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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

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.

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 Middle Creek Staff.

January 31, 2023:

Waterfowl numbers have remained fairly consistent. Currently Middle Creek has ice free conditions but Fridays forecasted low temperature of 9° could create ice that may cause waterfowl to roost other places such as nearby quarries. Don't worry though. Temperatures will hit 50° by Sunday and remain unseasonably high through the beginning of next week.

Snow Geese - 79,000
Canada Geese - 1,800
Tundra Swans - 1,950
Ducks- mallard, American black duck, gadwall, common merganser, hooded merganser, ring-necked duck, and northern shoveler.

January 27 2023:

Happy Friday migration enthusiasts! Despite the winter weather systems this week, numbers of snow geese have stayed relatively stable. Both swans and Canada geese have increased, however. With the extended forecast staying somewhat consistent with a few nights below freezing, we anticipate numbers to stay about the same throughout next week. As a reminder, our visitors center opens Wednesday February 1st. 

Snow Geese: 78,000
Tundra Swans: 1,900
Canada Geese: 1,750

January 23, 2023:

Welcome to the 2023 Spring Migration season. Wait did we say Spring? We're two months away from Spring! 

This year it seems the numbers of snow geese at Middle Creek are larger than they typically are at this time of year. While some may say the migration is early this year, we actually think a lot of the birds at Middle Creek are "late" birds that did not migrate south yet. With mild temperatures this winter, reports of birds in the coastal regions of Delaware and Maryland are lower than usual. While it is hard to know for sure, we think most of the birds that are here are actually birds that were hanging out north of Middle Creek that were pushed south after the deep freeze we had at the end of December. It is important to remember that snow geese are a nomadic species and it is not uncommon for them to fly hundreds of miles in a day. A short flight to Delaware from Middle Creek is an easy days work for them! 

Keep an eye on our biweekly counts on this page to see how the migration is shaping up. As a reminder, our visitors center opens February 1st . If you are interested in learning more about our migration, check out our migration handout or view our interactive migration story map.

Snow Geese: 75,000
Tundra Swans: 1,250
Canada Geese: 1,400

Most Common Duck Species: Mallard, American Black Duck, Gadwall

2022 Migration Summary:
Peak numbers of the large waterfowl, by species and the date the high-count was recorded:
      Snow geese: 105,000 on 02/25/22
      Tundra swans: 4,500 on 02/28/22
      Canada geese: 3,500 on 02/07/22 

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