The Snow Geese Are Back ! Another Magical Morning At Middle Creek.

The Snow Geese Are Back ! Another Magical Morning At Middle Creek.

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It was that time of year again. For those of you who have followed my blog these past few years,  you would know it was time for my annual visit to the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. Located  just south of Kleinfeltersville in Lebanon County this 6000 acre tract with a 400 acre lake is a major stop over for snow geese and tundra swans migrating to their breeding grounds in the Arctic. The  snow geese on the lake often exceed 100.000 birds and there are up to 10,000 tundra swans there some years. 

I arrived at the Willow Point Viewing area shortly before sunrise. As usual, I found  the parking lot full, with an overflow of vehicles parked along the road.

I left my Jeep and began the  3/4 mile walk to the viewing area along the lake.  In the parking area I  walked by the many  horse drawn buggies  of the “Plain Folk” the local  Amish or Mennonites who live and farm in the surrounding countryside.   

It was cold this year. The temperature was 20 degrees under mostly clear skies.  The usual crowd of people, form all over the world,  were gathered  at the viewing area to watch the magic of Middle Creek that usual occurs shortly after sunrise.   The honking of the tens of thousands of snow geese filled the cold morning area. They created a white blanket on the lake. 

The snow geese migrate at Middle Creek  from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, where the spend the Winter months, to their breeding grounds in the northern Canada Arctic.  Their arrival at the lake in Middle Creek varies each year from late February to mid-March depending on the weather conditions and the amount of ice on the lake.  This year the lake was ice free  in late February so the arrived early.  Their stay on the lake will also be controlled by the weather conditions. They will wait for a southerly wind to help them on their long flight north. 

 I wandered through the crowd of people, young and old, all with cameras or smart phones, waiting for the sunrise.  Shortly after sunrise, a few geese  started  honking more loudly, and take flight, and others  joined  them, creating a swirling clouds of white honking geese.

It truly is magical. It can not be  described in words and photos cannot do it justice. It has to be experienced. 

This year, when I arrived, I believe there were about 90,000 geese on the lake. Some years there can be double that amount.  I usual visit with my brother and nephew. They couldn’t make it this weekend . We are going back next week, but because of some warmer weather, the snow geese may be gone. So I decided to travel down alone on Saturday to watch this wonderful event. 

Every year the experience is different. Some years the the entire massive flock of geese all follow those first few and leave the lake at the same time. Those years are truly amazing. This year they did not all  leave at once.   After a small group left shortly after sunrise the rest remained on the lake. 

It was about five minutes before another group of geese  stirred and flew off the lake. These were to the far south side of the lake from where I was standing. 

I watched as they flew up into the rays of the rising sun.

They are beautiful birds. 

The largest part of the  flock remained in front of me, hoking loudly in the cold morning air. Every time a goose would fly off of the lake the entire crowd of observers would become alert thinking this was that magic moment when the entire flock would take off. 

There were a few false alarms but then it finally happened. There was some louder honking from some of the geese and a few took off, followed by a clouds of white honking geese, tens of thousands of them.

They flew overhead, reflecting the light of the rising sun. 

It was a truly wonderful show nature put on and I was blessed  to watch it again.  It was so  worth the 1 1/2 hour drive and 1/2 hour wait in the frigid cold temperatures. 

I watched as the geese dispersed in all directions.  They were  looking for fields of last years corn to land in feed in for a few hours, either to return to the lake and rest for a few days or wait for more favorable weather conditions before flying north. Or they could have began there northward migration after leaving the lake that morning. I don’t think this was the case because of the strong northwesterly wind they would have to fly into . I think they were staying put for a few more days anyway. 

Although most of the snow geese have flown off, a large flock remained on the lake. They could have  arrived late in the afternoon the previous day and were resting on the lake.  I left them and walked back to my  Jeep.  On the way I saw a few of their feathered cousins, this white throated sparrow, it’s feather fluffed up because of the cold, and, 

this red-winged blackbird singing in the morning sun. These birds also migrate in large flocks in the Spring. I was glad to see they are back for the Spring. 

A lot of the morning crowd was leaving the Willow Point viewing area. Many, like myself, would drive around the lake and look for water fowl  on the small ponds along the road. 

The ponds, like the lake were ice free and I did see some  ducks and other water fowl. This great blue heron was ignoring a steady parade of these black ducks, 

common mergansers, 

 and mallard ducks while it was stalking some prey, probably fish,  on the shore of the  pond. My brother Mike and nephew Mikey are usual with me and  they are much better spotting and identifying the ducks on the ponds. We hope to return this weekend. 

I left this small pond and drove along the northern shoreline of the lake. Here I saw a few tundra swans with some Canada geese. 

The Canada geese,

and a few tundra swans flew off of the lake, 

but this group remained. There were a lot less of these beautiful birds on the lake this year.

I drove to the dam at the end of the lake and saw this bird swimming in the water.

At first I thought it was a duck because it looked like it had a large bill. On closer observation I realized it wasn’t a bill it was a fish in it’s mouth. 

It was a grebe that caught, for it’s small size, a fairly large fish.

I think the fish is a perch. I watched as it swallowed the fish, spiny fins and all. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs of the snow geese and other birds I saw on my visit to Middle Creek. Middle creek birds February 27 2022. 

After watching this grebe finish eating its fish I drove to the boat ramp parking area along the lake. Here I saw the white blanket of snow guess on the deep blue waters of the lake. I parked my Jeep here and began a  five mile hike on the Elders Run Trail. More on that hike on my next blog post. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs from my visit to Middle Creek. Middle Creek  February 27 2022. 

“This morning I stopped to watch the geese fly, even though I didn’t have the time to do so. And I realized that not having the time to do something might be the very reason why I need to do it.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough

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