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Waterfowl Migration Update


ADVISORY: Please note that these numbers are estimates and subject to rapid and dramatic change. Major weather events including snow and freezing temperatures can quickly impact the number of birds that can be found at Middle Creek. The best times to see Snow Geese on the lake are sunrise (before they leave to feed in neighboring fields) or sunset (as they return from feeding to roost). If you are unable to make it for sunrise/sunset there are still many other species of waterfowl that will be around Middle Creek for you to see including Tundra Swans, Canada Geese, and many species of ducks. These updates are submitted by Lauren Fenstermacher, Middle Creek manager.  Learn more about the snow geese migration at Middle Creek in this webinar.

2018 Migration Updates:

March 19:

Numbers remained consistent throughout the weekend with a small influx of Tundra Swans. The question is how much longer will the snow geese, tundra swans, and migrating Canada geese stay?

If you venture to Middle Creek this week you will see many resident Canada Geese pairing up and preparing for mating season. Keep your eye on our nesting structures you see around the property. Will you see them being used?

Snow Geese: 20,000
Tundra Swans : 150+
Canada Geese: 2,500


March 16:

Despite consistent cold weather, numbers have fluctuated slightly over the week. Longer days and snow free fields have birds pushing north despite cold temperatures. Despite dwindling Tundra Swan numbers, you can still make your final trip to Middle Creek this weekend to see the snow geese.

Snow Geese: 15,000
Tundra Swans: <50
Canada Geese: 2,000


March 12:
Just when you think Spring is around the corner, old man winter surprises you once again.

Colder temperatures and snow to our north have actually increased the number of snow geese present. Birds have been feeding heavily on Middle Creek property all weekend in preparation for warmer weather. While they are great to view from a distance remember to respect all posted areas and keep your distance from all wildlife at Middle Creek.

Snow Geese: 30,000
Tundra Swans: 150+
Canada Geese: 3,000


March 8:
Did you think the migration was over? Not so fast! Yesterday’s coastal winter storm has birds confused and asking is it winter or spring?

Despite the lack of snow fall around Middle Creek, areas north and east of us have sent birds back to Middle Creek. While the numbers of snows is holding strong at 20,000 birds, during the count this morning I had the opportunity of seeing a large flock of about 5,000 birds coming into the Middle Creek area from the east. Will they stay?

Some Tundra swans have also returned most likely being pushed back south again from the storm.

Counts for today:
Snow geese: 20,000
Tundra swans: 300+
Canada geese: 3,000

This small migration resurgence is just in time for our snow goose festival this Saturday at the Visitors Center which is hosted by the Conservation Officers of Pennsylvania! Doors open at 8 AM and Admission is Free! Food and refreshments will also be available.

We hope to see you there for perhaps the final encore of the snow goose and tundra swan migration.


March 5:
Snow goose numbers continue to hover right around 20,000. Windy weather and snow on the way will most likely keep them here until they have to search elsewhere to feed. Most of the Tundra swans have left but more Canada geese and other duck species are coming in.

Snow Geese: 20,000
Tundra Swans: 100
Canada Geese: 3,500

The season isn’t over yet! There is still time to stop by to see their magnificent flight displays.

This Saturday is a perfect time to come to celebrate with our first annual Snow Goose Festival! Doors are open from 8 AM to 4 PM. and will feature conservation history displays from the Conservation Officers of Pennsylvania. Food will be available!

There will be a raffle being held at 1 PM which features a variety of prints, hand made knives and a top prize of a 50 caliber muzzleloader made by Commissioner Charlie Fox. Tickets can be purchased at Middle Creek before the raffle.

We hope to see you there!


March 1:
Waterfowl migration continues to wane at Middle Creek. Snow Geese numbers are still impressive at 20,000 birds but the Tundra Swans have received the message that Spring is coming. Many of the swans have started to leave Middle Creek and fly north during the night. Counts are listed below.

Snow Geese: 20,000
Tundra Swans: 5000
Canada Geese: 2,000

Today marks the first day that the interior part of the Tour Route is open. Please note that the interior part of the road will be closed from dusk to dawn hours each day.


