Sunday, August 21, 2011
The Rail Trail
Last week friend Toni and hiked the Rail Trail at Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge, which is even closer to her Albany home than Finley NWR, where we usually hike. The Rail Trail is not on an abandoned railroad line. It was named because it's a good place to see rails, Sora and Virginia, in the marshy areas.
But we didn't. We did, however, see grebes, herons, frogs and strange, oblong, floating objects that we don't know what are. Friend Hazel, however, sent this website that makes my nutria scat guess look correct. Ugh. http://skagitnutria.howitworks.com/what-is-nutria.cfm
One of the grebes was close to our boardwalk, but in an odd plumage I didn't recognize. After searching the books and web, I decided it must be a juvenile plumaged Pied-billed Grebe.
We saw other odd creatures. Toni identified this miniature green hippo and a crocodile coming up from under a log.
The crocodile doesn't look quite so crocodilian from a distance. Other areas of the boardwalk are not so close to water in this dry season, but lovely nonetheless and full of woodland birds. Here's Toni on the boardwalk.
The boardwalk eventually ends but the trail proceeds around fields and alongside a hedgerow by the road, returning to its beginning. That hedgerow was full of bushtits, chickadees, flycatchers, cedar waxwings, towhees, and other passerines. Although this Western Wood Pewee was very cooperative about landing in view, the lighting was not so good on this warm afternoon and neither are my photos.
After leaving the Rail Trail, we drove to the kiosk at what I believe is called Eagle Marsh. As always, there were plenty of waterfowl here, including one White Pelican demonstrating why Ogden Nash thought a pelican's bill can hold more than it's belly can.
The shorebirds were pretty distant, but by calls we were able to figure out that we were seeing both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. A Red-winged Blackbird flew in and landed near a resting Yellowlegs, so I think that one is a Greater, since it is so very much bigger than the blackbird.
In order to make the habitat less attractive to the invasive nutria (which we also saw), some of the water areas at Ankeny have been drained and the weeds are being removed. Nevertheless, there were plenty of birds around on that warm August afternoon... along with those rarer creatures: hippos and crocodiles.