Saturday, March 12, 2016

Snow Geese

A friend and faithful reader of VP wrote recently, reminding me that I haven't posted any bird photos in a while and asking to see some. It just so happens that I took my wife, daughter, and her fiance today to one of the major migratory stopover spots on the east coast to see a waterfowl called the snow goose. These birds breed in the tundra and migrate in huge numbers along the Atlantic coast and Mississippi river valley.

By the end of the 19th century hunting had taken a serious toll on the population of these birds and was banned in 1916 to allow the population to recover. The ban resulted in skyrocketing numbers of geese and hunting was restored in 1975. The birds today number in the millions. When they're swirling around after taking off, or as they land, it's like standing inside a snow globe. The numbers during our visit today were not as impressive as what's seen in these photos since we're now past the peak in the snow goose migration, but there were still several thousand geese and tundra swans on the water this morning. At it's peak, which is usually about the first week in March, there may be 100,000 or more snow geese on the lake.

I got these photos off the web, but they were taken at the site we visited today. It's called Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area and it sits athwart the Lancaster/Lebanon county line in south-central Pennsylvania. An interesting anecdote about Middle Creek: It was built in the 1970s for hunting and conservation and is managed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. It has recently been in the news because the Game Commission wishes to raise hunting license fees to obtain the revenue to maintain the facility, but the legislature has been reluctant to grant the increase. The Game Commission has said that they can't keep Middle Creek open if they don't get more money and will be shutting it down in a year or so.

It would be a great shame if this happened, and I doubt very much that the legislators will let it come to that, but it's where matters stand as of now.