THORNWELL, LA – One hundred and twenty-seven bird enthusiasts from 27 states, and Australia and Canada gathered here in the Yellow Rail Capital of the World November 1-5 for the eighth annual Yellow Rails and Rice Festival. The festival brings birders together with rice growers to highlight the role of Louisiana’s working wetlands in bird conservation while providing participants a unique venue to view the elusive Yellow Rail.
On Thursday enthusiasm quickly turned to frustration when festival organizer and rice farmer Kevin Berken’s combine suffered major mechanical damage during a preliminary pass around the field. Harvest operations were temporarily suspended until neighboring farmer Paul Johnson, a member of the 2015 Rice Leadership Development program, came to the rescue with a backup combine. Despite the delay, patience paid off as 30 Yellow Rails were sighted that day.
Although the Yellow Rail is fairly widespread it is rarely seen so bird enthusiasts welcome the opportunity to catch sight of the migrating Rails as they arrive in southern Louisiana at the same time the ratoon rice crop is being harvested.
Berken said, “What started out as a two-day event in 2009 has grown as folks take advantage of being in the heart of Cajun Country in Louisiana’s southwest prairie region. It’s an area known for rich history and culture, not to mention mouth-watering regional cuisine, and this festival has added great birding to the list of local attractions.”
USA Rice is one of 50 organizations that sponsor the festival. The Louisiana Rice Growers Association provided gift bags of Louisiana-grown rice to festival participants.