Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Snow Geese At Middle Creek

Huge flocks of Snow Geese, Tundra Swans, and other migratory waterfowl, have traditionally congregated in late winter at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, located on the Lancaster/Lebanon County line, near Kleinfeltersville, PA.

Snow Geese Along Chapel Road
Swarms of bird watchers and wildlife photographers also converge on the area at this exciting time of year to enjoy the abundant wildlife.

Photographers Line Chapel Road
Snow Geese are the primary attraction for many and photographers strive to capture exceptional portraits, or the exciting spectacle created when the birds suddenly take off en masse and circle around for a time before settling down again or leaving  the area.

Snow Geese Against Dramatic Background of Dark Clouds

Snow Geese Erupt In Flight
A Mass of Snows

It seems that there have been fewer snow geese at Middle Creek in the past few years and that they move on north earlier than they used to.  I recall seeing a large number of the birds at Middle Creek in early April in 1995 or 1996, but now sightings seem to plummet sometime during the first two weeks in March.

 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that snow geese numbers are out of control and the birds are damaging their nesting grounds in the arctic tundra and also causing serious damage to agricultural crops and natural foods in areas where they winter.  In an attempt to reduce populations to what they consider sustainable levels, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has approved a Conservation Order for snow geese each year in the recent past. Pennsylvania held its first Special Snow Goose Conservation season in 2009.  According to the PGC website:  Special Snow Goose Conservation Season in Pennsylvania - Spring 2013 "A Conservation Order is a special management action authorized by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act to control certain wildlife populations when traditional management programs are unsuccessful in reducing overabundant wildlife populations. Federal and state regulations allow for additional harvest of snow geese, in response to concerns about their growing numbers across North America." The PGC goes on to report, "The Atlantic Flyway population of light geese, composed mostly of "greater" snow geese, increased from approximately 50,000 birds in the mid 1960s approximately one million birds in recent years.  Most of these birds pass through Pennsylvania during spring and fall migrations and spend the winter in New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. Waterfowl managers concerned about the impacts of too many snow geese, have recommended a population goal of 500,000 in the Atlantic Flyway. "

Whatever the case, a trip to Middle Creek can still be a rewarding experience, but one can't help but ponder if the day is coming when you hear people wandering whatever happened to the snow geese? Many speculate that the birds move on north sooner,because of climate change, but others are concerned that the amount of hunting pressure that is directed at the birds is a key factor in encouraging them to move on sooner than they used to.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill. 


Ruth Hiebert said...

Yikes! I would not want to standing under that flock,the fallout would be dangerous.LOL

Linda G. said...

I loved your "snow geese erupt in flight" photograph, as well as the close-up picture of the snow geese. I like the "photographer line" too :-)

Lindsjö taxar said...

Oh gosh....so many. Interesting reading.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Wow and Wow! I never saw so many Snow Geese before. I also liked the photo of the photographers all lined up.