Monday, 11 February 2013

A room with a view

To Let: Detached, unfurnished tree-house with 1 room which functions as a kitchen, lounge, bedroom and bathroom. Huge garden and play area maintained by Yorkshire Water. Ideal for bringing up a young family. Applicants must be feathered with a penchant for eating mice and other small rodents.

It's not your usual property notice. But then it's not for your usual home seeker trying to get on the property ladder - though you'd certainly need one to access it.

It follows work by to install a luxury bespoke nest box at our Tophill Low water treatment works, near Driffield - which also doubles as one of the most popular nature reserves in the region, with over to 60 different species of bird showing on any given day.

The one meter by 60cm sized box, is made out of strengthened plywood, and, unlike most other nesting homes, it boasts a tin covered roof that ensures it keeps the heat in and the water out.

We are confident that this new and improved accommodation will serve as the perfect replacement for the previous damp and decaying box, which also held some unwelcome squatters in the form of nesting hornets.

And so they should be. After all, it was installed by 12 building inspectors from the National House Building Council, who also serve as volunteers at the site, regularly getting involved with projects to benefit local wildlife and the hundreds of people who visit the reserve every week.

The new box is expected to become home to one of the reserve's resident barn owl population, with two pairs currently very active at the site.

It's hoped that such a grand residence will help to encourage the owls to breed, building on the site's reputation as one of the best breeding grounds for barn owls in Yorkshire.

Our warden Richard Hampshire is particularly pleased with the attention the box has laready generated: "There have been a number of unscheduled viewings of the new box already and we think it's only a matter of time before one of the owls decides to settle in and make it their home.

"The old box was starting to rot and there was a very real risk that if an owl did produce chicks in there, they might all fall through the floor.

"If owls could talk, this is what they'd ask for as a home. It's robust, well protected, water-proof and offers fantastic views - perfect for surveying the mice and everything else below them."

Tophill Low nature reserve, near Driffield, is an active Yorkshire Water treatment works built in 1959.

It opened as a Nature Reserve in 1993 and features 12 hides spread across a 300 acre site flanking the River Hull.

Two reservoirs dominate the reserve, which are home to hundreds of wildfowl.

Around the perimeter a network of marshes, ponds, woodlands and grasslands shelter more than 160 species.

Yorkshire Water has so far made over £120,000 of habitat improvements at Tophill Low, with this investment receiving the endorsement of a growing number of visitors - both of the human and feathered variety, with around 65 different bird species showing on any given day. In the last 12 months alone the site has continued to uphold its reputation as one of Yorkshire’s best wildlife hot-spots, with great sightings including breeding avocets, gull-billed tern and caspian gulls.

The reserve is open daily from 9am to 6pm with admission £2.80 for adults and £1.20 for concessions. No dogs allowed. Visitors have the chance to see the hunting adult barn owls on Saturday 29 June in a book in advance walk. To reserve a place, simply call 01377 270690.

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