A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Louisiana: Yellow Rails & Crawfish Tails II 2021

November 4-8, 2021 with Dan Lane & Cory Gregory guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
Our Field Guides group had such a long list of favorites that it was hard to choose! Between all the rails, including Yellow (!), flycatchers, and rare sparrows, there was something for everyone. Here, for example, was a celebrity during our lunch at Peveto Woods; the stunning Scissor-tailed Flycatcher! This great shot was taken by participant Doug Clarke.

Our group assembled near Lafayette for a quick three days of birding in Cajun country and it didn't take long for us to start seeing some phenomenal birds. Our first day took us to the rice fields where Donna and Steve organized our adventure with the rice farmer. The churning, harvesting combine was enough to flush up many rails including the hard-to-see Yellow Rail! Getting to ride the combine (yes, touching the farm equipment!) was a highlight for many folks as it provided a very unique perspective of the hybrid of birding and farming.

We took time to sample other habitats as well including saltmarshes and the coastline where we added regional specialties like Nelson's Sparrow, Snowy Plover, Piping Plover, and Long-billed Curlew. We watched dolphins jumping out of the water, watched Clapper Rails boldly strut into the road, and witnessed a graceful flock of skimmers pass by. Peveto Woods was made especially fun by a relaxing picnic lunch and some rare birds like Western Kingbird and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.

Our final day was spent exploring the pine forests of central Louisiana where we successfully found our three main targets: Bachman's Sparrow, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, and Brown-headed Nuthatch. However, it might have been the surprise encounter with the rare Henslow's Sparrows that stole the show!

A huge thanks goes to Steve and Donna for their help with the logistics of the Yellow Rail searching Also, a big thanks to Sharon in Austin for all her help. And finally, thanks to you guys for making this tour a reality. We hope you made some great memories of rails and crawfish tails! On behalf of Dan and myself, thank you guys!

Until the next time we meet up, good birding!


One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)

FULVOUS WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna bicolor)

Seeing these was fantastic! We were taking an afternoon drive around the Pintail Loop of Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge when a small flock of these rare but distinctive ducks got up and flew circles over the marsh for several minutes.


We encountered several overhead flocks of specks (or specklebellies) on Niblett and Marceaux Road in the rice country.

CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis)

A small flock of these was on the water in Lake Arthur as we approached our restaurant for dinner.

WOOD DUCK (Aix sponsa)

There was a duo of these on the backside of the marsh at Cameron Prairie NWR but they eventually took flight before everyone got eyes on them.

BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)

This small dabbler was fairly common at Cameron Prairie NWR and in the flooded fields near the Whooping Cranes.

NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)

This is another distinctive dabbling duck that we encountered at Cameron Prairie and in various flooded fields in rice country.

GADWALL (Mareca strepera)

The Pintail Loop at Cameron Prairie NWR was a good spot to watch this species.

AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana)

Just one or two were sprinkled throughout the duck flocks at Cameron Prairie NWR.

MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)

These were looking pretty spiffy at Cameron Prairie NWR during our drive around the Pintail Loop.

MOTTLED DUCK (GULF COAST) (Anas fulvigula maculosa)

Only a couple were seen in flight at Cameron Prairie NWR and only by a few people. Unfortunately we never saw them land.


The Pintail Loop at Cameron Prairie NWR seemed like a suitable place to spy a couple of these!

Field Guides Birding Tours
A main theme on this short trip was trying to find as many species of rails as we could. We were successful in finding all of our targets! Some experiences, like the one with this Clapper Rail, will leave lasting memories! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

GREEN-WINGED TEAL (AMERICAN) (Anas crecca carolinensis)

Not super common on our trip but we did tally a couple mixed in with the hundreds of ducks at Cameron Prairie NWR.

RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)

A couple of these were seen distantly on our second day but only by a few folks.

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)

At least one or two of these aquatic birds were seen floating motionless at Cameron Prairie NWR.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

Seen in urban areas, mostly around Lafayette.

EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]

Fairly common and seen daily, often out in farm country.

INCA DOVE (Columbina inca)

This little scaly-looking dove was spotted near the silos in the tiny town of Thornwell. This is about as far east as this species ranges in the US.

WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)

At least one or two of these distinctive doves were spotted at spots like Sabine National Wildlife Refuge.

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

Fairly common, seen daily in a variety of habitats.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

KING RAIL (Rallus elegans)

This large rail is a freshwater species and so we tallied them at spots like the Thornwell rice fields, where we saw several flush up, but also at Sabine National Wildlife Refuge.

CLAPPER RAIL (Rallus crepitans)

Who can forget THIS experience?! Not only did we see this saltwater species near Cameron, we saw them be more brave and bold than ever. They started out skulking around on the shoulder of the road but that was before they waltzed right out in the open! Phenomenal looks were had by all.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Aside from all the excitement from seeing our lifer Yellow Rails, there was a beautiful suite of other species we enjoyed. The vibrant Vermilion Flycatcher at Sabine NWR was a stunner! Photo by guide Dan Lane.

VIRGINIA RAIL (Rallus limicola)

A fairly common, small rail that we saw flushing out of the rice fields in Thornwell. Additionally, we tallied quite a few from Sabine National Wildlife Refuge where they were being very vocal.

SORA (Porzana carolina)

Like the previous species, this rail was tallied by our group from two places. First, in the rice fields near Thornwell, these would flush up in front of the rice combine. Secondly, we heard many at Sabine NWR.

COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)

Our best looks at this species, which was formerly known as Common Moorhen, came from the Pintail Loop at Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge.

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge hosted a number of these familiar rails. Yep, they're rails, not ducks!

PURPLE GALLINULE (Porphyrio martinica)

Quite a rare bird at this season, most of these had already departed the breeding grounds. Our one and only sighting came along the Pintail Loop at Cameron Prairie NWR.

YELLOW RAIL (Coturnicops noveboracensis)

Success! This extremely secretive rail is a prized sighting for any birder. Unquestionably the main target for this trip, this camouflaged skulker was the main reason we visited the rice fields near Thornwell where we had a front-row seat to the rice harvest. We were able to see the white trailing edge of the wings quite well and we tallied in whole about 20 different birds! This unique experience, put together by Steve Cardiff and Donna Dittman, is surely the best way to see the one-and-only Yellow Rail. Thanks Donna and Steve!

Gruidae (Cranes)

WHOOPING CRANE (Grus americana)

It was a real treat to see these huge, white cranes near Welsh. There has been a lot of effort in recent years to reestablish these in Louisiana and we saw some of those reintroduced birds.

Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)

BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)

This tall and lanky shorebird species was seen foraging in some flooded fields along Marceaux Road. Later, some flew right overhead at Sabine NWR as well.

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)

This is a fairly large, stocky plover that we encountered along the coastline near Holly Beach.

SNOWY PLOVER (Charadrius nivosus)

A couple of these small, pale plovers were scoped on the big sand beaches near Holly Beach. They were hanging out with the other pale plover, the Piping Plover.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Being exceptionally quick with your camera gives all of us a chance to relive and enjoy those fleeting moments. Participant Paul Beerman somehow managed to photograph this Sora in flight at the rice fields!

SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)

A singleton was scoped at Holly Beach along with the other plovers. This is a migrant plover that breeds in the far north.

PIPING PLOVER (Charadrius melodus)

Only slightly larger than the Snowy Plover, this is another very pale plover that spends the winter along this part of the Gulf Coast. We saw it along Holly Beach.

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)

This is a big and familiar plover that was fairly common on the days we went to the coast and to rice country.

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

LONG-BILLED CURLEW (Numenius americanus)

A huge shorebird with a massively long bill, surely one of the more impressive in the bird world. Although they're not common at all on this itinerary, we did manage to find one foraging along the shoreline at Holly Beach.

RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)

About half a dozen of these rock-loving shorebirds were scoped on the rocks just offshore at Holly Beach.

SANDERLING (Calidris alba)

Although this pale shorebird was fairly common running along the sandy beaches, what wasn't common was the crazy pure-white individual we saw there! Seeing a bird looking like this is incredibly rare and a hard thing to find.

DUNLIN (Calidris alpina)

At least one of these was spotted at Holly Beach.

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)

This is a tiny sandpiper that we encountered a couple of times in wet habitats over the course of the first two days.

LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus scolopaceus)

Four of these were seen overhead at Niblett Road on our first day but that was our only encounter.

WILSON'S SNIPE (Gallinago delicata)

Fairly common in marshy and wet habitats but they're so cryptically patterned that it's always tricky to find them. We had good looks along Marceaux Road and in the rice fields near Thornwell.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Of all the birds of prey we witnessed, from the strange Crested Caracaras to the ubiquitous Nothern Harriers, none were so well-received as this stunner, a sleek White-tailed Kite along the coast! It gave quite as show as it proceeded to hunt right in front of us! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)

This fairly-large shorebird was seen twice; first from Marceaux Road and then at Sabine NWR.

LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)

This is a dainty Tringa that we tallied from Marceaux Road in rice country.

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

LAUGHING GULL (Leucophaeus atricilla)

This gull, the most numerous on this tour, was seen best from Holly Beach where we found scattered flocks roosting.

FRANKLIN'S GULL (Leucophaeus pipixcan)

A couple of these lingering migrants were tucked in with the Laughing Gulls along Holly Beach. Relative to the previous species, these are smaller and with more of a black cap.

RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)

Scattered sightings along the coastline on Day 2.

HERRING GULL (AMERICAN) (Larus argentatus smithsonianus)

Our standard large gull. A few were seen along the coast but not more than 10.

GULL-BILLED TERN (Gelochelidon nilotica)

Although we saw one or two along the coast, it was more enjoyable finding them near the Whooping Crane field where they were swooping around and feeding.

CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)

This large tern was the most common along the coast.

FORSTER'S TERN (Sterna forsteri)

Seen mostly around the ferry on our coastal day.

ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)

A little smaller and less numerous than the Caspian Tern along the shore.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Our group enjoyed a number of species of herons, egrets, and, yes, even spoonbills! This Roseate Spoonbill made several passess while we were at Sabine National Wildlife Refuge. Photo taken by participant Doug Clarke.

BLACK SKIMMER (Rynchops niger)

A flock of these distinctive birds flew up the river when we were birding the saltmarshes on Wakefield Road.

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax brasilianus)

A few of these cormorants were spotted as we birded the boardwalk at Sabine National Wildlife Refuge. Compared to the following species, these are smaller, shorter necked, and longer tailed.

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax auritus)

Just a couple were seen offshore along Holly Beach.

Pelecanidae (Pelicans)

AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

This striking pelican, often seen soaring in flocks, was spotted along Holly Beach and then another flock overhead at Peveto Woods.

BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)

Just a few were seen gliding by offshore near Holly Beach.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

LEAST BITTERN (Ixobrychus exilis) [*]

The most secretive heron we have in the US, this tiny denizen of thick cattail marshes was heard at Sabine National Wildlife Refuge from the boardwalk.

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

Common and widespread.

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

Fairly common in wet habitats. Tallied daily.

SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)

This yellow-footed egret was seen occasionally in wet habitats and was tallied each of our days.

TRICOLORED HERON (Egretta tricolor)

This slender heron, formerly known as Louisiana Heron, was seen on Day 1 by some folks.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Although we saw dozens of Sanderlings, a common beach-loving species, we saw an exceedingly rare pure white Sanderling! What a crazy-looking oddity! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)

This small egret was seen daily but especially in rice country.

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)

This unobtrusive species was seen at least once at Sabine NWR from the boardwalk.

Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus)

Fairly common, this species was seen each day but it seemed like they were always flyovers.

GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus)

Although the vast majority of the Plegadis ibis were the following species, we did manage to find a couple of these mixed in along Marceaux Road.

WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi)

We found a good-sized flock along Marceaux Road on our first day.

ROSEATE SPOONBILL (Platalea ajaja)

We were birding along the boardwalk at Sabine NWR when one of these flew overhead... repeatedly. It's always a treat to see this species.

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)

Although not the common vulture on this trip, this short-tailed and broad-winged vulture was finally tallied on our final day.

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Abundant and widespread.

Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)

The many canals and waterways as we approached Sabine National Wildlife Refuge hosted many of these sitting on telephone poles and other prominent perches.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

WHITE-TAILED KITE (Elanus leucurus)

A favorite sighting for many of us, this graceful and uncommon raptor put on a fantastic show along the road between Holly Beach and Peveto Woods.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Although we tallied more than 140 species of birds in 3 days, it wasn't only the birds that we enjoyed. Participant Doug Clarke managed to capture the moment these Bottlenose Dolphins were midair!

NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)

Common and seen daily in open habitats.

SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus)

This is a small species of migrant Accipiter that will winter in Louisiana. We tallied them daily.

COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)

Like the previous species, this Accipiter was seen each day.

BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Although this big and familiar eagle was seen each day, we saw more of them in the rice country.

RED-SHOULDERED HAWK (Buteo lineatus)

For being such a widespread and common raptor, these fly under the radar, so to speak. We did manage to see them a couple of times though at spots like Niblett Road and then again up in the pines at Kisatchie National Forest.

BROAD-WINGED HAWK (Buteo platypterus)

Although a common migrant, the ones we saw near Peveto Woods were quite late in the season.

RED-TAILED HAWK (BOREALIS) (Buteo jamaicensis borealis)

This subspecies was the most common and most expected. We tallied this classic "eastern" subspecies each day.

RED-TAILED HAWK (HARLAN'S) (Buteo jamaicensis harlani)

One of these, a young bird, flew over the rice fields during the rice harvesting.

RED-TAILED HAWK (FUERTESI) (Buteo jamaicensis fuertesi)

Sometimes called the Southwest subspecies, these range from the southwestern US, through Texas, and into a little bit of Louisiana. We saw them on two of our days.

Strigidae (Owls)

GREAT HORNED OWL (Bubo virginianus)

This huge owl was tallied late in the day on our 2nd day.

Field Guides Birding Tours
At first glance, this just looks like our spacious van... but look closely! Yes, that's a Clapper Rail that waltzed right out into the open. This rail took top price for the boldest rail of the tour. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)

A special bird for some of us, these fish-eaters were seen numerous times on our second day.

Picidae (Woodpeckers)


This is a migrant species that winters in Louisiana. We encountered them twice; first along Niblett Road and then again in Kisatchie National Forest.

RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes carolinus)

This eastern species was fairly common around Niblett Road and then again in Kisatchie National Forest.

DOWNY WOODPECKER (Dryobates pubescens)

Like the previous species, this tiny woodpecker was seen along Niblett Road and then along the waterway in Kisatchie National Forest.

RED-COCKADED WOODPECKER (Dryobates borealis)

Success! We targeted this rare and uncommon woodpecker during our visit to Kisatchie National Forest. Although the trees in the colony are easy to spot, thanks to the painted trunks, finding the birds can be a bit more tricky. Lucky for us, it wasn't long after we arrived that we heard and then saw several of these high in the Longleaf Pines.

PILEATED WOODPECKER (Dryocopus pileatus)

Our one and only sighting of this huge woodpecker came from the Vernon District of the Kisatchie NF.

NORTHERN FLICKER (YELLOW-SHAFTED) (Colaptes auratus auratus)

Like all of the previous woodpeckers on this list, this is another woodpecker we tallied in Kisatchie NF.

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

CRESTED CARACARA (Caracara cheriway)

This is a pretty neat raptor that we saw a couple of times. First, they were sometimes seen in rice country but we later saw them again along the coast.

AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)

Our most widespread falcon, this small species was tallied daily.

MERLIN (Falco columbarius)

Our only sighting was of a distant bird at Peveto Woods.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Skulking in the cattails in front of our group, pictured here, was a collection of Swamp Sparrows, Marsh Wrens, and even some Virginia and King rails! The walkway at Sabine NWR gave us looks at many species we wouldn't see at other locations. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)

EASTERN PHOEBE (Sayornis phoebe)

This tail-dipping flycatcher was quite common and tallied daily.

VERMILION FLYCATCHER (Pyrocephalus rubinus)

One of these vibrant flycatchers put on a good show along the walkway at Sabine National Wildlife Refuge. Sightings of these seem to be increasing on these tours in recent years.

WESTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus verticalis)

Always a great species to find on this trip, this rare flycatcher was spotted at Peveto Woods foraging for dragonflies. Later during our visit, as we left, we saw perhaps the same bird on the other side of Peveto Woods where it posed nicely for photos.


