ADVISORY: Please note that these numbers are estimates and subject to rapid and dramatic change.
These updates are submitted by Jim Binder, Middle Creek manager.
2013 Migration Summary (04/05/13)
Peak numbers of the large waterfowl, by species and the date the high-count was recorded:
Snow geese: 55,000 on 02/28/13
Tundra swans: 3,300 on 02/12/13
Canada geese: 4,200 on 01/07/13
Remember, these are the high counts on a given day that a survey was done; there may have been more birds here at a given time but they were not tallied. Numbers of snow geese were down this year as compared to what we’ve been seeing in the recent past. Remember too though, that the number of these birds we see here are generally not indicative of how the population is trending, they are simply a reflection of how many birds spent time here in any year. Every year is a little different, the amount of ice and snow present and the timing of the spring thaw drives the numbers we may get here. It is obvious though that the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania has been holding more snow geese over the past few years, we may have seen a shift in their habits. The bird’s departure in the spring has been earlier the past two years as it was in the past as well. Whereas we used to figure that we would peak from mid-February to mid-March, the last two years most of the birds had moved on by early March. We’ll see what next winter and spring might hold.
It was too foggy this morning to see birds on the lake but it was very quiet, I did not hear any snow geese or tundra swans on the main lake. On Sunday the wind finally shifted so as to be coming from the south, I suppose the remaining birds took advantage of that. There may still be some stragglers around, I did hear what sounded like a few snow geese on one of our lesser impoundments, but for the most part the migration is over. I’ll look at some numbers and post a summary of this year’s migration sometime this week.
Snow geese: 3,000
Tundra swans: 350
Canada geese: a surprising number of migrant birds are still hanging around
Numbers have further dwindled, but given where we are on the calendar I’m surprised there’s even this many birds still here. Recent weather patterns haven’t been conducive to a northward migration, but look for more birds to be on the move on the next south wind.
Snow geese: 5,000
Tundra swans: 400 to 500
Things haven’t changed much over the past week. There were times when we had closer to 10,000 snows recently but back down to 5,000 this morning.
While it seemed that numbers varied somewhat over the last two days, no significant changes overall.
Numbers were up slightly this morning, probably birds stopping off on their way north.
Snow geese: 5,000+
Tundra swans: 400+
Canada geese: numbers are thinning out.
Ducks: lots of ducks of many different species present, March is usually the best month for ducks locally.
It looks like things are winding down.
Snow geese: 5,000
There are reports of large numbers of snow geese to our north, and there are relatively few of these birds left to our south. Winds are predicted to be out of the south today, these remaining birds may take
advantage of that, but it can be hard to predict what snow geese are going to do.
Tundra swans: less than 100
I was in northern Pennsylvania over the weekend, Potter County. Well after dark on Saturday night I heard swans overhead, presumably on their way to Lake Erie.
Snow geese: less than 5,000
It was pretty quiet here this morning, it seems that some birds bailed out ahead of the recent storm system. Like last year, it may be an early exodus.
Tundra swans: 1,100
While we over-wintered more swans than we ever have before, I’m surprised that our numbers didn’t get much past 3,000 for the year. This may still be subject to change.
Snow geese: no more than 30,000
We were seeing quite a few snow geese here over the weekend, I was surprised to find only this many on the lake this morning. There are reports of birds to our north, and the Lehigh Valley still has lots of them. I don’t know if some geese that were here have moved on or if they are spending time elsewhere at this same latitude. I would not have thought that weather patterns were conducive to a northward push recently. Checking our records from last year though indicates that birds began leaving here on March 7th. That seemed early then but it was a very mild winter, as is this one. There may be a winter storm coming mid-week, if that happens expect the birds to hunker in place for awhile. Then there is a warming trend predicted, that may move some birds, especially if winds are out of the south.
I’ve been in contact with a fellow in Quebec who is working on snow geese along the St. Lawrence River, we’ve been comparing numbers. The St. Lawrence is the first major migratory stopover and staging area for snow geese once they leave here. So, when birds are arriving there we know they are leaving here. You may view his website at www.migrationdesoies.ca, there he has posted the latest snow goose migration map from the website ebird.org, a site where people report their bird sightings. Unless you can read French you may not get much information from the site, but the map alone is informative.
Tundra swans: 1,100
Same thing here, I don’t know if birds have left or are just spending time elsewhere.
Snow geese: 55,000+
It was apparent that numbers were going up through the day yesterday.
Tundra swans: 3,000 +/-Considering the numbers of birds we were seeing through the day yesterday, today's numbers seem low. All I can do is report the numbers I see in the morning of a given day. Early morning (daybreak) is usually the best time to get estimates, as any birds in the area should spend the night on the lake. However, with a bright full moon last night some birds may have stayed out overnight.
Holding steady, more or less.
Snow geese: 25,000
Tundra swans: 2,700
No significant changes
Snow geese: 40,000
At first light this morning my estimate was 35,000. Then the "missing" 5,000 birds came flying in from the northwest. Whether these birds spent the night on an alternate roost or out in fields is unknown. It seems that the numbers of snow geese roosting on the lake has been holding pretty steady lately. Numbers can, and sometimes do, fluctuate greatly day to day and hour to hour.
Tundra swans: 3,000+
Canada geese: Several thousand.
I haven't been estimating Canada goose numbers because people don't inquire about them. People are now so familiar with Canada geese that they pay them no attention. That's unfortunate because these migrant Canada geese make a migration of a couple thousand miles. We've had as many as 10,000 migrant birds here in the past. If I see a dramatic increase in their numbers I'll try to get an estimate.
