The combine flushes the birds as it harvests rice from the field.
A few weeks ago, I headed out to Thornwell, LA to help with the 8th annual Yellow Rails and Rice Festival - a truly unique slice of Louisiana-birder life. A partnership between bird enthusiasts and local rice farmers, this festival is one of the best ways to add Yellow Rails to your lifer list. These secretive little birds live in rice fields, and as the farmers harvest their fields each fall, Yellow Rails, Soras, King Rails, and other birds get flushed by the combines. It's always a fun day talking to birders from all over the U.S. and Canada, learning about the rice industry in Louisiana (something I didn't even know existed before I moved down here), and riding around on the combine looking for yellows, waving your arms when you see one (which basically feels like the modern equivalent of being an old-timey whale spotter). It was a gorgeous day for being out in the field (literally), and I managed to remember to take a few pictures. All in all, we saw about a dozen yellow rails and even managed to net a few, which were banded and satellite tagged so we can learn more about these elusive critters. Already looking forward to next year!
Fellow LSUMNS grad students Clare Brown and Anna Hiller (and me) in an ATV riding alongside the combine.
Dusk over Lake Arthur, where we ended the evening with jambalaya, hand pies, and a live cajun band.
I'm a PhD Candidate at the LSU Museum of Natural Science / Department of Biological Sciences. In February 2022, I'll be starting as an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.