The Snow Geese Return: Morning Magic At Middle Creek
About 15 years ago my brother Mike asked me to join him, his son Mike Jr. and my brother Joe to take a ride to see the snow geese migration at Middle Creek. At that time I had never heard of snow geese or Middle Creek. That day I would come to know, and love, both.
Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area is located on the Lancaster/Lebanon County border in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Completed in 1972, it is owned and operated by the Pennsylvania State Game Commission. It was created as a wildlife and waterfowl refuge. Originally meant to attract primarily Canada geese the refuge also attracted a number of species of ducks, tundra swans and snow geese.
I learned snow geese migrate through Pennsylvania from their winter home along the Atlantic Ocean south of the state and to their Spring and Summer breeding grounds in the Arctic and subarctic regions of Canada. The number of snow geese visiting Middle Creek increased from a few thousand in the 1970’s to over a 100,000 the last few years.
Every year the amount of geese on the lake varies with the weather conditions. This past weekend I heard there were large numbers of the snow geese on the lake at Middle Creek and I decided to awake early on Sunday morning , 5 a.m., take the 70 mile, 1 1/2 mile drive from my home in Luzerne County. I arrived shortly before sunrise and found the parking area at Willow Point already full and joined many other cars parked along the road. I walked past the now familiar Amish buggies parked in the lot.
The viewing area attracted hundreds of people. Many were from foreign countries and many languages were spoken in the crowd. I was able to identify Indian, Chinese, German, Spanish and Japanese. I know there were others. All were waiting for the sunrise and that magical moment when the large white flocks of snow geese on the lake took to the air.
The skies were clear and it was a cold 20 degrees but most of the folks didn’t seem to mind the cold. We waited and then it happened, one large flock took off. What a beautiful sight. Thousands of honking geese fill the sky and folks gasp in awe or laugh with joy. Photographs do not do this spectacular scene justice. Even this video, which I uploaded to YouTube, here is the link, https://youtu.be/_5ZrO6dYY30v does not quite capture the beauty of this event.
And as the sun climbed higher in the sky more and more groups of geese took off, creating a whiteout like seen in a heavy snow squall.
I have seen this event occur a dozen times and it is still so magical to me.
Geese were flying everywhere in the morning sunlight. I have had a number of blog posts on my visits to Middle Creek and you can search the archives of my blog website to find many more photographs of these beautiful birds in flight.
I continued to watch the swarms of snow geese as they decided to lift up in unison and head to the fields for the day where they will feed on the left corn and grains left over from last seasons crops.
They will return again at sunset to spend the night on the safety of the lake.
The crowd thinned as many of the snow geese left the lake. I also decided to live and hike in the nearby hills.
However, I first decided to stop as some of the small ponds along the road in the wildlife management area and look for ducks and other water birds. Some of the ponds were frozen but on the ones with open water I found quite a few species of ducks, including red headed ducks,
hooded mergansers swimming on the waters. I am not a duck expert and only identified these with help from my brother Mike and nephew Mike jr. I hope I got them right.
In addition to the ducks I also saw a few graceful tundra swans swimming on the lake in the morning sunshine.
And this great blue heron searching for a morning meal,
before deciding to stretch its wings.
As always it was a remarkable morning during at Middle Creek. But my day wasn’t done. I planned to explore some of the surrounding hills. That hike will be in my next blog post. Here is a link to some more photographs of the snow geese and other birds I saw at Middle Creek Sunday. Middle Creek February 23 2020.
How do geese know when to fly to the sun? Who tells them the seasons? How do we, humans know when it is time to move on? As with the migrant birds, so surely with us, there is a voice within if only we would listen to it, that tells us certainly when to go forth into the unknown. Copyright: Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Family Limited Partnership. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross