I found the hole in the tree in the 'scope and, as I zoomed in, the back of the hole morphed into the face of a tawny owl. Excellent, my first for this year. To be fair a regular birder had told me where to look but I finished my day with several new for year species. Heather and I were staying at South Cave in the fine Cave Castle Hotel for a weekend yoga retreat so I used the excuse of a creaky back to spend the day exploring a new reserve for me: North Cave Wetlands, only 15 minutes away. It was a perfect morning: blue skies and a hard frost but the sun made it feel quite pleasant. When I parked up the Butty Van looked very tempting but fresh from a full English breakfast and a large evening meal to come I desisted. The reserve is relatively new and is in old gravel workings. Some of the old pits are well rewilded now but others are in the process of allowing nature to reclaim them. The route around the reserve is a square with several hides overlooking the workings. Other areas, such as the maize field, have been developed to be attractive to a range of bird species and the site is well-supplied with feeding stations and hedges. Most of the pits were iced over so not ideal for the birds but at the Crosslands hide the water was open and there were large numbers of waders and wildfowl. Highlights of the day for me were a pair of ruff at Crosslands along with 2 black-tailed godwit, good numbers of siskin, the tawny and a peregrine. I did take the trouble to make the walk to where a little owl was a regular but it had gone by the time I arrived. Such is life. The sky had clouded over by 2.30 and it was time to return to the hotel for a cup of tea and thoughts of a swim in the lovely pool.
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