New nest box the perfect accommodation for barn owls at Tophill Low nature reserve (video)
WITH one room functioning as a kitchen, lounge, bedroom and bathroom, it may not appear to be the best house on the market.
But in the owl world, it is one of the most desirable properties available in East Yorkshire.
Indeed, the new nest box at Yorkshire Water's Tophill Low nature reserve, near Driffield, should not have a problem meeting standards, as it was installed by a dozen inspectors from the National House Building Council.
The box is made out of strengthened plywood and, unlike most other nesting homes, it boasts a tin-covered roof to keep the heat in and the water out.
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The 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.
Reserve manager Richard Hampshire said: "If barn owls could talk, this is what they'd ask for as a home.
"It's robust, well-protected, waterproof and offers fantastic views – perfect for surveying the mice and everything else below them.
"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."
Mr Hampshire, along with the volunteers, had to take down the old nest and put up the new one in just one morning to ensure the owls were not disturbed.
Mr Hampshire said: "There are two pairs of barn owls at the site and more around the farmland.
"Despite the wet weather over the past year, the pairs managed to raise chicks, so they did very well.
"As a protected species, it is illegal to disturb them without permission, so we had to co-ordinate things very quickly.
"It was very much like a 60-minute makeover."
Jim Evens, 77, of Bridlington, built the bird boxes.
He said: "It takes a day to build a box, which I have copied from one of several good designs out there.
"We had to make some adaptations to make sure jackdaws can't get in.
"We also had to build a second box because the female kicks the male out when the eggs are laid.
"The owls will certainly be inspecting the new boxes now but we can't examine them or we'll disturb them.
"I have been making bird boxes for ten years and really enjoy it.
"But it is wonderful when you see them being used – it's the icing on the cake."
It is hoped the new boxes will help to encourage the owls to breed, building on the Tophill Low's reputation as one of the best breeding grounds for barn owls in Yorkshire.
Tophill Low is also a water treatment works and opened as a nature reserve in 1993 and features 12 hides.
Two reservoirs dominate the reserve, which are home to hundreds of wildfowl.
Around the perimeter is a network of marshes, ponds, woodlands and grasslands, which shelter more than 160 species.