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Thursday, February 23, 2017

The "A Wall Of White" Story

White snow geese take flight at the Middle Creek Wildlife Area.
It was an ordinary day.  Looking up at the wall of white as it passes over our heads time after time.  Carol and I are standing along the edge of the Middle Creek lake at the Middle Creek Wildlife Area in Kleinfeltersville, Pennsylvania.  The wind is blowing slightly and the air temperature is in the high 40s, but the activity in front of us is keeping us warm.  
A single bird searches for an opening on the water.
The annual spring migration of snow geese from wintering grounds in the eastern and south- eastern United States to their breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra has begun.  Saw a story in the Lancaster newspaper about the migration and told of the best times to view the birds.  We decided to take a trip and hope to see more than we saw last year when we viewed maybe a couple hundred on the lake.  We arrived in the parking area along Hopeland Road, parked the car and headed down the walk towards the pavilion in a small area along the lake known as Willow Point.  
The path to Willow Point to view the snow geese.
As we made our final turn in the path, there in front of us was a wall of white as the birds descended from the air into the water.  Then, a few geese would take flight causing others to also take flight and before long there were thousands in the air about the lake.  And, just as quickly, they all descended once again to their spot in the water.  Earlier this week there were about 45,000 snow geese settled on the 360-acre lake to the north of Lancaster, PA.  
The view of the birds as they take flight over us.  In no
time there are thousands joining them.
Middle Creek is their stopover where they feed from the surrounding farm fields until they continue to northern Alaska, Canada and Siberia.  And, the noise they make is deafening.  Carol and I found a place along the water's edge and talked with two men who had their cameras on tripods with 500mm tele-lenses on their cameras.  Both have been visiting this location for the past few days hoping for that perfect photo.  
Landing on the lake in the midst of many others.
They told us that it was reported that there were about 45,000 yesterday and that today's count is close to 70,000.  I questioned them as to who counts all the geese and how do they do it.  Told me that there is a special formula they use for the procedure based on a specific area and how many are in the particular space.  
The snow geese open a circle in their midst.  No one is quite
sure why they do this.  As you notice, it is a perfect circle.
The game wardens take that number times the total area of the lake and presto,  a guessti- mate.  The marvel of seeing all those snow geese in front of me is amazing.  One of God's gifts to birdwatchers.  It's like being in a snow globe filled with snow geese and having someone shake it every so often.  Every now and then a flock of tundra swans would fly by heading to another area of the pond.  
A few tundra swans in the sky above us.
The long necks on their bodies is a sure giveaway as to what they are.  We also saw a few Canadian Geese but you could count them on one hand.  Out in the middle of the lake, to our right, is a large piece of wood jutting out of the water that has two Bald Eagles sitting on a branch.  
A handful of Canadian Geese fly by.
I'll bet they are examining the snow geese, asking each other which would be the best meal for supper tonight.  It was written in the newspaper that the best time to visit is early morning and late afternoon when the birds are returning to the lake after feeding in the surrounding fields.  
Two Bald Eagles can be seen in the background.
Many people bring binoculars, spotting scopes and cameras of all sorts from a phone camera to cameras covered in camouflage to prevent the birds from knowing they are being photographed.  As for me, I have my DSLR Sony with my 200mm lens in place to try and capture the flight of the birds. At times I realize I'm under-prepared with only the lens I have. After an hour of bird-watching, the cold and wind did us in and we headed back to the car.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - Click on photos to enlarge. 

A few more photographs of the many flocks of snow geese.  
Carol was amazed that we didn't get covered with poop as the birds flew over us.
The snow geese take flight directly in front of us.  What a marvelous sight it was.

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