Snow Geese, Tundra Swans , Hooded Mergansers And More At Middle Creek

Snow Geese, Tundra Swans , Hooded Mergansers And More At Middle Creek

Middle Creek Willow point (6 of 38)
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Last Saturday I returned to  the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lancaster County with my brother Mike and nephew Mikey. We hoped there would still be some snow geese  on the lake at Willow Point. It was late in the season and we were worried they may have already migrated  north. They didn’t. There were about 78,ooo snow geese and 3000 tundra swans on the lake.  We heard the loud  honking of the snow geese as we approached the lake at Willow Point  shortly after sunrise. 

The thousands of snow geese were huddled on the lake, their white bodies reflecting the orange twilight skies. 

It was cold again, temperatures were in the mid 20’s and the skies were mostly cloudy. The clouds made for some nice background scenery as some of the first snow geese flew off of the lake with the sun, obscured by clouds, rising  in the southeastern skies. 

There weren’t as many snow geese, or visitors,  as last week.  But there were a lot of the local  Amish or Mennonite folks watching this magical scene and many of them were taking photos. 

As   usual a few small groups of snow geese left the lake , causing all of the onlookers to think this was that magical moment the skies would fill with clouds of honking geese. 

There were a few false alarms, a few geese would start honking loudly and fly off the water, but only a few of the flock would follow.

Finally, some loud honking, and a large number of snow geese took off into the cloudy and cold skies. 

Almost all of the flock tens of thousands of  snow geese,  followed, 

creating that wonderful Middle Creek magical scene  that we have been  coming to see these past seventeen years. It is an awe-inspiring experience. It is  one our human ancestors would have seen a lot more often then we do. They would have observed these  mass migrations.  not only of the snow geese but also of  many other species of birds, and even other animals.  They are less spectacular now.  Many species of animals  have  been depleted or even brought to extinction because of our  failure to protect their environment. We need to create more areas like Middle Creek to protect them.

We watched the snow geese swirling overhead, honking loudly as the flew into the distance, 

some going to the surrounding fields to feed on  the remains of last years corn crops, and return to the lake to rest, 

and others already rested will fly off to the Canadian arctic where they will mate and breed. 

There were  not only snow geese at the lake. This week there were some Canada geese and a  lot more tundra swans, almost three thousand. Shortly after the mass of snow geese left the lake these birds also took to the skies. Like the snow geese to either feed in the fields or to fly off to breeding grounds in the north. 

The tundra swans, I think,  are one of the prettiest birds in flight.

 The fly through the skies as gracefully as they swim on the water.

And their were a few other birds flying overhead, an occasional ring-billed  seagull, 

and this small flock of wood ducks. 

After watching the wonderful display of migrating water fowl we left  Willow Point  and the ancient willow tree for which I believed it was named.

We returned to parking area, walking past the horse and buggies of the Amish and Mennonite folks. Here is a link to some more photographs  of the water fowl we saw at the lake. Middle Creek Willow Point March 5 2022.  

As is our yearly custom,  we continued our visit to Middle Creek  by driving  on the tour road that  takes one through the  farm fields around the lake. In some  years there  are  large flock of snow geese in the fields, feeding on either the remains of last years corn crops or  the new grass shoots in warmer years. 

There were no  geese in the fields this year.  There were a lot of male red- winged blackbirds, who also just migrated back into Pennsylvania, and are establishing their breeding territories under the dim sun obscured by thickening clouds. 

We drove through the fields and to the boat ramp on the far side of the lake near the Elders Run trailhead.  There were some more locals with cameras photographing the  water fowl across the lake. And, like us hoping to see a bald eagle or an osprey fly overhead.

And we got lucky. Two juvenile bald eagles flew overhead. They were too quick for my camera, and quickly flew over the tree tops.

We left the boat ramp and continued our drive around the lake.  We saw the two eagles again. They circled over us and landed in a  treetop along the lake.  We got out of the car and were disappointed as the two eagles flew off as we approached. However, looking up in the tree tops we saw a third juvenile bald eagle. 

This one allowed us to get a bit closer before it, too, flew off over the lake. It’s always a good day when you see a bald eagle. Three in a day is awesome!

As we walked back to our vehicle we saw the reason these eagles were in this area. We found the  fresh remains of this snow ground. Apparently breakfast for one or all three of the juvenile bald eagles. 

We continued our drive along the lake, stopping at one of the ponds were there was  a variety of ducks on the waters of the pond.   There were common mergansers,

mallard ducks 

ring-necked ducks, 

and a flock of these pretty hooded mergansers. These males, with the white patch on their head,  were following the brown-headed females, when  

this male  turned around as if he was telling his friends to back off, I saw them first. 

The hooded mergansers, were at first hanging out with their own sex,  the males  and 

females, swimming together.,

until  it seemed a match was made and then a new couple swam off together.

As I watched these pretty birds,

they came closer to shore and began feeding on what I think were  small blue-gill fish. It was as if the new couple decided to celebrate by having breakfast together. 

They were swimming in circles and apparently stirring the fish from the bottom and then catching them. 

They were catching some big fish considering how small they were. 

It was a wonderful scene to watch, some more magic at Middle Creek.  Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photographs of the hooded mergansers and other birds we saw  along the tour road and lake. Middle Creek tour road March 5 2022. 

After watching the hooded mergansers we drove  around the lake on tour road one more time, and, not seeing much wildlife,  we decided to stop at the  informative Visitor Center.

There  are  many exhibits here about the wildlife in this area and the in entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. You could spend a day here. I learn something new each time I visit. 

We couldn’t stay long this year, we had to return home for a family function.  While  visiting the rest rooms  I saw some more wildlife, painted on the toilet stall doors.  So appropriate for Middle Creek and it’s amazing diversity of birds and wildlife.  It was another great visit to watch the magical scene that enfolds every Spring with the arrival of the snow geese. I am looking forward to returning for many more years. 

“Never apologize for being over sensitive and emotional when defending the welfare of wildlife.
Let this be a sign that you have a big heart and aren’t afraid to show your true feelings.
These emotions give you the strength to fight for what is right and to be the voice of those who cannot be heard.”
― Paul Oxton



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