Hi and welcome to my Blog, my name is Paul Riddle and I live in south Leicestershire, UK. Back in August 2008 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!!!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

More little 'uns........

During the last week or so I've been spending as much free time as possible visiting some of my "known" Little Owl sites. Each location has previous breeding pedigree, so in order to help me prioritise which locations will be "live" in the spring the ground work has to be done now. Initially my first objective was to see if the birds are still in residence,  and if so is there is a pair too? 

Site No 88, a pair in residence but not photographed together.
At the moment my site monitoring is somewhat limited to roadside locations only because the faithful Landrover is off the road again (she hasn't broken down, just no MOT or tax!). This means I am not able to get "off the beat and track" and away from all public places. This is somewhat disappointing because some of my best monitored sites for viewing and photography are well away from any roads or human disturbance.

Site No 154, a pair in residence but not photographed together.
I have also noticed that this year compared to others the owls are mating earlier than I have witnessed before. Not sure why this is but what it does mean is there are going to be some early chicks for sure. At some of the sites where I have only observed a single owl it doesn't necessarily mean there isn't a pair in residence, just that the hen owl has already started her incubation duties.

However, at some sites I have been lucky enough to have witnessed and photographed the resident pair. It was good news at site No 26, a pair are in residence after a barren two years!

The resident pair at my site No 26.
It was also good news at my site No 39. I'd major concerns here as a new housing estate has been erected only 20 metres away from the nest tree, I thought the birds would vacate the site because of all the noise and human interference, I was obviously wrong!

The resident pair at my site No 39.

Site No 61, only a single owl has been seen here so far.

Site No 61, no birds here last year, looks like they have returned.
At site No 92 a pair have been seen too, this image below is of the hen bird peering out from the nest.

Site No 92, proven breeding here for the last 5 consecutive years!
Site No 35 a single owl was spotted hiding behind this branch, it wasn't in the known nest tree but not too far away so this is being referenced as a "live site" too.

Site No 35, a shy bird still here.
This quite striking individual was photographed at my site No 72, although I didn't see the second bird I heard it calling so good news here too.

A pair still in residence at site No 72
A single bird only was located at site No 32, albeit a very confining individual. Maybe the hen bird was in the nest hole?

Site 72, only one bird seen.
A quite stern and angry looking solitary owl was also observed at site No 214. An unusual nest site location this, in a willow tree on the end of a peninsular that is surrounded by water on 3 sides.


It isn't all good news though, so far there has been 17 roadside sites that I've previously monitored breeding activity at where no sightings have been made after 3 separate visits. I am just hoping that it was down to my inadequate observation skills rather than there being no birds present?

Thanks for stopping by, catch up soon........

Monday, 23 March 2015

Kestrel

I sacrificed my weekly Friday night out on the beer for an early start Saturday morning, doing both use to be a doddle but not any more, far too old!! So feeling as fresh as a daisy and without any signs of a hangover I was out at 5.00am. It was beautiful morning too, does wonders for the soul!

I went from Little Owl site to Little Owl site and nothing??? I was beginning to regret the ultimate sacrifice of having a "dry night". However, I did eventually have an obliging bird to lock my lens onto, but it wasn't one of my usual owly subjects.  I was just pulling away from another no show owl site when a Kestrel drifted across the road in front of me. Now this is quite a common occurrence but usually by the time the camera has been set up the Kestrel in question is a dot in the distance, but not this time! It turned head on into the wind and hovered right beside the car, I couldn't believe my luck when it landed on a wire and waited for me to swing my lens out of the window. 


I made a school boys error, my camera setting were still set up from when I was at the previous owl site (where I needed a high ISO setting) this resulted in quite a noisy/grainy image of the Kestrel. Luckily I'd got enough about me to know that when in aperture priority mode and pointing skyward an increase in the exposure setting is required, usually by at least two thirds of a stop. This I managed to do whilst simultaneously poking the lens out of the window. It was a good job I did otherwise I'd have struggled to salvage the image to an acceptable and usable standard.

