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How to see the snow goose migration at Middle Creek in Lancaster County

An unusually large flock could be headed for a gathering at the state wildlife management area.

Tens of thousands of migrating snow geese stop over at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area every year. This photo is from March 3, 2022.

 Jeremy Long / WITF

Tens of thousands of migrating snow geese stop over at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area every year. This photo is from March 3, 2022.

What’s happening? Every year, tens of thousands of snow geese stop over for a few weeks at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, about 20 minutes southeast of Lebanon and northwest of Ephrata. It’s a chance to see a wildlife spectacle up close. Plus, you’ll probably see tundra swans and other ducks and geese, too.

When should I go? The Pennsylvania Game Commission says they start seeing snow geese and tundra swans as early as January, but usually from February-March.

How many geese are there? The numbers of snow geese are starting to climb into the thousands now. On ebird.org, some observers are reporting estimated counts of between 15,000-20,000. Eventually, there could be up to 200,000 on the lake.  

Why are they there? Open water and fields without snow attract migrating geese, who rest and feed as they migrate north to their Arctic breeding grounds. The game commission says snow geese began stopping over at Middle Creek in the mid-1990s.

How do I see them? Public access areas and trails at Middle Creek are open now. The game commission has a web page with information about the migration, including links to maps showing public parking and hiking trails, as well as a map showing public rest rooms. The visitors center opens Feb. 1. 

Jeremy Long / WITF

Snow geese are shown during their annual migration at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area on March 3, 2022.

What are some tips for seeing the birds? The game commission recommends:

  • Visit on weekdays or in the early morning. Sunny weekends draw the most people, particularly from mid-morning to evening, and can cause traffic jams near the lake.
  • Check the hiking trails map to plan where you want to go.
  • Families with children can check out an education backpack from the visitors center.
  • After Feb. 1, you can call the visitors center with questions at 717-733-1512.

Anything else? In the past three years, the game commission reports peak numbers of geese at Middle Creek between 105,000 and 125,000. This week, the commission posted on its website that, “it seems the numbers of snow geese at Middle Creek are larger than they typically are at this time of year.” 

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