Friday, 28 August 2020

Changes to hide usage

We've been keeping a eye on the use of hides over the last month and watching what contemporary conservation organisations are doing and as such have made a few amendments in the current circumstances to ensure safe usage continues. From the 29th; 

Adults must wear face coverings within all hides 

The Izzard photography hide will return to members only as per last year.  Combination code for the gate (with new sanitisers) is on the reverse of the 20/21 card.  Membership is open to all via post or the reception hide.  

Due to numbers we've had to physically restrict viewing opportunities in the Izzard and North Marsh hides.  Please be courteous and allow others the chance to view.  

Thank you for your understanding.  

Whilst the weather is against us we have been dropping levels on the south marsh east to encourage autumn passage waders;  Hopefully in coming days we should see extended areas of open mud to maximise chances in favourable easterlies.  

Monday, 10 August 2020

Tophill Low welcomes families back to the reserve

Tophill Low welcomes families back to the reserve

Once the reserve had been open for a week from 20th July the education section of Tophill Low started to welcome back family groups to our family workshops to support home learning. These have been organised so that family groups (maximum 6 people) can get involved with activities within the nature trail area. Each session has consisted of four family groups, each doing a different activity, then rotating around the activities in order to abide by social distance guidelines, yet allowing children to participate in things that they have missed out on during lockdown, as all school visits were cancelled. 

Duncan who works in the treatment plant brought his grandchildren, Bertie and Betsy along. Bertie was even dressed for the part with his Yorkshire Water uniform!

Children and their families have been pond dipping, following the nature trail to spot a range of different and interesting features of the woodland, learning about plants and pollinators along the butterfly border and also hunting out minibeasts in our bug arena. 

Usually when schools visit the class collects valuable data about the health of the invertebrate life in the reception pond, so having family groups doing this will mean at least we have some records for summer 2020. 

Finding out what has been caught

There is always something to spot along the nature trail and the volunteers have done a great job cutting back the vegetation to allow this to happen, making sure that no one misses "Old Stinker"! 

The weather can affect how many butterflies can be spotted along the buddleia hedge but when it's been warm enough families have taken part in the Big Butterfly Count using an app on their phones then adding to this to the nation wide survey of butterflies throughout August. If no butterflies have been around then children have been searching for caterpillars made of wool that have been hidden in the bushes, a nice activity to demonstrate the survival adaptation of camouflage. 

Finally we have given families a real challenge and that has been to search for minibeast, a task that can prove quite difficult in dry conditions but you can always rely on children to hunt them out.

Feedback from those families that have taken part has been really positive and both children and adults, many who had not visited the reserve before, have enjoyed the activities and felt safe taking part with their families. 

Future dates can be found on the main education section of the Yorkshire Water website (click here for link)

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Lockdown life

So what happened whilst humans were out the way?  

Whilst I'd like to say I was at Tophill revelling in a private reserve on a daily basis there has been plenty more to attend to elsewhere in the region - and to be honest Tophill Low has been largely blissfully quiet so at some stages the wider reserve was left to itself for weeks at a time with only quick checks.  

Unfortunately we missed out on all the best bits of spring - the first signs such as wild garlic in D woods:
 Oystercatchers returned to site on March the 25th:
 Reed buntings were plentiful and continue to be actively around site now:
 The marshes were refilled at this time to strand islands from predators and kill off vegetation:
 Nice to see water vole droppings in South Scrub still:
Barn owls in the boxes at North Scrub.  Unfortunately it seems to have been a poor year for them with a bust following a boom in voles last year - likely also due to the wet conditions flooding them out. 
Meanwhile the stoats moved into the reception hide;  We're not sure where they got in but were using the floor to commute around emerging in the cctv cabinet:
Meanwhile kingfishers returned to nest outside McBean hide - perhaps fortunate we were on lock down as social distancing would have been an unlikely prospect based on 2018:
 Kestrels too seem to have fared the same as barn owls with no breeding but a constant presence:
 Yellow archangel:
 Pussy willow:
 Marsh harriers became more and more evident around site - seemingly peaking at 4 pairs active:
 Last of the wintering redshanks joined by a flash ruff on April 9th:
 First of the marsh frogs not long after:
 Nice to see lords and ladies becoming established in the reserve woodlands:
Not what we were hoping to see on the osprey platform - a pair of egyptian geese that were subsequently reported all around the upper reaches of the Hull:
 Due to the quiet nature of the site gadwall started nesting on the reception hide pond:
 Marsh harriers aplenty; these the North Marsh birds that bred within yards of the hide:
Kingfishers doing their thing at Hempholme; Ultimately we're unsure if they were successful - but there are certainly plenty around the site as is usual for this time of year:
 First yellow wags through around the 17th April:
 Sparrowhawk enjoying spring passage over the res;
 First goslings showing the success of the fox fence:
 Nice to see a spring passage black tailed godwit:
 House Martin on the 17th April:
 Springtime pond:
Amy was lucky enough to be on site during the spring arctic tern movement with 5 birds through on D res in late April:
One of the grey herons - loads of activity in the burgeoning heronry in D woods.  We never determined just how many active nests there were.   Unfortunately species 272 more than likely eluded us; the predicted squacco heron was seen south of Tophill flying north and later was seen around Bethell's Bridge and as such was almost certainly present - but seen by no one:
Common buzzards likely bred in at least one site on the reserve this year - a regular presence for the first time again likely due to lack of people:
 The first swift of 2020 on the 27th April:
 More marsh frog:
 Common whitethroat on east scrub:
 Spring snipe:
 Common terns too on the 27th and seemingly bred on South Marsh East:
 Willow warbler:
Marsh harrier causing chaos in the gull colony - where at least 45 pairs bred this year: 
Shelduck too but seemingly no chicks this year:
 Common sandpiper on the 1st May
 Bad weather put down good numbers of yellow wags:
 And brought in many hundreds of sand martins and swallows:
The belted galloways returned to Hempholme Meadow: 
The sand martin colony has been spectacular this year and is well worth a look with reportedly around 50% of holes occupied.  However on my 8th May visit there were none about; this was why:
 Hairy dragonfly:
 Harriers as ever:
 Building numbers of goslings showing the success of the fox fence:
 Opportunity lost; Marsh harriers eye to eye at the Izzard hide:
 Oystercatchers - likely hatched young but were likely predated as below:
 A lone mediterranean gull in the colony - one for the future?
 Terns a familiar feature though:
 Lapwings too certainly attempted to nest:
 But these characters were a continuous presence:
 The interspecies pair partnered up gain to make more fake barnacle geese to confuse visitors...
 Equally good numbers of greylags on Watton NR:
 By this stage it hadn't rained for weeks and the site was drier than we expect in September:
 And becoming ever wilder:
 First mallard broods:
 Picnic area going back to nature:
 Path disappearing:
Bee orchid on O res: 
 South Marsh East vegetating up:
 Lone little gull on June 4th:
Lingering teal:
Nice to see a pair of shoveler - but no young logged:
Whilst we've sorted the fox predation with high levels of hatching, chicks still seemed scant - this would likely explain why - the marsh appears to have become something of a buzzard take away with them using the shelter belt west of the marsh as a vantage point:
Mute swan fared better though with seemingly 6 cygents maturing:
Despite the lesser black backed's also looking for a meal:

So there we go;

In recent days we've had 4 green sandpiper, common sandpiper and little ringed plover so autumn wader passage is well underway and the marsh strimmed and ready to go with new mud ready:
So here's to a better latter half of the year...

In case you haven't seen the guide to the new access setup due to COVID there's a handy explanatory video here