Three Grebe species were seen at Lake Hopatcong this morning:
- Red-necked Grebe – Great Cove, viewable for the Jefferson House parking lot on Nolan’s Point Road.
- Horned Grebe – west of Nolan’s Point.
- Pied-billed Grebe – various locations.
6 Tundra Swans, 5 adults and 1 juvenile, were in the waterfowl area south of the Brady Road Bridge. This is the same location as 6 Tundra Swans spent this past winter. A lone Greater Yellowlegs was feeding on a section of exposed lake bottom. One of the local adult Bald Eagles landed on exposed shore and proceeded to catch a rat and fly off with the rat-tail dangling. 2 Common Loons continue north of Bertrand’s Island. Lake Hopatcong is currently in a drawn-down cycle which is done every 5 years so that docks and structures can be examined and repaired.
Lake Hopatcong is the largest lake in New Jersey but it is ignored by birders. Every inch of lake front is developed with residential properties (each seemingly with its own dock), marinas and other commercial real estate such as restaurants. Spring and summer are hopeless as the lake is choked with boats. Autumn, winter and early spring, i.e. waterfowl season, are another matter. The boats are put away for the most part. Last winter, parts of the lake were the only unfrozen water in Morris County and hosted 1,200 Ring-necked Ducks and numerous other duck species including Canvasback and Redhead. Also seen this past winter were Red-throated and Common Loons, Horned Grebe, resident Bald Eagles and many gulls, mostly Herring. Birding the lake takes creativity. There are enough public and commercial places closed for the season, in other words – few people and empty parking lots, so that the entire lake can be viewed.
The list from Lake Hopatcong today includes the following:
Canada Goose – 170
Mute Swan – 100
Tundra Swan – 6
Gadwall – 11
Am. Black Duck – 4
Mallard – 150
Green-winged Teal – 2
Bufflehead – 100
Hooded Merganser – 9
Ruddy Duck – 63
Common Loon – 2
Pied-billed Grebe – 2
Horned Grebe – 1
Red-necked Grebe – 1
Bald Eagle – 1
Greater Yellowlegs – 1
Great Blue Heron – 2
Ring-billed Gull – 87
Herring Gull – 485
All but the most western shore of Lake Hopatcong sits in Morris County. Sussex County lies to the west. The source of the Musconetcong River is Lake Hopatcong and it starts its journey at the western edge of the parking lot at Hopatcong State Park. The Musconetcong is the natural border for Morris and Sussex Counties and further downstream, Morris and Warren counties. The entire beach of Hopatcong State Park, all of Bertrand’s Island and the eastern shore all the way up to northern tip of the lake north of Liffy Island is contained in Morris County.
Mt. Hope Lake still has 500 Ruddy Ducks. Amazingly, only 3 Mute Swans were on the MUSW capital of Morris County. This is the lowest number recorded in memory. I don’t know how; I don’t know why. Otherwise the lake had only 20 Gadwall, 15 Mallards, 5 Hooded Mergansers 15 American Coot and a juvenile Bald Eagle.
Lake Parsippany is starting to attract waterfowl after being birdless up to this time. 6 Gadwall, 2 Hooded and 3 Common Mergansers, 23 Ruddy Ducks and 23 Ring-billed Gulls is a start (Jamie Glydon).
Birchwood Lake near the Tourne has 38 Ring-necked Ducks, 14 Hooded Mergansers and 2 Ruddy Ducks (Julie Buechner).