White Birds Heading North

Looking for some bird excitement?  If you haven’t been to Middle Creek yet, now’s the time to go.

At the peak of migration, late February through early March, more than 100,000 snow geese and 10,000 tundra swans stop at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area near Kleinfeltersville, PA.

Every year the spectacle is different and the numbers fluctuate.  The birds wait for good weather and move north when the lakes thaw.  This winter many Pennsylvania lakes never fully froze so low numbers of geese and swans have been scattered around the state.

Nonetheless, Dave Kerr found plenty to photograph when he visited Middle Creek a couple of weeks ago.  Pictured here are my favorites —  the tundra swans!

Swans are subdued.  Snow geese are not.  When the geese are scared by a bald eagle all of them leap into the air shouting their fear.  The noise is like the roar of a filled football stadium.  The spectacle is amazing.

Dave recorded a short video of it, posted here on his Flickr site.

Barbara Galatti filmed it in February 2009.  Her YouTube video begins before dawn and shows several huge rushes of snow geese.  Turn up your speakers to get the full effect — including the wind!


How many white birds are heading north now?  See bird-count updates here from Middle Creek’s manager, Jim Binder, or this link for directions and tour information.

Visit Middle Creek soon for lots of bird excitement.  Maybe I’ll see you there.


p.s.  This huge snow goose population is beautiful to watch, but it is overwhelming the habitat in their arctic breeding grounds.  To address this, there is now a springtime snow goose hunt as well as one in the fall.  Hunting occurs at Middle Creek Monday through Saturday.  There is no hunting on Sunday.


(photo of tundra swans this month by Dave Kerr.  Video from Middle Creek in 2009 by Barbara Galatti)

4 thoughts on “White Birds Heading North

  1. News from Jim Binder at Middle Creek yesterday:
    2/27/2012 Update on Waterfowl Migration

    Snow goose numbers have swelled slightly, swan numbers are steady but low.
    Canada geese are leaving, have been heading north over the past week. If
    the Canadas are on the move the other stuff won’t be too far behind, it
    might be an early migration this year.

    Snow geese: 65,000
    Tundra swans: 1,200


    [I suggest going to M.C. *soon*!]

  2. News from Jim Binder at Middle Creek yesterday:
    2/29/2012 Update on Waterfowl Migration

    Around eleven o’clock last night swans started getting up off the lake in
    large and vocal flocks, they headed north, Canada geese and snow geese were
    aloft as well. I was a little surprised, thinking that the birds would wait
    for more favorable southerly winds. But by late last night the winds were
    calm, which is better than a headwind, and I’m guessing the birds wanted to
    beat the approaching storm front. These birds probably won’t be coming
    back, they’re gone to the north. Some years we do see birds get pushed back
    south by severe weather in the north, and it’s possible that birds still to
    our south or elsewhere may stop here on their way north, but the local peak
    in numbers is probably past.

    Snow geese: 45,000
    Tundra swans: 550


  3. There are 3 tundra swans on a private lake in Washington County, 2 adults and a juvenile. My daughter saw them yesterday on the way to work and called me later in the day to tell me. My daughter and I drove over after I got home from work and tried to take pictures but they were two far away for my longest lens to get a good picture. Someone else stopped to see them also while we were there. Unfortunately the lake is at the entrance to what is labeled a “private community” and there are signs saying “private lake” all over the place, so I guess people really aren’t supposed to go on the property. I have seen them twice at Middle Creek in the past, but it was interesting seeing them so close to home.

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