Migration is in full swing at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire. Seven visits in ten days turning up a wide array of species for an inland site.
Although not as many waders now alight on site, the focus is on the sky and birds calling as they fly south. Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus have been passing over in good number including 7+ on 26th July with singles on other dates, while 1+ Greenshank Tringa nebularia were present at the start of August around the north end of the site with several Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus on the new Hempholme Meadow. A juvenile Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was picked out on 30th July and was joined by another into August, while two juvenile Goldeneye Bucephala clangula were the first returning birds of the autumn. Little Gull Larus minutus are present on the reservoirs with a minimum of 10 birds present during the final days of July, including the confiding individual above photographed by Doug Fairweather. Into early August, it was a little difficult to work out how many birds were present with birds appearing to come in from the west and drift off east after bathing on D res, though sometimes the birds went back west and then reappeared! Also on the move are Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus graellsii with 26 birds recorded drifting east 2nd-4th August during periods of observation overlooking D res. An adult Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus dropped in briefly on the 4th before it to flew southeast. Other highlights included a Crossbill Loxia curvirostra and the Marsh Tit Parus palustris remains in D wood. As ever, click here for the latest news from Tophill Low.
The 2nd Aug provided the first opportunity of the autumn to put several hours in to see what raptors would fly over. Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus may be a little problematic to at the moment given the breeding success, however, a new female was seen heading south on the 2nd, while an adult male was picked up high in the sky on the 4th before dropping and flying south, 2+ Buzzards Buteo buteo flew south on the 2nd, while two different Hobby Falco subbuteo appeared – one heading east while one flew high south. The highlight was an Osprey Pandion haliaetus which was picked out distantly to the east as it glided south. Maybe the bird present at the end of July, or maybe another. It or the same was seen over the weekend.
Rhyacionia pinicolana provided the historical moment of the last two weeks at Tophill – trapped overnight on 26th July it became the 500th species of moth to be identified on site.
After weeks of eager anticipation, the landmark was finally reached, but it wasn’t the only new species. A whole host of moths have been added including Apotomis turbidana, Gypsonoma dealbana, Argyresthia semifusca and Acentria ephemerella Water Veneer. Andy Nunn photographed Gillmeria pallidactyla Yarrow Plume on Hempholme Meadow during the Summer of Wildlife event- the second was attracted to light on 2nd August and Oidaematophorus lithodactyla Dusky Plume was found on the 3rd – the list is now well over 500 and there are still some more that need identifying.
Reaching 500 species for the site is a big landmark. From the early days when the list was zero, credit goes to Pete Crowther and Bill Curtis for their efforts to kick start recording and moth trapping on site during the 1990s. However, had they not tried, learned and developed the idea, the trap may well have gathered dust and been put away once identifying things started getting a little difficult. Also, a big thanks goes to Pete Izzard and his successor as Yorkshire Water Warden Richard Hampshire, who have allowed both Doug Fairweather and myself to trap wherever and whenever we choose, helped with the setting up, and most of all trusted us to collect records for well over a decade. Without their support, and more importantly their trust, we wouldn’t be able to continue the recording that had gone on before.
Aside from reaching the 500, the target of 300 species in a year was reached in early August. Over 2400 individual moths of around 145-150 species were trapped in late July early Aug (over 5500 trapped in the last month) and aside from new species for the site, there were a number of surprising records.
2009 saw the first and only Antler Moth Cerapteryx graminis trapped at Tophill, so it has come as a shock to have trapped 7 individuals over the last two weekends. Careful checking among the numerous Yellow-tail Euproctis similis hung up in various places around the trapping areas produced the site’s second Brown-tail E. chrysorrhoea on 27th July with another trapped on the 30th – the only previous record being in 2008.
Some of the other species trapped included Plutella xylostella Diamond-back – a migrant we don’t see every summer, with less than 20 records ever on site. Apodia bifractella is a species that doesn’t come to light, but can be found in small numbers during the daytime, while Bordered Beauty Epione repandaria was new to Tophill several years ago, but is still not annual.
After a lacklustre early season, it has been pleasing to note butterflies in good number during the warm sunny weather. Plenty of species on the wing including numerous Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvstris while smaller numbers of Large Skipper Ochlodes venata have been noted.
Large White Pieris brassicae, Green-veined White P. napi, Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta, Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae, Peacock Inachis io, Comma Polygonia c-album, Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria, plus small numbers of Marbled White Maniola galathea and Gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus can be easily found, while the numbers are supplemented by the numerous Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina and Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus around the site. Also, it was pleasing that Purple Hairstreak Neozephyrus quercus was photographed at Tophill, which finally confirmed the species presence. However, weather conditions on the opening Saturday and Sunday of August didn’t allow for the species to take to the wing.
Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta is the final Odonata species we expect to record – with the first noted on 27th July at Tophill. Sometimes blessed with blazing sunshine and soaring temperatures, and sometimes cloudy with the threat of thunderstorms, time allocated to recording hasn’t always produced the best weather conditions during recent visits. Emerald Damselfly Lestes sponsa failed to make the notebook over the last two weekends, which suggests that like Hairy Dragonfly Brachytron pratense, Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator and Broad-bodied Chaser Libellula depressa, the species can still be recorded at Tophill but only in small numbers. Meanwhile, Southern Hawker A. cyanea continue to emerge in number as Doug Fairweather’s photos below illustrate, and Azure Damselfly Coenagrion puella, Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum, Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans, Brown Hawker A. grandis, Four-spotted Chaser L. quadrimaculata were also seen in varying numbers. Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum and Ruddy Darter S. sanguineum are now the most obvious species on site, while Black-tailed Skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum is easily seen despite being in lesser numbers than recent years.
Xylota sylvarum was added to the site list on the final weekend of July. Fortunately, an impending thunderstorm settled them down enough to observe and photograph, the one below captured by Doug Fairweather. It is fair to say this species provided 90 minutes of torment for the pair of us before giving itself up as the 3-4 individuals wouldn’t settle.
Sphaerophoria scripta also added to the year list.
Fungi hasn’t provided much in the way of records in recent weeks. However, the remaining Common Stinkhorn Phallus impudicus have developed and some fresh Blushing Bracket Daedaleopsis confragosa was found. The coming months will no doubt see the species year list increase, and hopefully increase the site list which is currently around 312 species.
To the best of my knowledge, the only record of Cicadella viridis at Tophill Low occurred in late July 2011 so it was pleasing to note the species at two new locations on site in both late July and early August. This a picture of the first sighting two years ago as there was no chance of getting close to the individuals recorded over the last two weekends.
Familiar to many visitors to Tophill over recent weeks will be Haematopota pluvialis Notch-horned Cleg. Despite being an irritant and what some would term a nasty biting insect, it is a stunning creature. Not immediately obvious to the human eye in the field, the patterning across the insect is amazing as these photographs from Doug Fairweather illustrate.
Following the first record of Stratiomys potamida Banded General Soldier fly last month, the second record followed at the back end of July of an individual with a damaged wing which was photographed, and was still present in early August.
Three species of Longhorn beetle remain visible in varying numbers, though seeing them over the last two weekends has proved to be a task, while the fourth species of Orthoptera was recorded for the year, the quest for the fifth species will continue into August.