It was exactly five years to the day since we last visited Tophill Low, and this trip certainly did not disappoint, although the major twitch a Purple Heron had flown 24 hours previously. This reserve, managed by Yorkshire Water, consists of two reservoirs each situated at the end of a figure of eight, with a network of marshes, ponds, scrub, grasslands and woodlands in between and around them. With parking at the centre of the figure of eight, you are never too far from the coach and this was most useful during the day as members returned for lunch and as the afternoon wore on and the sun became hot, jackets and jumpers were hurriedly dumped!!

In the car park we watched a Coal Tit high up in a fir tree feeding on red pine cones and disturbing pollen and fine particles which then appeared as puffs of smoke as the bird moved through the tops. As usual the group split up with the majority visiting the ā€˜Dā€™ shaped reservoir first. On the water there were plenty of Tufted Ducks and we finally located the male Scaup , initially at some distance away. Mute Swans, Mallard, Wigeon, Gadwall, Pochard and Black-headed Gulls were also present. A Common Sandpiper on the reservoir walls was so well camouflaged it was impossible to spot until it moved and on the mown grass around the reservoir we watched a pair of Mistle Thrushes feeding for a good 15 minutes. Two Yellow Wagtails and one Pied were seen nearby.

As we walked through the woodlands they seemed to be alive with birdsong, the warblers competing with one another, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Willow Warbler. The feeders at the visitor centre attracted the usual tits and finches, with five Goldfinches at one time vying with two Tree Sparrows for the six ports on one feeder. A Greater Spotted Woodpecker popped on and off to snack. There were also several rabbits feeding in the field.

From the hides overlooking the pools we watched a pair of Little Grebes and a pair of Coots building nests only feet apart. Shelduck, Lapwing, Teal, Greylag Geese, and Great-crested Grebes fed lazily in the sunshine and my first Swallow of the year enjoyed a meal of freshly hatched insects. A pair of Little Ringed Plovers was out on the gravel island looking for a nesting spot. A Grass Snake some 40 cms long was seen swimming in one of the pools and a Marsh Frog croaked from the shallows: even he was full of the joys of spring.

A few of us walked along to the Watton Nature Reserve to try unsuccessfully for the two reported male Garganey. All was not lost however as a Lesser Whitethroat was heard by all and spotted by some. The Cuckoo was heard calling a few times.

It really was a perfect spring day ā€“ several butterflies were seen including Speckled Wood, Small White, Orange Tip, the harbinger of spring, and Peacock. There were banks of cowslips nodding in the sunshine and the odd birder nodding in the hide! A well fed red Fox sauntered through the reserve ā€“ one less bunny in the warren that night!

Our tally of birds for the day was 73 seen and 4 heard, slightly down from our last visit. Nevertheless it was a good total for the day, with an interesting variety of birds, insects and animals which made for a very enjoyable trip.


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