Mt. Hope, Rockaway Township
The above photo is a panoramic view from the southwest end of Mt. Hope Lake in Rockaway Township (labeled Mill Pond on Google maps). Mt. Hope Pond, a different, smaller body of water, is further up Mt. Hope Road from Mt. Hope Lake. Be aware of this potential confusion.
In the upper left of the photo, one can barely see the buildings of the historic Leonard Mine. Historic because the Mt. Hope mine may be the oldest in the country. The mine shaft goes beneath the earth 2,700 feet. This is thought to be the deepest shaft east of the Mississippi River. Mining operations ceased in 1981. The property is owned by Tilcon. In front of the buildings is a tree with a Bald Eagle nest. The eagles continue to hang out at the lake although they apparently abandoned nesting activity this year. The grounds surrounding the lake are leased by the Rockaway Township Sportsmen Club. There is much signage in the area advertising that. Please respect their boundaries if you visit the lake. Hiking is strictly forbidden.
Mt. Hope is probably the most productive waterfowl lake in Morris County. Currently there are Ring-necked Ducks, Northern Shovelers, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Wood Ducks, Mute Swans, American Coot, etc. Historically, nearly every regular occuring waterfowl species has appeared here as well as Eurasian Wigeon, Forster’s Tern and Bonaparte’s Gull. There is currently a semi-resident uncountable Trumpeter Swan thought to be an offspring of the Bernardsville captive pair. Yesterday, 4 Canvasbacks were observed at the lake. Today, the Canvasbacks were gone but replaced by 3 Common Goldeneye hens found by David Bernstein. It is a busy lake with changing waterfowl dynamics, especially at this time of year.
The predominant duck of Mt. Hope is the Ruddy Duck. The above photo makes the lake look like a placid, innocuous body of water, but lurking on that surface are 1,020 Ruddy Ducks. I know because I counted them today. First by singles, then by groups of 5 and 10. The conditions were perfect for visibility with bright sun and calm waters. This is the all-time high count of Ruddy Ducks in Morris County as far as is known. 900, the previous high, were tallied in 2013.
5 Fox Sparrows were in a group at Jonathan’s Woods this morning.
From Terry Carruthers:
“A Cackling Goose was visible at Lord Stirling equestrian fields today. A Fox Sparrow and three Purple Finches were visiting my feeders on Whitebridge Rd.” [ The Cackling Goose is fairly regular at this location this week with many reports. The equestrian fields are at the western end of Lord Stirling Road. If the goose is not found on the fields, check the ponds at the Somerset County Environmental Education Center, aka, Lord Stirling Park – Editor].
In the continuing series of Snow Bunting photos from Budd Lake, below is a photo from Nov.7 by Tom Halliwell. Clicking on the photo will bring you to Tom’s Flickr photostream where an abundance of wonderful butterfly, odonate, plant and other nature photos reside. Incidentally, the Snow Buntings are still present as of today.
Below is a Hermit Thrush bathed in the early morning sun at Timberbrook Lake.