Snow Geese return to Middle Creek

By on February 14, 2018

Snow Geese
Clay Township
Durlach Road and Clay School Road

Lancaster County residents who are inclined to look upward have noticed familiar skeins of white cutting across through the sky in recent days.

Yes, the snow geese are returning to Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. And again, earlier than usual.

As of last Wednesday, Middle Creek counters estimated there were 35,000 snows feeding in fields and spending the night on the little bit of open water in the middle of the lake.

In addition, an estimated 2,500 tundra swans and 5,500 Canada geese are hanging around the important migratory stopover.

Traditionally, some 250,000 snow geese pass through Middle Creek by mid-March as they return from points south to nesting grounds in the Arctic tundra of northern Canada, Alaska and Siberia.

The first week in March is usually the peak of the migration and the best show at Middle Creek. However, last year, on Feb. 6, an estimated 50,000-70,000 snow geese had settled onto the unfrozen lake, which had caused such a migration of tourists and birdwatchers to Middle Creek that the driving tour road was opened ahead of its usual March 1 opening.

There are no plans to open the inner road early this winter. The best way to see the current blizzard of white is from the Red Rock Picnic Area and boat launch at the southern end of the lake, off Kleinfeltersville Road, or by walking the half-mile, paved Willow Point Trail to the peninsula that juts into the lake.

Also, keep in mind that the peak times to view the snow geese on the lake and the cacophonous takeoffs and arrivals are at dusk and dawn.

Some people hike to and from Willow Point in the dark with flashlights to catch the spectacle. Arrive too late and the geese may already have departed to eat in farm fields in the area.

The ebbs and flows at Middle Creek are weather dependent. Warm weather may push the waterfowl north en masse. Conversely, the birds may arrive in New York state only to find feeding fields snow covered and hightail it back to Middle Creek. Snow geese are capable of flying 800 miles in a single day.

In 2017, the most snow geese at Middle Creek at one time was an estimated 70,000 on Feb. 22. The high tundra swan count was 4,500 on Feb. 6 and the biggest concentration of Canada geese was 5,000 on Feb. 10.

To check on current conditions and waterfowl numbers at Middle Creek, call the visitor’s center at 717-733-1512, or check the Middle Creek website at http://www.pgc.pa.gov.

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