I could see that the Kestrel was scanning the ground for prey, Oh no if it dived now and the background quickly changed from sky to grassy field I was going to struggle again with the exposure. For this reason I quickly turned the mode dial to manual, the shutter speed was set and the ISO reduced.  It was all a bit hurried and a bit of an educated guess as to what the perfect setting needed to be but there was no time for experimenting. As I suspected the Kestrel did drop to the ground and I just rattled off a few shots as it nestled in the grass. As it transpired I'd guessed the setting pretty much bang on (F6.3, ISO 640 and 1/2500), I am well chuffed with the final result, below. 


Although it can't be seen in this next image the Kestrel had actually caught a vole/mouse/shrew, not sure which though?  The higher shutter speed and lower ISO setting that I'd guessed at certainly made for freezing the action mid-flight better along with far less grain in the image, pretty pleased with the exposure too!


The Kestrel flew over and landed on the top of a nearby hedgerow, not the best quality image as it is a huge crop because of the distance involved. Here it spent the next few seconds consuming it's catch, but not for long as a pair of Rooks flew down and flushed it away. 


This final image of the short stint is my favorite, because of how the field rose away from me it brought the Kestrel nearly up to eye level when it was on the ground. Its wings can just be made out mantling its prey through the grass. And even at F6.3 the new lens still offers a wonderfully diffused background, even with my x1.4 converter on! 


So the morning wasn't a complete waste of time after all, the Kestrel definitely saved the day.

Catch up soon folks..........

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Angry Owl!

Since last weeks excellent encounter with the Short Eared Owl nothing much has been seen. I did however manage a half hour stint watching the resident pair of Little Owls at my site No 88 near to the village of Enderby. At this site seeing the birds is quite easy, but getting photo's of them is another matter. The nest tree has a mass of low hanging branches which makes the chances of getting a clear shot an awkward challenge. 

I was really lucky for a few minutes when the male owl sat out on a nice natural perch on the edge of the tree, in good light too! When the light levels are good it definitely highlight the details of the birds plumage much better, oh look at those talons!


The male owl did come a little closer but most of his body was obscured by a nearer branch. For this reason I cropped all the "mess" out of this next image and concentrated on just his head. He doesn't look very happy does he? 


I've also had the opportunity to visit several other of my known Little Owl sites, mating has been observed at two of them. At three other sites the male owl has been observed perched up in cover /ivy near to the nest tree. I have seen this type of behavior at this time of year on many occasions now, I'm pretty confident that the hen owls are now starting to lay their clutches of eggs and the male owl keeps out of her way but close by "keeping guard". 

So for the next 3-4 weeks activities at the Little Owl sites will be very low key indeed whilst egg incubation takes place. But once the eggs hatch the best time of year will be upon us and all the activity will begin in earnest.........can't wait!!!!

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




Thursday, 12 March 2015

Short Eared Owl.

I have recently had a fantastic encounter with a Short Eared Owl that will stay embedded within my memory banks for a long while to come. I was in situ well before dawn, it was bitterly cold (minus 2), windy and to be honest it was pretty uncomfortable, mainly due to my inadequate clothing! However, I endured the elements and had a happy camera snapping hour with the bird before I had to prematurely call it a day.









Finally, a massive thank you must go to John "R", without his help I'd never of had this fabulous experience. Cheers buddy!

Thanks for stopping by, catch up soon......

Monday, 9 March 2015

Blown Away!

Sorry if I keep going on about it but I just can't believe how good my new lens is. I have been out with it now on three consecutive evenings and although it is late in the day and the light levels are somewhat questionable it has performed absolutely brilliant. However, I don't really appreciate just how awesome it is until I get home and review my images on the computer. Initially after the first time of use I put it down to coincidence, but surely not after three nights on the trot? 

