Jeff Davis

Oct 26, 2012 10:48 AM by AP

Bird watchers flock to coastal Louisiana

THORNWELL, La. (AP) - An elusive chicken-like marsh bird is drawing nearly 130 bird watchers from 27 states and Poland, Kuwait, England and Canada this weekend to the rice fields of Jefferson Davis Parish.

The American Press reports the bird watchers, naturalists and photographers are trying to catch a glimpse of the yellow rail and other native bird species during the annual Yellow Rails and Rice Festival.

The festival runs through the weekend with birding trips, boat tours, bird banding and photography workshops, a rice mill tour and a Cameron Parish coast tour.

"The festival is designed with fun in mind," said Donna Dittmann of the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science. "Jefferson Davis Parish is a fantastic place for birds and birding," she said.

Sharon Guarnete and her husband, Al, who live near Philadelphia, were among first-timers attending this year's festival.

"We are bird watchers and have never seen a yellow rail," Al Guarnete said. "So we read about this last year on a website and put in on the calendar for this year."

Al Guarnete has been birding for 49 years. Sharon Guarnete, who has not been bird watching as long, says it's a hobby they can enjoy together.

"We travel all around the country and enjoy nature," she said.

"And we find birds wherever we go," added Al Guarnete.

He has 678 species on his list of sightings and plans to keep going.

Virginia McKinney made the trek from Anchorage, Alaska, in hopes of catching a glimpse of the famous yellow rail and for a chance to ride on a farm combine.

"Where else do you get a chance to ride on a combine, see this fabulous bird and get to see a beautiful part of the country?" McKinney said.

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