A Visit To Middle Creek. But What, No Snow Geese?
For the past 17 years now, around the first week of March, I have experienced the awe inspiring beauty of the massive migratory flocks of snow geese at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area located in Lebanon and Lancaster Counties in southeastern Pennsylvania. I go with my brother and nephew. We leave our home in Northeastern Pennsylvania early. We arrive before dawn and enjoy the spectacular early morning scene of tens of thousands of migrating snow geese honking loudly on Middle Creek Lake. Then , after sunrise, we watch the large flocks of snow geese fly off of the lake, still honking loudly as they head to the surrounding corn fields to feed for the day or continue their journey to the arctic tundra where they breed. It is a magical experience and it is so hard to describe the beauty of this spectacular scene.
This year was different. It was a very mild Winter and we heard reports of the flocks of snow geese on the unfrozen lake in January, a month earlier than usual. Still we kept up our tradition and left for Middle Creek early last Sunday. We arrived before dawn. We knew that there would not be the large flocks we saw in the past. In some years there are over 170,000 snow geese on the lake. Our suspicions were confirmed as soon as we neared the parking area, Usually the parking lot at Middle Creek is full and the overflow of cars are parked along the road. This year there were only a few cars in the parking lot. And only one horse drawn carriage used by the local Mennonite farmers.
When we arrived at Willow Point we found only a few other people there. In the past, hundreds of local folks and visitors would crowd the viewing area. And even more surprising was there were no snow geese on the lake, not a one. It was the first time in 17 years. We checked the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area live camera the night before and there were still a few thousand snow geese there, We thought they must have migrated north overnight.
But there were other water fowl on the lake. . A flock of tundra swans swam on the lake as the sun slowly rose. There were few hundred of these graceful birds swam on the lake. Some years there are over 20,000. They, too, migrate to their breeding areas on the arctic tundra. Like the snow geese, they migrated north early this year because of the warm weather.
As we were taking in the beautiful scenery, and listening to the bird songs my nephew shouted he heard snow geese. And sure enough, as we looked up, a flock of snow geese flew over. There were maybe 50 geese in this small flock.
They probably left the lake overnight to feed in the surrounding fields. We were glad to have seen at least a few snow geese on our annual trip. . They are beautiful birds. We would see a few more flocks on our visit, maybe about 200 snow geese. A lot less than the 170,000 we have seen on some days on prior visit.
As usual we take a drive on the tour road that opens up on March 1. It is closed in the Winter months. The road takes you around Middle Creek Lake. Many years the fields are covered with Canada and snow geese. but here were none on Sunday. We often see raptors and other birds on our drive. This year we only saw a lot of red-winged blackbirds.
We drove to the visitor center which has many informative exhibits. I have seen them numerous times but they always intrigue and inform me. We usually visit on Saturday and were disappointed when we found it closed Sunday morning. We next drove to a small pond below the visitor center where we usually see many species of ducks and other water fowl.
Snow geese mate for life. It appeared that one of the birds was injured and couldn’t fly. We think it’s mate and offspring stayed with it. It looked like it wasn’t too serious and hopefully they were soon on their way to the arctic tundra.
Of course, we saw a lot of Canada geese on the lake and ponds. One of the main reasons for the creation of Middle Creek, which is managed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission was to re-establish the Canada geese population in Pennsylvania. The Canada geese population was dwindling due to loss of habitat. The creation of Middle Creek and other nature preserves worked and the population of Canada geese has exploded. The happy couple which flew over us in one of the many flocks we saw will probably continue to add to that population. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos of the snow geese and other birds we saw visit to Middle Creek. Middle Creek birds March 5 2023.
We ended our visit to Middle Creek , disappointed having missed the large flocks snow geese and their magical morning flight from the lake. But we did enjoy a beautiful sunrise and saw many water fowl and other birds. including a few snow geese. And we will be back next year and, hopefully so will the snow geese. Here is a link to another gallery with some more photos from our visit to Middle Creek. Middle Creek March 5 2023.
“The future of wildlife and the habitat that they depend on is being destroyed.
It is time to make nature and all the beauty living within it our priority.”