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Thursday, March 24, 2016

The "The Geese Have Departed For Places Unknown" Story

Middle Creek Wildlife Preserve Visitor's Center.
This photo was taken from their website.
It was an ordinary day.  Watching a small flock of snow geese at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in nearby Cocalico Township.  Populations of snow geese, which were somewhere close to 50,000 birds in the mid-1960s, has now grown to approximately one million birds in recent years.  
A view from today's trip to the preserve.
A large majority of these birds pass through Middle Creek preserve during their spring migration from south to north as they seek cooler weather.  Last weekend the local newspaper reported close to 65,000 snow geese were making a stop at Middle Creek.  Carol and I hopped in the car today to make a voyage to Middle Creek, about a half-hour drive, to see the geese.  What a sight they are as they cover the sky in the distance, making it look as if it is snowing.  As we approached the area today we realized we waited too long to make our trip, since we saw very few snow geese.  We made a visit to the Visitor's Center and talked to one of the game wardens who told us that they had reports of perhaps 5,000 snow geese today and after getting a driving map and directions from the game warden, hopped back in the car to see if we could find them.  
A photo I took years ago of the thousands of snow geese.
Middle Creek is a 6,254-acre facility which was created in 1973.  It is home to pheasants, deer, bluebirds, eagles, egrets herons, and thousands of ducks, geese and swans that make a stop during migration seasons.  A 360-acre lake is part of Middle Creek and provides an area for the birds to gather.  
Photo from today showing a decrease in flock size.For 
Carol and I drove the interior roads of the wildlife preserve and did manage to see a few flocks of snow geese as they were feeding in the fields and swam in the lake.  Middle Creek is in danger of closing at present due to a budget impasse in the State of Pennsylvania.  Middle Creek is run almost entirely on fees paid for hunting licenses and the cost of a license hasn't increased for 17 years.  The Game Commission has been in a bind because the state Legislature has refused to raise hunting fees.  Monies from the state have not been flowing into the preserve, so it may have to lock it's gates and close the visitor's center to the public.  The facility costs $1 million to run each year and is designated as a globally important bird area by the National Audubon Society.  What a shame it would be to close the preserve and deprive people of all ages from experiencing wildlife firsthand.  Hopefully funds can be found to continue the preservation of the area.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

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