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Trip Report John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum

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That's quite a mouthful, so I'll just use Tinicum for short.

Today was a gorgeous spring day, the first day that really felt like spring all the way through. Happily, this was also the day chosen for our field trip to Tinicum wetlands, the most urban of the National Wildlife sites in the US. http://www.fws.gov/refuge/john_heinz/

The refuge is host to many migrating birds, plus turtles, frogs, snakes, native bees, butterflies, foxes, deer, and so forth. We saw the fish jumping in Darby Creek, blue herons on the wing, hawks, ducks, and turtles, but no mammals except us and the other visitors there, many of them photographers intent on capturing the views of that multitude of birds.

It's a place of rare peace, bordered by Philadelphia International Airport on one end and oil refineries to the side. There are tidal and non-tidal wetlands, fields, and forest; five distinct habitats in all. At this time of year and with our very cool spring so far, the leaves are not showing, but there was some green on the ground. The dried grasses and reeds and the intricate skeletons of the trees were beautiful in the sunlight, though, and actually made the bird-watching a bit easier.

There are trails to follow and an impoundment that shimmers as you cross its bridge, a wide boardwalk with a central area to stop and view all the life on the water. Trails lead into the woods, as well, and there are observation platforms and towers. You could wander for a long time, and indeed it was difficult getting the students to leave!

The environmental experience starts in the parking lot, created to be porous to prevent runoff, and then the Education Center, built to fit the landscape over a rain pond and made of environmentally friendly materials, with solar and geothermal power use. There is an exhibit area there which explains a lot, and you can get maps and guides there as well. They have binoculars, field guides, nets, and so forth on loan for educational groups; the binoculars were a definite plus! Some of the kids had their own, but most used the center's and happily spotted birds, turtles, and each other.

There's an interesting story behind the center: Antonio Cusano, a single factory worker from the area of Tinicum, amassed a 2.5 million dollar fortune (stocks) that he left to the federal government, due to his love of country and nature. He wanted it used to help children learn about nature, and these funds were matched (by private donors) so that the award-winning education center could be built. Thank you, Mr. Cusano!

There are some pictures here that I took today: http://missalg.smugmug.com/Nature/John-Heinz-National-Wildlife/38243353_NLKt22 and even a YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3E2qQU9BiM

I recommend it! It's free, and there's plenty of parking in that porous lot, or you can get to it from the Eastwick station of the Regional Rail Line.

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