Category Archives: Esticadinho Nature

The big Spring emergence and a new Tophill species

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire May 2018

Despite the prolonged cold spring, the Odonata season began surprisingly early in VC61 during the latter part of April, with typically the first species emerging at Tophill Low NR in East Yorkshire being Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula. Small numbers early on, before the species emerges en-masse.

And then come the Four-spotted Chaser Libellula quadrimaculata – the commonest large species at the start of the summer on site – and wonderful to watch metamorphosize from larvae into free-flying winged predators.

Four-spotted Chaser Libellula quadrimaculata Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire May 2018

Four-spotted Chaser Libellula quadrimaculata Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire May 2018

The formerly scarce Hairy Dragonfly Brachyton pratense is a commonly seen species nowadays at Tophill Low and across the VC61. Once again, breeding was confirmed with several exuvaie collected this spring from the pools of the nature reserve and it looks likely to remain a regular fixture over the forthcoming years.

Hairy Dragonfly Brachytron pratense Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire May 2018

Broad-bodied Chaser Libellula depressa

Broad-bodied Chaser L. depressa is also out in small numbers once again this May, but again, the exuvaie prove hard to find. No doubt the species breeds on site, but to date very few larval cases have been found over the years since it was first recorded.

The cold spring has meant it has been a quiet period for Lepidoptera on site. However, with a change to warmer temperatures, scarce species have been appearing.

May 5th saw the second Dyseriocrania subpurpurella recorded on site – the only previous record occurring in 2011.

Small Yellow Underwing Panemeria tenebrata was recorded last year, the first reserve record since 1993, and carefully searching this month has yielded multiple records of this stunning little day-flying moth.

Small Yellow Underwing Panemeria tenebrata Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire May 2018

Cauchas rufimitrella Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire May 2018

Careful scrutiny of the many Cuckoo Flower Cardamine pratensis has once again turned up a small number of Cauchas rufimitrella, including records of the species in new parts of the reserve. Incredibly, despite the large clumps of Cuckoo Flower in certain areas, this tiny moth proves hard to find at times.

The search for the two species photographed above produced a surprise when a new butterfly for the reserve was found on May 18th in the form of this Dingy Skipper Erynnis tages. With further sightings following, it will be interesting to see whether the species actually colonises in forthcoming years or whether these will be an odd random record.

Dingy Skipper Erynnis tages Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire May 2018

Dingy Skipper Erynnis tages Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire May 2018

As ever, for the latest from Tophill Low NR, check out the regularly updated twitter feed which can be found here.

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Tophill’s longest-staying white-winger departs as flava fun begins

Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire April 2018

The long-staying juvenile/1st winter Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus first found on January 7th finally appeared in the environs of D reservoir at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire on April 2nd. It lingered for a remarkable 86 days – a site record for an individual identifiable Larid during a winter period – and one which will take some beating in future reserve history.

Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire March 2018

A quite confiding individual unlike those of the past, it allowed many people, who most probably would never stay and observe the nightly winter gull roost in hope of seeing one, finally catch up with species and see it at close quarters.

Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire April 2018

Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire April 2018

My final pictures of this bird for the period were taken on the 1st, though it or another was seen on the reservoir on the 12th. It will be interesting to see if a 2nd winter arrives next winter and demonstrates the same lingering behaviour.

Despite the departure, the walls of D reservoir attract a variety of species during spring migration as birds stop over en-route north. The first Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava flavissima was present there on the 13th and was followed by a further five birds on the 14th.

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava flavissima Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire April 2018

The fifth bird of the group proved to be the most interesting of the birds seen – a male ‘Channel’ Wagtail – an intergrade of Blue-headed Wagtail M. flava flava x Yellow Wagtail M. flava flavissima.

'Channel' Wagtail Motacilla flava flava x flavissima Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire April 2018

'Channel' Wagtail Motacilla flava flava x flavissima Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire April 2018

Variations of flava Wagtail are ‘quite’ common in the spring, it just depends on the numbers moving through and having the time to check them, especially when they are quite mobile, or hidden among the grass. Some poor images here from 2013 just as an example.

Hirundines are now moving through in number, albeit it depends on climatic conditions, with many ‘grounded’ at low level over the reservoir during rain and cold weather. Many were resting on the reservoir wall during a cold wet period on the 15th, including these Swallow Hirundo rustica.

Swallow Hirundo rustica Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire April 2018

As ever for the latest news from Tophill Low NR, check out the blog and twitter feed.

