If you haven’t headed out to Middle Creek to see the tens of thousands of geese stopping in the area, there’s still some time to catch them before they head up north.
Just south of Kleinfeltersville, at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, over a hundred thousand birds have already stopped to rest on the 400-acre lake before continuing their migration. While Middle Creek is the most impressive gathering of geese in the region, smaller flocks have been spotted stopping over at Penryn Lake in Cornwall and Memorial Lake in northern Lebanon, among other bodies of water.
Though the numbers appear to be waning, it’s still possible that a new peak will appear in the next week or so, according to the regular updates posted by Middle Creek manager Lauren Ferreri. The area’s all-time record is a unbelievable 170,000 geese; this year’s current peak is around 125,000.
In addition to the snow geese, flocks of tundra swans and Canadian geese are also in the area. An estimate of the flocks taken on the morning of February 26 put the number of snow geese that day at around 85,000, with tundra swans and Canadian geese following up with flocks of sizes 425 and 950, respectively.
During the day, many geese take to the surrounding fields to forage for food. It’s at sunrise and sunset that the number of birds on and over the waters is especially concentrated; Middle Creek Management recommends heading out before 7:00 a.m. or after 4:00 p.m. to see the most.
“Snow geese” is a name encompassing two subspecies, the greater and the lesser snow goose. At Middle Creek and other areas throughout the state, it’s the greater snow goose that is seen most often. Pennsylvania is part of the migratory pathway that snow geese follow as the seasons change; in the winter, the geese fly down the Atlantic coast as far as South Carolina, while the summer, breeding season in the Arctic begins.
Tundra swans, though their flocks are comparatively small in number, are also major visitors to the area. Middle Creek’s peak numbers of these swans are estimated to comprise around a quarter of the species’ eastern US population.
Middle Creek’s reputation as a snow goose stopover has only grown along with the increasing population numbers of the bird. The area was declared a “globally significant bird area” in 2010 and routinely draws in tourists from east Asia (paywall) who come specifically to see the flocks. A recent article published in the Washington Post featured Middle Creek as part of a larger overview on the challenges of balancing conservation efforts.
If you can’t make it out to the lake, you can take a quick peek at the live webcam, where the cries of thousands of geese ring out even in the wee hours of the morn.
Read more about the Middle Creek area and the snow geese and tundra swan populations here. Middle Creek’s Tour and Chapel Roads are reopening to the public on March 1.