Snow geese: 40,000
Down from 50,000 yesterday, it's not unusual to see fluctuations like this.
Tundra swans: 3,000+
It's hard to get a good estimate on swan numbers with that many snow geese on the lake with them.
Canada geese: several thousand
Ducks: Several more species have shown up lately. Seen this morning were mallard, black duck, pintail, widgeon, ring-necked duck, common merganser, and hooded merganser.
Snow geese: 50,000 +/-
Snow geese: 20,000 +/-
Snow geese: 5,000 +/-
Tundra swans: 3,300 +
Canada geese: 3,100 +
Things are starting to pick up a little. The lake is still pretty much ice covered though and developments will be weather dependant.
Canada geese: 2,200
Tundra swans: 1,900
Snow geese: none
Ducks: no change
Numbers of Canada geese and tundra swans are up since the last estimates. This could be due to birds using alternate roost sites in the area from day to day, or birds staying out in feeding fields overnight. I don't think we've seen any big northward movement of waterfowl yet, some ducks perhaps. The lake is still mostly ice-covered.
I did not see any snow geese here this morning, but there were a couple of thousand milling around here last Saturday. Last Friday I was visiting the Lehigh Valley area and saw many tens of thousands of snow geese there. It seems that over the past few years more snow geese are spending time east of here in the Lehigh Valley, and less time here. These birds historically wintered along the Atlantic Coast so it makes sense that they would eventually discover the Lehigh Valley. That area has many limestone quarries, the water in them comes from underground springs so it is slow to freeze. There is also lots of agricultural land in the area, the other requisite for wintering snow geese.
The numbers of waterfowl have fluctuated along with the amount of ice on the lake. The recent cold snap left the lake almost completely ice-covered, only small pockets of open water remain. Surprisingly, a lot of birds have stuck it out.
Snow geese: very few here this morning, less than two hundred. There have been some snow geese in and out, but not many and they haven't been staying. We've not had more than a few thousand of these birds here at a given time this season, and their presence has not been consistent. Meanwhile, the Lehigh Valley has had tens of thousands of snow geese all winter.
Canada geese: 1,500. Earlier in January we had over 4,000 Canada geese wintering here.
Tundra swans: 1,400. These birds have been the surprise this winter. In the past we have over-wintered several hundred (perhaps 600) of these birds some years, we are at the northernmost portion of their wintering range. This year we have more than twice the usual number spending the winter here. While we may have thousands of these birds stop on migration, this is the largest number of wintering tundra swans we've ever had.
Ducks: a surprising number of ducks, quite a few, mostly mallards and black ducks.
Remember, ice and snow is what drives the numbers of waterfowl present here. Less ice and snow means more birds, more ice and snow means less birds. Given the amount of ice cover it's surprising that we have this many birds here now. However, the fields in which they feed are snow free which might be why they're hanging on.
1/7/2013 Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey
The Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey was conducted at Middle Creek on January 7th, 2013, the results are below. Further updates will be provided when conditions change substantially.
American green-winged teal: 1
Northern pintail: 7
Ruddy duck: 5
American black duck: 639
Northern shoveler: 40
Canada geese: 4,200
Tundra swans: 1,355
Bald eagle: 13
MIGRATION BACKGROUND: The period that annually attracts the most birds, and visitors, remains late winter. During this timeframe, large numbers of migrating waterfowl normally appear. In recent years, more than 100,000 snow geese, 10,00 tundra swans, 10,000 Canada geese, and a wide variety of ducks have stopped at Middle Creek while pushing north to their breeding grounds. It's also a great place to see northern harriers, or "marsh hawks," nesting and immature bald eagles, and more common creatures such as white-tailed deer and red-tailed hawks.
There are many variables that determine the arrival of migrating waterfowl. The most significant is icing. When the ice on the main impoundment thaws to create areas of open water, the birds begin to arrive. Snow cover on the surrounding agricultural fields also influences the arrival waterfowl because it can limit access to the waste grains these birds depend on for food. Therefore, areas of open water and limited or no snow cover on adjacent fields strongly influence Middle Creek's drawing and holding power for migrants.
Many of the migrants that come to Middle Creek winter south of Pennsylvania and usually begin to push north in conjunction with spring thaw. During extreme winters with a late thaw, however, there's always a chance waterfowl will fly over Middle Creek, or stop only briefly. Timing is critical for migration and nesting.
Exactly when birds arrive can be difficult to predict. Generally, the birds, when conditions permit, begin to arrive in late February or early March. For those planning a trip to Middle Creek, the first weekend in March would be a good time to visit. A map of the area is available at the Visitors Center, as are the latest updates and bird sightings. Make sure to bring along binoculars, and field guide to help identify some of the birds you'll see. Warm clothes also an important consideration if you plan to drive with your windows open. A camera also is usually worth taking, because sometimes tremendous photo opportunities arise at Middle Creek. To take a closer look at what awaits you at Middle Creek visit the Snow Goose Photo Album.
After the stopping by the Center, visitors follow the self-guided tour to Stop #1, located at the lower end of the lake. This is normally an excellent site to view tundra swans. Another suggestion would be to hike to Willow Point. At dusk or dawn, this provides the best vantage for snow geese. To fully appreciate Middle Creek, a drive through the interior on the Tour Road shouldn't be missed. Weather and driving conditions permitting, the Tour Road will open March 1. A significant portion of the interior remains Propagation Area where entry is prohibited. It is because of the Propagation Area that waterfowl are attracted to Middle Creek. Within these areas, the habitat and lack of human disturbance remain the primary reason why Middle Creek has become such a vital stop to migrating waterfowl.