Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area near Reading, PA is only about an hour from our house and attracts thousands of snow geese and other water fowl every winter. We decided to take a early morning visit in March to watch 50,000 geese rise off a frozen lake right at sunrise! This lake is a regular stop on the snow geese migration route bringing in over 100,000 geese at its peak. We were about a week late for the peak, but even with only half the geese it was still an amazing sight to see.
In March the sun was rising around 7 am, but it is best to arrive in the dark around 5 am. You want to arrive before the geese have started moving around, and you also want to claim a photography spot. This is a popular event and people from all over the East Coast come to watch. Bring a head lamp or flash light to guide your way for the 1/2 mile trail to the peninsula view point, which was a bit icy when we were there. You can hear the geese waking up honking and stretching out their wings. Other V’s of geese start arriving in the dim light.
The geese and photographers start getting anxious as the sun rises and the noise of honking geese grows. There are several roosting groups on the ice and everyone wants to know which one is going to take off first. At some point the one group leads off rising in the dim morning light. It is hard to see the thousands of geese until they break the horizon and the crowd of people erupt in oohs and ahhs and then are overwhelmed by camera shutters as if a celebrity had just stepped out on the red carpet.
The first few groups to rise just circle the lake and return to the ice. Sometimes a few thousand geese passing overhead trigger another group to take off creating a chaotic scene of geese flying overhead. When staring in awe of a thousand geese flying overhead its always a good reminder to keep you mouth closed!
The local Amish are also in the crowd enjoying one of nature’s phenomenons. The ironic thing is they are surrounded by photographers, but there is little risk of anyone is taking their photo.
At some point, the geese feel the sun has warmed their wings, and the entire flock rises like a rogue wave consuming the blue sky.
The entire event only lasts 90 minutes, and the majority of the geese are feeding in the surrounding fields by 8 am, but it was well worth the trip. If you’re a birder, then you’ll also enjoy the many other species that are also flying amongst the snow geese.