The Melanie Lane wetland has been known to very few local Morris County birders for decades. It remained obscure until this year when Jamie Glydon investigated the area and saw a lot of habitat and birding potential. He and this writer as well as other birders have visited what we call Melanie Lane Pond almost daily since March of 2012. Simply, there is no other known, accessible and as productive a shorebird and wading bird location in Morris County, the Great Swamp notwithstanding. Mocosocobirds has documented the sightings throughout 2012. Jamie and I diligently record our findings on eBird and the complete list as of today is here (numbers in parenthesis are number of sightings; numbers above these are high counts). This does not include any autumn or wintering waterfowl and passerine numbers, which will boost the total species count further. Species include: Glossy Ibis, Yellow-crowned and Black-crowned Night-Herons, Green and Great Blue Herons, a county record number of Great Egrets, Cattle Egret, shorebirds including Pectoral, Least, Semipalmated, Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers, Dunlin, Red-necked Phalarope, both Yellowlegs, Killdeer and Semipalmated Plover, Wilson’s Snipe, etc., N. Rough-winged, Cliff, Bank, Barn and Tree Swallows, Purple Martins and Chimney Swifts, and wintering waterfowl. The soon-to-be former grassland had Bobolinks and Savannah Sparrows in abundance this spring before it was mowed. The list goes on…but not for long.
This weekend the following vehicles were seen in the parking area:
I spoke with a surveyor who was on site doing work in the grassy area north of the wetland. He informed me that playing fields are being developed on the site. Horrified, I made phone calls to the Hanover Township offices. The receptionist at the engineering department was helpful and pleasant although clueless about a wetland in the area. Unfortunately, the news about Melanie Lane Pond is depressing. Hartz Mountain owns the 45 acres of the Melanie Lane grass and wetland area. 16.2 of those acres are leased to the Red Bull professional soccer team (whoever they are). The Red Bulls are developing their offices and practice facilities on the site. Here is a news article. Hanover’s office person and the article disagree with some specifics, but basically, the plan is:
- 1-2 grass playing field
- 1 artificial turf playing field with bleachers to seat 360-700 people
- An 8700 square foot indoor training facility and team offices.
Of course, parking lots and other asphalt amenities are sure to be included.
As the receptionist I spoke with said: “It’s going to be nice”.
Although the wetland will not be destroyed directly, the immediate surrounding area, currently a mowed grassy expanse, will create runoff and pollution degrading an already fragile and Purple Loosestife-overrun ecosystem.
In other words, the wetland and the birds are screwed. It is time to become active.
Submitted by Jonathan Klizas