Hi and welcome to my Blog, my name is Paul Riddle and I live in south Leicestershire, UK. Back in August 2007 my quest began to locate as many local Little Owl territories as possible. The driving force was a reported decline in the uk numbers so I thought I would do my bit and conduct a study in my area. After 7 years and countless hours out in the field I have detected over 200 different sites. With a thirst for a greater understanding of the owls a more comprehensive monitoring and nest box programme then commenced. This also now includes monitoring the local and very sparse population of Barn Owls, please pop back occasionally and catch up with the life and times of my owls and any other wildlife that I come across. I hope you enjoy your visit!!!

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Up to date, Oct - Nov.

Flipping great isn't it, you work all week hoping the weekend would come around as soon as possible so you can then get out and see what delights of nature are about. Then the weather takes a dreadful turn for the worst and I find myself house bound looking out of the window at the pouring rain, just typical!!

Therefore, rather than do nothing I have instead just spent a few hours doing this latest blog post with a catch up of what I have been doing during the last few weeks, accompanied of course by some images.........

In the middle of last month (October) I ventured over to the south of the county, there were no real plans, it was just such a nice day it seemed a shame to waste it. Whilst driving around I chanced upon a Red Kite floating around the side of the road, I pursued it for a while and managed a few images. 

Red Kite
I was heavily engrossed with the Kite when annoyingly my phone rang, it was my mate Mick Townsend, (who rings my owls). Mick was over at Stanford reservoir doing some ringing, he had caught a couple of "nice" birds of which he wanted some images, hence he called me. Luckily I wasn't too far away so I abandoned the Red Kite chase and made my way over to Mick.

The first "nice bird" was a Yellow Browed Warbler, a gorgeous bird to which I have only previously had fleeting glimpses of. I was quite taken back at just how small it was? 

Yellow Browed Warbler
 The second "nice bird" was an "eastern" Lesser Whitethroat,  although at the time it's exact identity wasn't known? However it has since been confirmed (feather sent for DNA analysis) to actually be a Siberian race "blythi", a very rare and cool bird which had obviously "lost its way".

Eastern Lesser Whitethroat (Blythi)
On another day in late October I had a very enjoyable but frustrating time trying to capture some flight shots of Skylark at a farm where I regularly watch Little Owls. 

During another venture out where I was searching for Short Eared Owls I chanced upon a family party of Stonechats, they proved to be very obliging birds in glorious sunshine.

Stonechat - male
Stonechat - male

Stonechat - female
Stonechat - male

On the 28th of October I headed up to Scotland for a few days birding, en-route I stopped off at RSPB Leyton Moss, Lancashire with the target species being Bearded Tit. Sadly upon arrival the heavens opened which absolutely ruined  the visit and viewing was limited to just a few bird species.

Because of the weather the only option whilst there was to sit in one of the public hides, photography opportunities were so limited I even turned my attention to this nearby Carrion Crow!

Carrion Crow
From the same hide quite a large flock of Black-tailed Godwits dropped in, nice to see but it was scant consolation for a Bearded Tit! 

Black-tailed Godwit
A distant Kingfisher brightened up the dull day for a while, we watched as it had several successful dives. 
Kingfisher No 1
On walking back to the car this female Marsh Harrier was spotted sitting out the rain in a tree, don't be deceived by the brightness of the image (editing software) the day was still grey, damp and dank!

Marsh Harrier
On the first full day in Scotland the weather was somewhat variable, one minute full sunshine and then the next clouds and rain. There were no plans as to where we were going to go, it was just a case of point the car and follow the bonnet. 

Now I know in recent years there has been an explosion in Common Buzzard numbers in Leicestershire, but what we saw up in Scotland was ridiculous, they were literally everywhere! However, when it comes to gaining a decent image they are just as shy as their English cousins, this one below was one that hung around for just long enough.

Common Buzzard
The other species that seemed to be high in numbers was the tiny Goldcrest, there were literally thousands of them! However, getting an image is somewhat of a challenge, but I finally attained a result that I was pleased with.

Driving along the shores of one of the many lochs was a pleasure in itself, surprisingly not a lot of bird life was seen, apart from that is this very confining Little Grebe.

Little Grebe
Day 2 in Scotland found us catching the ferry over to the Isle of Arran, what a beautiful place! In the six hours we were on the isle we drove around the whole circumference on the coast road,  loads and loads of birds were seen including Golden Eagle and Hen Harrier. This was more of a fact finding mission for a future longer visit rather than a wildlife watching/photography visit. However, a few images were captured as we drove around.......

Black Guillemot

Hen Harrier (female/juvenile)

Common Seal



It was a very short visit where we crammed an awful lot in, but it wasn't a waste of time because I have seen enough to justify a long weekend return visit for the spring of next year.

