Monday, March 24, 2014

Finally, time for Middle Creek

The last two or three years, it seems like the big push of snow goose migration has arrived right around the end of February.  After this emphatic winter, the largest numbers were at Middle Creek over the last week to ten days.  Only three weeks behind!

My husband and I went to Middle Creek on the 15th.  99% of the surface water was frozen, but 60,000 snow geese and at least 5,000 tundra swans didn't seem to care.  Their biological urge is to move north, ice or no ice.  

One of the best parts of going to Middle Creek is getting to see a lift-off.  Tens of thousands of geese rising at once is like nothing else; it is a sonic experience as much as anything.  In the video, the flock was frightened by a bald eagle making a pass.

One week later, we went back with my parents.  The amount of ice that had thawed in seven days was incredible.  The number of birds was down, though.  Probably around 10,000 snows and 2,000 tundras.  We still managed to track down a flock grazing. 

These tundra swans were striking a pose, and I'm not sure if there is a reason behind what they're doing or not.  When we moved to this area, tundra swans flew over our house pretty regularly in late winter, going from the river to farm fields and vice versa.  Then, for the last few years, we didn't really see them.  One of the few benefits of this wacky winter is that the tundra swans used the river again, probably because parts of it were open almost all winter.

 The nice part about the thaw was that migrating ducks could finally use the small ponds in the park.  One of the most common this last Sunday was ring-necked ducks.  I am sure there were over 100 present, which is great for a duck that isn't all that common.

The pond by the visitor's center had a good two dozen ring-neckeds, a pair of shovelers, four hooded mergansers, six bufflehead, a couple of wigeon, and a dozen or so gadwall.  Not to mention a handful of Canada geese and three great-blue herons visiting from their nearby rookery.  Not a bad mix!

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