Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lift-Off: A Morning At Middle Creek WMA

With perfect weather in the forecast and the PGC website reporting that a large number of snow geese were still at Middle Creek WMA, it was not a difficult decision to make the 100+ mile drive on Wednesday morning.  I arrived as the first hint of morning brightened the eastern sky and Middle Creek Lake was alive with the sounds of snow geese, tundra swans, and other waterfowl.  It was still too early for photographs or video when I arrived, but one could see the indistinct, shadowy shapes of vast numbers of waterfowl.

There was enough light by 6:00a.m. to take photographs at high ISO, but the shutter speeds were still very low.

Middle Creek Dawn: Canon 7D-Canon 300mm F2.8  ISO 1250 1/40 F2.8
Shortly after 6:10 a.m. a large number of the snow geese erupted from the lake.  Some left, but most circled several times and then settled back down to the lake surface.  It was still too dark to use as high of a shutter speed as I would have liked, but there was nothing to do other than make the best of the opportunity.

Lift-Off: Canon 7D-Canon 500mm F4 ISO 800 1/80 sec. F4
There was much more light was by 6:28 a.m. when there was another massive eruption of snow geese from the lake and this time all of them left.  I concentrated on video at the start of the action, but then switched to the 7D and still photographs as the birds flew directly toward me.

Snow Geese Approaching: Canon 7D-Canon 500mm F4 ISO 400 1/400 sec. F4

Snow Geese At Long Range: Canon 7D-Canon 500mm F4 ISO 400 1/1000 sec. F5

Once the lake emptied out, it was time to turn to the pothole just across the road for duck and Canada Geese photography, but that is a story for another day.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A March Visit To Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area

Snow Geese
 Middle Creek is on the list of places I must visit each year. One of the best times to do so is during the spring waterfowl migration, and if one wants to see the impressive spectacle of thousands upon thousands of snow geese they must plan on going there in late February and early March. According to my information, the tour road around the upper end of the lake does not open until March 1st, however, which means one is not able to access this area in February,which does limit photographic opportunities.

My Brother Coy of Country Captures and I traveled to Middle Creek on Friday March 2nd and the day began with great promise.  I always like to start at the viewing areas along Hopeland Road near the visitor center and when we arrived there in the predawn, the air was filled with the sound of thousands of snow geese, tundra swans, and other waterfowl.  We positioned the cameras and took some scenic shots waiting for the birds to leave the water.

Middle Creek Lake Before Sunrise
As dawn neared the terrific flock of snow geese drifted further and further toward the other shore.  Suddenly most of the birds left the lake far earlier than usual and by the time excellent photographic light arrived there was not a snow goose in sight, but there were several species of ducks and other waterfowl.

I concentrated on video as usual and so do not have a lot of  photographs to post from this trip.  Later in the morning a large flock of snow geese began to form off of willow point and we hiked there, but the light was very harsh and glaring resulting in less than optimal photos and video. We drove around the tour road again and then filmed and photographed the flock at Willow Point from an extreme distance and observed an immature Bald Eagle flying over the lake, and a mature Bald Eagle, which caught a fish and sat on a log near Willow Point while eating it.  At this juncture the large flock took off en masse, which made a spectacular sight.  Coy captured some excellent shots of with his 600mm F4. To see this along with the lift-off at dawn read his post, "A Blizzard of Snows"

Before leaving we made one more pass on the tour road and this time we met with success.  Large numbers of snow geese were coming from the lake and landing in a corn field to the left of the one-way tour road.  Soon the road was lined with birding enthusiasts and the field and skies was filled with the geese. Although the photo below was taken in 2008, it serves to illustrate this situation quite well.

Snow Geese Landing In Corn Field
 A PGC officer arrived on the scene and drove into the field to make sure that no one approached the geese.

PGC Officer On Watch
But even without anyone disturbing the geese, they lifted off and flew in a circle over the area for a time and then settled back down to feeding.

Massive Flock Taking Off From Corn Field

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.