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Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Willamette Valley

Ankeny Wildlife Refuge – 04/13/2021

I found myself with some time off that Heather does not and after spending the first day getting the car serviced and receiving my first dose of COVID vaccine (YAY) I spent the next morning exploring the Ankeny Wildlife Refuge. We had visited once before in 2014 for a short hike described by Sullivan in his “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades” guidebook (post). This time I hoped to explore more of the refuge by hiking some of the dike trails that are open from April 1st to September 30th. I started my morning at the Eagle Marsh parking area on Buena Vista Road.
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There is a nice kiosk there overlooking the marsh from which quite a few ducks and geese were visible.
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IMG_1362Buffleheads

IMG_1370Canada goose and mallards

IMG_1373American coot

IMG_1375Ring-necked ducks (I’m not sure all the females are the same.)

IMG_1392Geese flying over Eagle Marsh as the Sun rises.

There was more vegetation at the southern end of the marsh where robins and blackbirds were singing.
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At the end of Eagle Marsh the dike split and I had intended to stay straight (the Refuge trail map appeared to show a possible loop around Willow Marsh but other maps do not show a dike at the southern end) but a sign there announced that dike was closed due to active nesting so I turned left instead.
IMG_1415Willow Marsh

There were a lot of ducks in Willow Marsh but they were keeping a safe distance from me.
IMG_1429A bufflehead and mallards

IMG_1432Mallards and ring-necked ducks

I then turned right along a dike passing between Willow and Teal Marshes.
IMG_1435Teal Marsh to the left of the dike.

It was more of the same treatment from the ducks in Teal Marsh.
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IMG_1454Mallards an northern shovelers

IMG_1457Buffleheads

While the ducks stayed away I had better luck with the smaller birds.
IMG_1468Spotted towhee

IMG_1473Red-winged blackbird

IMG_1476Female red-winged blackbird

IMG_1482Sparrow

IMG_1506Yellow-rumped warbler

At the end of Teal Marsh I turned around and headed back past the ducks.
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IMG_1507Geese coming in for a landing on Teal Marsh

IMG_1516Northern flicker

IMG_1517Green-winged teal

IMG_1520Ring-necked ducks and a bufflehead pair

IMG_1524Scrub jay

IMG_1541Pie billed grebe at Eagle Marsh

The out-and-back was a nice, albeit windy, 3.2 mile walk with no elevation gain. From Eagle Marsh I turned left (SW) onto Buena Vista Road and drove a quarter mile to a small pullout at a green gate.
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From here I planned on following another dike past Mohoff Pond and Pintail Marsh to Wintel Road and then follow that road briefly to the Rail Trail Loop Area which is where we had been on our first visit. A bald eagle flew over Mohoff Pond just as I set off.
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Mohoff Pond was busy with a number of different ducks but primarily they seemed to be northern shovelers.
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IMG_1580I didn’t see it when I took the picture but it appears there is an eagle on the ground in the distance here.

The activity wasn’t only at Mohoff Pond though as a handful of egrets were mostly out of view in a field on the other side of the railroad tracks.
IMG_1559One of the egrets taking off.

IMG_1589Brewer’s blackbird on a tree along the railroad tracks.

I stayed right at a junction with a dike running between Mohoff Pond and Pintail Marsh.
IMG_1591Pintail Marsh ahead on the left.

IMG_1761The dike between Mohoff Pond and Pintail Marsh.

IMG_1592Ducks at Pintail Marsh

There was a gravel parking area at the southern end of Pintail Marsh where I hopped onto Wintel Road and headed left following the narrow shoulder for .3 miles to another green gate on the right hand side of the road.
IMG_1596Pintail Marsh

IMG_1736Looking back at the gate and Wintel Road

I followed a grassy track which split 100 feet from the gate and turned right (left would have led me to the Rail Trail Parking area). The path led past a little standing water before leading onto a dike along Wood Duck Pond.
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IMG_1601Yellow legs

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I passed the Rail Trail Boardwalk and stayed on the dike now retracing our steps from our first visit.
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The dike turned south wrapping around Dunlin Pond.
IMG_1613The boardwalk across Dunlin Pond from the dike.

IMG_1639Ring-necked ducks

IMG_1634Ring-necked ducks taking off.

IMG_1626Sparrow

IMG_1646Common yellowthroat

IMG_1641Hawk and a sparrow

At the far end of Dunlin Pond the dike split again at Killdeer Marsh. Here I turned right and looped around Killdeer Marsh.
IMG_1653Killdeer Marsh

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IMG_1660Another yellow legs?

IMG_1663Mustard along Killdeer Marsh

IMG_1669A killdeer amid ducks at Killdeer Marsh

The dike didn’t quite go all the way around the marsh but it was easy walking along the edge of a field to get back to the dike on the north side of the marsh. The only issue was a 5 foot wide wet area between the field and dike where try as I might my shoes wound up wet. Once I was back on the dike I had the choice to go left back along Killdeer Marsh or a different dike veering off to the right along South Pond. I chose right and followed this dike around the end of South Pond.
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IMG_1683South Pond

IMG_1688Cinnamon Teal in South Pond

The dike led me to one of two actual trails in the Refuge, the Rail Trail.
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IMG_1711Damaged trees from the ice storm earlier this year.

