October 25 thru 28, 2012 – Yellow Rails and Rice Festival in Jennings, La

More than a bird festival, the Yellow Rails and Rice Festival (YRARF), combines birding with rice farming and Cajun culture.  Organized by Donna Dittmann and Steve Cardiff, this festival is top notch – full of activities and well organized.  I signed up to volunteer and working this event was so much fun, I felt like I was a participant!

Wednesday evening, I worked the registration at the opening reception.  Checking in the festival goers was great fun… I loved meeting the participants and working with the other volunteers.  Several vendors were exhibited that evening:  the Jefferson Davis Parish Tourist and Economic Development Commission, Barataria Terrebonne National Estuary Program, Louisiana Ornithological Society, Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries, USA Rice Federation, LSU AgCenter, Hoppe Farms Rice, LSU Rice Research Station, National Wildlife Federation, Louisiana Wildlife Federation and USFWS Joint Venture.

Below are some of the goodies that were included in the gift tote provided with registration to the festival.  The “Coturnicops Blend” coffee made especially for this festival by Kevin Colley/Dupuy Storage LLC was my favorite item!

P1100903The following morning included presentations before heading out to the rice fields.

P1090645Participants met at the Thornwell Warehouse and convoyed to one of two harvest sites.

P1100147P1100152Upon arrival, we set up signage and then prepared the participants for riding on the combine.  I went out on the first run to help point out birds flushed out as the vehicle harvested the rice.

P1090861P1090887sans Dan LaneP1090718P1100115P1090816P1090836P1090674All sorts of critters were hidden in the rice fields.

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I spent the whole day trying to see a Yellow Rail.  Several of us stayed as late as we could in an effort to see that bird (thanks to the farmer who allowed us to ride for a few more passes.)  We rode the combine until the sun lowered into the horizon line.


I missed the Jambalaya Dinner and Sunset tour but did manage to make it out to the Tupper Museum Reception.   Dough pies with vanilla ice cream was served – I had a fig pie and it was delicious!   I recommend a visit to this museum filled with early 20th century store goods.  http://www.tuppermuseum.com/

P1090927 P1090928 P1090922 P1090933

On Friday, I participated in a banding workshop led by Erik Johnson.  We started with a classroom session and then headed out to KMB Farms to set up mist nets.


As the combine made it’s pass, birds were flushed up into the mist net and promptly removed for banding.


P1100025Three species of rails were banded:   Virginia, Sora and one Yellow Rail (I didn’t get a picture of the Yellow Rail.)

P1100043P1100068Sparrows flew into the nets as well and we also were able to band Savannah, Swamp, LeConte’s, and Nelson’s Sharp-tailed.


The birds were flushing up and before long we had bags of birds in line for banding.


While watching for birds in the mist net, I spotted this group of birders getting a better look at a sparrow.
P1100094That evening, a meal was served at the Grand Marais Rice Gala.  Gumbo and red beans and rice was served as the main course with cake for dessert (worth getting a second helping of for certain!)  Dinner was accompanied with live music by Les Frères Michot.  Dancing ensued!

P1100168P1100166Saturday included more adventures in banding.

P1100170P1100175P1100220P1100266P1100277P1100282P1100314P1100289The weather turned cooler and brought winds with it.   Dust billowed out from underneath the combine as it made its passes.  This airborne dirt created a no visibility situation if you were downwind.

P1100191P1100192P1100256P1100260P1100309P1100307That evening I attended the official finale of the Yellow Rails and Rice Festival at the Zigler Museum of Art.   The museum collection consists of European, American, and Louisiana art.   It’s a little gem in the middle of Jennings, La!  http://ziglermuseum.wix.com/ziglerartmuseum#!   That evening the museum treated us to a viewing of Audubon’s folio Birds of America.  The atmosphere along with hor d’oeuvres, drinks and good conversation made for a great ending to a great festival!


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