Sunshine, Snow Geese, Tundra Swans And A Bald Eagle At Middle Creek

Sunshine, Snow Geese, Tundra Swans And A Bald Eagle At Middle Creek

Middle Creek birds (8 of 50)
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I was up early Sunday morning at my hotel in Lebanon. I had a cup of coffee in my room and was off to the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Reserve just as the first light of dawn started to brighten the eastern  sky. The skies were clear and  the waning quarter moon was setting in the west while the planet  Venus was rising ahead of he sun in the east. It was a  15 minute drive through the  rural roads of Lebanon County  to Middle Creek.

When I arrived there were a lot more vehicles at the Willow Point  parking lot then there was on my visit the previous afternoon. I was able to park in one of the last available spots. And there was Amish or Mennonite carriages,

and horses  in the lot.

I began the 1/2 mile walk to the observation area at Willow Point in the morning twilight.  The honking of the snow geese on the lake echoed in the cool morning air.

When I arrived at  Willow Point, I saw the willow trees for which it was named,

and  a lot more people at the at the observation point then the previous evening.  And, a lot more snow geese on the lake. There were about 20,000 snow geese in the morning. There were only a few thousand the previous evening.  Many snow geese must have arrived in the evening after I left and the rain stopped.

I joined the crowd watching and listening to the snow geese while we anxiously

awaited the sunrise in the east.

The skies brightened and the first rays of the sun appeared. The snow geese were also awaiting the sunrise. They became agitated, honking louder when  the sun rises. Soon,  they will decide to leave the rest and safety of the water to either feed in the surrounding corn fields or continue their migration further north to the arctic tundra where they nest and breed. Eventually one snow goose would be the first to leave the water and the others will follow. Soon  the skies over the lake are filled with flying snow geese.

 It is an amazing experience, especially when there are over a 100,000 snow geese on the lake. This year there  were there smaller numbers, so the scene wasn’t as spectacular as most years,

but still breathtaking.  . It is a wonderful sight seeing the white snow geese flying overhead in the golden rays of the rising sun. 

This year half of the snow geese remained on the lake after the first ones flew off. It could be because they arrived late the previous evening and were going to get more rest before moving on.

While I  waited for the remaining snow geese to take flight  I was surprised and delighted to watch a bald eagle land in a tree right  in front of the observation area.

I hoped it would leave it’s perch and dive for a fish or  a snow goose for a morning meal but it just sat there on the tree branch and watched the snow geese with the rest of us.

There were only a few tundra swans on the lake. Some years there are over a thousand of these birds,

that are so graceful swimming in the water or flying  over the lake.

I waited for about a half hour for the remaining snow geese to leave the lake but they weren’t leaving, so  I decided to leave Willow Point and walk on the Wildlife Drive. I walked back to the parking area with the early morning sun shining on the budding red maple trees.

On the way I saw this ruby-crowned kinglet hopping from branch to branch on a tree along the path, unconcerned with the many people walking past. I was able to capture a photos of this pretty, and elusive bird.

I also saw a few American robins in the tree tops,

and a few male red-winged blackbirds singing in the morning sun

A few Canada geese also flew overhead.

I walked through the parking area, past the tethered  horses, and

continued, on foot, to the Wildlife Drive. I  have driven this road many times over the years with my brothers and nephew but this would be my first time I would walk the six mile route.

The strengthening March sun warmed the cool morning air as I walked through an woodland with old maple, oak and beech trees.

I heard Carolina wrens in the trees  and saw a few blue jays but there wasn’t much other bird activity in the  trees along the road.

After about a mile the road continued through some corn fields.

A few large oak and maple trees grew in the fields.

There were quite a few motor vehicles on the road. Many stopped with cameras hoping to see a hawk or eagle.

I saw one juvenile  bald eagle fly overhead

and a few flocks of graceful tundra swans.

They were flying from the lake and their white bodies stood out in the deep blue skies.

Beautiful birds they are.

There wasn’t much more bird activity in the fields as I walked under the brilliant early morning sun and a few passing clouds. 

Occasionally, I walked by some large oak trees along the road. Some years we see hawks perched in these trees but I didn’t see any on my walk on Sunday.

I did see this single snow goose feeding in a corn field. I am not sure why it was separated from the large flocks on the lake. 

I also  lot more red winged blackbirds,

a few eastern bluebirds,

song sparrows, and

a few northern mockingbirds in the fields.  I think this  be a great place to look for migrating birds in the next few weeks.

After about 4 miles  the one way  road left the   fields, and continued   up a ridge and through some older woodlands. There was now two way traffic on this county road.  I walked past a single residence along the road,

before  leaving the main road and following  a steep ridge back toward Middle Creek. A pair on bikes were also struggling up the steep road.

Overhead I saw a few turkey vultures,

and a flock of ring billed seagulls soaring in the blue skies. .

I enjoyed walking on  this area of the loop  road. . I loved  the tall old oak, tulip, beech and maple trees  towering into the deep blue skies.

I didn’t see any wildlife in these woodlands but there were some signs of Spring. I saw some skunk cabbages in some wetlands along the roads,

and I heard the welcome sound of wood frogs.

I found dozens of them looking for mates in the vernal ponds and streams along the road.

There were also large patches of Christmas ferns growing along the road

After about another mile the road approached the lake and the outflow dam.

Here I saw a small flock of ruddy ducks,

swimming and diving in the deep blue waters of the lake.

The Wildlife Road ended at the main county road that passes though the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area.

Here I saw another sign of Spring, snowdrop flowers blooming in the woods along the road.

I had a little over another mile on my hike. I saw a few white throated sparrows in the trees along the road.

The road took me past the Visitor Center and Museum but I didn’t walk up to visit, instead I was nearing a pond where we always saw many species of water fowl,  including black ducks, mallard ducks, ruddy ducks, pintail ducks, shoveler ducks, bufflehead ducks, and wigeons.

Well I was soon disappointed when I arrived at the pond and did not see a single duck. I am not sure why but this was the first time there were no ducks on the ponds on my many visits to Middle Creek.

Across the road, on the lake we often see many of these ducks and also tundra swans. On Sunday there were just a few Canada geese on the lake.

I continued my walk along the road, hoping to see another bald eagle or hawk. I didn’t, I only saw one more bird, a tagged mourning dove. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos of the birds I saw on my morning visit to Middle Creek. Middle Creek birds march 3 2024.

I finished my 7 mile hike (6 on the Wildlife Drive and 1 on my walk to Willow Point) back at the Willow Point parking lot. It was full now and people were parking on the road. Although the  numbers of the snow geese were no where the large flocks I  saw on previous visits they still attracted many visitors to Middle Creek. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my seven mile hike at  Middle Creek. Middle Creek birds march 3 2024.

I was a little disappointed on my visit. I thought I’d see more birds and wildlife on my 6 mile walk on the Wildlife Drive. However, It was still a great day to enjoy the sunrise, the  March sun and the beautiful rural scenery  of the farms, fields and hills in the Middle Creek preserve. I am hoping to return soon.

“May the love of nature come visit you today and warm your heart.”  Robbie George 

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