Snow Plow in New York's Finger Lakes

Migration Alert: March 11, 2017 – Atlantic Flyway Light Goose Conservation Order

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By Michael R. Shea

Snow geese are concentrated in big numbers along New York's Finger Lakes, thanks to a strong push of greaters from the south early this week and a reverse migration of birds from up north last weekend. But how long they'll stick around is anyone's guess.

Rollercoaster temperatures have characterized this spring migration. Snow geese poured into central New York from the south earlier this week, but the first weekend in March found much of the northeast in single digits. That prompted a reverse migration of thousands of birds, many of which had pushed to the Canadian border.

Birds blew out of Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania following strong south winds and heavy rains on Tuesday. Lauren Fenstermacher, manager of Pennsylvania's Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, keeps a close eye on the pace of the spring snow goose migration. Middle Creek is one of the major roost areas for snows in the Mid-Atlantic region.

On March 7 she wrote, "The migration season appears to be coming to an end. As of this morning there were less than 5,000 snow geese at Middle Creek and around 500 tundra swans .The chattering of red-winged blackbirds, pairing of Canada geese, and eastern bluebirds sitting on top of their boxes at Middle Creek signifies that spring is not too far off."

Jeremy Bedette, Atlantic Flyway manager for Hard Core Brands, has been making daily scouting runs through the Finger Lakes region. "I've seen a couple 5,000 and 10,000 bird feeds," he says. "There are a few juvies and blues, but mostly it's all white, all adult birds. The numbers are blowing up right now."

The weather has been so inconsistent that the geese have been difficult to pattern, Bedette reports, though they're hitting cut corn and winter wheat hard. "When you scout one day and it's 60 degrees, then set up to hunt the next day and it's windy and 35 degrees, it doesn't always work out," he laughs. "If we could pattern the weather, we could pattern the birds."

A winter storm is expected to blast the northeast coast in the next few days. Temperatures in the Syracuse, New York, area will be in the low single digits through the weekend and early next week, with steady west northwest winds. The winds will subside and the temperatures will begin to climb later in the week, but how the birds will respond is anyone's guess. Light goose hunters in the Atlantic Flyway must be prepared for just about anything this season.