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Trip to Tophill Low Reserve September 12th 2000

[Species lists below]

This was a joint outing with U3A, and a dozen people met up in Norton for the trip to Tophill Low, which is south of Driffield. Despite the petrol crisis we all made it to the reserve and back again. We were very lucky with the weather, which was warm and dry with some sunshine.

View of pond

Tophill Low is a Yorkshire Water nature reserve with two large reservoirs and several shallow ponds and marshy areas together with some carr and hawthorn-dominated scrub woodland. The photo above shows the view from one of the hides overlooking a shallow-water pond, with many waders present. It is particularly good for birds, though there are interesting plants present as well; by September most of these had gone over, although we did see some bur marigolds growing around the edges of the shallow ponds, unfortunately too far away to examine closely or photograph. Bur marigolds (there are two similar species, both of which grow here) are uncommon plants, annuals growing in mud along the water’s edge as water levels fall in the early summer. We also found a plant we are not familiar with in Ryedale: the prickly ox-tongue Picris echioides which looks rather like a super-spiny sow thistle. I did not manage to take a picture, and it was well over its best, but it is always good to find a new plant. It was also interesting to see two very similar yellow dandelion-like flowers growing together so we could compare them: autumn hawkbit (Leontodon autumnalis) with reddish undersides to the petals, and lesser hawkbit (L. saxatilis) with greyish undersides and slightly different leaves.

View of reservoir

We saw plenty of birds, mainly ducks and waders on the various water bodies such as the reservoir above. The star bird was probably the little egret stalking fish in shallow water – every time the bird took a step forward a few feet in front a shoal of little fish jumped clean out of the water. Only once or twice did I see the egret actually catch one of them! We also had a magnificent view of a juvenile grey heron, which at one point indulged in “dancing”. There were large numbers of great crested grebes on the reservoirs, certainly more than I had ever seen together before.

Darter dragonfly

There were numerous dragonflies including a large blue-bodied species and common red Darters (right), and several species of butterflies including a pristine red admiral, common blues and two orange-yellow butterflies (?clouded yellow).

I do not have lists of all that was found, but we did record the following:

...and one small toad.

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45 species were recorded:
Moorhen, Gadwall, Teal, Snipe, Ruff, Green Sandpiper, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, House Martin, Swallow, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Coot, Wren, Robin, Kestrel, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Redshank, Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Mallard, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Starling, Kingfisher, Magpie, Herring Gull, Carrion Crow, Pied Wagtail, Tufted Duck, Ruddy Duck, Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Woodpigeon, Pochard, Wigeon, Shoveler, Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Coal Tit and Cormorant.

I did not make a complete plant list as this was predominantly a birdwatching trip. However, we did note the bristly ox-tongue (Picris echioides), fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica), autumn hawkbit (Leontodon autumnalis) and lesser hawkbit (L. saxatilis), bur marigolds (Bidens sp.), purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), and water plantain (Alisma plantago-aquatica); and the seedpods of melilot (probably Melilotus altissimus) and hedge bedstraw (Galium mollugo).

There were a lot of dragonflies which I could not identify; they included common red Darter and a large one with a blue body. The butterflies we saw were: peacock, red admiral, painted lady, small white, common blue, ?clouded yellow.

Photos © Gill Smith 2000 Back to the Top

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