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Snow Goose and Waterfowl Migration Update

Update 5/8/2023: The Middle Creek livestream cam is temporarily down due to storm damage. 

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.

March 6

Today's post will serve as the last update for the 2023 migration season. This year certainly was an interesting year with peak numbers arriving roughly a month early. Our peak numbers this year were 79,000 snow geese and 1,950 tundra swans on January 31, and 2,250 Canada Geese on February 17. Thank you for following this year's spring migration!

Snow Geese: <100
Tundra Swans: 75
Canada Geese: 1,250

March 3

The snow goose migration seems to be functionally complete. Just over 2,000 snow geese is next to nothing when up to 200,000 have been on the lake at one time in 2018! Snow geese can still be seen at Middle Creek, particularly in the afternoons and evenings, but their total numbers remain small. As many have noted, the very mild winter, along with virtually snow-free conditions (even to our north), have allowed the snow geese, and other migrants, to get well on their way. Both January and February were well above average for temperatures this year, which seems to have resulted in not only birds moving north earlier, but a lower peak here at Middle Creek. Large peaks can happen when waters are ice-free here at Middle Creek, but fields and waters to our north remain snowy and frozen.

Regardless, there is still a diversity of waterfowl to view here at Middle Creek. Canada geese, common mergansers, American black ducks, ring-necked ducks, northern shovelers, and gadwalls are all easily seen from the roads and Willow Point.

Barring a major cold spell, snow goose numbers will continue to dwindle. The long-range forecast is showing high temperatures for the next 15 or so days in the mid- to upper-40s. Too warm to keep geese here. If you want to see what snow geese remain, the sooner the better!

Snow geese: 2,250
Tundra swans: 80
Canada geese: 1,650

February 28

It's hard to believe that tomorrow is already March 1st; the highly awaited date for many people that come to Middle Creek because the Wildlife Drive (previously known as the Tour Route) is open to the public. Every year this road is kept shut from seasonally to the public for multiple reasons, mainly to limit disturbance to wildlife that utilize the management area during the harshest times of year. 

While the migration of snow geese is coming to a close, this is a reminder that Middle Creek is home to more than just waterfowl. Middle Creek is home to 110 breeding species of birds and over 280 species of birds can be found here throughout the year. This doesn't include our mammalian species or the reptiles and amphibians that call Middle Creek home. 

If numbers continue to decrease, Friday will most likely be our last count of snow geese for the season. Happy March everyone!

Want to learn more about the birds that can be found at Middle Creek? Check our our bird checklist here.

Snow Geese: 2,750
Tundra Swans: 105
Canada Geese: 975

February 24

This morning's count was a lot lower than expected... only 3,000 snow geese! That being said, many of the birds spent the night somewhere west of Middle Creek and flew back into the management area after the morning count. With a small number of birds roosting on the lake overnight, we anticipate numbers to continue to drop. If you are visiting this weekend, remember that numbers of visitors may be high so please be patient.

Please continue to practice caution when visiting the Management Area since avian influenza has been found in our wild birds. If you own backyard poultry flocks or exotic birds, please make sure you follow the PA Department of Agriculture Guidelines here:

Snow Geese: 18,000
Tundra Swans: 875
Canada Geese: 1525


February 21

Is anyone else confused by this "early spring" weather? If so you're not alone! Early sounds of spring such as eastern bluebirds and morning doves calling, tree frogs and spring peepers sounding off, and the familiar sound of Canada geese announcing their territory are all starting to become normal at Middle Creek.

However, with the sounds of spring starting to happen, that means the roar of the snow geese will eventually fade away. Based on the trends in numbers over the last two weeks, it's safe to say the migration has passed its peak. We anticipate the number will continue to drop as many of the birds leave to continue their migration north. 

Snow Geese: 27,000
Tundra Swans: 575
Canada Geese: 1,650


February 17

Not a lot has changed since Tuesday's count. Sixty degree days and warm rain definitely have brought other species out however! Red-winged blackbirds and spring peepers have both started to call at the management area. 

Temperatures tonight into tomorrow will dip below freezing however so the sounds of spring may subside, at least for the time being.

If you have not been out to see the snow geese, this long weekend may be the time to do so. Despite numbers staying fairly consistent, the past has shown us that this "almost spring" weather signifies the migration isn't far from coming to a close. 

To guests visiting that have contact with domestic or exotic birds, please be advised that avian influenza has been found at Middle Creek and in the Atlantic Flyway. For more information on this disease, please visit the Department of Agriculture's website here:

Snow Geese: 58,000
Tundra Swans: 175
Canada Geese: 2,250


February 14

Happy Valentines Day!

Today's counts are slightly lower than before the weekend. With 60-degree days coming up, we anticipate birds will continue to move north, possibly causing their numbers to drop further. 

If you are interested in coming out to see the snow geese, we recommend coming sooner than later. For more information on snow geese, don't forget to check out our other resources on this page or you can visit our virtual education hub, Wildlife on WiFi, to learn more about their migration  here:

As a reminder, we want to make all of our visitors aware of that avian influenza has been found in birds at Middle Creek. If you have domestic or exotic birds at home or are part of the poultry industry, we recommend caution and bio security measures after visiting Middle Creek. You can visit The Pennsylvania Department of Agricultures website for more information here:

Snow Geese: There we're two separate flocks this morning with 38,000 and 15,000 birds for a total of 53,000 birds.
Tundra Swans: 320
Canada Geese: 1750

February 10

With an unfrozen lake, numbers of geese and swans have increased since Tuesday. We have been seeing more birds during the afternoon hours "loafing" on the lake but our counts reflect the number of birds that are here at dawn and could be different than what is here during the day. Tundra swans have started to return. With temperatures continuing to be above freezing for the foreseeable future, we anticipate our numbers will stay the same for a little while. There are reports of large numbers of snow geese already north of Middle Creek.

As a reminder if you are visiting this weekend, please use caution while driving along roadways with the crowds. Avian influenza has been found in the neighboring townships around Middle Creek. If you own domestic or exotic birds, we highly recommend taking measures to disinfect yourself and clothing upon returning home and before interacting with birds. As always, keep your distance from wild birds. More information on avian influenza can be found here

Snow Geese: 65,000
Tundra Swans: 425
Canada Geese: 1,250


February 7. 2023

Due to colder temperatures and ice covered lake, our numbers have decreased again since Friday. With warmer temperatures returning, things should thaw out on the management area in time for the weekend. 

The Game Commission would like to make visitors aware that the United States is experiencing a bird flu outbreak. Any visitors to Middle Creek should be aware of the following: 

  • There is a potential that highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) could be in wild birds at Middle Creek.
  • While it appears that the risk of this HPAI strain spreading to humans is low, visitors should not handle or touch any wild birds while visiting Middle Creek.
  • People visiting Middle Creek who work with or own domestic or exotic birds should take precautions after visiting Middle Creek to reduce the spread of disease. Click here for more information from the PA Department of Agriculture.

Snow Geese: 52,000
Tundra Swans: 55
Canada Geese: 725

February 3, 2023:

Colder temperatures have impacted the number of waterfowl at Middle Creek slightly as expected.  We anticipate that numbers of birds migrating could climb again after the current cold snap moves through the area. As a reminder if you are coming to Middle Creek this weekend, there may be crowds so please be patient and respect the wildlife and closed areas while visiting. The Visitors Center will be open Saturday from 8-4 and Sunday from 12-5.

Snow Geese: 65,000
Tundra Swans: 675
Canada Geese: 1,550

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