Tophill Low Nature Reserve – 07/08/12

Tophill Low is a large wetland/woodland reserve, surrounding the two large reservoirs that supply water to Hull. The site is managed by Yorkshire Water and is open to the public, subject to a small entrance fee. The main interest here is the birds, with 12 viewing hides overlooking the varied wetland habitats. For more information on Tophill Low visit the Tophill Low Nature Reserve Blog which is kept up to date by Richard Hampshire, the warden for this site. My main interest here was the insects, though I would also be looking out for Grass Snakes, a species that my son and his friend were hoping to see. Unfortunately, none were seen on this occasion, despite checking out all the ideal habitat, there was however plenty of other interest.

One of the first dragonfly species encountered was Ruddy Darter Sympetrum sanguineum found along the path to the south end of the site, shortly followed by the similar Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum. There were plenty of Common Blue damselflies Enallagma cyathigerum as we wandered around the site, with a few Blue-tailed Damselflies Ischnura elegans also observed. Southern Hawkers Aeshna cyanea were quite noticeable around ‘O’ reservoir, hunting insects along the woodland edge; and it was here that I managed to photograph a female away from the water, instead of the usual males. Migrant Hawkers Aeshna mixta were also recorded, though in very low numbers, usually by now our resident population has been joined by good numbers from the continent. Brown Hawker Aeshna grandis was also present, though again not photographed, being one of the most difficult species to approach. This is due to their habit of dropping deep in to cover when resting, so the first you usually know about them is when you hear their wings rustle as they try to clear the vegetation. When you do encounter them they are generally obscured in some way by vegetation, so good clear shots are hard to come by. Four-spotted Chasers Libellula quadrimaculata are still hanging on, though many are now looking battle scared as their wings become damaged during their many territorial disputes. Black-tailed Skimmers Orthetrum cancellatum were still showing in good numbers, most out over the marshes, though a few males were basking on the path through South Scrub. This is an excellent site for dragonflies and presents some good photographic opportunities. Despite this I don’t visit the site on a regular basis as Martin Hodges and Doug Fairweather do some sterling work recording the odonata at this site, so I prefer to make a difference by recording elsewhere. Visit Martin’s excellent blog, which generally details his findings on a weekly basis.

Ruddy Darter - Sympetrum sanguineum

Male Ruddy Darter – Sympetrum sanguineum

Ruddy Darter - Sympetrum sanguineum

Immature male Ruddy Darter – Sympetrum sanguineum

Southern Hawker - Aeshna cyanea

Female Southern Hawker – Aeshna cyanea

Southern Hawker - Aeshna cyanea

Male Southern Hawker – Aeshna cyanea

Common Blue Damselfly - Enallagma cyathigerum

Common Blue Damselfly – Enallagma cyathigerum

Butterfly wise it was good to catch up with some of our commoner typical garden species, which have really struggled with the wet weather during June and July. There were around four Red Admirals Vanessa atalanta, all very worn, so not recently emerged. The Peacocks Inachis io however were more recent, along with the Small tortoiseshells Aglais urticae and were in cracking condition. There were several ‘browns’ on site with Gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus probably now the most abundant, though Meadow Browns Maniola jurtina and especially Ringlets Aphantopus hyperantus are starting to look tired. All the ‘whites’ were present, Small Pieris rapi, Large Pieris brassicae and Green-veined Pieris napi, the latter being the most abundant. Small Skippers Thymelicus sylvestris were also present, mainly around ‘O’ reservoir, along with some Speckled Woods Pararge aegeria in the woodland.

Red Admiral - Vanessa atalanta

Red Admiral – Vanessa atalanta

Small Tortoiseshell - Aglais urticae

Small Tortoiseshell – Aglais urticae

Peacock - Inachis io

Peacock – Inachis io

Gatekeeper - Pyronia tithonus

Gatekeeper – Pyronia tithonus

Small Skipper - Thymelicus sylvestris

Small Skipper – Thymelicus sylvestris

Green-veined White - Pieris napi

Green-veined White – Pieris napi

Hoverflies were present in good numbers, the flowering grassland areas being alive with them. The best photos and less numerous species illustrated below including a similar looking Thick-head Fly. As ever, please don’t rely on my identification, I’m still on the steep learning curve with this group, many being difficult to distinguish from each other, so please feel free to comment, or correct as required.

Hoverfly - Eristalis intricarius

Hoverfly – Eristalis intricarius

Hoverfly - Volucella bombylans

Hoverfly – Volucella bombylans

Hoverfly - Helophilus trivittatus

Hoverfly – Helophilus trivittatus

Hoverfly - Chrysotoxum bicinctum

Hoverfly – Chrysotoxum bicinctum

Thick-head Fly - Conops quadrifasciatus

Thick-head Fly – Conops quadrifasciatus

Probably the highlight for my son and his friend was two Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus, on the adjacent Watton Nature Reserve.

Roe Deer - Capreolus capreolus

Roe Deer – Capreolus capreolus