If you have not been to Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, it is certainly worth the trip any time of year, but especially now! Sometime in late February to early March the lake is can be found filled with beautiful snow geese and tundra swans.
The birds use the WMA as a resting place on their returning migration back north, some traveling as far as Canada for nesting. This year has been a particularly good year for bird watching due to the mild winter- the grounds are mostly unfrozen for feeding, and so is the 400-acre lake. It was estimated on Sunday, February 19, that there were approximately 50,000 to 70,000 birds at Middle Creek.
It is best to go see the birds in the evening around sunset when they are making their way from the fields to the lake for the night (or vice versa at sunrise, if you are an early riser… they do say the early bird catches the worm). If you are lucky you will catch the birds lifting off the lake in a similar fashion to a murmuration of starlings. It is mesmerizing to watch them skillfully swirl around the air and then land gracefully back on the water.
If you are interested it visiting be sure to check the park website or call for information on their hours and which areas of the park are open to the public. Also, be sure to ask the bird count, since they are wild animals they do not make reservations to stay for a certain length of time. They may be there one day and gone the next! If you do have the opportunity to go it truly is a memorable experience which makes you stop think about how as humans we live in the environments and ecosystems of all nature’s creatures.
– Wear comfortable walking shoes, there is a bit of a hike out to the point.
– Bring binoculars if you have them, since they are wild birds you can only get so close.
– Dress warmly, it can get quite windy near the lake.
– Don’t set your expectations too high, they are wild animals so if they don’t feel like flying they won’t.
– Be respectful of the park and natural environments, walk and explore in only designated areas.
Phone number: 717-733-1512
I was lucky enough to get up to the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area this past weekend with my photography group. Although, getting up at 5:00 am to get the best sunrise light for photography might not be described as “lucky” by some with a limited worldview.
Middle Creek, located on the Lebanon-Lancaster County line about one mile south of Kleinfeltersville, is set aside by the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) for the protection of various wildlife. What really sets this location apart from other wildlife areas is the tens of thousands of birds that stop in this Lancaster County landmark during their annual migration.
This past week, the PGC estimated that over 5,000 Canada geese, 3,600 tundra swans and over 80,000 snow geese were taking residence in the Wildlife Management Area. The Game Commission updates the bird totals on their web site weekly, so be sure to check in before you plan your visit.
The waterfowl usually stopover in Lancaster County in late winter (Mid-February to early March) on their way to their mating grounds up north. The Game Commission recommends the first weekends of March as the best time to see the most amount of birds.
No really… THOUSANDS of snow geese.
In the past, I’ve driven around the perimeter of the lake and there was nothing but birds as far as the eye could see. Whole fields literally covered in white from the sheer amount of waterfowl present. I concentrated my photographic efforts on the lake this past weekend. Unfortunately, while there where thousands of birds there, they mostly stayed on the side of the lake I didn’t have access to. They never really got close enough to my location to get the close-up shots I was looking for for my photo collection.
However, there was a few times when the birds on the lake took off en masse and the sound of thousands of geese taking off all at once was reminiscent of the sound and volume of a jet airliner taking off. It was really breathtaking to see and hear. My photos from this weekend don’t do this spectacle of nature justice. Look at some of the more interesting Flickr photos from Middle Creek to get a better sense of the sheer amount of birds at the park.
Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area.