Yellow Rail is a very difficult bird to see. A lot of birders have this bird on their list as a “heard only”. It is small, elusive and spends its time hiding in wetland grasses.
There is a birding Festival in Jennings, Louisiana every Fall during the rice harvest. The main purpose is to give birders an opportunity to ride or follow a combine, and see these birds as they are flushed.
I will be in Hawaii during the Festival so I had to come to Louisiana earlier to try my luck. A few months ago, a Facebook friend, Kimberly Riddle Lanka, reached out to me and said she could help me get Yellow Rail.
Kimberly contacted Festival organizers Donna Dittmann and Steve Cardiff, and I was able to join a pre-festival group on a field trip!
The weather was perfect. I had the opportunity to ride inside the cab of the combine with Kevin Berken and observe the birds as they flew out right in front of us. We ended up seeing at least 12. We also saw many Soras, Virginia Rails, and Sparrows.
Birders do a lot of crazy things to see the birds on their wish list. This had to be one of the most unique experiences I’ve had in my Big Year.
A huge thanks to Kimberly for being such a gracious hostess, opening up her home and taking me around the area. She did a great job picking out restaurants as well. Shrimp and grits–yum!