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Waterfowl Migration Update

 

ADVISORY: Please note that these numbers are estimates and subject to rapid and dramatic change.
These updates are submitted by Lauren Fenstermacher, Middle Creek manager.  Learn more about the snow geese migration at Middle Creek in this webinar.

Migration Update (2/17/2017): Cold weather that freezes parts of our lake means less birds. The count this morning was approximately 50,000 snow geese and 2,500 tundra swans. Warm weather this weekend will most likely bring the numbers back for a time before they venture north.

Just a helpful hint for folks that are looking to make the drive: If you have the availability, come see Middle Creek during the week. You can avoid the large crowds but still enjoy the views that the waterfowl migrations bring. Many of you have asked about the tour road being opened early or when will it open. The tour road will open on March 1st as in previous years. This is a sensitive time of year for many species of wildlife in addition to our roosting waterfowl so the road will remained closed until March 1st. If you come to visit us, please respect the wildlife and pay special attention to the signs that mark our controlled and propagation areas. These areas are closed to the public for the safety of our visitors and also our wildlife. Drones are not permitted at Middle Creek.

We hope you can stop by soon to enjoy the awesome views the snow geese and other wildlife provide.

Migration Update (2/14/2017): Wow! 70,000 snow geese are upon us at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. If you were waiting for the numbers to peak to come to the area, this weekend may be the time you want to be here. While it’s hard to say the numbers will stay here, we could be at our peak for the season. Hope to see you at Middle Creek soon!

Migration Update (2/13/2017): Numbers continue to fluctuate at Middle Creek but we were holding strong over the weekend with about 45,000 birds. Although they are not the largest numbers we have seen, this appears to be the average number so far. Getting to Middle Creek early in the morning will offer views of the whole flock lifting off to feed but the evening will give you a constant stream of geese returning to Middle Creek.

Migration Update (2/10/2017): Six inches of snow fell at Middle Creek this last week pushing half of the birds away from Middle Creek. With open water however, half of the snow geese decided to stay.

Snow geese: 20,000
Tundra swans: 2,500
Canada geese: 5,000

Migration Update (2/6/2017): There are roughly 40,000 snow geese at Middle Creek and about 4,500 swans.

Numbers continue to fluctuate daily. Snow-free fields in southeastern Pennsylvania make for unlimited feeding possibilities. Snow geese continue to use multiple roost sites since they are unfrozen. It appears the peak of migration could be here earlier and more spread out this year!

Migration Update (2/1/2017): Numbers on the first day of February numbered around 15,000 snow geese including 2,000 tundra swans. However, as the day went on, more and more snow geese continued to dump into Middle Creek pushing the numbers higher and higher (by noon, the numbers were around 50,000). This is a perfect example how their numbers are so difficult to track. They fluctuate easily especially during a mild winter when the lake is mostly unfrozen and the fields are snow free. Please note that we will update this page as often as possible but numbers can change within minutes or hours of the last update. Thank you for your patience and we hope that you come to Middle Creek to enjoy the magnificent snow goose migration.


2016 Migration Summary:
Peak numbers of the large waterfowl, by species and the date the high-count was recorded:
Snow geese: 65,000+ on 02/29/16
Tundra swans: 3,500+ on 02/29/16
Canada geese: several hundred on 02/09/16

MIGRATION BACKGROUND: The period that annually attracts the most birds, and visitors, remains late winter. During this timeframe, large numbers of migrating waterfowl normally appear. In recent years, more than 100,000 snow geese, 10,000 tundra swans, 10,000 Canada geese, and a wide variety of ducks have stopped at Middle Creek while pushing north to their breeding grounds. It's also a great place to see northern harriers, or "marsh hawks," nesting and immature bald eagles, and more common creatures such as white-tailed deer and red-tailed hawks.

There are many variables that determine the arrival of migrating waterfowl. The most significant is icing. When the ice on the main impoundment thaws to create areas of open water, the birds begin to arrive. Snow cover on the surrounding agricultural fields also influences the arrival waterfowl because it can limit access to the waste grains these birds depend on for food. Therefore, areas of open water and limited or no snow cover on adjacent fields strongly influence Middle Creek's drawing and holding power for migrants.

Many of the migrants that come to Middle Creek winter south of Pennsylvania and usually begin to push north in conjunction with spring thaw. During extreme winters with a late thaw, however, there's always a chance waterfowl will fly over Middle Creek, or stop only briefly. Timing is critical for migration and nesting.

Exactly when birds arrive can be difficult to predict. Generally, the birds, when conditions permit, begin to arrive in late February or early March. For those planning a trip to Middle Creek, the first weekend in March would be a good time to visit. A map of the area is available at the Visitors Center, as are the latest updates and bird sightings. Make sure to bring along binoculars, and field guide to help identify some of the birds you'll see. Warm clothes also an important consideration if you plan to drive with your windows open. A camera also is usually worth taking, because sometimes tremendous photo opportunities arise at Middle Creek.

After stopping by the Center, visitors follow the self-guided driving tour to Stop #1, located at the lower end of the lake. This is normally an excellent site to view tundra swans. Another suggestion would be to hike to Willow Point. At dusk or dawn, this provides the best vantage for snow geese. To fully appreciate Middle Creek, a drive through the interior on the Tour Road shouldn't be missed. Weather and driving conditions permitting, the Tour Road will open March 1. A significant portion of the interior remains Propagation Area where entry is prohibited. It is because of the Propagation Area that waterfowl are attracted to Middle Creek. Within these areas, the habitat and lack of human disturbance remain the primary reason why Middle Creek has become such a vital stop to migrating waterfowl.