Tophill Low

I’ve been meaning to visit Tophill Low for some time, but never seemed to get around to it. I decided to go on the next sunny day and yesterday was it. Tophill Low is actually a Yorkshire Water treatment works, supplying drinking water to Hull, but it’s also a nature reserve with SSSI status. There are two reservoirs which attract great numbers of wildfowl, together with ponds, woodland and grassland.

I found a hide overlooking a reed bed, with a strip of open water, and settled down to watch for a few hours. There was a line of stick ‘perches’, obviously put up for kingfishers, which I took to be a good sign. Sure enough, after about 15 minutes waiting, a kingfisher landed on one of them. It was a female, with an orange lower bill. The male has an all-black bill. It flew off down to the far end of the lagoon and disappeared.

Female kingfisher

I watched the moorhens and mallards for a while, and a flock of long-tailed tits flew over. Then a huge bird of prey appeared and landed in trees nearby. At first I thought it was a red kite, as they’re quite common in this area, but I later decided it was a marsh harrier. My awful blurry photo seems to confirm this (but correct me if I’m wrong).

Blurry marsh harrier

I saw a ‘v’ shaped wake crossing the water and thought it must be a water vole, but when it came closer I could see it was not mammal but reptile – a swimming grass snake!

Grass snake crossing the pond

Grass snake heading back again

Grass snake at the water's edge

Another kingfisher appeared, a male this time, and fished from one of the perches, diving into the water then skilfully returning to its perch with a fish. It turns the fish around to swallow it head first. There were lots of dragonflies over the ponds, many flying in mating pairs, and a good number of butterflies still around.

Male kingfisher
 Turning a fish

On the lookout


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