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Snow Goose and Waterfowl Migration Update

Livestream of the migration at Middle Creek This livestream from Willow Point at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lancaster County is brought to you by the Pennsylvania Game Commission and HDOnTap. The best times to view snow geese on the lake are sunrise (before they leave to feed in neighboring fields) and sunset (as they return from feeding to roost). Other species of waterfowl including tundra swans, Canada geese, and many species of ducks can be viewed throughout the day. Learn more about the snow geese migration at Middle Creek in this webinar.

Middle Creek livestream

Middle Creek Visitors Center: 100 Museum Road; Stevens PA 17578

WATCH: What to Expect and How to Prepare for Your Visit. Middle Creek’s manager explains the variety of ways to safely view snow geese during the 2022 migration.

Migration Magic—A Story Map: Your one-stop shop for information on Middle Creek then and now, snow goose natural history and migration, breeding and wintering grounds, and visiting Middle Creek.

Printable Map and Viewing Tips (PDF)
Take a virtual hike down Willow Point Trail (8:16)

View periodic estimates of the numbers of various waterfowl visiting and annual summaries below the live feed.

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. These updates are submitted by Lauren Ferreri, Middle Creek manager.

March 21, 2022

Well, that's a wrap for the 2022 waterfowl migration season at Middle Creek. Most of the snow geese have moved through and Tundra swans are no longer calling Middle Creek home. You can still see a variety of duck species making their way back to their breeding grounds but if you make it to Middle Creek in the coming weeks, keep your eyes out for the next group of migrants... songbirds! Tree swallows have already arrived and red-winged blackbirds, eastern bluebirds, and American kestrels are setting up their territories. We will see you again during next year's migration!

  • Snow Geese: <500
  • Tundra Swans: 0
  • Canada Geese: 975

March 15, 2022

Are you confused by the weather? You are not the only one! The wildlife at Middle Creek has certainly been startled by the brief blip of snow and below freezing temperatures. While tree swallows have started to return and songbirds have started to sing, that was all brought to a halt with the winter storm over the weekend.

What does that mean for the migration? While the changes in weather certainly hit the pause button for waterfowl movement, the warmer weather systems that moved in have them on the move again. We anticipate that Friday will be our last update for the season, but in the mean time, if you have not had a chance to see the geese, you may be able to see them yet in the next few days or on our live webcam here.

  • Snow Geese: 20,000
  • Tundra Swans: 6
  • Canada Geese: 875 on main lake

March 11, 2022

While most of the peak of migration has passed, some birds are staying put for now until these early March winter systems pass by. It's always a toss up if the birds will come back or keep moving forward. One things for sure, the birds want to keep migrating towards their breeding grounds as soon as possible.

  • Snow Geese: 42,000
  • Tundra Swans: 95
  • Canada Geese: 1,020

March 8, 2022

Spring is close, and the waterfowl can feel it! Today's count has dropped significantly from Friday thanks to the warmer weather and rain the last few days. This type of weather helps to open the next spot on the migration for our swans and geese.

But with the departure of our larger concentrations of waterfowl, come new species! The first tree swallow was seen yesterday - a sure sign that in no time, things will be greening up!

  • Snow Geese: 28,000
  • Tundra Swans: 165
  • Canada Geese: 1450

March 4, 2022

Not much has changed since Wednesday's count. With warmer weather forecasted this weekend, we do anticipate this could be the last weekend where bigger numbers of snow geese remain. As a reminder, weekends tend to be the busiest for Middle Creek. If possible, please visit in the early morning or during the week to avoid the crowds. We appreciate your patience as we experience large volumes of birds and people.

  • Snow Geese: 78,000
  • Tundra Swans: 2,950
  • Canada Geese: 1,450

March 2, 2022

Based off this mornings count, it looks like the migration may be slowing down for the year. But don't worry, numbers are still very impressive to see! While the masses of snow geese have decreased, the diversity of ducks has increased. Also, the tour route or wildlife drive around the lake has finally opened after being closed since October as it is every year. Check back on Friday to see the updated weekend count.

