WASHINGTONVILLE — A local naturalist believes an unseasonably warm weather pattern has drawn thousands of snow geese to the Central Susquehanna Valley in recent days.
“For the last, at least two weeks, I have been seeing them in small to large flocks, flying both east and west,” Jon Beam, a naturalist and assistant director of the Montour Area Recreation Commission (MARC), said of the snow geese.
“Because of the warm weather, I think they have started to move into our area, on their way north,” he added.
MARC Executive Director Bob Stoudt said he saw thousands of snow geese Wednesday at the Montour Preserve. Residents have also reported seeing the geese in fields along Route 254, near Interstate 80, in the Milton area.
“Mid to late March is when we usually see them showing up at the preserve,” Beam said, of the snow geese.
According to Beam, the snow geese typically spend the winter months in the area of the Chesapeake Bay, sometimes as far south as Florida. They migrate to Canada during the warmer months.
“Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, in Lancaster County, is a staging area for them,” Beam said. “As of Feb. 10, they had 130,00 birds there, snow geese.”
He said the wildlife management area features a lake, wetlands and crops planted to feed waterfowl.
“It’s a staging area for when (the snow geese) are moving north, they’ll congregate there in large numbers for a period of time,” Beam explained. “They may make short forays north and find ponds and lakes are open.”
He believes the snow geese could be seen in the Central Susquehanna Valley for the next week or two.
“Conditions are in such a flux right now, weather conditions,” Beam said. “I think (the snow geese) are confused.”
He said the area is an ideal stopping point for the birds.
“We have a lot of farmlands around here, in Montour and Northumberland and over into Union and Snyder counties,” Beam said. “There are great places for them to go to look for food.”
He describes the snow geese as an “amazing” sight to behold when they are flying.
“When they come up, they kind of come up in a wave,” Beam explained. “They circle once or twice before they head off to where they’re going.”
When in flight, he said the snow geese fly in that wave, rather than in a “V” like Canada geese.
“If the sunlight hits them, it reflects off of them in different patterns,” Beam said, of the snow geese. “It’s just spectacular to see... They’re pretty easy to identify.”
While their flight patterns are different than Canada geese, they also make different sounds, which Beam said is hard to describe.
“With 4 or 5,000 of them, it can be deafening if you’re close to them,” he said.