It performs beautifully in tandem with my Canon 7D body, hey I trash all those on-line reviews that say this combination is no good, they don't know what they are talking about, or maybe how to use it? In comparison to my previous own/used lenses this is definitely premier league, maybe even Barcelona!!  For three nights running now my post processing has been at an absolute minimum, no lengthy spells correcting exposures, noise, sharpness etc etc. My "keeper" rate has gone from around 50% to a whopping 80 or even 90%. Obviously the focal length of 500mm has made a huge difference with respect to detail compared to my previous used Sigma 300mm, especially when the conversion factors of the 7D body are taken into account. But, I was expecting  a compromise on quality with this additional focal length, oh that's on the contrary, viewing through my eyes I would say the quality is improved some 50%. The other amazing discovery is when an image is cropped, with previously used lenses this was a dodgy exercise, a balance between getting an image that is cropped enough so the subject matter can be seen but not too much otherwise the image becomes too grainy and the quality drops off a cliff. But not with this baby, even very heavy crops don't seem to suffer too much, oh how I wish I'd been able to afford this piece of kit years ago!

Anyway, enough of my very amateurish review, here are a few more images that were taken last night.

This first image is from my site No 92  near to the village of Gilmorton, the light levels weren't too bad but from they were coming from the wrong direction, ie from behind the subject. However, the image stabilization kicked in whilst hand holding and I was still able to pick out enough detail to make the image more that usable. 


At the next location (my site No 224 near to the village of Walcote) the setting sun was coming from a more favorable direction, but due to the distance involved there was a lot of distracting foliage and branches in the frame on the original image. A very heavy crop resulted in the final image showing just the focal subject (the owl) poking its head out of its nest hole. Utterly amazed how there was still more than enough detail to make it my favorite image of the evening. 


This last location I visited was my oldest "live" site No 4 near to the village of Sharnford. By now the light levels were atrocious but the lens kept producing the goods with the capture of the resident pair of owls perched together.


One of the owls (the hen) dropped down onto a lower branch which due to the darker background made for exposing the image a little easier.


Then hen owl then flew across and landed in the entrance to the nest hole. It was 6.29pm and almost dark. The camera settings were at ISO 1000 with a shutter speed of 1/50th second, not a bad result considering the conditions.


I have to admit that during the writing of this post eight bottles of lager were consumed whilst listening to my new Ella Henderson CD, yes a bit emotional and that may have been expressed in the content, but hey I am only human, albeit a wobbly one!!

Catch up soon folks..........

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Getting Lighter.....

For the last few months getting out "owling" has very much been limited to weekends only, and then for the majority of the time it has been dedicated to box erecting. But now that spring is just around the corner and the evenings are starting to draw out it means there are opportunities to squeeze in an hour or so after work.

Just such an opportunity was yesterday evening, after work I grabbed my new lens and headed over to my Little Owl site No 9, a location that hasn't been visited since last summer. The reason that this particular site was selected is due to the fact that the nest tree is situated high up on a hill and the nest hole faces west, these variables combined mean the last slithers of light from the setting sun are cast over the nest tree. All that was required now to complement the scene was an obliging owl or two, that is if they were still there?

After a mad dash across the country lanes my first bit of luck was in, the track gate that leads up the hill to the nest tree was unlocked and open. Many a previous visit here had been scuppered at the last minute because the gate was locked, I took this as a good omen! However, I was soon in position with my mighty 500mm lens poking out of the car window. It was now 5.34pm and the nest hole (where the birds usually show first) was saturated in golden sun but there was no signs of any owls. Time was obviously of the essence as the sun was setting fast and if they were going to show it needed to be very soon otherwise it would have been too dark.

I needn't have worried, within 5 minutes I was rattling off a few shots of a single Little Owl as it peered down on me from the relative security of it's hole, below.


Running along side the nest tree is a very well used farm track that see's plenty of heavy duty traffic passing by. So when it came to my small car being parked up near by it was nothing for the owl to be concerned with, consequently the owl fluttered out from it's hole an on to a nearby branch. 


I then noticed a second owl (the female) was showing back at the nest hole, this bird seemed more hesitant to come out and called to the first owl which was still up in the tree.


The continued calling from the owl in the hole must have been a summoning request as the first owl was soon back the nest hole sitting alongside it's seemly more dominant partner. 