Quaker hits 1000 records, the 84 day ‘white-winger’ and large egrets appear as a three

Common Quaker Orthosia cerasi Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire March 2018

Spring like sometimes, although rather wintery at other times best sums up March 2018, but it hasn’t prevented nearly 300 individual adult moths being recorded at Tophill Low NR in East Yorkshire.

The weekend commencing March 23rd provided the best temperatures of the month for light trapping and with it saw the 1000th Common Quaker Orthosia cerasi recorded in reserve history. First trapped in 1994, the species is a regular feature during the spring, albeit in varying numbers and has been recorded in autumn when temperatures permit.

Lead-coloured Drab Orthosia populeti have become a regular spring feature since the first record at Tophill Low NR in 2005, this one below the 70th individual recorded in 14 years, while a March Moth Alsophila aescularia, although much commoner across the county, was only the 35th site record since 1997.

Lead-coloured Drab Orthosia populeti Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire March 2018

March Moth Alsophila aescularia Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire March 2018

For all the other bird species present on site this year, one bird continues to dominate the main feature of the reserve – D reservoir.

March 31st saw the long-lingering Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus appear for an 84th day, and below are a selection of pictures from its favoured place – the D reservoir Arena straight wall.

One incredibly long-staying individual, one single gull that will become part of Tophill folklore, and a gull record that will take a long time to equal or surpass in future Tophill Low NR history. The question is, just how long will it continue to linger?  

Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire March 2018

Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire March 2018

Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire March 2018

Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire March 2018

Up until quite recently in the reserve’s history, Great White Egret Ardea alba was considered an ‘embarrassing omission‘ from the site list. However, following the first record, sightings have predictably increased, and a new reserve record was set on March 26th when three birds were present. The one below showing on the water-filled Hempholme Meadow.

Great White Egret Ardea alba Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire March 2018

The 26th also saw the first summer migrants appear in the form of a Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius and Sand Martin Riparia riparia, while after poor weather on the 27th, the fields on the edge of the reserve held good numbers of winter thrushes Turdus, grounded by poor weather on their northward migration.

Redwing Turdus iliacus and Fieldfare Turdus pilaris Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire March 2018

For the latest news from Tophill Low NR, check out the blog and daily updated Twitter feed here.

Scarce Acleris appears early in the 2018 moth campaign

Acleris cristana Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire March 2018

It may well be mid-March, and we are currently in the grip of East winds and snow, but the moth recording season at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire has now entered week 12 of 2018. Quiet times compared to hopefully what will follow in the coming months, but still some surprises appear.

The highlight of the period so far was the trapping of Acleris cristana overnight on March 10th. With a minimum of 130 known variations for this species, visual identification alone is considered not to be safe for an acceptable record. However, this individual was pulled with some confidence and confirmed by way of genitalia dissection. The photograph below by Doug Fairweather. Thus, this becomes the second reserve record following one in September 2017. First recorded in the county in 2006, records on the Yorkshire Moths website up until 2014 indicate it probably remains quite rare.

Acleris cristana genitalia Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire March 2018

Dotted Border Agriopis marginaria is considered common across Yorkshire, but on the reserve it is in fact a real scarcity. This one below from March 10th, the 28th individual in Tophill Low history, but only the second Tophill record since 2012.

Dotted Border Agriopis marginaria Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire March 2018

More typical of spring are Common Quaker Orthosia cerasi and Clouded Drab Orthosia incerta with both species on the wing in small number.

For the latest news from Tophill Low NR, check out the blog and twitter feed.

Teasel heads of Tophill Low NR hold scarce Yorkshire moth

Teasel Dipsacus Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire March 2018

The Teasel Dipsacus heads of Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire at this time of the year stand as skeletal plant structures of last summer. But, inside some of the heads, the larvae of a scarce moth with only 62 Yorkshire records since first found in 1883 can be found. (per Yorkshire Moths up to the end of 2014). There may be a few more records to date, but it remains scarce overall across the county.

In 2013, Tophill Low’s first Endothenia gentianaeana also known as Teasel Marble was recorded, and further inspection of Teasel Dipsacus heads since then has revealed several larvae – identified from the similar E. marginana by the lack of an anal comb.

