A day after visiting the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge (post) I headed out to the William L. Finely National Wildlife Refuge for another attempt at spotting wildlife. Heather once again was working so I was on my own again. We had done two previous hikes here, one in 2017 visiting the Cabell Marsh and hiking the Woodpecker and Mill Hill Loops and the other in 2020 starting near Pigeon Butte. My plan was to combine most of those two hikes and add a few new short stretches to make a big loop through the refuge starting from the Woodpecker Loop Trailhead. One item to note is that some of the refuge is closed from November 1st through March 31st making this loop impossible during the seasonal closure.
The refuge is open from dawn to dusk and I arrived at the trailhead just as the Sun was beginning to rise behind Mt. Jefferson.
From the Woodpecker Loop Trailhead I walked down to the refuge road and followed it to the left back to the Cabell Barn then turned right on a road at a season trail sign for the Cabell Marsh Overlook. I followed the roadbed to the Cabell Lodge and past the overlook down to Cabell Marsh.
Mt. Hood from the refuge road
The Three Sisters from the road
img src=”https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51116225393_9feb61f994_c.jpg” width=”800″ height=”600″ alt=”IMG_1860″>Cabell Lodge
Rabbit at the lodge
Cabell Marsh Overlook
White crowned sparrows
Deer in a field near Cabell Marsh
Cabell Marsh (the marsh had been drained when we visited in 2020)
I slowly walked along the dike at the marsh using binoculars to try and identify how many different ducks were out on the water.
Wood duck, ring-necked ducks and a pied billed grebe
More northern shovelers
Green winged teal
At a junction on the SW end of the Marsh I stayed left following a roadbed past a huge flock of geese and some ponds to a junction with the Pigeon Butte Trail.
Junction with the Pigeon Butte Trail (grassy track heading uphill)
Originally I had planned on skipping the half mile trail to the top of Pigeon Butte but it was a beautiful morning and it had been too cloudy to see much on our hike in 2020 so I turned uphill an tagged the summit before returning to my originally planned loop.
Spotted towhee serenade
Camas blooming near the summit
View from Pigeon Butte
Scrub jay spotted on the way down.
One of the “blue” butterflies, maybe a silvery blue
When I got back down to the junction I continued south on the Pigeon Butte Trail to a junction at a pond below Cheadle Barn.
Looking back at Pigeon Butte, the yellow paintbrush was starting its bloom on the hillside.
Instead of heading for the barn and the Cheadle Marsh Trail which we had used on our 2020 visit I went right following a roadbed to Bruce Road across from the Field 12 Overlook.
Looking back at Pigeon Butte and the Cheadle Barn
Bruce Rd and a sign for the overlook.
Swallows at the overlook
Mary’s Peak and Pigeon Butte from the overlook.
Mary’s Peak (post)
I then walked west on Bruce Road to the trailhead for the Beaver Pond and Cattail Pond Trails passing the Mitigation Wetland along the way. I paused at the wetland to watch a great blue heron and egret along with a number of ducks in.
Ground squirrel on Bruce Rd.
heron flying by the egret
Green winged teals
Trailhead off of Bruce Road
I turned off of Bruce Road at the trailhead and followed the grassy track to a fork where I veered left on the Beaver Pond Trail. This trail led briefly through the woods before arriving at the Beaver Pond where I startled a heron and a few ducks but an egret and a few other ducks stuck around.
Entering the woods
Giant white wakerobin
Egret and a cinnamon teal pair and maybe an American wigeon
As I was watching the egret I noticed something else in the water but I wasn’t sure if it was an animal or a log/rock in disguise. Even with binoculars I could decide but after looking at the pictures it was in fact a nutria that appeared to be napping.
The egret finally flew off and I continued on to a junction just beyond the pond where I turned left heading slightly uphill toward the Refuge Headquarters and the Mill Hill Loop.
At a signed 4-way junction I followed a pointer for the Mill Hill Trail to the left but not before I checked out a patch of pink along the trail straight ahead.
The pink turned out to be shooting stars.
I hiked the Mill Hill Loop (which led back to the junction right past the shooting stars) and then turned left on the Intertie Trail. The Mill Hill Loop was full of surprises with a number of different wildflowers blooming and a turtle sighting. The turtle was on a log in a wetland quite a bit below a bench along the trail and I only spotted it with the help of the binoculars but that counts.
One of many fairy slippers
It took some work to get the camera to stop focusing on the brush in the foreground.
Back at the junction and onto the Intertie Trail
I followed the Intertie Trail to the Woodpecker Loop ignoring side trails to the Refuge Headquarters.
The Woodpecker Loop
I turned left opting to head uphill on a slightly longer route back to my car so that I could check out the view from a hilltop viewing structure.
Norther flicker along the Woodpecker Loop
Amphibian pond and interpretive kiosk.
The Three Sisters
I watched a pair of raptors chase each other around but couldn’t get a clear enough view to tell what kind they were (maybe Cooper’s hawks?).
This was the best shot I could get at 40x zoom with the sun in front of me.
After accepting that a clearer picture wasn’t possible I left the shelter and hiked downhill to my waiting car. While I only passed two other hikers on the trails there were a number of folks at the trailhead either just arriving or getting ready to leave. My loop with the mile detour up and down Pigeon Butte came in at 11.3 miles. The great thing about Finley is the diversity it offers with forest, woodlands, marshes and fields each supporting different plants and wildlife. The possibility of long, medium and short hikes is also nice. The one drawback is that there is a lot of poison oak in the area but they keep the trails wide enough that it really isn’t much of a problem.
Flickr: Finley Wildlife Refuge Loop