Sunday, March 18, 2018

Middle Creek 2018-Part 2

It seemed that most of the Snow Geese were at Willow Point in the mornings and evenings this year. Quite a few people were there on Saturday and Sunday morning in spite of the strong wind and biting cold, but I had no desire to subject myself to that degree of punishment. It was a different story on Monday morning after the wind  mostly died during the night.

Dawn At Willow Point
A fairly large flock of Snow Geese was there, but they were mostly behind the trees. When they left there were usually trees in the way of getting good photos and as usual I concentrated on taking video so I didn't get many still shots.

Leaving
That afternoon was a different story as a large number of birds gathered to feed in a field near the viewing area at Willow Point while others were on the lake directly in front of it.

Gathering To Feed
Resting On The Lake
Periodically the flock erupted into flight and then settled back down for awhile before taking off again. All the  while smaller sub-flocks were continually arriving and leaving.

Eruption

Leaving

Landing To Feed
Another Take-off
The main attraction of Middle Creek in late winter and early spring may be the awesome sight of the large flocks of Snow Geese, but there are a variety of other subjects to see and photograph as well.The fields along Hopeland Road and a number of smaller ponds are ideal spots to see many  species of waterfowl, birds, and other wildlife.

Whitetail Doe Along Hopeland Road
Mallard Male
It is best to photograph from inside the vehicle if possible as the ducks often shy away if you get out. They usually do not fly, but simply get too far away for good photography.  Even with staying inside it can be hard to get them close enough and powerful lenses and substantial cropping during editing are usually required.

Mallard Female
In addition to the ducks there are usually a few Great Blue Herons hanging around. The shot below is across the big pothole at Stop 1 of the tour route along Hopeland Road.  It was taken with a 150-600mm Sigma Contemporary at 600mm and then cropped to 2 Mega-pixels in Adobe Camera Raw.

Great Blue Heron

Ring-necked Duck-Female
Ring-necked Duck-Male
I also saw other species of ducks in a pothole that is too far from Hopeland Road for close-up still photography so I took video with the GH4 and 500mm Cannon FD lens. Species seen included Northern Pintails, American Wigeon, Green Wing Teal, Gadwall, and Northern Shovelers..

My usual course of action was to check the lake and potholes and then swing through the tour road periodically. I didn't see nearly as much action there as in most years.  I did see an eagle flying once or twice and harriers hovering over the meadows on several occasions,but they were too far to photograph.A Ring-necked Pheasant co-operated one morning and I got several still photos of him.

Ring-necked Pheasant-Male
 There were usually Canad Geese in the fields along the road and I sometimes took a few photos of them.

Canada Geese
It was crystal clear and the wind wasn't blowing On Tuesday morning  when I pulled into the parking lot at Willow Point. I was surprised to see and only one other vehicle was parked there. As I app-roached the viewing area I could hear the chatter of a large number of geese and as it grew light I could see a large flock resting on the lake. To my surprise no one else was at the viewing area.

Dawn At Willow Point On Tuesday
At times the many of the geese lifted-off and circled the area before settling back down, but soon after sunrise many of them left for the morning.

Sunrise Take-off At Willow Point
No One Was There

Leaving To Feed
Canada Geese
I met another person walking to the viewing area as I left, but I never saw anyone from the vehicle that was parked there at dawn. In one way it was good to be alone with nature without people taking and children screaming in excitement, but in another way it made me sad that no one else was there to enjoy the wonderful experience.

I went to Willow Point again that evening. It was so pleasant at the parking lot that I almost didn't put on a heavier sweater, but as I began walking the sun vanished behind the clouds and by the time I got to the viewing area it was overcast and gloomy..  A good number of geese were there, but a strong breeze was gusting off the lake and I was glad I dressed as I did as it was slightly uncomfortable even with the heavier clothing.

Cloudy Evening At Willow Point
Actually you can still see the blue skies to the north, but the sun was gone and even that blue sky soon vanished.  It was snowing next morning. Since the weather forecasters were calling for a major snow storm I did not go to Middle Creek, but the forecast was wrong and there was only light snow with little to no accumulation, so I should have gone that day as well.

With that another trip to Middle Creek was over.  In retrospect it was an enjoyable experience even though I did not film as wide of a variety of wildlife as in the better years.

Thanks so much for reading--I hope you enjoyed the photos and story.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Middle Creek 2018-Part 1

Snow Geese At Willow Point
Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area on the Lebanon/Lancaster County line near Kleinfeltersville, Pennsylvania is a premier spot for birding enthusiasts and outdoor photographers during the spring waterfowl migration. Of special interest is the peak of the Snow Geese and Tundra Swan migration as it is a stunning sight to watch a massive flock of Snow Geese lift off.

This year the peak of the migration was sometime in late February. I usually wait until the tour road opens on March 1st before going to Middle Creek so the peak of the migration was over when I got there on Friday afternoon March 2nd, with an estimated 20,000 Snow Geese, 5,000 Tundra Swans, and 2,000 Canada Geese remaining according to the March 1st estimate.

Tour Road Opened From Dawn-Dusk on March 1st
While the website states the road is closed from dusk until dawn it did not open until after 7:30 on the mornings I was there and one morning it was almost 8:00 until it opened .As you enter the tour road there is a sign that tells  you to tune to 1620 AM for a brief history of Middle Creek and what to expect to see at this time of year.



As one continues along the tour road they find signs encouraging you to  respect the small creatures that may be crossing the road and avoid hitting them.



Middle creek seemed empty of people compared to what I was used to in other years. It was amazing that only a few vehicles were on the tour road in mid-afternoon on March 3rd. This may be because the peak of the migration was past, but it also was likely influenced by the brutal winds that were still blowing after a strong front passed through on Thursday night.

Tour Road-Mid-Afternoon Saturday March 3rd
Things changed a bit shortly after 4:00 p.m. when geese began landing in and along a plot of standing corn, but even then most of the flock landed over the brow of the bank where they could not be seen.

Snow Geese Near Road
I continued around the tour road and returned at 5:00. The late evening sun made dramatic lighting  for photography as some geese arrived while others left.

Snow Geese In Late Evening Sun
Snow Geese Landing
The lighting makes it seem the weather would have been pleasant when these photos were taken, but the wind was so cold and brutal that it was hard to remain out of the vehicle for long. The weather improved over the next few days making it easier to photograph the waterfowl.

In the next post we will look at some photos from Willow Point as well as more taken along the tour road and other areas of Middle Creek.