|Early Spring Birding in Midwest USA - Part 3
Snow Geese: 50,000 of Them All Over the Sky
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At sunset time on March 11, 2011, wave after wave of huge number of snow geese flew from nearby
agriculture fields to the 400-acre Middle Creek Lake as their evening roosting place in Middle Creek
Wildlife Management Area (WMA) near Lancaster in southeast Pennsylvania, USA . The sunset time is
about 5:30 PM or later on March 11.
In such early spring, the weather was still cold and air temperature often dropped to several degrees
below freezing point in the evening. It rained very hard on March 10 and the morning of March 11. By
the afternoon of March 11, the rain stopped but it was still heavily cloudy. At sunset time of such a
heavily cloudy day, the light was dim and gloomy such that it was a substantial challenge to take
pictures of so many birds in action flying very fast all over the sky.
I probably will come back here again in early spring of a future year picking a sunny day with strong
sunshine so that I can take much better action photos and movie clips of such spectacular views of
huge number of snow geese in action in the air,
On their spring migration north, snow geese in the tens of thousands stay over at Middle Creek WMA,
PA from late February to early March, to feed on the residual, waste grains or grass or other plant
material in the nearby farm fields to prepare for their long migration flight north to their breeding
ground in arctic tundra. The number of snow geese usually peaks in the first week of March.
In the daytime, these snow geese usually are feeding on the nearby farm fields. At night during this
refueling period, they fly-in from the farm fields and converge to roost on the 400-acre Middle Creek
Lake in Middle Creek WMA for safety to stay away from the possible predators.
Some were flying at lower levels while many more were flying at much higher levels in their flying
As we waited at the Willow Point from 4 PM to sunset time of 5:30 Pm or later, we saw wave after wave of
increasing number of snow geese flying from nearby farm fields to the Middle Creek Lake in Middle Creek
WMA as shown in these photos:
Visitor Parking Lot to reach Willow Point for watching snow geese.
When we looked far ahead. Wow! There was a huge flock of snow geese feeding on waste grains on the farm
Then suddenly, all of them took off into the air almost simultaneously to fly to the Middle Creek Lake for the
night as shown in the one-and-half minute movie clip that I took in following YouTube website:
There were also some Canada geese on the far side of the lake as viewed from Willow Point.
Location of and Direction to Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Pennsylvania, USA:
For GPS navigation, the street address for the Visitor Center of Middle Creek WMA is:
100 Museum Road, Stevens (or Kleinfeltersville), PA 17578.
Phone: (717) 733-1512
It is located on the border line of Lebanon County and Lancaster County, about one mile south of
Kleinfletersville, in the heartland of southeast Pennsylvania, USA.
Map: Click here to see a MapQuest Map showing location of Visitor Center of Middle Creek WMA
Map: Click here to see a local Topo map of Middle Creek WMA
Another detailed local map of Middle Creek WMA can be seen by clicking on "Self Guided Driving Tour" on the
following web page:
The Visitor Center, the paved 0.5 mile trail to reach Willow Point, and many other hiking trails are identified on
these local maps. A more detailed local map is available from the Visitor Center.
From Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) take Exit 286 into Route 272 North (N Reading Rd.) for three miles, and at
the traffic light, turn left (north) on Route 897 (W. Swatzville Rd). Follow Route 897 North for about 14 miles
into the village of Kleinfeltersville. In Kleinfeltersville make the first left (south) after the stop sign into Hopeland
Road. Go south on Hopeland Road for 2 miles, then turn right into the short Museum Road to reach the
Visitors Center of Middle Creek WMA.
From Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) Exit 266 - Take Route 72 North (Lebanon Rd) for about 4-5 Miles to Route
419 Northeast. Follow Route 419 Northeast for approximately 7 miles to Route 897 in Shaefferstown. Follow
Route 897 South for about 2 miles to Kleinfeltersville. Turn right (south) into Hopeland Road in Kleinfeltersville.
Go south on Hopeland Road for 2 miles, then turn right into the short Museum Road to reach the Visitors
Center of Middle Creek WMA.
The status of snow geese at Middle Creek WMA during the spring migration season is available at the
These migratory snow geese may leave Middle Creek WMA and continue their migration north any time in
early March depending on weather. For those who are interested to visit Middle Creek WMA to see these
snow geese, it is important to call the Visitor Center at (717) 733-1512 and check the status at the website
above first to see if those snow geese are still there or not.
