According to the most recent Pennsylvania Game Commission estimate, there are presently more than 100,000 Snow Geese at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area (W.M.A.) in Lancaster and Lebanon Counties. It’s a spectacular sight.
Noisy flights of Snow Geese, which can number from hundreds to thousands of birds, consist of strings of multiple V-shaped flocks. During late-February and early-March, they are a common sight as they make excursions from the lake at Middle Creek W.M.A. to feeding areas in the farmlands of the lower Susquehanna valley and back again.
During the early 1990s, Snow Geese started moving away from compromised late-winter feeding areas in tidal marshes on the Atlantic Coastal Plain and began taking advantage of grazing and gleaning opportunities among grass crops (wheat, etc,), and more recently cover crops, in the almost predator-free high-intensity farming areas near the Middle Creek refuge.
If you go to see these and other birds at Middle Creek, it’s important to remember that you are visiting them in a “wildlife refuge” set aside for, believe it or not, wildlife. “Wildlife refuge”, many would be surprised to learn, is short for “terrestrial or aquatic habitat where wildlife can find refuge and protection from all the meddlesome and murderous things people do”.
It’s not necessary to cross the well-marked boundaries of the refuge to get a better look at the geese, swans, and other wildlife at Middle Creek. Nor is it necessary to blow your motor vehicle’s horn, clap your hands, yell, or make other noises to scare the geese into flying so that you might get a good photograph. Such disturbances cause the birds to expend the energy they need to continue their journey north. They also cause the Pennsylvania Game Commission to spend funds on crowd control that might otherwise be spent on improvements to wildlife habitat.
By embracing the virtue of patience, observers can get spectacular views and take great pictures from outside the refuge boundaries.
Photographers who stand quietly and make no sudden movements will find that the foraging Snow Geese will often approach well within the range of most cameras. All of these pictures were taken with an inexpensive model purchased at a Walmart.
Intermixed within the flocks, there are usually good numbers of gray-mottled hatch-year (juvenile) birds and often a few examples of the dark brown “Blue Goose”, a not-so-rare color morph of the Snow Goose.
Observers viewing tens of thousands of Snow geese from the Willow Point observation area at Middle Creek W.M.A.
There are approximately 1,500 Tundra Swans at Middle Creek W.M.A at the present time. Compare their pure white plumage and long necks with the black-tipped wings and short stocky necks of the Snow Geese accompanying them in this image.
Clamoring geese let observers know that a massive lift-off may be in the making. Cameras are made ready.
Away they go with a cackling roar!
Sooner or latter, the geese will engulf the patient observer within one of their swirling swarms.
Marvelous! Go check it out.