GLORIOUS GOLDENEYES @ 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 water treatment works run by Yorkshire Water within the reserve, however this water treatment works is considerably bigger than the one at Rodley.
Tophill Low opened as a nature reserve in 1993 and has twelve hides, with seven of them being wheelchair accessible, across the three hundred acre site. The River Hull borders the eastern edge of the reserve and the two large 'D' and 'O' shaped reservoirs which have an SSSI status due to the very large number of wildfowl that can be found on the reservoirs.
It was a bright but cloudy day upon my arrival at Tophill Low and once I had set my camera up and put my walking boots on I headed for the Reception Hide which is located at the bottom of the D Reservoir. To get to the Reception hide there is a long wooden boardwalk which rises up to the hides entrance and whilst I was walking up the boardwalk Goldfinches, Blue Tits and Wrens were flying from tree to tree and disappearing into the undergrowth.
From the reception hide there are several scopes set up for you to take a closer look at the wildfowl on the reservoir. As I looked out onto the reservoir there were Wigeons, Gadwalls, Tufted Ducks, Pochards, Shovelers and hundreds of Coots as well as a few Black Headed Gulls. Just to the right of the Reception Hide there are a few feeders which were currently being visited by Blue Tits, Great Tits and a single Coal Tit. After a few minutes I left the hide and headed down the separate path to the right of the hide which heads off into the woodland at the right hand side of the reservoir.
I had not gone more than a few yards when I spotted a female Blackbird searching for the last remaining berries on a tree to my left. As the path turned northwards I passed some feeders which were being visited by Blue Tits, Great Tits and Chaffinches who all promptly flew off as I walked by. As the path returned to the side of the eastern side of the reservoir I could hear the water lapping against the wall and about half way up I arrived at the second hide which looks out over the reservoir.
On the choppy water whipped up by the strong winds I could see several Coots, Pochards and a few Black Headed Gulls. After a minute or so a male Goldeneye resurfaced from a long dive for food and spent the next ten minutes diving for food in the water right in front of the hide before moving further out into the centre of the reservoir. Once the Goldeneye had moved away I left the hide and continued northwards through the woods reaching a small pond which had some feeders at the far side which were currently being visited by Goldfinches and Greenfinches.
From here the path splits with one continuing northwards and another heading eastwards to a hide over looking North Marsh. I headed for the North Marsh Hide as the Kingfisher had been seen there in the morning and it had been a good hide to visit on my previous visits. Upon my arrival it was fairly quiet, just to the right a Reed Warbler disappeared into the reeds. Out in front a couple of Little Egrets flew over the River Hull and continued northwards as a Cormorant headed south.
After just a few minutes a male Kingfisher flew in and landed on one of the many perches placed on the edge of the water for it to fish from. The Kingfisher moved along the perches right in front of the hide, diving into the water each time but not having any success and it eventually moved up and sat in a tree to the left. After a few minutes it flew to a perch a little further out and after studying the water for a couple of minutes it dived again, but this time it was successful and flew round to the right and sat on another perch and proceeded to bash the fish against a branch until it stopped moving and then swallowed in one go. The Kingfisher repeated the act of fishing from the left hand perch and killing and eating the fish on the right hand post a few times before settling down on the left hand perch.
The Kingfisher spent the next twenty or so minutes sat on the far left hand perch and just as I was finishing my lunch it flew over to the perches right in front of the hide. It again moved along the line of perches before moving up in to the trees right next to the hide before moving back to the perch it had been sat on for twenty minutes. I had now been watching this Kingfisher for nearly an hour and I decided to head off towards the next hide.
As I rejoined the main path, several Chaffinches were making there way through the tops of the trees and as I neared the edge of the woods a single Song Thrush was singing away from a branch above my head. When I emerged from the woods the wind really picked up and as I moved round the top of the D reservoir I could again hear the sound of the water lapping against the wall due to the high winds. I walked up the steps to the hide facing south at the top of the reservoir. From here I could see yet more Coots, Pochards and Tufted Ducks, but also a female Goldeneye was present and as it was getting quite windy sat in that hide I left after a couple of minutes.
I now headed towards the northern most hide which overlooks Hempholme Meadow and during Spring and the early Summer months Kingfishers nested here producing broods of five and six Kingfishers. Today however the meadow was empty apart from two Moorhens and a lone Little Grebe out on the water. As I had such good views of the Kingfisher earlier on I decided not to wait and see if the Kingfisher showed up as it had done so on my two previous visits.
I made my way back along the path, through the woods, and passed the D Reservoir and Reception hide and into a small wooded area between the car park and the River Hull. This area was awash with Blue Tits, Great Tits, Wrens, Blackbirds and Robins, in fact on the road just before the car park there were four Robins when I had arrived earlier in the day. Just before the path reaches the road there is a hide looking east over a small lagoon area on which the water level has been lowered to try and attract waders.
Sadly there was not a single bird on the lagoon and I moved on to the next hide at the bottom of the next lagoon. The water on this hide has not been drained but was almost as quiet with just a trio of Mallards and a single Tufted Duck present. From here I headed for the O reservoir and the first hide which looks south over the reservoir and from here I could see several Gulls, Pochards and Tufted Ducks.
From here I moved on towards the three hides overlooking the South Marsh, however there was a lot of trees being cut down to make room for a new fence being built round the South Marsh to prevent Foxes from predating wading birds eggs and young chicks during the breeding season. This meant for the first two of the hides there were no birds due to the noise being made and I continued on to the third hide at the western end of the South Marsh it was otherwise relatively quiet.
This end of the South Marsh had a few birds on, five Mute Swans, 4 Tufted Ducks and a lone Shoveler, but due to the noise coming from further round on South Marsh. From this hide you can also see the O Reservoir and from here I could again see several Pochards, Tufted Ducks and Gulls as well as a couple of Gadwalls. A female Blackbird made a brief visit to the bushes right in front of the hide but disappeared again after a couple of seconds.
From here I headed for the final hide which gives you views across the neighbouring Watton Nature Reserve. The path through to the hide was quite muddy and upon arrival at the hide it was very windy but out on the water I was able to see Wigeons, Gadwalls, Pochards, Tufted Ducks, Mallards and along the left hand edge of the lakes about thirty Teals. Just beyond the Teals there was a pair of Redshanks and a pair of Green Sandpipers amongst about a dozen Curlews.
Further along the edge of the lake there were about ten Cormorants and to their left over two hundred Greylag Geese, nearly all of them asleep and beyond them on the far banks a single Little Egret was watching the water along with a couple of Grey Herons. It was now beginning to get very windy so I headed back along the muddy path and round the O reservoir to the car park and as I reached the car around a dozen Red Wings flew overhead westwards. I now headed home with male Goldeneye and the dazzling Kingfisher being my personal highlights. I have attached a few photos and my full sightings list from my visit to Tophill Low Nature Reserve.