Back home I was again out looking for owls on the morning of November the 1st, none were located but this Kingfisher was seen from the bridge at Eyebrook Reservoir. 

Kingfisher No 2
On the 2nd of November I had a day off work, it was an early start to the but the weather wasn't on my side at all, thick fog almost everywhere!

Over near Launde Abbey in the east of the county I was rewarded after a long wait with some close up views of a Little Owl as it day-roosted at its nest entrance.

Little Owl
Also near to Launde Abbey I chanced upon another Kingfisher, my third different one in under a week! Photography wasn't easy as the hanging fog made for very difficult conditions.

Kingfisher No 3
Last weekend I had an overnight trip to Norfolk, the weather was again atrocious with this Little Egret image being to only image taken!

Little Egret
It was a superb visit though with 107 different bird species being seen, the highlight birds being; Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Rough Legged Buzzard, Great White Egret, Common Crane, Short Eared Owl, Snow Bunting and MERLIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Yes yes yes, in 15 years of local searching and dedicated visits to Anglesey, the Isle of Man, umpteen visits to the coast and four visits to Scotland at last I've finally nailed my bogey bird, the dam elusive Merlin is now on my list! What a bird too, they were only scope views as it sat on top of a grassy tussock but hey I'll take it............

That's all for now folks, just about up to date now, lets hope the weather settles down and I can bring you a few more goodies from a day out tomorrow, fingers crossed!

Catch up again soon.............


Thursday, 12 November 2015

Owl Calendar

Owl Calendar update.................

All email orders for my 2016 owl calendars have now been posted, please email me if yours hasn't yet arrived?

Many thanks to all who have either purchased or have pledge to buy, all of the original 100 have now be allocated!


Wednesday, 4 November 2015


Hi all,

Not a lot doing on the owling front of late, so my apologies on the lack of recent posts! To be fair this time of year is always a bit slow, I guess that my own motivation is also dampened somewhat with the nights drawing in, my only real opportunities to get out and about are limited to weekends and then most Saturdays are taken up with following the mighty L.C.F.C, so that really only leaves Sunday's! 

However, I have just managed to squeeze in a short trip to Ayrshire, I'd never been to this area of Scotland before and I wasn't disappointed at all! The scenery was just as spectacular as other areas that I have previously visited but this was my first visit in the autumn which made it extra special.

It was a general birding trip with no real target species, except for Short Eared Owls that is! 

Of the four days spent in the area three of them were in and around our base of Ayr, we visited lots of different towns and villages along the coast. Many small bays and inlets were searched and plenty of goodies seen. A total 84 different bird species were ticked off, but the highlight was a day trip to the isle of Arran where Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier, Red Breasted Merganser and Red Squirrel were all seen.

But by a country mile the most memorable sighting of the trip was made on Saturday morning, we were parked up overlooking the rocks at Troon whilst enjoying breakfast. Purple Sandpiper was the target species, sadly these were not seen but this was more than compensated when a Otter was seen. 

This was only my second ever sighting of a wild Otter (and my first "self found"). The light was terrible but that didn't stop me from attempting a few "record shots" as it swam along in the surf. 

The Otter was quite distant so the x 1.4 converter was attached, this compounding matters for the worse as it slowed my potential shutter speeds down to only 1/250th second. 

It appeared to catch a fish, then to our delight it then came out of the sea and chomped on its dinner whilst resting on the rocks. 

Once it had finished eating the fish off it went again, in and out of the rock pools in search of more food, all the time is inched nearer and nearer to us.

Then to our utter amazement it started to run straight at us! It got within 20 yards sniffing the ground as it hurried along. 

The Otter seemed to go straight under the car and then disappeared? I was still having problems with slow shutter speeds so the converter was quickly removed whilst we waited for it to re-appear.

It was then spotted again right down beside the car on the passenger side. It was heading away from us so I made a squeaking noise, this stopped it in its tracks and it looked back. Luckily the passenger window was open and the next full frame image was attained, 

It didn't seem very impressed with my squeak and off it scampered not to be seen again. What a fantastic 10 minutes we had with this delightful creature, an encounter never to be forgotten.......

Thanks for stopping by, catch up again soon folks!

Monday, 19 October 2015

2016 Calendar

Hi all,

As any regular readers/followers of this blog will know, I have over the years (with my mate Col Green) been designing, making and erecting owl nest boxes (over 100 so far). This is definitely a labour of love and when boxes become occupied and birds go onto breed it makes all the effort worth while. However, completing all this work and sourcing the required materials doesn't come cheap! In order to help fund more boxes each year I compile a unique owl calendar with all the profits going back into the scheme.

