Some of what we do:
All our work is funded by Yorkshire Water Services as it's flagship nature reserve.
And finally biggest thanks to our volunteers - as the site would be but a fraction of what it is without their involvement over the last 50 years
If you feel you'd like to help out then just get in touch on the usual contact number. We can't guarantee you'll be able to have a go at everything, but we can offer fresh air and a good cuppa. Many of our team are retired, students at local colleges and universities, or just appreciate a change of scene from the office or factory.
Site wardening and visitor assistance:
Weekends can get quite busy around site and we have a dedicated team of volunteers who help with the ticket machine, car parking and visitor information. On some occasions we get descended upon if there is a twitch for a rarer species:
Constant Effort Site ringing station and barn owl monitoring:
Under Dr Graham Scott of Hull University we run a British Trust for Ornithology Constant Effort Site, ringing and monitoring chiefly the sub-Saharan migrant species using the reserve's South Scrub. Data gathered all feeds into the monitoring of breeding success in these species, and looks at long term trends in this and biometrics of the birds (more details here):
Wetland Bird Surveys
We've been undertaking these as part of the National BTO scheme for years - giving valuable data on the health of UK wildfowl populations and our own SSSI's
Moth Trapping and invertebrate surveying:
Perhaps not as universal an interest as birds, but once you've exhausted most possibilities here, many of our regulars turn to this as a new interest - often finding many site firsts a year.
Guided walks and talks:
The Warden leads some walks around site, but a number of field visits and led tours take place a year like this one by Tony Lane of East Yorkshire Bat Group
Hempholme Meadows:This fragment of important wet grassland was never landscaped like the rest of the reserve on completion of the reservoirs in the 1950's. Although poplar trees were planted in the 60's essentially it has been unaltered for at least 160 years - and has never seen herbicide, pesticide or fertiliser in this time. For this reason we found 12 new plant species for the reserve here in year one, and it's hoped under traditional management of hay cuts, aftermath grazing and winter flooding we'll see continued success with threatened farmland birds like lapwing, yellow wagtail and snipe. A few photos of the transformation here:
In 2009 the hide was replaced at North Marsh and the surrounding woodland landscaped at a cost of £40,000. This saw the creation of the new pond and in total 2km of easy access path:
We've now got two of these around site:
Sand Martin Colony:
This £10,000 project in 2011 saw the transformation of the bankside of South Marsh West into a new high spec colony - capable of holding 90 pairs of sand martins:
Mink were formerly a major problem on the reserve prior to the formation of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust programme to try and eradicate this introduced species from the river Hull Valley. As a result mink sightings are now far fewer than that of otter and our wildfowl and water vole populations are more stable:
Another important area of grassland that has been partially modified with clay subsoil spread in the 50's - but suitably impoverished to grow masses of orchids. Its biggest threat is succession - dominant hawthorn and ash is choking the grasslands. In 2008 machinery was brought in to halt this spread:
Never to be underestimated is the amount of work we undertake simply maintaining the status quo. if it was left we'd have a woodland with two reservoirs - either with contractors or volunteers we undertake massive amounts of work controlling willows:
Plentiful on the reserve; these impressive but harmless animals need a helping hand in the form of hay heaps - or 'refugia' in which they lay their eggs where they're incubated nicely before hatching in July. Tightly wound bales need to be broken up every March ready for Spring:
Cutting and burning in late summer:
These charismatic birds started breeding in 2006 on the reserve. Liking a barren shingle habitat we have invested a lot in re landscaping the southern marshes and constructing new tern islands:
Our team work tirelessly to build, maintain and replace over 120 nest boxes around the reserve. These are monitored annually:
Tophill Low sits several feet below the level of the neighbouring river Hull like most of Watton Carrs - a lot of work goes into maintaining water levels at optimum heights to control succession, secure against predators, or stop nest flooding:
Unfortunately not everyone is as keen to help the wildlife as our volunteers. In total there are around 60 volunteers on the reserve who assist in operations to prevent damage to the site's wildlife. Our team monitor potential poachers, egg thieves and those whom disturb the SSSI's and schedule one breeding birds. Whilst seemingly 'paranoid' we have been victim to all these activities - the early years of Tophill Low were rife with illegal firearms, air rifles, cross-bows, deer coursing and nest thieves. A dedicated team of volunteers, local residents, interaction with Humberside Police and Environment Agency enforcement officers, use of infrared cameras monitored 24 hours a day from Yorkshire Water Security in Bradford, trail cameras and participation in the local Driffield Farmwatch scheme have all helped to curb this but we are still dedicated to protecting the reserve's wildlife. Occasionally this may lead to conflict and photography is perhaps the biggest flashpoint on site these days with a lack of fieldcraft and respect sometimes given to wildlife. On the other hand many of our trusted team are great photographers, and you never know who is watching and recording on site...
New visitor facilities
The former wildlife centre was condemned in 2009 and work continues to introduce new facilities. Currently set to close in 2013 work has already started on new visitor toilets and volunteer facilities, pending the replacement of the car park bird hide in 2015 with a dual purpose 'reception hide' - moving the emphasis away from dry and outdated displays to the spectacle of the wildlife itself: