Tophill Low update
Unfortunately, the reserve continues to remain closed to general visitors due to the ongoing engineering works taking place at the adjacent water treatment works. This is involving large machinery which continues to cause safety issues for visitors, and the need for closure of the reserve.
In recent weeks our contractors Houltons have been reworking the old wildlife centre into a new welfare hub for the workers that will be constructing the new filter beds at the water treatment works. This has resulted in a lot of heavy goods vehicles blocking the access road for large amounts of time as vehicles are unloaded.
Two existing hides, east hide overlooking D reservoir and L shaped hide which overlooked O reservoir have finally been removed in readiness for the instalment of two new, accessible hides which will be positioned on top of the two mounds that will be constructed in the same areas. Again, this has involved large machinery. Once down we could see why these hides were reaching the end of their life span, rotten wood surrounded by concrete was all that was left in the support bases. Another one of our hides, overlooking Watton has been relocated to allow full access for all visitors observing Watton nature reserve.
An addition to the site has been the arrival of the new volunteer hub, which is now in place near the reception hide, across the access road from the classroom. Once in use this will provide the facilities for volunteers to have their breaks and lunches, pure luxury in comparison to sitting outside the present office building, often in inclement weather and always spilling over into the car park. For all the hard work that the volunteers do they really deserve some comfortable space to recover from their labours.
Our volunteer team have continued to provide the site team with hours of hard work on a wide variety of tasks. New fencing has been installed along Barmston drain, brash walls have been completed within reception woods, the willow arch leaving north lagoon has had some care and attention, drainage ditches have been slowly cleared, fences have been repaired and much more. One job has been to revamp and paint the old familiar sightings hut. This has now been placed just inside the reserve on the path to reception hide.
Sightings of birds throughout 2021 are in the process of being logged and a report compiled. It has been interesting which species are often recorded regularly and others which are not noted. According to the sightings records from last year no one saw a woodpigeon or magpie on the reserve! This links to one of the new instalments that we wish to introduce at the reserve. This will be a different way in which visitors can contribute to this vast data collection, whether it is the observation of a kingfisher carrying food, a family of long tailed tits or a passing red kite, we want your records. In order to find out which method our visitors like best to submit their sightings, and to be involved, we would like you to take part in an on -line survey. By following the link below and answering the 10 questions you will be helping us in this task. Thank you for your time.
Recent observations around the reserve, either by volunteers, site staff or on one of our guided walks (More about them later) have shown some interesting happenings.
We believe that this year there are three pairs of marsh harriers breeding on the reserve: one at north marsh, one at south marsh east and the third between north and south lagoon. Recent school groups have seen both the male and female coming into the reeds at north lagoon, delighting observers. Similarly, we have had great views on south marsh on our walks.
We have been reporting bittern on site for a few months now, with a male calling earlier on in the spring. There have been several sightings on south marsh west, and on one occasion two birds were noted. As yet, we have no evidence of breeding, but we can hope.
Common terns have returned to south marsh east, with 16 birds, hopefully 8 pairs, ready to breed in amongst the black headed gull colony. In the black headed gull colony last week, 95 nests were counted, an increase from 75 last year. A pair of oystercatchers have 2 young at present and a family of gadwall had 7 ducklings yesterday. The pair of little ringed plovers have chosen to nest further out into the marsh this year but no sign of eggs yet. Mute swans have a brood of 5 young on north lagoon, yesterday seen dragging themselves across the mud as the water level continues to fall, ahead of complete drainage of the lagoon. This will be completed in late summer after which the lagoon will be dredged, allowing it to be refilled in time, from the water treatment works.
A family of willow tits moving through O reservoir woods was an exciting sight this week. Willow tit numbers have declined steeply, by 94% since 1970 across the UK, so this would be a significant record for the reserve. Their preferred habitat is wet woodland or scrubby wetland, excavating their holes in rotting wood. Their diet is predominately wetland invertebrates which are abundant in damper areas; Tophill Low and its habitats hopefully providing these ideal conditions.
Another potential breeder on the site could be grey partridge as a pair have been sighted on a few occasions in the Hempholme area. Once very common and widespread, it has undergone serious decline throughout most of its range and is a Red List species. Watch this space to hear of its success.
Many of our regular visitors and readers will have taken advantage of our guided walks in recent weeks to gain an insight into what has been happening on the reserve. These walks have proved to be very popular. In response we are putting on five more walks in June. Again, these walks can be booked via Eventbrite website and are free to members, non-members are asked to pay the normal admission price. Please follow the link below to book on one of these walks, places are limited so please book NOW!