Here at Tophill Low we know that it is the place to be if you are interested in wildlife and although you may not see what you came for eg kingfisher or otter there is always something of interest, whether it is the carpet of snowdrops that are in full flower in the reception woods or the array of woodland birds visiting the feeders at the moment. A recent, independent and detailed survey was carried out across East Yorkshire and in particular the Yorkshire Nature Triangle region to see how various nature reserves are attracting tourists in the area. It has highlighted the importance of places like Tophill Low to visitors. The growth in nature tourism has been quite incredible since 2010, growing from £9M to £24M in 2018 so it is a fast-growing sector of the hugely important tourism industry in this area. 68% of Tophill Low visitors surveyed said that the sole reason for coming to East Yorkshire was to visit Tophill Low and typically spent over 3 hours at the reserve. 88% of those surveyed came because of the biodiversity rather than visiting for the scenery, the walking, or for a café and 75% are returning visitors which shows us that whatever the reason for visiting Tophill, whether for the birds, the general wildlife or for photography, people continue to come back for more. Yorkshire Water has carried out their own survey of its recreation sites across the Yorkshire Water region and this has also emphasised the importance that visitors place on the biodiversity that is seen at Tophill Low and the feeling that people have of being immersed in an area that is truly for the wildlife.
The reserve is forever changing as the habitats are constantly managed and developed to increase the biodiversity at the site. Recently, volunteers have been working hard to clear and remove areas of dense hawthorn on the banks and island at the Watton Borrow Pit site which adjoins Tophill Low. In doing so areas of wet grassland are being created to encourage breeding wetland birds such as lapwing and redshank. And it seems to be working as last week I spotted 12 redshank and 8 curlew feeding in the area. It is certainly worth the walk if you have not been down to that end of the reserve for a while to see the changes.
In other areas of the reserve there has been a lot of pre-breeding activity. Male goldeneyes on “D” reservoir have been showing off to their potential mates. The males have a very characteristic head throwing display which involves throwing their heads back along their backs. Goldeneye tend to mate up before they head back to their breeding grounds in Scandinavia and the Baltic states, saving crucial time when they arrive back to breed. Other birds that are showing signs of pairing ready for breeding are the grey herons that can be spotted in North Marsh woods; they have been very vocal recently and it’s hoped that the number of nesting birds will increase each year if they are successful. With 7-8 little egrets on Hempholme meadow last week maybe they might join the grey herons, as egrets and herons share a breeding colony. The recent settled and relatively mild weather means that birds are searching out nestboxes and beginning to sing to defend their territories, so the woodland is awash with activity. Always plenty to see at Tophill Low.School visits have started again at the reserve and our future scientists have found a wide range of freshwater invertebrates in the reception pond last week. There were plenty of damselfly larvae and freshwater shrimps as well as a great water stick insect. On the "D" reservoir children helped to count coot and tufted duck and spent a lot of time observing how these birds spend their time on the water. In the reception hide there is a great opportunity to compare water and woodland birds as there are plenty of each that can easily be seen. If you know a local school that would be interested in visiting the reserve then please tell them to visit www.yorkshirewater.com/education to book their FREE visit.