  • Snow Geese: 75,000
  • Tundra Swans: 2,300
  • Canada Geese: 1,650

February 28, 2022

Weather has been staying consistent for the birds to stay roughly at the same numbers. While morning counts have been lower, the counts during the afternoon remain high. Swan numbers also continue to rise and duck species have increased in diversity.

  • Snow Geese: 60,000 (morning count) 100,000 (afternoon count)
  • Tundra Swans: 4,500
  • Canada Geese: 2,500

February 25, 2022

If you felt a little sluggish this morning because of the weather, don't worry; you aren't alone. The waterfowl at Middle Creek are also feeling the effects of the weather and were staying put on the lake longer than normal on this foggy, rainy morning. But when the fog lifted, the stars of the show weren't the snow geese, but the tundra swans whose numbers have increased quite a bit. Canada Geese numbers however have gone down overall while looking at the lake but if you look closely around the management area, you will notice some of them are starting to check out the numerous goose nesting tubs on the property.

While we do not expect any significant changes in numbers over the weekend due to the colder weather, waterfowl numbers can change rapidly. Please remember if you are visiting this weekend to practice patience and to pay attention to the signs around Middle Creek that announce the closed areas that the waterfowl and other wildlife utilize to survive the winter and their migrations.

  • Snow Geese: 105,000
  • Tundra Swans: 4,000
  • Canada Geese: 2,000 (on the lake)

February 23, 2022

The variability in weather has potentially brought our peak in numbers of snow geese at Middle Creek. With 60 plus degree temperatures, and the lake completely unfrozen, roughly 150,000 birds utilized the lake on Monday afternoon (President's Day). They stayed for most of the day without feeding and in the morning on Tuesday, we only had about 30,000 birds.

If you haven't made the trek to Middle Creek yet, don't worry, the counts rose again today and the tundra swan numbers have also increased.

  • Snow Geese: 70,000
  • Tundra Swans: 2,500
  • Canada Geese: 3,000

February 18, 2022

February's weather continues to be surprising. We went from a winter wonderland last weekend to 60 degree weather with monsoon like winds and rains in the last 24 hours. The waterfowl do not seem to mind. The warmer weather and rain has allowed the lake to open completely, allowing for more waterfowl to use the Middle Creek Lake.

The weekend will bring another shift of colder temperatures but will finish out with a warmer President's Day on Monday. If last year's numbers are any indication, we could see the numbers of snow geese increase still this year. However, this year's flocks are just as hard to predict as the weather.

If you plan on visiting Middle Creek this weekend, please remember to dress for the weather and expect crowds. We appreciate your patience!

  • Snow Geese: 90,000
  • Canada Geese: 3,300
  • Tundra Swans: 1,100

February 16, 2022

Snow geese numbers vary throughout the day and sometimes it is hard to predict what to expect when you come to Middle Creek. During the count this morning, we started with around 40,000 birds when large flocks from the north started to come into the lake. When the count was finished, we had close to 55,000 birds.

Later this morning while performing other biological work on the management area, more than 75% of the geese left the lake to go feed resulting in less than 15,000 birds.

So how many geese are at Middle Creek? It depends!

  • Snow Geese: 55,000 (high count)
  • Canada Geese: 3,000
  • Tundra Swans: 305

February 14, 2022

Snow goose numbers this weekend peaked out around 85,000 birds on Saturday but on Sunday morning, there wasn't a snow goose in sight after four inches of snow blanketed Middle Creek. But don't worry, the geese returned last evening by the thousands. With colder temperatures early in the week, we do not expect a big change in numbers until closer to the weekend.

