Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Tophill Low after the snow

An early morning visit to Tophill Low yesterday. The access roads were clear, although the access road was a bit icy at times. There was still some snow on the south side of the D reservoir. My first stop was the car park. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew right over me, making a drumming noise (with beak?). Then I heard it drumming repeatedly from the trees.
 I spent some time in the south D reservoir hide. There were many Wigeon, Gadwall and a few scattered Shovelers. Further up I could see Coots, an immature Great Black Backed Gull and some groups of Mute Swans. Goldeneyes were very active, flying up and down. I watched a pair interacting near the hide. The female was clearly soliciting mating, staying parallel to the male, low on the water and head low, but the male did his neck stretch, bill pointing up displays a few time before actually mounting her. Afterwards, the male dismounted, although he kept hold of the female's neck feathers and they remained attached like that for a few moments. Quite cool to see the whole sequence from close range.
 I move onto the woods, heading to the north of the reserve. The woodland is quite wet and flooded in parts, but the clearing by the feeders is buzzing with Blue Tits, Great tits, Coal Tits, Goldfinches and Chaffinches. A small tit joins in to feed a few times, a Marsh or Willow tit. I watch intently trying to see the features that allow to discriminate between these very similar species. I can't see any white wing panel, but the bird looks fluffy, with a rich buff colour and a matt black top. Unfortunately, it kept quiet and I didn't take any photos, but Tophill Low warden confirms that Marsh tits haven't been seen feeding in the feeders in this area so it is more likely to be a Willow Tit.
I watch a Treecreeper and a Wren by the feeding area on my way to North Marsh hide. North Marsh is mainly frozen. Other than a small bird diving into the reeds and that doesn't surface again, nothing to report.
 But on my way to the Hempholme hide, I flushed a Barn Owl from the pollarded poplar area, I watch it with the binoculars while it flies away from me into the Hempholme lock area, but I don't get to see where it settles. A beautiful, rich colour individual, what a great sight. A Kestrel is also disturbed. At home I make a sketch of a flying Barn Owl. I have seen far to many roadkill Barn Owls and it is nice to see a live one.
 On the long walk by the straight side of D res I find a barn owl pellet by a post. I can see the rodent teeth sticking out of it. I will update the post with what I find inside. Then, in the middle of the path, the impressive head of a Great Black Backed Gull, the bill has the adult colour save for a thin black ring near the tip. It looks fresh and has still all feathers, but I carry it to the car, and leave it in the boot while I pop in to see if there is anything of interest in the lagoons. As I get into the car on my way back, I realise that the head stinks. Fortunately I have a plastic bag to put it in.
A brilliant day in Tophill Low, must come back more often.
Pair of Goldeneyes after mating
View of D res
Wren near the feeders in the wet D woods
A squirrel was actually inside this squirrel proofing before it got out and almost completely tore it apart. The feeders were truly buzzing with Tits (three sp. on the photo), and Chaffinches were feeding on the ground.
A frozen pond by D res
Two Mute Swans were actually feeding in the frozen Lagoons though some holes in the ice:
A Grey Heron stopped briefly on the lagoon shore, but promptly left toward the river Hull, probably deterred by the ice.

UPDATE: Contents of the Barn Owl pellet: 3 field voles, 1 common shrew, 1 pygmy shrew. Keyed out using this RSPB resource


Bird List
  1. Barn Owl
  2. Black-headed Gull    
  3. Blackbird    
  4. Blue Tit    
  5. Bullfinch   
  6. Carrion Crow    
  7. Chaffinch    
  8. Coal Tit    
  9. Common Gull    
  10. Coot    
  11. Dunnock    
  12. Gadwall    
  13. Goldeneye
  14. Goldfinch    
  15. Great Black-backed Gull    
  16. Great Spotted Woodpecker    
  17. Great Tit    
  18. Grey Heron   
  19. Greylag Goose    
  20. Jackdaw    
  21. Kestrel   
  22. Lapwing    
  23. Long-tailed Tit    
  24. Mallard
  25. Mistle Thrush 
  26. Moorhen    
  27. Mute Swan    
  28. Pheasant    
  29. Pochard    
  30. Robin    
  31. Shoveler    
  32. Tree Sparrow    
  33. Treecreeper
  34. Tufted Duck    
  35. Wigeon    
  36. Willow Tit   
  37. Woodpigeon    
  38. Wren



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