebirds on the beach were highlights in their own right.

Caspian and Common terns, skimmers, and gulls on the beach. (Photo by participant Bill Byers.)

We also had many opportunities to experience the three “Cs” of Cajun Country: Catfish, Crabs, and Crawfish. While the cuisine was great, this trip was just the right length before we could be tempted to overdo it!

Our 2011 Louisiana: Red Beans & Yellow Rails tour is scheduled for November 3-7 with Dan Lane. To read more, visit the tour page at the link above. And you can check out Dan’s or John’s complete upcoming tour schedules from our guide page.