Autumn visitors spotted

lesser redpoll
lesser redpoll

Migration is upon us in a big way at the reserve – already we’ve had the first fieldfare and redwing on site, and we expect to see the usual autumn jay.

These birds are virtually absent from Holderness, largely because of a lack of mature oak trees yielding the acorns on which they feed.

A trip over the Humber or west of the Wolds sees them aplenty, but in an arable landscape dominated by ash they usually only arrive under duress from Scandinavia.

This year the odds are high as there is a reported acorn shortage in northern Europe causing a winter exodus of jays which are arriving on the east coast in unprecedented numbers – flocks of 200 in Norfolk and 1-2000 in the Netherlands.

Whether this will also turn out to be a waxwing winter remains to be seen, but keep an eye out in a supermarket car park and you may yet see one of these ‘parrots of the north.’

Another family of birds to look out for are the finches.

These seed eating specialists arrive in huge numbers from Scandinavia and northern England to feast on our generally ice free pine cones and arable weeds, and are already adding a dash of colour to compliment the changing leaves – particularly as the beech mast crop has also reportedly failed on the continent.

The brambling is an exotic version of our native chaffinch which will brighten up any woodland floor looking for beech tree seeds. Goldfinches, though resident, are bolstered by European cousins whom come to exploit the rich banks of thistle and teasel seed heads on verges and waste ground.

Siskins whose yellow and black plumage can put a canary to shame winkle out seeds from alder and larch cones, and if you find a noisy flock of these you may just be lucky enough to see the lesser redpoll, whose otherwise mottled appearance is enlivened by a distinctive red fringe to the head.

We’ve already had three on the Yorkshire Water woodlands, so keep an eye out for these small migrants who show there is much to look forward to in winter.

l Tophill Low Nature Reserve is located four miles from the A164 at Watton and is open daily from 9am to 6pm.

Entry is £2.80 adults and £1.20 for concessions. Sorry no dogs. For more information visit,