KINGFISHER & GOOSANDER PAY A VISIT ON A WINDY DAY @ TOPHILL LOW NATURE RESERVE
On Friday I headed east and visited Tophill Low Nature Reserve. 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 cloudy and very windy day when I arrived at Tophill Low and as I had driven down the approach road there was a Kestrel perched briefly on a concrete fence post. After parking my car I headed up the long wooden walkway to the Reception Hide which looks out over the D reservoir. Out on the reservoir there were several Coots and Pochards as well as a few Gadwalls, Mallards and Tufted Ducks. Over to the left I spotted a Great Crested Grebe weaving between the ducks and further out there were a pair of Mute Swans.
To the right of the hide, on the feeders, there were Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Great Tits and Chaffinches visiting as it began to rain quite heavily. Half a dozen Goldfinches now visited the feeders and they were soon joined by a Greenfinch and a rather bedraggled looking Siskin. After about ten minutes the rain started to ease as a Squirrel made the leap from the fence on the right on to the feeders. Several of the birds made attempts to visit the feeders whilst the Squirrel was tucking in but they soon aborted when they saw it.
Once the Squirrel had finished on the feeders and departed the birds started to come back and weaving in and out of the fence to my right was a lone Willow Warbler. The Warbler was constantly moving about and flew off after about thirty seconds so I headed off along the path round the eastern side of the D Reservoir. As I walked past the pond next to the Reception Hide a Little Egret took off from the pond and flew northwards over the trees.
I continued along the path through the trees until it returned to the reservoir's edge where the wind had increased. I decided not to visit the hide halfway along the eastern side of the reservoir and continued on the path as it turned back through the trees. After a couple of hundred yards the path splits in two with the left hand path continuing on through the woods, round the top of the reservoir and on to the Hempholme Meadow Hide and the right hand path taking you to the North Marsh Hide.
I took the right hand path and as I reached the North Marsh Hide it started to rain again. About fifty yards to the right of the hide is the River Hull and flying back and forth along the river were several Cormorants. I had been there about five minutes when I heard the call of the Kingfisher coming from the reeds and a few seconds later it emerged from the reeds and landed on a perch just in front of the hide. It spent a few seconds on the perch before moving further away from the hide and perching amongst the reeds about fifty yards away.
A raptor flew over the marsh from left to right and over the River Hull and a minute or so later it flew low over the marsh. It was a Hobby and it was chasing Dragonflies and after a second low pass over the marsh it flew up to a tree on the left and began to devour its prize. A little bit nearer to the hide and on the ground at the edge of the marsh on the left hand side a Roe Deer emerged from the trees and sat down.
At the far left hand corner of the marsh I spotted some movement in the water and about ten seconds later a female Goosander surfaced a little closer to the hide. The Goosander continued to dive and look for food, gradually making its way closer and closer to the hide. It spent the next few minutes in front of the hide before making its way back along the water to the far end before flying off south past the hide.
The Hobby now returned and again flew low over the marsh before rising up over the trees and circling round and flying in low and fast again and then over to perch in a tree on the left. The Kingfisher now flew down the water channel to the right and across the front of the hide to the trees just to my left and a couple of minutes later it flew to a perch just in front of the hide again. It stayed for only a few seconds before flying off again and disappearing into the reeds on the right hand side.
Having spent more than an hour in the hide I left and headed back along the path and now took the left hand path and headed towards the top of the reservoir. When I reached the edge of the woodland I started to walk along the edge of the reservoir towards the Hempholme Meadow Hide. I had only gone thirty or forty yards when I decided to turn back as the wind was whipping the water up over the edge of the reservoir and onto the path and as I re-entered the woodlands the wind picked up and it started to rain again.
As I walked through the woodland a Little Egret was sat at the edge of a pond but took off as soon as it saw me and flew southwards over the tall trees. When I reached the pond by the Reception Hide the Little Egret was there but again it took off and this time headed northwards, presumably back to the pond it had left a few minutes before. I continued on along the path to the first of the lagoon hides which faces east over the lagoon towards the River Hull.
Over on the far left hand side of the lagoon there was a trio of Mallards and flying in over the River Hull was a lone Kestrel. The Kestrel hovered briefly over the edge of the lagoon before dropping down and landing on the mud at the edge of the water. Over to the right of the hide, at the water's edge, there was a pair of Green Sandpipers making their way through the shallow water probing the mud for food. The Kestrel now took off and headed off round the trees to the left and up the River Hull and out of site.
I left the hide and headed along the road to a wooden gate which is near the southern end of the lagoon. I opened the gate and walked along the path and through a gap in the trees to my left I spotted a pair of Little Grebes near to the hide, whilst over to my right in the trees I heard the call of a male Pheasant. I walked round to the hide at the southern tip of the lagoon and the pair of Little Grebes was about twenty yards from the hide diving for food.
A few minutes later the Hobby made another appearance flying fast over the water from right to left before curving round and flying north along the River Hull towards the North Marsh. As I left the hide I spotted a Sparrowhawk flying over the tops of the trees to my left as I followed the path to the O Reservoir. After following the track round the O Reservoir for about two hundred yards I arrived at the first hide on my left which looks out over the eastern end of South Marsh East.
On South Marsh East I could see several Mallards as well as a single Little Egret and over in the bushes to the left a lone Blackbird. Over to the left, amongst some Mallards, there was a Greenshank and about one hundred yards from the front of the hide there was a Common Sandpiper working its way along the edge of the water. After a few minutes the Little Egret flew across the marsh and landed over to the left next to the Mallards.
The Greenshank then edged its way along the water right in front of the hide before moving across to an island just a few yards further away. It continued along the edge of the island before walking along a wooden log and resuming its search for food in the shallow water. The Common Sandpiper was still working its way along the water's edge as I left the hide and walked on to the next hide that looks eastwards across South Marsh East.
The water at this end of the marsh was fairly quiet with just a few ducks and a juvenile Mute Swan present. All the ducks and waders suddenly rose up as one as a Marsh Harrier flew in along the right hand side of the marsh and circled round the marsh before flying off eastwards over the trees at the far side of the marsh. I left the hide and walked the very short distance to the next hide which faces the opposite direction and over looks the eastern end of South Marsh West.
There was only a couple of Moorhens and as they disappeared into the reeds I left and headed along the path to the hide at the southern end of the O Reservoir. This hide gives you views of the O Reservoir and looks out over South Marsh West where I could see a pair of Mute Swans, a few Mallards and a single Shoveler. I left the hide and followed the path back round the O Reservoir to the top and headed towards the wooden gate I had gone through earlier where a Robin was now sat and flew off as I approached.
Before I headed back to the car I decided to pay another visit to the hide at the western side of the lagoons. I had only been in the hide a few seconds when a Kingfisher flew over the hide and across the lagoon and onto the River Hull. A Grey Wagtail now flew along the front of the hide and landed on a small island just a few yards in front. As the Grey Wagtail made its way along the island and probed the vegetation and the two Green Sandpipers flew across the front of the hide and landed over to the left.
After a few minutes the Grey Wagtail had made its way over to the right, almost out of sight, and one of the Green Sandpipers flew across and landed right in front of the hide. It spent a few minutes walking through the vegetation on the islands and the narrow water channels that ran through it before flying back over to join its comrade. Before I headed home I left the hide and paid another visit to the Reception Hide where the feeders were quiet but out on D Reservoir it was still full with Coots and Pochards.
I have attached a few photos and a full sightings list from my visit to Tophill Low Nature Reserve.