|APRIL BRINGS AUDUBON COUNTRY BIRDFEST|
TO ST. FRANCISVILLE, LA
by Anne Butler
River, this spring marks the seventh annual Audubon Country BirdFest. The weekend of April 4, 5 and 6 brings birders and outdoor enthusiasts to scenic West Feliciana Parish for an event perfectly suited to this part of Louisiana called Audubon Country. With habitat areas ranging from the hilly loessial bluffs and steep shady ravines of the uplands to the swampy river bottomlands with hardwood forests seasonally flooded by the Mississippi River in the absence of levees, the parish has had a rich and thriving bird population, both resident and migratory, ever since the famous artist-naturalist John James Audubon painted so many of his Birds of America studies there in 1821.
The popular Audubon Country BirdFest offers beginning and advanced birding, with transportation provided and several choices of destinations. Birding In The Hills, planned for Saturday, offers two distinctly different routes; the Bluebird Route covers Oakhill and Hollywood Plantations, while the Redbird Route visits Beechwood Plantation and Woodhill Farm. Oak Hill, home of wildlife artist Murrell Butler, has a wonderful diversity of bird habitats, from the steep slopes and deep hollows of the Tunica Hills to sandy creek bottoms, from Bayou Sara to the swampy Maynard Lake, from cleared cow pastures to deep dark woods, so participating birders usually spot dozens of different varieties on the property; warblers, orioles, tanagers, yellow-billed cuckoos, Eastern king birds, bluebirds, woodducks,
corridor (all 3 days), and Wyoming Plantation (Saturday morning and afternoon) for excellent birding in a diversity of habitats right at the edge of downtown St. Francisville. On Sunday morning the gardens of Afton Villa host birders through yet another type of spectacular landscaped setting.
the Oakley grounds traverses much of the same territory the artist must have trod.
Field trips and rotating tours are scheduled Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning. On Friday evening, the opening social takes place at Audubon State Historic Site beginning at 6 p.m. with a talk by the Baton Rouge Advocate's Danny Heitman, a gifted writer whose new book, A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House, which comes out this month, concentrates on the artist's stay in the Felicianas and its supreme importance in his artistic career. A wine and cheese reception follows, as well as a tour of the Oakley House, which is especially lovely by candlelight.
BirdFest headquarters are the St. Francisville Inn next to Parker Memorial
www.stfrancisvilleovernight.com; or telephone (225) 635-3873 or 635-6330.