Tony McLean's East Yorkshire Wildlife Diary

Wildlife photography in East Yorkshire

A Christmas day adventure


I was up before dawn on Christmas day for a rare trip to Tophill Low. The damp, cold weather of late had been curbing my enthusiasm for the outdoors, so I have spent much of my time in my darkroom at home, making platinum prints from some of my recent, digital negatives. I find this to be a wonderfully creative and relaxing process and after years of practice, I’ve recently been achieving some pleasing results. *(I’ve placed a small example at the base of this page but it’s nearly impossible to reproduce the wonderful subtle tones of such a print.)

Anyway, I digress. I arrived at Tophill Low kitted out with my two cameras, 500 mm lens and my tripod. I meant business! I struggled through the mud in grey, pre-dawn light. I soon reached the top of the dyke only to find that the way ahead looked impassable. Barmston drain had flooded across the footpath and into the adjacent fields. Only the fence was visible above the flood water. I estimated that the river level was about two metres above the winter average. Here’s what I saw…

Barmston drain-Xmas day

I had to make a decision. Should I return home to my warm bed, make a very long detour, or have a closer look at the flooded footpath? Of course, I chose the latter! It wouldn’t be Xmas day without a little excitement now would it? I ploughed through ankle-deep mud until I reached the fence. I took a deep breath and edged across the bottom rail of the rickety fence with a rucksack on my back, my camera round my neck and my tripod in my left hand. At one point, the bottom rail disappeared and I had to make a long step to avoid the cold flood water. Two-minutes later I was on dry (drier) land and somewhat relieved.

Xmas day adventure

When I eventually arrived at the hide, the water was lapping around the base of the wooden support piles. Watton Carrs had turned into one huge lake and only the trees protruded from the top of the submerged island. Plenty of teal and mallard were about but little else. The geese were generally absent and most of the cormorants remained at their roost site. A grey heron and a lone mute swam made brief appearances and managed to break the monotony for a few minutes. However, it was a stunning Little Grebe that was the star of the show and it is the picture I have chosen to use at the head of this post. I stayed about four hours but frequent heavy showers and the threat of rising flood waters finally enticed me home.



A Happy New Year to everyone and thanks for reading my posts. I’m looking forward to my trip to Iceland in February 2013 and hope that we’ll get a few crisp winter days and some lovely light soon!


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4 thoughts on “A Christmas day adventure

  1. Up before dawn on Christmas Day… c’mon Tony… admit it, you were looking for a red-nosed reindeer!

  2. Pingback: Christmas Day at Tophill Low NR. | hullvalley

  3. Paul Fisk on said:

    Thanks for sharing your photos with us through 2013 found your blog after watching three short eared owls through most of feb_ march
    With respect paul

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