A recently started project to restore the habitat of Canada geese in Middle Creek is expected to increase nesting opportunities for the species and other wildlife species that nest on the “Big Island” in the middle of the nature preserve’s main lake.

The project is focused on creating a mosaic structure of plant species native to the island to improve the conditions for the geese and other wildlife that nest on the island, according to the spring 2024 newsletter, Middle Creek in Motion (PDF).

The habitat crews at Middle Creek started working on the island in the late fall and early winter. Woody vegetation started to take over the edges and parts of the interior of the island, which is a primary nesting location for the geese. While the lake was still drawn down, crews were able to access the edge of the island and remove invasive and non-native shrubs, such as autumn olive, and some native trees like red maple and black willow.

According to the newsletter, there has been an increase in native goldenrod on the island, but “a grassy composition with more diversity of wildflowers would be preferred.” During the upcoming season, crews plan to mow and potentially use prescribed fires in the fall to reduce the amount of goldenrod and encourage growth of other native species.

The island is surveyed every year for goose nests and the crews have noticed a slight decline in the overall nesting population. This is likely due to a change in the plant composition and a reduction in woody plants. The reduction in woody plants is expected to improve conditions for other wildlife species that nest on the island. The crews are hoping to see an increase in nesting opportunities for the geese and other wildlife species in the coming years.

The newsletter also noted that the Pennsylvania Game Commission has announced plans to conduct prescribed burns to manage invasive species and promote the growth of preferred plants.

Middle Creek has lots of “early successional habitats” like fields, which often dry out before the woods and thus can be burned in the spring, the article explained. They also have lots of fuels, like wildflowers and grasses, that allow fire to be carried more easily.

Staff from the Game Commission will be working with prescribed burns on the Middle Creek landscape to demonstrate how fire can be safely employed to manage invasive species and promote the growth of fire-tolerant plants. The public is invited to view the burn, which is being carried out as part of the Outdoor Explorer Series at the Visitors Center.

Visitors to Middle Creek this spring are invited to look for smoke columns in the sky, which signifies that the Game Commission staff is conducting a burn. Middle Creek typically posts advanced warnings of burns on their Facebook page.

Middle Creek also hosts a prescribed fire demonstration at the Visitors Center each spring as part of the Outdoor Explorer Series. Game Commission staff are on hand at the event with equipment such as engines, drones, and drip torches, to show how fire is safely managed.

Read More: Middle Creek announces speaker and outdoor explorer series for 2024

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Tom has been a professional journalist for nearly four decades. In his spare time, he plays fiddle with the Irish band Fire in the Glen, and he reviews music, books and movies for Rambles.NET. He lives with his wife, Michelle, and has four children: Vinnie, Molly, Annabelle and Wolf.


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