IMG_1712Turkey vulture

IMG_1718Candyflower

I turned right at the boardwalk and followed it over the water to the dike on the far side.
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IMG_1728American coots

IMG_1731I think this is a ring-necked duck and a lesser scaup.

At the dike I turned right and retraced my steps back to Witnel Road and headed back toward Pintail Marsh. Instead of going to the gravel parking lot that I had been at earlier I left the road at the Pintail/Egret Marsh Boardwalk Trailhead.
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I followed this short boardwalk along and over Bashaw Creek to a bird blind.
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Again on the trail map it appeared that the boardwalk connect to a dike at Egret Marsh but it instead it dead ended at the blind.
IMG_1742The dike from the blind.

I turned around and headed back to Witnel Road a little dissapointed but then I spotted a little green frog on a log and all was good.
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When I got back to the lot a Pintail Marsh I turned right thinking I would follow the dike on the other side Pintail Marsh and Mohoff Pond.
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I stayed right when I passed another dike that allowed for a loop around Frog Marsh and stopped at a photo blind (reservable from 10/1-3/31).
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At the junction with the other end of the Frog Marsh Loop I ran into another obstacle, more active nesting had closed the dike along Pintail Marsh so I did the loop around Frog Marsh and back to the gravel lot I went.
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I retraced my steps on the dike along the west side of Pintail Marsh before turning right on the dike between the marsh and Mohoff Pond.
IMG_1756Killdeer on the dike.

IMG_1759A whole lot of geese in the air ahead.

I turned left at a four way junction where the closed dike joined from between Pintail and Egret Marshes.
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I was now on a dike between Mohoff Pond (left) and Mallard Marsh (right).
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Ducks and geese were everywhere as I trudged directly into the wind along the dike.
IMG_1776Green-winged teals

IMG_1784Northern shovelers

IMG_1781Canada geese

IMG_1788Another green-winged teal

IMG_1790Various ducks

IMG_1796Northern pintails

IMG_1803Crow

IMG_1806A green-winged teal and a yellow legs

My second stop wound up coming to 7.5 miles making for a 10.7 mile day. I only passed two people all day and saw a lot of different birds which made for a great hike. If I were a more patient person I would have sat at a blind or two and waited for some closer encounters but I prefer to keep moving so I have to settle for the long distance shots more often than not. Either way Ankeny is a great place to visit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Ankeny Wildlife Refuge

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Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Trip report Willamette Valley

Ankeny Wildlife Refuge

Greetings! I know we weren’t supposed to be hiking again until after our marathon this coming weekend, but we managed to sneak a quick one in. We took advantage of a scheduled cross-training day to head out to the Ankeny Wildlife Refuge just south of Salem. This is the first hike listed in William Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in the Central Cascades book and according to the description April is one of the peak migratory months for the various birds that can be spotted there. A flat 2 mile loop along the Rail Trail worked perfectly for our cross-training needs so it seemed like the ideal time to finally go check out the refuge.

We parked at the Rail Trail parking area and set off on a gravel path heading to the start of the loop.
Ankeny Wildlife Refuge

Trail in Ankeny Wildlife Refuge

After a couple of hundred yards we reached the start of the loops where we took a right onto the Rail Trails raised boardwalk.
Boardwalk Trail

The boardwalk is necessary as the trail passes through a wetlands that is either under water or too muddy for passage.
Pond in Ankeny Wildlife Refuge

There were many small birds present as we approached the bird blind located just over half a mile along the boardwalk. Most of them wouldn’t sit still long enough for a picture but a curious Bewick’s Wren paused long enough for a shot.
Wren

We didn’t stay long at the bird blind due to the fact that we were supposed to be cross-training but the blind overlooked a marshy pond where ducks and red-winged blackbirds moved about.
Bird blind in Ankeny Wildlife Refuge
Red-winged blackbird

Shortly after leaving the blind a pair of noisy geese expressed their displeasure with our presence.
Canada Geese

We discovered the reason for their annoyance was the nest they had built near the trail.
Goose nest

The boardwalk ends at an old dike road where the loop turns left and follows the dike back around to the parking area. Being as early as it was in the year (the dike is only open from April 1st – September 30th) the dike was covered in damp vegetation.
Ankeny Wildlife Refuge

We encountered numerous red-winged blackbirds as we travelled along the dike and we also spotted a good variety of ducks in the many ponds.
Red-winged Blackbird
Ring-necked ducks (at least most of them were)
Cinnamon Teal
Mallard

Other than our feet getting a lot wetter than we had planned due to the wet grass along the dike it was a peaceful trail. We had a bit of trouble locating the correct place to turn back toward the parking area and had to pass through about 10 feet of saturated ground to get back but that just helped make it feel more like a hike :). Ankeny Wildlife Refuge would be a great place to go if you’re interested in bird watching. Someday we’ll have to go back and spend more time standing still and waiting for the birds to come to us. Until next time – Happy Trails!

flickr photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157643529661063/
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