John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge

When – 1st July, 2017
Where – John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is one of the more popular birding spots near Philadelphia. From the get-go I was sceptical of the richness of this preserve – for one, it is next to the airport and secondly, Google Maps told me that one side of the refuge is along I95, a heavily trafficked interstate.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Early July is not the best time of the year for birding here – it is after the breeding season and before the migratory season. Nevertheless, it was chock full of birds, I got more great shots in one morning here than four at Peace Valley Park. The concentration of water birds in John Heinz is an order of magnitude higher than at peace Valley, which makes it a great place for both birders and bird photographers.

After entering the refuge, we started off on a trail from the visitor center, along I95. This part of the trail is quite wooded and dark. Almost immediately however, there is a smaller trail that breaks away leading into the woods. Here I was able to spot and photograph this beautiful Carolina Wren.

WB_20170701_DSC_4482

Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm | 1/2000, f/5.6 @ ISO 4500

A little further along, we heard a ‘throaty’ shriek. Triangulating our way, we found this Catbird with a bunch of insects in it’s beak making those sounds.

WB_20170701_DSC_4549

Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm | 1/1600, f/5.6 @ ISO 4500

The trail soon opened out into a shallow swampy lake. A Great-blue Heron and a Great Egret were hunting here. A boardwalk with a couple of bird viewing areas crosses the lake. As we were crossing, the egret took off to another end of the refuge. I managed to get these 4 shots of it’s graceful flight.

WB_20170701_DSC_4638

Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm | 1/2000, f/5.6 @ ISO 1000


WB_20170701_DSC_4639

Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm | 1/2000, f/5.6 @ ISO 800


WB_20170701_DSC_4641

Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm | 1/2000, f/5.6 @ ISO 900


WB_20170701_DSC_4650

Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm | 1/2000, f/5.6 @ ISO 1600

We spotted these two American Goldfinches as we made our way along the trail.

WB_20170701_DSC_4734

Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm | 1/800, f/5.6 @ ISO 450


WB_20170701_DSC_5426

Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm | 1/1000, f/5.6 @ ISO 560

An experienced birder there, who was waiting for a shy Gallinule to show up, helped me sight this Prothonotary Warbler, a beautiful rare bird.

WB_20170701_DSC_4945

Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm | 1/1000, f/5.6 @ ISO 2200

The lake is lined with tall grassy reeds, teeming with birds. These Marsh Wren made quite a racket, tiny though they are.

WB_20170701_DSC_5525

Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm | 1/1000, f/5.6 @ ISO 800


WB_20170701_DSC_5558

Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm | 1/1000, f/5.6 @ ISO 640

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are here aplenty too. I was able to photograph this one catch a tick before flitting away.

WB_20170701_DSC_5702

Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm | 1/800, f/5.6 @ ISO 100


WB_20170701_DSC_5705

Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm | 1/800, f/5.6 @ ISO 125

Talking to some other folks there, I had missed out on Gallinules, Bitterns, Ospreys and a Bald Eagle. John Heinz Refuge is definitely on my calendar for another visit during August-September when a lot of waterbirds make their migration south and take a break here.

2 thoughts on “John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge

  1. Pingback: Bald Eagle – Comfortably numb

  2. Pingback: Bombay Hook Wildlife Refuge – Comfortably numb

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s