Yorkshire Water Tophill Low Nature Reserve

Otter (c) Amy LewisOtter (c) Amy Lewis

With two large reservoirs at the heart of the reserve and a dozen viewing hides taking in this impressive wetland alongside the River Hull, there’s plenty to attract both wildlife and visitors.

Why visit?

Winter sees the waters packed with wildfowl including real treats like the striking smew from northern Europe, while a patchwork of marshes, ponds, woodland and grassland play host to kingfishers, barn owls and sightings of the elusive otter. For the keen-eyed, grass snakes make a home here along with ‘Ratty’ the water vole.

Where is it?

Tophill Low Nature Reserve,Tophill Low, Driffield YO25 9RH (OS Landranger 107 Grid reference TA 073484)

This nature reserve is clearly signposted off the A164 - the nature reserve is located behind the Yorkshire Water pumping facility. Take a look at the Tophill Low Nature Reserve website before you go.

There is a small fee to visit this nature reserve - there are ticket machines in the car park.

What can I expect to see?

Spring: Little-ringed plovers arrive in late March, followed by thousands of house and sand martins, swallows and swifts feeding on migration. Other regular migrants include osprey, greenshank, grebes, little gull and terns. Warblers, marsh harrier and hobby also arrive, with grass snakes often found sunning themselves on warm mornings.

Summer: Common terns breed on the marshes, along with black headed gull, shoveler, pintail and little ringed plover. Barn owls often breed and water voles are active on pools, with otters occasionally glimpsed too. Bee, common spotted and marsh orchids are in full flower in early June, followed by carpets of fleabane in August, attracting marbled white and brown argus butterflies. Returning wading birds in late summer include black-tailed godwit, green sandpiper and occasionally rarer species.

Autumn: The wading bird passage continues, and late summer and early autumn are the best time to spot young kingfishers at the North Marsh. Ospreys again stop on migration and the winter gull roost starts to build up each afternoon with up to 40,000 black-headed and common gull, great black backed gulls and occasional Mediterranean gulls. On the woodland floor up to 280 fungi species can be found.

Winter: Harsher weather brings occasional Arctic species to mix with the gull roost, including glaucous and Iceland gulls, with wintering peregrine falcons taking the chance to grab a meal. Tophill is one of the UK’s best places to spot wintering smew, along with thousands more wigeon, teal, tufted duck and gadwall. The bird feeders regularly bring in brambling whilst bittern and water rail spend winters stalking the reed beds.

Like Tophill Low? Why not visit these other nature reserves

YWT Spurn

This iconic site stretching into the mouth of the Humber Estuary is fantastic for its birdlife

Photo (c) Lee Beal

YWT North Cave Wetlands

Four viewing hides and accesible pathways help you make the most of the array of birdlife at this site

Photo (c) Jess Charlton

RSPB Bempton

Visit the largest gannet colony on mainland England between March and June

Photo (c) Martin Batt