My calendar for this year has just been completed and each month features an owl image that was taken by myself during 2015, please see draft of the cover and each month below. 

The calendars are professionally manufactured using a high quality glossy 235g/m premium paper stock which gives the images a vibrant and vivid finish. The approx size when opened is 11" wide x 17" high and would complement any kitchen/study wall!

This year I have committed to a larger quantity from the supplier which has enabled me to keep the pricing lower than that of previous years! 1 x calendar is £10.00 or two for £18.50, (plus p&p at £1.50).

So would you like one of my 2016 owl calendars whilst also helping the owls? If so please either leave a message on my blog or email me at littleowl123@icloud.com and I'll get back to you asap with more details.

Many thanks to anyone that is able to order a calendar, your support along with all the previous purchasers is greatly appreciated!


Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Its been a while.......

As the blog title suggests, I haven't published a post for some time now?  I have still been getting out owling occasionally but my focus of late has just been general birding. I have also made a couple of trips over to the east coast, but more locally I have been concentrating on a few nearby and very under watched areas that just ooze potential.......

In just a few visits to one particular site I have very quickly notched up a list of over 65 different species with the jewels being Kingfisher, Stonechat and passage Redstart and Whinchat. I don't always take my camera with me when walking because of its weight but when I did a few images were bagged.

There were at least two Restarts seen over consecutive days, their presence being given away by their persistent calling. They never really came close and this "record shot" was my best effort.

The single Stonechat was a far more confining individual and after being persistent some closer views we had.

Whilst watching the Stonechat a young Whinchat also put in an appearance, it constantly followed the Stonechat around whilst what appeared to be begging for food, strange behavior?

But for me the far most rewarding bird (and image) was that of the Whinchat. It was a devil to get close to but after what seemed to be several hours in the trying I did eventually manage an image that I was very pleased with.

I think the main reason for not concentrating on my local owls of late is the fact that my beloved Landrover has been sold. She was just too thirsty, at 12 miles to the gallon the wallet was soon bare!! This has obviously hampered my access to the more remote owl sites that I use to visit/monitor. However, I have seen a few owls over the last few weeks at some of my more accessible locations, here is a quick catch up.........

Over the last two months I've made many visits to my Little Owls site No 4, here the results were disappointing. In previous years this location has proven to be a prolific breeding site, but not this year, well not that I have proven? Whilst there the adult bird(s) were regally seen coming and going from the nest hole, (images below) but they weren't taking in any food. The other compounding factor was no begging calls from the chicks could be heard either, I've now resigning myself that for what ever reason this site has failed this year?

Adult at nest entrance - Site No 4

Adult at nest entrance - Site No 4
I was pretty confident that better results would be had at the second location, site No 250, here the outcome was very similar to site No 4. Both adults were in attendance, although they kept quite a low profile most of the time. And after many hours of observing there was just no evidence that they had any youngsters?

LO site 250. Keeping a low profile whilst watching me!
Whilst out searching for juvenile owls I was distracted some what on a couple of occasions by the local Kingfisher family.

Kingfisher - Adult
There was better news on the breeding front with the Kingfishers, this next images shows a pair of recently fledged youngsters.

Kingfisher - Juveniles

Kingfisher - Juvenile
This next image was taken after the young birds had fledged, occasionally one of the adult birds would make another visit to the nest, maybe a second brood was in the making?

Kingfisher - Adult
The male bird would on the very rare occasion pose nicely for me in good light.

The checking of my Barn Owl boxes still continues (to be fair it never really ends!). It has been a fantastic breeding year in my survey area with a confirmed 11 breeding pairs, although I must add the brood sizes are down.

Whilst en-route to check one particular box out a Barn Owl was seen flying from it!!!  This was very much a surprise as the box has only been up a few months. The owl in question flew around for a few minutes before landing in a nearby tree cavity. This gave me a wonderful opportunity to capture an image of it as it stared back at me.

New Barn Owl Location?
Although all of this years young Little Owls have now fledged their respective natal sites I did manage to see a few of them a month or so ago. The numbers of proven breeding sites in my survey area does seem to be very low this year, or is it that I have been too pre-occupied with the Barn Owls I just haven't noticed them?

Juvenile Little Owl
Since my last post two new Little Owl sites have also been found, the first had a pair in residence although only one of them obliged for a photo.

1st new Little Owl site.

1st new Little Owl site.
1st new Little Owl site.
The observations at the second new site was all over and done with in a matter of seconds, I spotted the bird perched up in a roadside tree. It was a very quiet lane so I was able to stop intermediately, the camera was poked out of the window and just the one image (below) was obtained before it flew off!

2nd new Little Owl site.
So that has just about caught up with all my goings on of late folks, thanks for stopping by..............