TINY LITTLE RINGED PLOVER CHICKS THE STAR @ TOPHILL LOW NATURE RESERVE
On Saturday 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 mild and cloudy day when I arrived at Tophill Low and after a quick check of the sightings board I ventured up the path towards the Reception Hide which is located at the southern end of the D reservoir. There were Tufted Ducks and Coots on the water, whilst on the feeders just to the side of the hide were Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Great Tits and a Robin. I followed the path eastwards from the hide and then turning to the right followed the path past two more hides to the O reservoir.
I was heading for the Izzard Hide, which is a members only photography hide situated at water level at the north end of an area called South Marsh. As I walked round O reservoir I could see large numbers of Common Spotted Orchids amongst the long grass as well as a few Bee Orchids and a Marsh Orchid. Once I arrived at the hide I sat at the far right hand end and I could immediately see a Little Ringed Plover sat on an island about twenty feet from the hide.
A little further out and to the left was a lone Little Egret whilst even further out were large numbers of Black Headed Gulls as well as Lapwings, Mallards and a couple of Oystercatchers and Common Terns. The Little Ringed Plover now stood up to reveal two very small chicks which didn't look to be much bigger than a golf ball. One of the chicks wandered over to the left hand side of the island whilst the other went to the right. After a minute or two the chick that had gone to the right made its way round to the front of the island, just a few feet away from me.
It moved back and forth along the water's edge looking for food for a few minutes before a call from the adult sent it scurrying back towards it with the other chick. They hid underneath the adult burying themselves amongst its feathers with just the legs showing and as they did this a third chick appeared from the left joining its fellow chicks. After a lot of pushing and shoving between the chicks, with one momentarily falling out the back, they only spent a minute or so in there before re-emerging and heading back down to the water's edge to continue feeding.
The cause of the commotion was a Little Egret flying from the left side of the hide to the right side landing at the edge of the reeds. It spent several minutes slowly moving through the shallow water, darting its beak into the water for food with lightning quick speed. There were also several Mallard chicks, some of which came very close to the hide as several Marsh Frogs in front of the hide started making a thunderous noise as they called to each other. On one of the wooden posts at the far left hand side a Kingfisher landed and made dives into the water, also using the banking at the back as a perch.
Eventually the Kingfisher flew off and as it departed, a Grey Heron arrived and landed in the water near the hide. It was wading through the water when a Black Headed Gull started to dive bomb it which the Grey Heron didn't appreciate. Once the Gull had gone away the Grey Heron continued looking for food and then darted its head into the water, emerging with a Stickleback in its beak. It tossed it up in the air before swallowing it whole and then continued looking for food before disappearing in the far left hand corner.
The Marsh Frogs started to call to each other again as I left the hide and as I walked back round the O reservoir there was a pair of Large Skipper butterflies amongst the wild flowers. Before heading back to the car I decided to pay a visit to one of the hides at the centre of the reserve overlooking a lagoon which had been a good place for spotting Kingfishers on previous visits. As I approached the hide I thought I could hear the call of the Kingfisher and soon after I sat down the Kingfisher flew from the far end and down the left hand side of the lagoon and out of sight.
Just a few seconds later I heard it calling again as it re-emerged and flew right towards the hide and landed on a perch protruding from the water just in front of me. It looked around for a few seconds before flying across to a tree just to the right of the hide, spending a bit longer here before flying off across the water, turning to the left and heading towards the O reservoir. Just before I left the hide I spotted a male Bullfinch perched on a small bush near the water's edge in the distance. I returned to my car walking through a large area of wild flowers such as Common Hemp Nettle, which was awash with Bees, Butterflies and other insects such as the Pellucid Fly.
I have attached a sightings list and a few photos from my visit to Tophill Low Nature Reserve.
TOPHILL LOW - 30/06/2021
5 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS 1 LITTLE EGRET
10 MALLARDS 1 GREY HERON
2 OYSTERCATCHERS 10+ LAPWINGS
30+ BLACK HEADED GULLS 6 GREYLAG GEESE
2 CANADA GEESE 1 MARSH HARRIER
4 GOLDFINCHES 2 CHAFFINCHES
2 GREAT TITS 1 ROBIN
2 BLACKBIRDS 1 BULLFINCH
2 KINGFISHERS 2 TUFTED DUCKS
2 WOOD PIGEONS 2 MAGPIES
2 MOORHENS 4 COOTS
2 COMMON TERNS 1 BUZZARD
10+ MARSH FROGS