The Middle Creek Initiative is a partnership of conservation organizations that are working to ensure there will always be feeding and roosting areas for migrant tundra swans wintering in and migrating through southeastern Pennsylvania, particularly on the vast landscape surrounding the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. Tundra swans — identified as a "species of greatest conservation need" in the Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan — are attracted to Middle Creek annually because it has and continues to provide a secure resting and water-roosting area for them from late February and early March. The large birds converge on Middle Creek as a migratory stopover and staging area before they continue north to the arctic region to breed. Their stay at Middle Creek ranges from a few days for some to a few weeks for others. The birds are attracted to local privately-owned farmlands that yield winter wheat and waste grain in harvested cornfields. (Fortunately, winter wheat is a hearty crop that can recover from some grazing.) Their dependency on Middle Creek in spring migrations led to the wildlife management area being identified as a "globally significant important bird area" in 2010.
The problem that is beginning to surface around Middle Creek is that some of the fields tundra swans depend upon for feeding are being consumed by housing subdivisions and other development. The Middle Creek Initiative partnership was formed to protect vital and historic tundra swan feeding and roosting areas. If lands cannot be preserved, substantial numbers of swans (the highest recorded 14,700) may no longer use Middle Creek. That would open the door for tundra swans to encounter new threats in their quest for food and sanctuary on their annual journey north. It also would increase their risk of arriving at breeding grounds in poor condition, which would jeopardize their reproductivity and overall health. The continent's eastern population of tundra swans is better off without these dangers encroaching further on their already complicated relationship with and dependency on humans. That's why the Middle Creek Initiative was organized, to protect tundra swans through the preservation of farmland and open space through conservation easements.
The Middle Creek Initiative includes the Lebanon Valley Conservancy, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Lebanon County Planning Department, Lebanon Conservation District and others. The video below is intended to provide background and further information on the conservation initiative. Please take a few minutes to acquaint yourself with this important work.