Of other small but notable birds the little ringed plovers appear to have departed now. The general consensus seems to be that they got off at least two chicks, one seems to have been predated - but there is some sketchiness around a third. At any rate they have had their best year on the reserve in 7 at Tophill so a good result. The lowered levels on the marsh have been starting to pull birds in with snipe amongst the feeders;
However the shine has been somewhat taken off the marshes by the lagoons which sounds odd after 10 years of being a duck habitat. All the habitat works of winter are now starting to pay dividends. Initially it was the piscivores that were the big attraction. Present in numbers of up to 3 have been grey heron:
Nice flight shot by Andy Marshall:
However the best of it is that this is not the only wader habitat on site; Hempholme Meadows holds its waders quietly in the background. The whole area was topped and baled in the week so the hollows and scrapes are now exposed. That said plenty of finishing off to do with the volunteers - everyone drafted in - even belted Galloways:
A not so lucky ringlet by Brian Colley:
Black tailed skimmer also by Brian:here. As detailed Doug and Martin have now achieved a landmark 600 species of moth recorded on Tophill Low since 1992 - a great achievement indeed.
Another nice plant was uncovered on Watton Nature Reserve - creeping jenny:
The reserve is now owned by Chris Saunders who has a long history in the area. Chris's previous generations actually owned the former Tophill Low farm before it was compulsory purchased for the Water Works in the 1950's. Chris already owns the neighbouring Easingwold Farm which holds a large chunk of the only remaining area of original Hull Valley Carr land left as well as the 'Horse Fields' of Wilfhome - favoured by vast numbers of winter thrushes and golden plover. Watton was compulsory purchased from the farm in 1990 and turned into the current pits - so Chris was always keen to reunite the holdings if the opportunity arose. After a great deal of negotiation this came to fruition a couple of weeks back - we've been in talks with Chris for a long while and are pleased its come to fruition.
So what now?
Those worrying about the development of the reserve can expect... what we had before. Chris's intention is to run the reserve as a nature reserve and work with ourselves and folk like Roy Lyon whom were instrumental over many years in its management to maintaining the site. There wont be any fishing, shooting or other activities detrimental to the wildlife; Like the rest of Tophill work will now centre on halting succession as hawthorn is already marching across much of the grasslands. The intention broadly speaking is to retain the pits with a fringe of open grassland and an outer border of hawthorn and shelterbelt. To do this - as is our current practice we plan to let loose cattle and grazing stock from the neighbouring farm at Easingwold in a partnership with Mark across there. Hopefully this will support stewardship applications to improve the farmland habitat around Tophill Low and benefit neighbours and the wildlife alike - so a great outcome.
Perhaps the only change is on access to the hide at the south west of the pits - this was formerly public access but will now become private with access for volunteers helping to manage the reserve only due to the issues around insurance and safety - although obviously the prow behind remains unaltered.
So a cracking result all round - Lagoons, Marshes and Watton Nature Reserve all sorted this summer - a red letter season it would seem and after uncertainty a bright new future on all. Now did someone mention new reception hides?...