BOS Photo Albums

Photo albums submitted by BOS members are below. These albums feature BOS field trips, events, and special bird sightings that our members have seen. We hope you enjoy them!     (BOS Members: you'll need to LOGIN, then find the link on your member homepage to add your photos.)

Yellow Rail Festival 2018

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After a year+ of planning, 16 BOS members made their way to SW Louisiana to join in the legendary Yellow Rails and Rice Festival (YRARF). This was the Festival's 10th year of running and it was an amazing experience! I can't express in words how fantastic this event was and how well planned and executed the entire festival was. I would highly recommend joining in the unique experience that this festival offers!

On October 31st, our group birded the Cameron Coast on a sunny and warm day. We enjoyed a fantastic show of birds at East Jetty Beach where hundreds of Black Skimmers, American White Pelicans, and terns occupied the beach. American Avocets fed in the shallow waters and a flock of 50+ Franklin's Gulls flew in to roost with the Laughing Gulls. On our drive out we found a group of 5 Scissor-tailed Flycatchers along the roadside. A last minute decision had us eating lunch at a roadside sandwich stop that had THE BEST fried shrimp I have ever eaten (Anchors Up Grill)! Other stops along the Gulf of Mexico beaches yielded Crested Caracara, Loggerhead Shrikes, Roseate Spoonbills, Nelson's and Seaside Sparrows, an amazingly confiding and bold Clapper Rail and so much more. We ended the day at dusk at Lacassine NWR where we saw at least 7 American Bitterns flying over the marsh, thousands of ibis, both Whistling-Ducks and more.

Thursday was the official start of the Festival. Unfortunately, the rain the night before didn't allow for rice harvest. The BOS group struck out on their own and headed back to Lacassine NWR. Along the way we saw an adult male Yellow-headed Blackbird in a large mixed species flock, a muddy field with hundreds of Long-billed Dowitchers and Blue-winged Teal along with several Gull-billed Terns and Black-necked Stilts. At Lacassine we connected with several Purple Gallinules but missed the hoped-for Vermillion Flycatcher and Fulvous Whistling-Ducks. We kept running out of time because the birding was so amazing at every stop we made!

Thursday evening, the YRARF treated us to a jambalaya supper along with a zydeco band on the shore of Lake Arthur. After dinner, the BOS group headed back out into the field to join the banding group for a nighttime rail banding field trip. We were specifically hoping for Black Rail. We marched and slogged for three hours through a marsh while dragging ropes and flashlights. We were able to see several Virginia Rails and a Clapper Rail in the hand as well as an unexpected Least Bittern. At the very end of the night, as we were making our way out of the marsh, we miraculously captured and banded TWO Black Rails! Of course we were out of our minds with excitement! Mike Galas, who had been birding for 50 years, got himself a lifer with the Black Rails!

After a short night's sleep (nap), the group was back out for a local field trip to the Crowley Wastewater Treatment Plant. It was a gorgeous sunny and cool morning and we enjoyed more avocets and stilts, loads of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, a Wilson's Phalarope and more. Afterwards we hustled to the Thornwell rice fields for the harvest. A fantastical experience was had by all...riding the combines and flushing Sora, Virginia, King and Yellow Rails! Most everyone had great looks at Yellow Rails as they flew to escape the combines. A celebratory dinner was enjoyed at the Regatta Seafood and Steakhouse on Lake Arthur.

Up and out early on Saturday for our scheduled field trip to Kisatchie NWR, known by the locals as the Pineywoods. It didn't take long for us to hear, and then see, Red-cockaded Woodpeckers and Brown-headed Nuthatches. The field trip was then organized by our festival leaders in aims of finding Bachman's Sparrows by walking the grass and sedge understory and we found 3! After our morning in the Pineywoods, we hustled back south to the Thornwell rice fields to try for more looks at Yellow Rails. The field being harvested was on the wet side and we were awed by the nearly 60 Sora Rails we saw in flight and being banded. The finale, a Yellow Rail captured for banding that we all saw up close and personal. While in the rice fields, many other birds entertained us including hundreds of ibis, Roseate Spoonbills, various raptors and swallows and overhead flocks of White-fronted Geese. Included in the festival was Saturday night's closing reception. Tasty local fare including bacon-wrapped alligator bites, crawfish etoufee and catfish bites were served as well as wine. Many BOS folks even won door prizes! The organizers of the Yellow Rails and Rice Festival did a phenomenal job with organizing the event and I would highly recommend going!

We planned our remaining days to 'clean up' species we had missed or didn't have time to look for in previous days. Sunday was another rainy one but the group did locate LeConte's Sparrow under Sue Barth's direction as well as Barn Owls at two locations around dusk. Deb Nailos located a male Vermillion Flycatcher at Lacassine for the group. A fabulous Sunday brunch spread was enjoyed midday at the Blue Dog Cafe in Lake Charles - a great way to pass a rainy day!

On Monday the group spent its final day in Louisiana very close to the Texas border beginning at an Audubon preserve named Peveto Woods. Here we added several late Neotropical migrants to our trip list including Philadelphia Vireo, Yellow-throated and Magnolia Warblers and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The group continued east to Holly Beach where a Snowy Plover was finally sighted. After a full day of driving and birding, it was time to return to the hotel where we decided to stay in the lobby and have a pizza party. The next morning's plans included checking out of the hotel, birding a section of the Upper Texas Coast and getting to the Houston airport for our departure flight back to Buffalo.

The hotel provided the group with delightful 'Breakfast bags' for our early departure. Chris Rockwell had searched recent eBird records and we made our first stop at the legendary Boy Scout Woods on High Island. Morning fog was fairly thick but we managed a female Painted Bunting among several Indigo Buntings. Rollover pass provided us with smashinh looks at Reddish Egrets, Marbled Godwits and a few Western Sandpipers and another cooperative Clapper Rail. Mike Galas spotted the next diamond in a White-tailed Kite along the road. Wrapping up the morning birding at Bolivar Flats added more looks at Reddish Egret, both Wilson's and Snowy Plovers and a Red Knot.
Everyone's final count of species seen varied slightly but as a group, we tallied 182 species of birds for the week! There were so many highlights but certainly the Yellow and Black Rails stole the show for most, the Barn Owls and Painted Bunting, beaches covered in terns, pelicans, Franklin's Gulls and avocets, utility wires hosting groups of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Purple Gallinules right outside the vehicle windows, male Vermillion I guess there wasn't a single highlight. Every single day was an incredible birding experience! We literally ran out of time birding at every location we explored! This region is so rich in birdlife that it would be a pleasure to return over and over again. If you've never birded this region, I highly suggest attending the Yellow Rails and Rice Festival in 2019! You will be thankful you did!