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 (3/21/2017): Tundra swan numbers appear to be the highest they have been all winter with around 3,500 birds. Despite the early arrival and departure of the snow geese, the tundra swans have been here throughout the entire winter. If you are looking for good views of tundra swans at Middle Creek, this would be the time to visit us! The Tour Road has been reopened with the recent snow melt off. Just remember, it is still subject to close in the evening due to our important spring migrations of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.
Enjoy the first days of Spring!
Migration Update (3/15/2017): With over a 1 ½ feet of snow and icy temperatures, the Middle Creek lake is mostly frozen. Almost all waterfowl has moved out of the area with the exception of a few hundred roosting Canada geese and a few species of ducks. Keep your fingers crossed for warmer weather and spring time.
Tour Road Update: The tour road will remain closed until significant snow melt. Willow Point parking lot and trail will remain open for travel.
Migration Update (3/7/2017): The migration season appears to coming to an end. As of this morning there were less than 5,000 snow geese at Middle Creek and around 500 tundra swans. For those traveling from a far distance to see the snow goose migration, it might be best to wait until next year when the numbers peak again. The chattering of red-winged blackbirds, pairing of Canada geese, and eastern bluebirds sitting on top of their boxes at Middle Creek signifies that spring is not too far off.
Just as a heads up to our guests using our tour road: With warm spring rains passing through the region periodically at this time of year, the tour road is subject to closure to help biological migrations that are happening on the interior parts of Middle Creek. Reptiles and amphibians as well as other wildlife cross the Tour Road to travel from one area to another. Because of this, the Tour Road will be closed at dusk and reopened at dawn to assist in these movements. We appreciate your cooperation in helping the wildlife at Middle Creek as they start their spring movements.
Migration Update (2/27/2017): I took a look at the lake this morning. Numbers are starting to change, there were around, 30 to 40,000 snow geese and it seems that swan numbers have increased to around 2,500. Resident Canadas are beginning to pair off and locate suitable nest sites. Numbers will continue to fluctuate based on weather, the next south winds predicted for Tuesday into Wednesday will possibly move some birds along.
Migration Update (2/24/2017): It seems like birds are on the move. Numbers on the lake this morning seemed to be less than what we have seen in the last couple of days. Snow goose numbers are holding around 40-50 thousand. Swans have dropped to about 1200 and Migrating Canadas are on the move. Once numbers of birds clear out, there are still opportunities to view different species of migrating ducks in various places around Middle Creek.
Migration Update (2/22/2017): I took a look at the birds this morning, everything seems to still be holding around the same numbers as last week. There may be as many as 70,000 still here. I would expect as this warm weather approaches that the numbers may begin to dwindle as birds begin to move on. I will keep an eye on them, and give you an update on Friday before the weekend. On a related migration note we are hearing redwing black birds and even saw some wood ducks on impoundments on the interior of the property. Spring is definitely here early!!
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.