Blizzard of Snow Geese at Middle Creek WMA
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This weekend I spent several afternoons birding and photographing at Middle Creek WMA (Wildlife Management Area) in Lancaster County, PA. The location – 6,000 acres of field and forest – is a premier destination to see Snow Geese congregating in huge numbers in early March. I never tire of the spectacle of thousands of birds ceaselessly honking, flapping, and taking-flight in a blizzard of white feathers. Much of the 400-acre centerpiece lake was frozen, but geese packed themselves into patches of open water, and spread expansively across acres of stubble farm fields.
Cars inched along the auto-tour, as hundreds of visitors enjoyed the avian spectacle. Photographers angled for premium shots alongside young families holding up phone cameras to capture the moment. Everyone was captivated, especially by the deafening “whoosh” of wings when tens-of-thousands of geese were flushed by a roving Bald Eagle.
These ‘Greater’ Snow Geese spent the winter along the mid-Atlantic coast a little further south, including marshlands, fields and waterways of the Del-Mar-Va peninsula and Chesapeake Bay area. They begin migrating in late winter, congregating in key stopover points as they work their way northwards. Middle Creek hosts a peak of about 100,000 birds in early March. From there, the geese move on to their next stop (Finger Lakes, NY), before heading to their breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra.
The all-white blizzard of Snow Geese are interspersed by dark morphs, featuring dark body and white head, known as “blue goose.” Middle Creek WMA is also a staging ground for hundreds of Tundra Swans, which I saw standing on the edge of the ice, or floating on the lake. Other waterfowl clustered in the open waters, including Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, American Wigeon and many Northern Pintail.
As the sun set over the mesmerizing landscape, geese were in constant motion. Many flew in to the lake from the fields, where they had spent the day foraging. Others streamed high in the sky, continuing their northbound migratory journey. I watched until the last rays of light… and I’m already looking forward to going back again!
This wonderful spectacle of Snow Geese along with Sandhill Cranes can be seen on our November New Mexico tour.