  • Snow Geese: 67,000
  • Canada Geese: 2,800
  • Tundra Swans: 325

February 11, 2022

The weekend is here and so are the snow geese. Numbers have continued to climb over the past few days and with warmer temperatures ahead, we expect the trend to continue. Unfortunately with the ice still remaining on the lake, the snow geese have pushed out some of the other species that use the lake at this time of year like the tundra swans. If you are planning on visiting this weekend, below are a few recommendations:

  • Remember, large numbers of snow geese and warmer temperatures mean more visitors. Expect Middle Creek to be crowded if you are visiting over the weekend.
  • Coming early (around sunrise) will afford you an opportunity to still come on the weekend with less people.
  • Consider visiting other locations of the Wildlife Management Area besides Willow Point Trail where it is the busiest.
  • Snow Geese: 57,000
  • Canada Geese: 3,200
  • Tundra Swans: <100

Other species: red-winged blackbirds have started to sing and other duck species have increased including hooded mergansers, common mergansers, northern pintail, gadwall and American wigeon. American black ducks and mallards still remain the most prevalent duck species.

February 9, 2022

What a difference a week can make! The morning counts for snow geese continue to climb despite a large amount of the lake still being frozen. With the snow geese moving into the lake however, other waterfowl are scattered and in some cases numbers have dropped. We continue to see typical wintering duck species like mallards, American black ducks and ring-necked ducks but we do have a few other species hanging around like American green-winged teal. Check back on Friday for the final count before the weekend!

  • Snow Geese: 36,000 (2,500 more birds were headed towards Middle Creek as the count wrapped up)
  • Canada Geese: 2,500 (some birds were unable to be counted as they were using the back coves of Middle Creek to avoid snow geese on main part of lake)
  • Tundra Swans: 213

February 7, 2022

Despite colder temperatures over the weekend, the snow geese have heard the call of spring and are starting to move north. Small amounts of open water have gotten larger due to thousands of birds roosting on the lake. Keep an eye out the rest of the week to see how the weekend is shaping up.

  • Snow Geese: 23,000
  • Tundra Swans: 300
  • Canada Geese: 3500

February 4, 2022

We were not able to do a count yesterday due to the fog but we have an update for your weekend! Snow geese numbers have increased slightly with warmer temperatures and rain. However it looks like the temperatures will continue to decrease over the next few days so we do not expect a large increase over the weekend. We are predicting the peak migration won't happen for a few weeks so stay tuned to our updates on this page for the most up to date counts.

  • Snow Geese: 3400
  • Tundra Swans: 290
  • Canada Geese: 2900

We still have a large amount of American black ducks and mallards but other duck species currently include ring-necked duck, gadwall, and American wigeon

February 1, 2022

Welcome to the start of the 2022 Spring Waterfowl Migration season at Middle Creek! While Spring may seem like a long ways away, the snow goose and tundra swan migration symbolizes that the end of winter is near. We will be posting here two to three times a week with updates on major migration changes for snow geese, tundra swans, and Canada geese. We will also be including some other species that might be here as well. If you are interested in learning more about the spring migration, check out our Migration Magic Story Map here. And don't forget, you can check out the lake conditions on your own by visiting the live stream of the lake here.

  • Snow Geese: 2,400
  • Tundra Swans: 240
  • Canada Geese: 2,100

Other species: Most of our duck species currently consist of mallards and American black ducks but with warmer temperatures and rain later this week, we hope to see more variety!

2021 Migration Summary:
Peak numbers of the large waterfowl, by species and the date the high-count was recorded:
      Snow geese: 120,000 on 03/08/21
      Tundra swans: 1,050 on 03/08/21
      Canada geese: 2,500 on 03/12/21   

2020 Migration Summary:
Peak numbers of the large waterfowl, by species and the date the high-count was recorded:
      Snow geese: 125,000 on 02/18/20
      Tundra swans: 3,000 on 02/07/20
      Canada geese: 3,000 on 02/03/20   

2019 Migration Summary:
Peak numbers of the large waterfowl, by species and the date the high-count was recorded:
      Snow geese: 150,000 on 03/12/19
      Tundra swans: 5,000 on 03/04/19
      Canada geese: 3,000 on 03/04/19   

2018 Migration Summary:
Peak numbers of the large waterfowl, by species and the date the high-count was recorded:
      Snow geese: 200,000 on 02/21/18 (largest number on record)
      Tundra swans: 5,500 on 02/22/18
      Canada geese: 7,500+ on 02/15/18

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

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