Monday, April 7, 2014

When the Snow Geese Visit The Susquehanna Valley

Each year between early February and mid March,  thousands of geese with black tipped wings stop by the Susquehanna River Valley as they migrate back to Canada and Greenland for breeding season. The annual snow geese migration often passes right through our farm, with the birds frequently spending a day or two here before continuing on.  

  See the photos from their arrival here on the farm on January 30 2020, here:

When can we expect them this year?  Anytime from late January to Mid March.  Watch for the temperatures to reach 40+ degrees for several days in a row, and for all of the snow to be off the fields.  According to the dates on my photos over the years, they have been here as early as mid January, and as late as mid march.  Often they will stay for a day or two before moving on.

Where can you see them locally?  I've seen them on the river, at Montour Preserve, and on many of the local farm ponds and fields.  They will be looking for food, and water, and large areas where they can land in large groups.

 When they are over the farm here, I will often see groups circle, and circle, and circle some more, before finally landing.  Sometimes there will be smaller groups, sometimes it will be hundreds circling in what looks like a very wide cyclone of birds.  Frequently one group will land, and a smaller group will circle a bit longer before settling in.  It's interesting to watch. I've read that the flock is able to change direction rapidly because the birds can mimic the maneuvers of distant flock members and do not  wait for cues from the birds adjacent to them.

They are incredibly noisy. I cannot see our back field from the house, it's over the hill, but I always know when they are here, I can hear them even if I didn't see them arrive. The All About Birds website has a variety of sound clips you can listen to here:

The best place to see large numbers is  at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lancaster,  where there were were 200,000  counted in one day in 2018!  The 30 ponds, and a 400 acre lake, draw huge numbers of  the birds there each year, as they pass over Pennsylvania. See the  migration updates, and a live webcam, here:

An "excessive snow goose population in the Atlantic Fly Way" has prompted state and federal wildlife management to allow additional hunting methods and extended seasons.  Read the details, and find the permits, here:

In this photo you can see tundra swans flying right along with the snow geese. The snow geese have black tipped wings, the swans have longer necks and no black on their wings.

The Tundra Swan also migrates through our area.  In 2015 they stopped at a neighboring farm pond.  I have not seen them nearly as frequently, and never in the large numbers that the geese arrive in.  But they are frequently  mixed right, in much smaller numbers, with the snow geese.
Tundra swans flying over the farm.

The dates from my photos over the years:
February 20, 2022
March 9 2021
January 30 2020
March 15 2019
February 22 2018
February 5 2017
March 17 2015 - (Tundra Swans too!)
February 28 2013

In 2023, they began flying over the farm in mid January, but none have landed here yet.

More Sights To See

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