Yellow Rails and Rice Festival to take place on Oct. 23-27

By By Doris Maricle / American Press

Hundreds of bird watchers from all over the United States and Canada will soon descend on Jeff Davis Parish with

hopes of catching a glimpse of an elusive chicken-like marsh bird during the annual Yellow Rails and Rice Festival.

The festival will be Oct. 23-27, with activities in Jeff Davis, Cameron and surrounding parishes.

“We selected Jeff Davis Parish as the

host because of its proximity to rice farms and the large number of

yellow rails that

can be found in second-crop rice,” said organizer Donna Dittmann

of the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science.

Festival organizers have dubbed Thornwell in rural Jeff Davis Parish as the “Yellow Rail Capital of the World.”

“The festival is an event to provide a unique venue to show birders an elusive species, the yellow rail, while at the same

time promoting Louisiana-grown rice and highlighting the working wetlands as a critical habitat for birds,” Dittman said.

The yellow rails are easy to see when the rice is harvested because they fly to get out of the way of combines during the

late fall harvest of second-crop rice.

Some 125 bird watchers, naturalists and photographers from 27 states and two Canadian provinces had registered for the event

as of Oct. 1.

Online registration will close Oct. 15,

or sooner if all spaces are filled. Registration includes festival

packages and pre-festival

trips. Separate purchases may be required for some events.

“Visitors can see many other species of birds as well as spectacular aggregations — going home with fond memories of their

visit and hopefully inspiring them to return at different seasons,” Dittman said.

The festival also allows

conservationists and scientists and members of the rice and tourism

industries to interact with visitors

and with each other, she said.

Although the festival is based in Jennings, trips during the festival allow participants to visit different habitats, including

the piney woods and Gulf Coast to see Louisiana’s different bird communities, Dittman said.

New this year is a tour hosted by Grosse Savanne Eco-tours and kayak trips on Lake Martin and Lacassine Bayou hosted by Pack

and Paddle. Trips to the piney woods and Cameron coast have also been added this year, along with scheduled tours of local

rice fields and rice mills.

Guided driving tours of sites of interest in the Jennings and Welsh area are planned for Saturday morning. Tours of the LSU

Museum of Natural Science in Baton Rouge will be available Wednesday.

“This brings ecotourism dollars to a

number of local communities,” Dittman said. “It (festival) is also a

great way to educate

visitors about rice cultivation and processing — field to mill to

table — and to highlight the importance of working wetlands

as bird habitat.”

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