February 26:
Despite large numbers of snow geese last week, today’s count is substantially lower perhaps indicating that the peak of the migration has come to pass. There are still a substantial amount of geese here for anyone who hasn’t been able to catch their migration yet this season. Tundra swans numbers continue to hold strong while migrant Canada geese have started to move north. If you plan to make the trek to Middle Creek this weekend, Lebanon Valley Conservancy will have a refreshment stand available. All proceeds go to help fund the Middle Creek Initiative for land preservation. The Tour Route also opens this week on March 1st. Be sure to check out our new Audio Tour as you drive around the lake on 1620 AM.

Snow Geese: 30,000
Tundra Swans: 3,500+
Canada Geese: 2,000


February 22:
Warmer temperatures have caused some snow geese to move north. Surprisingly, right before the warmer temperatures this week, Middle Creek hit its highest number of snow geese ever in history topping out at approximately 200,000 birds. This is an increase over the previous record (170,000 birds), which was recorded in 2007.

However, it was short lived as today’s numbers are back to what might be considered normal for this time of year. Today’s total counts are below:

Snow Geese: 65,000
Canada geese: 4,000
Tundra swans: 5,500

While venturing out to Middle creek, be sure to check out our new Audio Tour that features information about the history of Middle Creek, snow geese and tundra swan facts, along with other important information pertaining to Middle Creek. Tune into 1620 AM when you’re here!


February 19:
 Snow in northern Pennsylvania and New York are holding up the snow geese from continuing their travels north. Their numbers continue to increase and are much higher than numbers counted in previous years. The warmer temperatures mid week should make for interesting changes.

Snow Geese: 135,000
Canada geese: 3,500
Tundra swans: 4,000


February 15: 
There was a significant increase in numbers. That number may still change due to flocks returning this evening from feeding. The counts for today are below.

Snow Geese: 100,000
Canada geese: 7,500
Tundra swans: 3,000-4,000


February 12:
The counts for today are below.

Snow Geese: 70,000+
Canada geese: 5,000
Tundra swans: 2,500

now goose numbers will continue to fluctuate throughout the week based on weather and availability of food sources.


February 8: 
The counts for today are below.

Snow Geese: 50,000
Canada geese: 5,000
Tundra swans: 2,500

Since the last update, the majority of the snow goose numbers have returned and seem to be holding there.


February 1: 
Colder temperatures and frozen waters have lowered our snow goose numbers. Tundra swan and Canada goose numbers are still holding strong. The counts for today are below.

Snow Geese: 7,500
Canada Geese: 5,000
Tundra Swans: 2,500

Today marks the first day our Visitors Center is open for the year. If you decide to bear the cold temperatures to see the waterfowl migration, please stop in and see the various interactive displays that the Visitors Center has to offer.


January 29:
Numbers have increased in all waterfowl groups here at Middle Creek due to the warmer weather and surrounding snow free fields. Counts are below:

Snow Geese: 35,000
Tundra Swans: 2,500
Canada Geese: 5,500

Despite that our numbers have increased, the predicted forecast of snow and colder temperatures could through Wednesday could impact the numbers at Middle Creek and cause them to lower significantly. If you are planning a trip to Middle Creek and are coming from longer distances, I highly recommend calling the Visitor Center to verify the amount of birds that are here.


January 26:
As of this morning, there are approximately 5,000 snow geese on the lake and around 500 Tundra swans. These numbers have been fluctuating daily based on weather conditions and the amount of open water on the main lake. The Middle Creek Lake and most of the water impoundments are still frozen. The best view of the birds can be seen from the Red Rock Picnic Area/ Boat Launch.

2017 Migration Summary:
Peak numbers of the large waterfowl, by species and the date the high-count was recorded:

Snow geese: 70,000+ on 02/22/17
Tundra swans: 4,500+ on 02/6/17
Canada geese: 5,000+ on 02/10/17

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.

Middle Creek