A top bird at Tophill Low

Having stayed overnight near Newcastle I headed further south this morning to the confusingly name nature reserve of Tophill Low. I’ve not been here before, but it’s a Yorkshire Water facility, with a large pumping station, and several reservoirs, pus large areas being run for nature. It’s pretty isolated and the amount of good habitat available perhaps explains why I have noticed it coming up on Rare Bird Alert quite a lot over recent months, with birds like American wigeon and blue-winged teal.

Today I was hoping to see a rare east Asian vagrant that’s been at the reserve for a week or so: I was twitching if you will, but since any “real” twitcher would have been out there the day the bird was discovered, me rocking up a week later when I happened to be passing would be regarded as sloppy at best I suspect. However being a week late to the party meant that there were only a handful of birders there when I did get some good (but not photographable) views of the bird – as I’ve said before, I don’t like crowds!

And the bird in question? A male black-throated thrush: Absolutely lovely – like nothing else you’ll see in the UK. Slightly larger than a song thrush and most resembling a fieldfare (there was one in the same tree for comparison!). Basically these birds breed in Siberia but migrate to the Indian sub-continent in winter: However a small number of them end up in Europe in most years. It’s a species of which I have to say I wasn’t really aware until this week. Great to be able to see it well today, and not only a new bird for 2023, but a new life-list species for me too!

Besides the thrush there were plenty of birds on the reservoirs; coot, tufted ducks, pochard, cormorants, great crested grebes, shoveler and more….but the good one for me – another first for 2023 – were a pair of red-crested pochard. Great to get two new species for the year at such a late juncture!

shoveler (male)

New species for December 20th:
Birds: red-crested pochard, black-throated thrush

Birds = 231
Moths = 259
Wildflowers = 291