Quick Birding Stop at John Heinz - Bird #309 of the Year

Last night's forecast had the rain I had been waiting for to spend the night roadcruising for amphibians.  Oh wait... this blog is about birds.  

...Ok, so anyway - Before my trip south for the impending rain, I had some time to kill.  John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia may be the best spot to bird in the entire city.  It also happened to bisect my drive down to Maryland.  There had recently been a few good birds reported there, so I decided to spend an hour seeing what I could get.

I walked the path through the woods and onto a boardwalk across an expanse of water.  A dozen or so Great Egrets dotted the water.

Great Egret

I saw a few other birds of note, but I'm not much on storytelling without photos to aid in the process.  I decided to camp out at the end of the boardwalk where a Sora had been reported for a while.  I stayed there a good forty minutes.  It was enjoyable watching the egrets, chimney swifts, ducks, and loads of swallows fly by.  A Green Heron kept me company on a new turtle platform for the entire length of my stay.

Green Heron

About ten minutes into my stakeout, I heard the undeniable whinny of a Sora!   Let me back up.  For the sake of transparency, I'm not that great of a birder yet.  It was definitely "deniable" to me.  I don't proclaim to know every bird sound on the East Coast and it will be years before I learn half of them.  But I digress - I had hoped the whinny was the result of a Sora among the reeds.  Fair enough?

More time went by.  I didn't mind.  I was waiting for the night to fall and bring the rain with it.  An Eastern Painted Turtle was nearby (Please forgive my images in the very low light)...

Eastern Painted Turtle

The painter drew my attention away from scanning the reeds for a bit.  When I looked back I saw a small bird... smaller than I remembered from last year, in all probability due to my lack of experience.  I put my binocular on it and sure enough, I had my bird!


My night was already made and it hadn't even officially started yet.  Even better, the Sora stayed in plain sight for a good two minutes.  I watched it grab a small fish and pick insects from the duck weed and reeds before disappearing again like the ghost that it is.  

The satellite showed rain moving into the area.  I made a hasty retreat for the car, anticipating what the night had in store for me and my herp encounters.

Step into the outdoors...