Migration Alert: Atlantic Flyway Light Geese Push North

March 11, 2021 – Atlantic Flyway

© AveryOutdoors/Joey Melvin

Seasonal weather has finally arrived in the Northeast, with temperatures in some areas surpassing the 50-degree mark for the first time this year. The warming trend has triggered impressive movements of light geese all the way into central New York, where snow and ice cover to the north has stopped their progress for now.

“We had more than 100,000 snows here last week,” explains Ted Nichols, waterfowl biologist with New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection. “Most of the birds were piled into Delaware Bay tidal marshes, from Dennis Creek in Cape May County north to Mannington Meadow in Salem.”

With the onset of warmer temperatures, the Garden State has lost most of its snow geese, and the exodus is likely to continue in coming days. The same is true in neighboring Pennsylvania.

Lauren Ferreri, of Pennsylvania’s Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, believes snow goose numbers have already peaked and are now declining in her area. “On Wednesday morning we had 65,000 geese, but I would venture to say that bird numbers have easily dropped by half the last day or so,” Ferreri says. “I would expect the decline will continue through the weekend.”

You probably don’t think of metropolitan New York when you think of snow geese, but Jamaica Bay is an important stopover for the birds as they wing their way north. Sheena Rareeagle, of Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge, believes snow geese are likely approaching peak numbers on the refuge now. 

Geese are also pushing north into central New York. “I saw the first snows 12 days ago, but those were small flocks. Now we are really starting to see an influx,” says Frank Morlock, of the Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area, an important wetland complex in New York’s Finger Lakes region.

Morlock believes snow goose numbers could peak on the refuge next week, although a predicted dip in temperatures could slow the migration. “We saw a big movement on Wednesday, but next week’s weather will determine when we see the peak,” Morlock adds.

Warmer weather clearly has snow geese on the move, but Old Man Winter hasn’t finished with the Northeast just yet. If temperatures drop again, expect snow geese to hold tight in central New York until the next big warm front clears fields to the north. When that happens, be sure you’re out there when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing.