It’s estimated that Alfred Hitchcock used 32,000 crows, ravens, seagulls, and sparrows to scare the daylights out of moviegoers in 1963’s “The Birds” movie.
Be comforted in the knowledge that Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area‘s 130,000 Snow Geese have no intention of attacking. But if you’ve never seen this many birds in the air at once, it is a remarkable sight. And maybe slightly unnerving.
Middle Creek is usually a quiet place, with miles of hiking trails, lakes and ponds sprinkled throughout its 6,000 acres. This time of year, however, migrating Snow Geese and about 2,000 tundra swans make this a stop on the way back to the arctic.
Middle Creek WMA is about 45 miles from York, or about an hour’s drive. Google Maps, Waze and most GPS will take visitors to the visitor center, which is a good place to start.
This year’s especially mild winter has invited the birds to begin their journey very early– a good date to expect the crowds of white is usually March 1. No snow and an ice-free lake make Middle Creek a perfect place for a break.
For rookie visitors, be aware that weekends are mobbed with 3,000 of your best friends driving the roads and parking (sometimes rather haphazardly) to see the birds. Weekdays are the best time to watch.
At the lake, birds will at times spring into the air in a spectacularly loud show. They’ll fly around for a bit, some heading for the fields, but many will just return to the same spot. It’s been said that Bald Eagles from a nearby nest will fly over the lake and make the Snow Geese nervous. Others say the birds are stretching their wings.
The best spot from which to see the birds on the water is at Willow Point. The Willow Point Trail is now paved–about a mile round-trip– with a shelter at the point, but no restrooms.
During the day, birds are feeding in nearby fields for corn, grass, or seeds, so exploring the area is the best way to find the birds. Once the field is stripped of food, the birds will move on to the next available spot, so expecting birds to be in the same place as last year– or yesterday– isn’t necessarily a sure thing.
In the evening, the birds will abandon the fields and flock to the safety of the lake. Waves of birds can be seen flying in from all directions.
Because the huge numbers arrived so early, don’t expect them to stick around for long. On Monday, the visitor center showed 130,000 birds in the area. Thursday, the number was about 75,000– still plenty of birds, but not the lake-crowding herd.