The easterly ‘blow’ turned up something of a surprise on the final Sunday of September at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire as this Great Skua Stercorarius skua flew in from the south to alight on D res just after 5pm. The bird remained in the area for about 35 minutes, first having a quick preen, before then terrorising the Coot Fulica atra population and taking a few tours of the southern end of the reservoir to spook the increasing ranks of roosting Larids.
This terrific bird showed well to the observers still present, was a site tick for many and is the first for a few years. The last record I can recall was of an individual that flew north over the car park seen by Neil Hart and myself several years ago, and remains something of scarcity in Tophill Low history. Hence I have no problem showing some record shots of this ‘Tophill Mega’ as it will probably be while before there is another one! More great photos taken by warden Richard Hampshire can be found on the official Tophill Low blog.
The Tophill gull roost is building week on week. Plenty of new birds are appearing, and are very skittish at times. Two Mediterranean Gulls Larus melanocephalus were in the pre-roost on the 22nd Sept and four birds were picked out by dark on the final Sunday of the month. It is difficult with infrequent observations to work out the number of birds involved, but I think I’ve seen a minimum of 9 different birds now. Interesting, not one has been noted wearing a ring. Other highlights on 29th Sept included two Little Gull L. minutus, 12 Lesser Black-backed L. fuscus graellsii and the first argentatus Herring Gull of the autumn. A probable Caspian Gull L. cachinnans dropped in briefly on the 22nd, but unfortunately almost as soon as it was picked up the bird took flight and headed northeast out of the reservoir. However, it bodes well for the forthcoming winter season!
Plenty of wildfowl are starting to fill the reservoirs. A noticeable increase in Wigeon Anas penelope occurred this last weekend. There has been an excellent passage of Pintail A. acuta with 38 dropping into Watton Nature Reserve on the 21st – some of the group pictured by Doug Fairweather below. This flock moved off overnight, but my next visit saw a single on D res, and a group of 16 dropped in early evening on the 29th, and surprisingly remained until last light having avoided the attention of the aforementioned Bonxie. An eclipse drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina found by Doug put in a one day appearance on the 21st. A couple of Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus flew south over this last weekend, the first Siskin Carduelis spinus of the autumn were present in the lagoon alders, while three Willow Tit Parus montanus were in D wood.
The last two weekends have seen some good autumn Odonata site counts, the best of which was 90 Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta on the 21st while Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum increased from 92 on the same date to 180 on the 28th – perhaps a sign of immigration or more probably the weather put the insects into concentrated areas. A Brown Hawker A. grandis will perhaps be the final record of the season at Tophill of a species that has been scarce all summer, while a few Southern Hawker A. cyanea are still on the wing.
The fantastic moth year continues, and although the catches are down due to cooler conditions, the list continues to increase. The recent highlight was a Mallow Larentia clavaria which appears to be new for the site, althought I’m certain it was present in small numbers in the field several years back. However, it wasn’t on the site list so it is a welcome confirmed addition.
The Brick Agrochola circellaris is another species we trap in small numbers, but it isn’t an annual guarantee. This one below photographed by Doug Fairweather. The final weekend of September saw November Moth agg Epirrata spp, Beaded Chestnut A. lychnidis and Large Wainscot Rhizedra lutosa attracted to light, which means by the end of the ninth month of the year, after over 10,000 individual specimens, the 2013 list (and mine) stands at 366 species – one species short of the total number recorded during the 1992-2006 period!!! An astonishing campaign so far, albeit helped by the weather, and ironic given that all early publicity of insects in 2013 was of things on massive decline. Interestingly, looking back we failed to see several species that are annually recorded each summer, but you do need some luck to catch everything due to flight periods and conditions on any given night, and we believe there are several still to be recorded which we believe occur. The future maybe isn’t as ‘doomed’ as we are lead to believe!
The moth write up in the 1997 Hull Valley Wildlife Report states ‘179 species were recorded in the year, slightly more than the 176 recorded the year earlier, and probably represents the norm for what can be expected’.
The Tophill of that time has altered, matured in different ways, while new habitat, and the availability of literature has enabled amateur observers further progression to learn. By the end of December, and after we’ve trapped a few more species, the 2013 total will become a little piece of Tophill history and the new benchmark to judge future years by. Many thanks as ever to Richard and the volunteers for helping us out over the year, and in years past, with setting up the equipment, which has provided us the opportunity to enhance the recording on site.
The latest species to be added to the site Hoverfly list was this Xylota segnis photographed by Doug two weeks ago. The species was still present on the wing on Sunday, whilst news of Doug’s latest bug addition to the site list – Corizus hyoscyami – can be seen on the Tophill website.
Fungi is increasing in abundance, though a warm wet spell would help things along. Bolbitus titubans Yellow Fieldcap (photographed by Doug) and Cyathus striatus Fluted Bird’s Nest were recorded in the latter part of September, while Coprinopsis atramentaria Common Ink Cap, Coprinus micaceus Glistening Ink Cap, Chroogomphus rutilus Copper Spike, Polyporus durus Bay Polypore and Suillus granulatus provided additional interest.