A CONCENTRATION OF KINGFISHERS @ TOPHILL LOW
Tophill Low is situated off the A164, a couple of miles east of the village of Watton between Driffield and Beverley in East Yorkshire. It is similar to Rodley Nature Reserve in set up as it has a pumping station run by Yorkshire Water within the reserve, however this pumping station is considerably bigger than the one at Rodley.
Upon arriving at the entrance to the reserve the road leads you around the pumping station to the car park. From here you need to pay at the ticket machine, which as well as entry to the reserve also gives you a car park ticket. The entrance fee is £3.50 for adults and £1.80 for concessions or you can become a member for £25 a year. There are 14 hides on the reserve and 9 of them are accessible for wheelchair users.
The reserve is split into 3 different routes - red, gold & blue. After paying for my ticket I headed up the boardwalk to the Reception hide were the three routes begin. The Reception Hide is fairly new and modern with full length floor to ceiling windows at the front overlooking D Reservoir, so called as it is shaped like the letter D. Out on the reservoir were several Coots and Tufted Ducks and a couple of Mute Swans and after a few minutes I set off on the blue route which covers the northern section of the reserve.
The blue route starts off through a wooded area before returning to the reservoir until you reach the first hide nearly halfway along the eastern side of D reservoir. This hide is one of 5 that are not accessible by wheelchair as to reach them you have to make your way up a steep flight of steps. From this hide I was able to see the numerous Coots and Tufted Ducks again as well a couple of Mute Swans over to the far left. Milling about between the Coots and Tufted Ducks were a handful of Pochards and on the far side a few Great Crested Grebes were diving for food.
On the far side of the Reservoir, amongst the Common Gulls, was a lone Little Gull flying along above the wall which borders the left hand side of the reservoir. After a few minutes I left the hide and continued on the path which takes you back into the woods. In this section of the woods there was a big group of Long Tailed Tits moving from branch to branch near the tops of the trees as well as a single Willow Warbler and lower down a Goldcrest made a brief appearance before disappearing.
Continuing through the woods you pass a small pond with some bird feeders at the end which was currently being visited by a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Just past the pond the path splits in two with one path continuing north through the woods and the other heading east to North Marsh. I took the path to the right as the hide overlooking North Marsh had been a good spot to see Whitethroats and Reed Warblers on my last visit. Today however, apart from a few Dragonflies and a couple of Wood Pigeons, it was very quiet. After waiting for a good 10 minutes a Reed Warbler appeared moving from reed to reed, never staying still long enough for me to get a good picture and once it disappeared I decided to move on.
I retraced my steps and then took the path northwards, emerging at edge of the woods and turning left towards the reservoir. Following the path round the top of the reservoir I arrived at the third hide facing D reservoir. Looking out from here most of the birds had moved to the opposite end in front of the Reception Hide, but there were a couple of Common Terns flying about just in front of the hide on the edge of the reservoir.
I moved on fairly quickly, spotting a few Peacock butterflies as I continued round the reservoir before turning north again through a small wood dodging the nettles to get to the hide overlooking the Hempholme Meadow. As it had just gone midday I decided to have my lunch and wait to see if the Kingfisher would turn up. This year the Kingfishers have nested just in front of this hide and raised two successful broods of 4 and 5. I was only half way through my lunch when a male Kingfisher zoomed in and perched on the branch.
After getting a few pictures it flew off to the left, but that would not be the last time I saw a Kingfisher today. A few minutes later a Grey Heron circled round and land on the small lake 50 yards in front of the hide. After watching the Grey Heron for a little bit I decided to make my way back towards the Reception Hide, calling at the hide overlooking North Marsh on my way. Sadly there was even less second time around and I continued on the path back southwards.
Just past the Wardens office building is a long row of Buddleia bushes which was awash with butterflies including Red Admirals, Peacocks and Green Veined Whites. After getting quite a few pictures of the butterflies I continued south and joined the gold route stopping at the hide over looking the North Lagoon. Out on the far left of the North Lagoon a couple of Common Sandpipers were wading through the mud and shallow water.
On the far side in the centre of the lagoon was a lone Little Egret searching for food just in front of the reeds. Also out on the water were a few Coots, Moorhens and Mallards and on a large log just in front of the hide was a Black Tailed Skimmer dragonfly. Just before I left the Little Egret flew across to the right and landed on the mud flats and began its search for food again.
I rejoined the gold route and headed to the next hide which is at the bottom of the south lagoon facing north. Just in front of the hide a few dragonflies were flying about landing on branches that were rising out of the water. A Little Egret and Little Grebe were in the far right hand corner amongst a few Gadwalls. I was about to leave when a Kingfisher burst out from the bushes on the right and flew across to a branch on a tree at the back left of the lagoon.
Just a minute or so later another Kingfisher emerged from the same position in the bushes and flew across to a tree at the bottom left but departed northwards a minute or so later. A group of Kingfishers is called a "Concentration of Kingfishers" and after waiting a few minutes to see if the other Kingfisher would move closer I moved on as it was still in the exact same spot 150 yards away.
The next hide is about a third of the way round the eastern side of the O reservoir and faces South Marsh East. Upon arrival another Kingfisher was in residence perching on the banking amongst the flowers periodically diving in to the water looking for fish before eventually flying over to a fence post on the far side of the marsh. In the middle were a couple of Little Egrets and a pair of Mute Swans and over to the far right hand side were several Lapwings.
Just before I moved on a Green Sandpiper flew into the marsh and landed on the mudflats just in front of the hide. A minute or so later I decided to move on to the next hide which is at the western end of the marsh. At the next hide I had a closer view of the Lapwings and another Little Egret wading through the water and over on the far right hand side a lone Goosander was preening itself. Just before I moved on 30 to 40 Lapwings flew in over the top of the hide and landed amongst the other Lapwings and a pair of Common Terns that had flown in with them.
The next hide actually backs on to this hide so I made the short journey across to this hide which looks west over South Marsh West. There were only a couple of Dragonflies flying about and it was very hot in the hide so I quickly moved on. On my walk round there were a pair of Canada Geese grazing on the banks of the reservoir who didn't mind me walking within a few yards of them. The next hide overlooks both South Marsh West and the O Reservoir.
It was quite quiet at this hide with a group of Gadwalls on the South Marsh and a pair of Cormorants on O Reservoir. After a brief wait to see if anything else would turn up I moved on to the last hide. To reach the last hide you take a path through a small woodland and then wildflower meadow and through another small wood to reach the hide. This final hide looks out over Watton Nature Reserve. On the reserve was a big group of Gadwalls, Cormorants and Greylag Geese as well as a few Gulls.
On my return journey back to the O Reservoir there were several butterflies including Red Admirals, Peacocks, Green Veined Whites, Common Blue and a single Painted Lady. Returning to the path surrounding O reservoir I was going to continue round to the left but due to all the rain that came through on Tuesday the grass path was still very damp and soggy so I decided to re-trace my steps on the tarmac path which covered the eastern half.
The pair of Canada Geese were still there, with one even sticking its tongue out at me as I tried to get a photo. Once I had walked back round the O reservoir and as I walked back up the road to the car park a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew across into the trees and a Blackbird perched at the top of the hedge. As I made my way back past the line of Buddleia bushes I stopped to take a few more photos of the numerous butterflies in attendance.
I have attached my full sightings list and a few photos from my visit.