Teasel Dipsacus Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire March 2018

Since 2013 it has been discovered the species occurs in two areas of the reserve and so far there are five definite records via larvae or genitalia identification. However, the species must be more common given it has been recorded over the five year period. In previous years, the scarce Teasel Dipsacus heads have been removed prior to spring mowing of the meadows and placed nearby in the hope some larvae will survive and emerge as moths in the next flight season.

After five years of knowing the species is present, some Teasel Dipsacus heads have been collected and placed in tights to see just how many can be bred out, with the moths emerging being released in the area they were found, and several being checked by way of genitalia dissection for identification confirmation, which will hopefully offer a better idea of the Tophill Low NR population.

While Teasel Dipsacus heads in tights may not look appealing, the delightful adult moth, this one photographed on site in 2013, is rather stunning.

Endothenia gentianaeana Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire Historic photo

The Teasel heads are insignificant for the many who walk past them, but to Tophill Low NR, the presence of them means the site holds a very rarely recorded Yorkshire species.

For the latest news from Tophill Low NR, click here to check out the blog and twitter feed.

Tophill Low’s 50 day Glaucous Gull

Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire January 2018

January 7th 2018 seems such a long time ago. In Laridae terms at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire – if a bird was present on that evening, there is little chance of it remaining until February 25th!

The roosting gulls traditionally depart the site to feed elsewhere each morning, but incredibly this juvenile/1st winter Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus has often remained throughout the day. Often the only gull present, it has made the most of the daily feast offered by gulls that die overnight spending time feeding on a diet of deceased Common Gull L. canus, Great Blacked-backed Gull L. marinus and Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus.

February 25th saw this fantastic individual linger around for its 50th day. Unprecedented for any identifiable individual Larid occurring at Tophill Low during any winter period since site construction in 1959. Just how much longer will it remain?

Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire January 2018

Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire February 2018

Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire February 2018

Common Gull Larus canus Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire January 2018

With winds of a westerly bias, apart from the Glaucous Gull L. hyperboreus the roost has offered slim pickings. Common Gull L. canus and Black-headed Gull C. ridibundus numbers have remained quite low over this winter period since early January, resulting in only two Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus being seen – singles on January 27th and February 16th the only ones noted – but both one night birds demonstrating the constant turnover of gulls in the roost.

A Great White Egret Ardea alba was present on Hempholme Meadow at the back end of January. This may have been the same bird present on Decoy Fields on February 2nd, though no rings could be seen in the field on this bird unlike when it was first found. 

Great White Egret Ardea alba February 2018 Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire

While it may still be winter, moth recording continues.

The 2017 total is still not yet finalised as there are still some larvae specimens collected to breed out, but to date the total for the year is 526 species – eclipsing the previous record highest total by a mere 95 species! With Coleophora trigeminella accepted as a new species to VC61, the current Tophill Low NR list now stands at a respectable 676 since recording proper began in 1992.

The 2018 season is well underway, with 15 species recorded totalling almost 400 individual moths. Ironically, the moth list is already up on this time last year, and c350 more moths have been recorded than during the same two month period 12 months ago. Could 2018 eclipse the reserve’s record-breaking 2017?

For information about Tophill Low NR, and the latest news, check out the blog and Twitter feed.

2018 begins with a long-staying Glaucous Gull and a new Caspian pattern emerging

Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire January 2018

2018 gull-roosting at Tophill Low NR in East Yorkshire sprang into life in early January with two Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus early in the month, including this adult on the 2nd, with a first-winter bird appearing on a couple of evenings around the same period.

Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire January 2018

Roost number 59 of the winter saw this juvenile/first-winter Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus appear on the 7th. Despite not appearing nightly (although it may enter the roost after dark), the same bird kept on reappearing and was present until dark on the 15th. The question being, just how long will it remain? This bird goes against the grain of most of the scarcer gulls in Tophill site history dating back to 1959, with most occurring on just single evenings.

The highlight of the gull roosting spectacle appeared on the 9th in the form of a second-winter Caspian Gull L. cachinnans with either the same or another bird present on the 12th.

Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire January 2018

There are now ‘frequent‘ records of this species appearing in the Tophill Low NR roost on D reservoir in the early part of the year, listed as follows:

5th January 2016

7th January 2017

9th January 2018

12th January 2018

19th January 2017

Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire January 2016

Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire January 2017

Coincidence or trend? Time will tell if this pattern of records continues. Could it be that January and November are peak times for seeing Caspian Gull L. cachinnans at Tophill?

As ever, for the latest news from Tophill Low NR, check out the reserve’s blog and Twitter feed.