(Click on the photo for a large image).
I was at Mt. Hope Pond for no more than 30 seconds this morning at 7:00 when the first-winter Iceland Gull reported by Dan Brill on the JerseyBirds listserv yesterday, flew over my head and landed on the ice of the pond. It was eventually joined by 30 Ring-billed Gulls. White-winged gulls of any species are rare in Morris County so it was a special treat to have one so cooperative. It was present for the entire hour that I, Cliff Miles and his son Rick were at the pond – either loafing on the ice, floating in the water or occasionally engaging in a flight around the pond with the Ring-billed Gulls. Mt. Hope Pond is not to be confused with nearby, and much larger, Mt. Hope Lake.
Mt. Hope Lake thawed this week. The Mute Swans were quick to realize that. 32 Mute Swans were feeding and displaying where there was only one on the frozen lake the week before. 1 Gadwall, 2 American Wigeon, 3 Hooded Mergansers and 1 Common Merganser were the total for waterfowl. It was gratifying to see two Bald Eagles near the nest calling frequently. Their attempt to raise young apparently failed last year. Unless this reporter is missing something, he could swear that this year’s male is a possible 4th year sub-adult. This raises the question: what happened to last year’s full adult male?
Lake Hopatcong continues to host 6 Tundra Swans. Today, they were north of the Brady Road Bridge, easily viewed from the end of Waterside Drive. Duck numbers remain impressive, as well. The lake is thawing little by little in some spots but most of the lake remains frozen with numerous ice fishermen present. Last weekend the duckage was concentrated south of the bridge. Today, waterfowl was also dispersed on the north side. It is impossible to get a completely accurate count of the Ring-necked Ducks due to limited viewing conditions, but 557 were tallied. This means there are more that would probably equal last weekend’s total of 760. Equally impressive is the growing number of Buffleheads – 116, at least. The drake Canvasback was at the south end of South Lakeside Drive in company with a female Red-breasted Merganser.
Lake Hopatcong is the largest body of freshwater in New Jersey. It has never been a birding destination because the entire lake shore is developed and viewing the lake is difficult if not impossible. What the past few weeks show is that this can also be a very productive waterfowl location. Birders using creativity, common sense, and respect for property owners may find this to be a worthwhile birding locale.
Here are the numbers:
Mute Swan – 58 (many north of the bridge were not counted)
Tundra Swan – 6
American Wigeon – 10
Canvasback – 1 drake
Ring-necked Duck – 557 (with more unseen)
Lesser Scaup – 12 along with 5+ distant Scaup sp.
Bufflehead – 116, at least.
Hooded Merganser – 2
Red-breasted Merganser – 1
Ruddy Duck – 12
Bald Eagle – 2nd-3rd year
Surprisingly few gulls.
Bertrand Island, still one of the few thawed areas of water in Lake Hopatcong, contributed 28 Ring-necked Ducks, 8 Lesser Scaup, 24 Bufflehead and 10 Common Mergansers.