As winter begins to wane the promise of spring whispers in the air. The earth begins to reawaken with life. Small green shoots of growth appearing on the forest floor, and the skies begin to fill with bird migration.
It’s a favorite time of year for me, even though Old Man Winter keeps his stronghold on February. The waterfowl are more then plentiful, and the landscapes unique and beautiful with the stark nature of leafless trees.
One of the largest migrating groups of birds I get to experience are the Snow Geese that winter along Maryland and Delaware’s Eastern Shore and other neighboring areas. While these flocks located in this area are smaller, they are still numerous in the few thousands.
The primary gathering spot for Snow geese is located in Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. This past week, numbers have reached around 120,000 Snow Geese.
Preferring to overnight on the water, they fly out in the early morning to forage in nearby cornfields.
I travel far to see this incredible natural phenomena, and it’s totally worth it. It’s always awe inspiring to watch them floating on the water, honking away. But then they become louder and it means that it’s time to take off. The thundering of their wings and feet beating on the water as they take flight. Their calls are deafening as they flush up in a wave-like motion and circle overhead.
In Middle Creek, when they head out it’s hard to figure out where they go in the morning. Many times it’s quite a ways and one would have to drive the countryside in hopes they find the field they went to.
Luckily, in Delaware’s Eastern shore near Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, it can be easier to find them in a field during the day.
I had the great fortune of having a very cooperative flock for about 45 minutes this week. Even though it was quite an overcast day, a gentle breeze blew from behind my back, meaning the birds would fly towards me (and the wind.)
As always, I searched the flock for those hosting yellow numbered collars and I found three of them. All three had just been tagged in 2019 on Bylot Island, Nanuvut, Canada.
Bylot Island is an uninhabited island that is over four thousand square miles and is the home for the largest breeding colony of Greater snow geese in the Canadian high arctic. Over 74 unique species of arctic birds breed on the island and the island is a Migratory Bird Sanctuary.
Each February I anxiously await being able to spend time with this incredible Snow geese. Filling the air when they fly in unison as they fatten up before the continue their journey northwards to their summer home along the Baffin Bay.
It is one of those incredible nature experiences that if you have the chance to experience it you definitely should. Their honks will remain with you for a lifetime.