The best time of the day to see concentrated huge number of snow geese in action are (1) Fly-in time at
sunset time when the snow geese fly in from various directions and various nearby farm fields to converge on
their evening roosting place on the Middle Creek Lake, and (2) Fly-out time at sunrise time when huge number
of snow geese took off almost simultaneously from the lake into the air to fly out to various nearby farm fields
to feed on waste grains.
In most of the day time, visitors may not see many snow geese on the lake because they are spread out busily
feeding on the farm fields to get enough stored energy to prepare for their long migratory flight north to their
summer breeding ground in arctic tundra.
We called the phone number (717) 733-1512 of the visitor center of Middle Creek WMA to make sure those
huge number of snow geese were still in that WMA before we took the long drive to come to this WMA on
March 11, 2011. We were told that the best time to see the huge number of snow geese is at sunrise time or
We arrived at Middle Creek WMA at about 4 PM and saw some snow geese eating grass or waste grains on
the nearby farm fields.
At sunset time, they flew in and landed on the Middle Creek Lake with high concentration to roost over night.
These snow geese prefer to float on the lake to sleep over night for safety protection by the water against
land based predators.
The paved 0.5-mile trail for visitors to walk from the parking lot to the Willow Point to see snow geese in action.
The 6-minute movie clip that I took shows the fantastic experience of astounding sight of wave after
wave of huge flocks of snow geese flying in to the Middle Creek Lake as shown in the following
At about half-way point (3 minutes out of 6-minute movie), we saw the overpowering view of the
second, much larger wave of snow geese flying in.
In addition to large number, these snow geese are also very vocal and noisy with loud squawking.
Some visitors at Willow Point on March 11, 2011 watching huge number of snow geese on the Middle Creek
Lake. This is the best location in Middle Creek WMA to watch the huge number of snow geese in action.
I took a movie clip to scan the huge number of snow geese on the 400-acre Middle Creek Lake as shown in
the following YouTube website:
There is a paved Auto Tour Route for visitors to drive their cars to go around the 400-acre Middle Creek Lake.
After 5:30 PM, we left the Willow Point and drove along this Auto Tour Route to see other parts of Middle
Creek WMA. And we saw many snow geese feeding on nearby farm fields.
In addition to the snow geese, there are also thousands of tundra swans on the lake.
Some swans were also flying in that general area.
On December 4, 2006, I toured Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware, USA and saw similar
huge number of snow geese in action as shown on my web page at:
Most snow geese are white colored with black wing tips. But a small number of them are special blue geese or
dark morph as shown in these two photos. They have white head and front of neck, but the body is dark
The following movie clip show another big wave of huge number of snow geese flying on the other side of
tree line as viewed from the Willow Point:
The sign at the parking lot and the trail head for Willow Point to watch snow geese and swans.
When we were driving along the local roads near Middle Creek WMA, we saw an Amish horse buggy on the
road. Then we realised that we were in the Amish territory in Lancaster County, PA. After we finished
watching snow geese and was driving on the load roads, we stopped and asked a local lady for
recommendation of local restaurants that serve Amish foods/dinner. Then we used our GPS navigator to
guide us to one of such local restaurants to enjoy the Amish dinner before driving home.
(The dim and gloomy light at sunset time of the heavily cloudy day of March 11 was not ideal for action
photography of many birds in flight.)
In the day time, these huge number (50,000 or more) of snow geese spread out to feed on nearby farm fields.
At sunset fly-in time, they fly in various formations to come back to their evening roosting place on the Middle
Creek Lake. They seem to have a flight control system in that different group fly at different height circling over
the lake in a layered structure on the sky as shown on the pictures above. Then different groups take turn in
an orderly fashion to descend down onto the lake surface.
I visited Middle Creek WMA again on March 2, 2012 and there were more visitors at the Willow Point as
shown on this picture. Unfortunately, it was a heavily cloudy day again and was not ideal for taking nice and
sharp pictures of these snow geese in action. It was raining before and after the date of March 2, 2012.
On March 2, 2012 at about 5 PM, we saw again huge flock of snow geese feeding on waste grains on the
farm field at a substantial distance away as viewed from the Willow Point by using the 35X optical zoom of my
camera to zoom in. A few minutes later, this huge flock of snow geese took off from the farm field and flew as
a big wave in the air to the Middle Creek Lake for the night.
The movie of these snow geese in action taken by our friend, Shan Cheng Vera Chen, on March 2, 2012 is
shown at the following YouTube website:
Some visitors came with spotting scopes to enjoy close up views of those snow geese and swans in action.
The lake is quite large (400 acres) and many snow geese and swans are very far away. I had to use 35X
optical zoom of my compact super-zoom camera to get good pictures.
A corner of the Middle Creek Lake looks like a swan lake.