Mar 11 2010

Beyond Bounds: Snow Geese

Published by at 7:14 am under Beyond Bounds,Migration

Snow geese are so unusual in southwestern Pennsylvania that it's incredible there are 120,000 of them in the state -- and none here -- but that's how many were at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area yesterday.

Middle Creek is on the border of Lebanon and Lancaster Counties, squarely on the migration path of waterfowl travelling from the Atlantic coast to their breeding grounds in the Arctic and northern Canada.  In early March the lake hosts as many as 250,000 snow geese, 8,000 tundra swans and a wide variety of ducks.

I went there last Sunday to get my annual dose of birds.  The weather was great and all day long the waterfowl numbers increased.  As we watched from Willow Point more birds arrived from the south than flew off to the north.  Every day must have been like that this week.  There were 45,000 snow geese last Sunday.  Now there are three times as many.

Yes, 120,000 birds in a huge flock on a small lake.  Imagine when the entire flock takes off at once in fear of a lone bald eagle overhead.  Their flight is controlled chaos.  Such noise and excitement!   It's a wonder they don't hit each other in the air.

So if you can, set aside some time to visit Middle Creek this weekend.  (Click the links in the text above for more information.)

What a migration spectacle!

(photo by Kim Steininger.  We were both there last Sunday.)

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Beyond Bounds: Snow Geese”

  1. jeff auckeron 11 Mar 2010 at 8:54 am

    This “spectacle” is almost as bad as many of the other hoardes of uncontrolled pest species. Ask the farmers in the area if they have any winter wheat left. The real problem is when they push north to their breeding grounds and irreparably eat everything.

    The limit kill per day went from 2 to 5, 10, and finally 15 with no dent in their numbers. I’m a huge birder but keep it fair and balanced, they like the now non-migrant canada goose are a problem.

  2. Mary Ann Pikeon 11 Mar 2010 at 8:58 am

    Last year we were at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management area in late March…too late for a spectacular show of birds. We think we saw one Tundra Swan, and there were probably several hundred snow geese there. Thunder started as we were standing down by the water, and since the weather forecast was predicting strong storms, we headed back to the car. As we drove out, we were stopping to take pictures of the snow geese, and it started to hail. Within the next few minutes, it was raining and hailing so hard that we couldn’t see. We pulled off into a gravel lot on the small road we were on and sat there wondering if the hail was damaging our car. The noise of the hail was so loud we could hardly talk. I’ve never been in a storm like that. After it stopped, the roads were covered about an inch deep in hail, and you had to be careful that you didn’t slide if you put the brakes on. It looked like it had snowed. When we got home the next day we found out that a tornado had gone through Ephrata about 3 miles south of where we were. Bird watching can be hazardous!

  3. Kate St. Johnon 11 Mar 2010 at 9:27 am

    Jeff, yes there is an overabundance of snow geese. Please see this link for a balanced discussion of their population growth (see the Population and Migration subheads):

    Snow geese are hunted at Middle Creek – and in all of PA – Monday through Saturday at this time of year. There is no way hunting can control a large population that’s growing more than 5% per year. Sadly, the only thing likely to reduce their population is mass disease or starvation.

    Still, that many birds in one place is a spectacle no matter how you slice it. It’s worth the trip.

  4. Harrietton 11 Mar 2010 at 10:03 am

    We saw this many snow geese years ago in the fall at Brigantine. What a beautiful sight. We had to stop on the road as they went from the corn field on the right over the car and into the lake on the left. It is a wonder we did not have to wash car after all that!!! Would not have missed the spectacle it was so neat. Thanks for sharing your weekend with us. I so enjoy reading your blog each day. Learn so much.

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