Wow, it's always a pleasure when this stunning species puts on such a good show. That's what happened at Peveto Woods right when we were leaving; it sat on the power lines right above us!

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

BLUE-HEADED VIREO (Vireo solitarius)

High above us, in the trees along the waterway in Kisatchie National Forest, this attractive vireo was spotted foraging.

Laniidae (Shrikes)

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus)

This black-and-gray "butcherbird" was seen each of our birding days, usually perched on power lines.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

BLUE JAY (Cyanocitta cristata)

Common and tallied daily.

AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

We heard and saw several of these up in the Kisatchie National Forest on our final day.

FISH CROW (Corvus ossifragus)

Some folks saw this small crow on our final day near our hotel in Scott.

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

CAROLINA CHICKADEE (Poecile carolinensis)

This chickadee species, the only chickadee in Louisiana, was seen a couple of times including in some of the woods along Niblett Road.

Field Guides Birding Tours
There are only about 30 species of shrikes in the world and the only one present in Louisiana is the Loggerhead Shrike. We saw these carnivorous passerines several times and participant Paul Beerman captured this image of one of them.

TUFTED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus bicolor)

It wasn't until we were birding the forests of Kisatchie NF that we found this common, crested species.

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor)

This was probably our most-common swallow on tour. Tallied daily.

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)

Although we managed to tally this fork-tailed swallow daily, it was usually outnumbered by the previous species.

CAVE SWALLOW (Petrochelidon fulva)

One of these was seen flying over Niblett Road, albeit rather high up.

Regulidae (Kinglets)


A wintering species in Louisiana, this attractive kinglet was seen daily.

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus calendula)

Like this previous species, this species of kinglet winters in Louisiana. We saw these daily at spots like Niblett Road, Peveto Woods, and Kisatchie National Forest.

Sittidae (Nuthatches)

RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis)

It seems to be a good fall for these. We snagged one of these attractive nuthatches in a large, bare tree at Peveto Woods on our second day.


This pine specialist was one of our main targets during our birding in Kisatchie National Forest. Thankfully, it didn't take long for us to find little flocks of this gregarious, squeaky species.

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)

A rather abundant species along roadsides thickets and woods. At times we'd see about a dozen at once!

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)

Although they're rather furtive, this is a common wren and we managed to hear or see at least one daily.

Field Guides Birding Tours
It seemed like there was always something to look at on this trip. Near the White-tailed Kite spot was this brilliant native flower called the Firewheel or Indian Blanket, a member of the sunflower family. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

WINTER WREN (Troglodytes hiemalis) [*]

We were birding along the wooded waterway in Kisatchie National Forest when we heard one of these tiny, secretive wrens. It even gave some song snippets!

SEDGE WREN (Cistothorus platensis)

Although tricky to see at times, this grass-loving wren wasn't uncommon. We saw them at spots like Niblett Road, Thornwell rice fields, Holly Beach, and Wakefield Road near Cameron.

MARSH WREN (Cistothorus palustris)

We had decent luck with this secretive wren from the boardwalk at Sabine National Wildlife Refuge.

CAROLINA WREN (Thryothorus ludovicianus) [*]

For being rather common and incredibly loud, it's sometimes surprising how difficult they can be to actually see! We heard them a couple of times however.

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]

Tallied daily, often in urban areas.

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis)

We had nice looks at this gray Mimid eating berries along the path at Sabine National Wildlife Refuge.

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)

This long-tailed and striking species was tallied daily from a variety of habitats.

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

EASTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia sialis) [*]

We actually heard these calling overhead while we were in the woods of Kisatchie National Forest.

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

Seen daily, often in urban areas.

Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)

AMERICAN PIPIT (Anthus rubescens)

Our first morning, as we were birding along Niblett Road, provided our one-and-only sighting of this wintering species.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We enjoyed a number of sunrises and sunsets on this trip and sometimes dinner, like this night in Lake Arthur, had us enjoying Cajun food in a restaurant literally built over the water. The view wasn't bad either! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

BACHMAN'S SPARROW (Peucaea aestivalis)

This southeastern specialty was one of a couple main targets during our time in Kisatchie National Forest. Although this species can be easy when they're singing in the spring, they're downright difficult in the nonbreeding season. Still, we kept at it until we got some ok looks.

CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)

We spied a couple of these small sparrows from the walkway at Sabine National Wildlife Refuge.

WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

A trio of these was seen first thing on our first morning. The roadsides of Niblett Road were good for a variety of sparrows including this wintering species.

VESPER SPARROW (Pooecetes gramineus)

A hard species to predict on this trip, we never know where one might show up. For us, one of these was spotted at the end of our walk at Sabine National Wildlife Refuge.

NELSON'S SPARROW (Ammospiza nelsoni)

It certainly took some work but we were eventually rewarded with some good looks at this secretive, wintering sparrow along Wakefield Road near Cameron. This crowd-favorite was a lifer for many.

SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis)

Quite common in any open, grassy habitat. We tallied them daily.

HENSLOW'S SPARROW (Centronyx henslowii)

Holy smokes! One of the definite highlights of this tour was seeing this skulker in its wintering habitat at Kisatchie National Forest! We were focusing on Bachman's Sparrow in the grassy understory of the Longleaf Pines when we kicked up a small sparrow that made us curious. After a lot of work and carefully narrowing it down, we all got good looks at multiple birds. Wow!

SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia)

Most of our sightings of this widespread sparrow came from Niblett Road on our first morning.

SWAMP SPARROW (Melospiza georgiana)

Fairly common in wet or marshy habitats. We tallied them at spots like Niblett Road, the Thornwell rice fields, and Sabine NWR.

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

EASTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella magna)

These furtive, chunky, and grass-loving birds were found all three of our days in open habitats.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Surely the biggest surprise sighting of the trip wasn't a big flashy heron or gaudy warbler. No, it came in the form of this skulky sparrow, the rare Henslow's Sparrow! An exceedingly difficult species to find on the wintering grounds, our views of a couple of these in Kisatchie National Forest was a highlight for everyone! Guide Dan Lane was ready with his camera and got this stellar shot.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

A familiar, daily occurrence.


Although we didn't tally a ton of these, our first morning provided several sightings from spots like Niblett Road and Marceaux Road.

BREWER'S BLACKBIRD (Euphagus cyanocephalus)

At one of our very last stops on the tour, in some open country north of I-10, we scoped some of these uncommon blackbirds mixed in with other Icterids.

COMMON GRACKLE (Quiscalus quiscula)

Fairly common, encountered daily.

BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus major)

This was the large grackle species with dark eyes. In Louisiana, the difference in eye color is an easy and quick way to sort these out.

GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

This pale-eyed grackle was seen several times in the rice country near Niblett and Marceaux roads.

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas) [*]

Although probably not uncommon in marshy habitat, this warbler can often be secretive. For us, we managed to hear them several times but never laid eyes on them.

PINE WARBLER (Setophaga pinus)

Perhaps our best look was at Peveto Woods. At this season, this species can be extremely drab and almost unrecognizable.

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (MYRTLE) (Setophaga coronata coronata)

Fewer than five of these wintering warblers were tallied at locations like Sabine NWR and Niblett Road.

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)

The thick brambles and woods along Niblett Drive and Peveto Woods were good spots for this familiar but stunning eastern species.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We enjoyed colorful birds, interesting mammals, intricate wildlflowers, and of course some very attractive insects! This butterfly, known as the Gulf Fritillary, was photographed beautifully by participant Doug Clarke.


SWAMP RABBIT (Sylvilagus aquaticus)

Some folks got looks at one of these in the rice fields during the harvesting on our first day.

MARSH RICE RAT (Oryzomys palustris)

We saw several of these scampering away from the combine in the rice fields during the harvest.

BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN (Tursiops truncatus)

Quite a few of these put on an amazing show during our time on the ferry and soon-after along Wakefield Road. They really seemed to be enjoying themselves!

NORTHERN RACCOON (Procyon lotor)

We tallied at least one of these late in the day on our first day but that was our only sighting. Our only sighting of live ones, at least.

STRIPED SKUNK (Mephitis mephitis)

Seen scampering out of the rice fields during the harvest on our first day. It's not something we usually see being flushed by the combine!

Totals for the tour: 141 bird taxa and 5 mammal taxa