Today saw a change to my usual winter habitat of North Cave Wetlands, with a visit to Tophill Low. The main reason was to meet up with some friends, Doug and Martin, and also hopefully connect with some invertebrates for the first time this year. The first part was easy, as Doug and Martin are almost a certainty at this site on a Saturday, the invertebrates on the other hand needed some milder conditions, which have been absent due to the easterly airflow coming off the continent over recent weeks. With the sun out earlier in the day, and the winds bringing in warmer air from the south, we were finally rewarded with some insect activity. Four species of butterflies were on the wing, all having hibernated through the winter months. The first was a Comma Polygonia c-album found in North Marsh Ride, followed by a Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni back at the car park. As things warmed up they were shortly followed by Peacock Inachis io and Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae. It was pleasing to be able to get shots of all four species, as usually at this time of year they rarely settle to nectar, their main aim being to reproduce. In addition to the butterflies, several Bee-fly Bombylius major were observed at the southern end, along with a single Harlequin Ladybird Harmonia axyridis.
Brimstone – Gonepteryx rhamni
Small Tortoiseshell – Aglais urticae
Comma – Polygonia c-album
Peacock – Inachis io
Bee-fly – Bombylius major
Amphibian wise, several Toads Bufo bufo were found around the site, though none were observed in amplexus. Great Crested Newts Triturus cristatus were observed at one pond.
Common Toad – Bufo bufo
Finally to the birds, with clear evidence today that our migrant species have finally pushed north, now the blocking easterly has abated. Several Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita were heard around the site, with a single Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus also breaking in to song. ‘One swallow does not a summer make’, but surely 30+ Swallows Hirundo rustica over ‘D’ Reservoir, certainly means that it can’t be far away. In addition, both Sand Martin Riparia riparia and House Martin Delichon urbica were out over the reservoir, feeding on the ‘insect hatch’ emerging from the water. To add a nice splash of colour, several Yellow Wagtails Motacilla flava were feeding on the reservoir walls, with their commoner relations Pied Wagtails Motacilla alba. At Watton Nature Reserve, viewed from Tophill Low, there were several species of waders present, the pair of Little Ringed Plovers Charadrius dubius being another summer visitor to our shores. There were good numbers of Curlew Numenius arquata roosting, briefly being put up by a Common Buzzard Buteo buteo drifting south. A pair of Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus and Redshanks Tringa totanus added to the wader interest. Another raptor causing a bit of commotion amongst the ducks, was a female Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus, making several sorties along the River Hull. Of interest, were a couple of rarer species currently making use of the reservoirs at Tophill Low, in the form of a Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena on ‘O’ Reservoirs, and Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris on ‘D’ Reservoir. Unfortunately both were quite distant, so no photographs were obtained. More information and photos of the latter two species can be found on the excellent Tophill Low Blog. All in all, an uplifting day in the field, great surroundings, and pleasant company, what more can you ask for?
Yellow Wagtail – Motacilla flava