I had a good five minutes of action and photo opportunities before the sun set and the birds disappeared back into the tree. 

So on reflection it has been a very rewarding and productive couple of late evenings out with the new lens, it is certainly proving (in my humble opinion) to producing some nice results, hopefully it is a sign of things to come?

That's all for now, only a short post and thanks for stopping by.

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

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

S.L.O.P - South Leicestershire Owl Project.

Hi again folks,

Not a lot to keep you updated with since my last post, apart from the fact that another sixteen Barn Owl boxes have been put up! You can see from this bespoke map below of south Leicestershire, my monitoring area that is highlighted by the thick red line. This area is approx 500 km square and the yellow markers within are the approx locations of the 75 Barn Owl boxes that have been erected so far. The central and central eastern areas are pretty much covered now, there is a nice spread that should hopefully entice a few Barnies to breed this year. 

Barn Owl boxes, approx locations.
So for this last batch I have been concentrating on the central western area with each one being sited inside an old building or barn. One box in particular was erected last Saturday in what has been up to now a totally secure building, I'd got permission to put up the box and then leave the wooden hay loft door ajar. In returning to the same site on Sunday morning to finish off the job a Barn Owl was accidentally flushed from the building, a mere twelve hours after the box was erected!!!

As for getting out and doing any owling the opportunities of late have been minimal due to all the time spent net-working, and then making and erecting boxes. However, on Sunday I had a huge reason to get out for a few hours.......I've got some new camera equipment!!!

At very long last I have managed to buy the lens that I have always dreamed of owning, a Canon 500mm F4. It is a second hand unit purchased of my mate Nigel, he'd upgraded to a new lens so this one was surplus to his requirements. So after the exchange of nearly 4 grand the lens was mine, oh yeeeesss!!!

So far I have only managed to get out for an hour or so but I must say that I am mightily impressed with its performance. Its a heavy beast so a new tripod has been ordered that will surely make the handling matters a lot easier. On the one outing I've had so far I had to use a beanbag and shoot out of the car window. three different Little Owls were located at two sites, here are a few images.......

At the first location (site No 26) two birds were out sitting in their nest tree. Noting too impressive with the images until I tell you they were a good 20 metres away. Yes the image has been cropped but I am still very impressed with the amount of detail that is still present considering the post processing involved nothing more that a crop to improve the composure.


This next flight image was a lucky capture to be honest, one of the perched birds looked like it was about to fly off and I bagged a bit of the action as it took flight. With the distances involved my old lens (300mm) capturing an image like this would never have been possible. 


At the second site I positioned the car parallel to a favoured perch used by the owls at my site No 62. Previously when ever I have managed images from here they always have to be really cropped hard, resulting in lost quality and detail, but not this time! The perch is around 10 metres away and the level of detail that is captured compared to my old lens is remarkable. Again hardly any post processing was required, the original was a little under exposed so it has been lightened slightly but that is it. 


I am also very impressed with the defused background results, I suppose that's down to the compression of the 500mm. But what I can't understand is the lack of noise (grainy effect) in the image. I was shooting at ISO 1250 and I always thought it was the camera settings that effected/contributed to the noise (high ISO), maybe someone can help me with this one?

So now I await the delivery of my new tripod, oh and a new Canon x 1.4 converter (did I forget to mention that earlier?) and then I am hoping to get out for a full day come the weekend and give it a dam good work out.

Thanks for stopping by, catch up soon..........

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

A quick catch up, Feb 11th 2015.

Hello all.

It has still been a quiet period in terms of owling so far this year, although I did manage a couple of mini excursions out last weekend where I managed my first owl images of the year! Col and I are still very busy making and erecting owl boxes, the benefits of all this hard work will hopefully rewarded with plenty of occupancy and breeding birds come the spring. The networking within the local farming community has also been high on my agenda, to be fair it never really stops. In order to firstly find suitable locations and then get permission for access and erections is a slog of a job, but it must be done.  

I'm also occupied with getting all the boxes identified with the numbered discs that I mentioned a couple of posts ago, so far 55 boxes are now sporting the new discs', only about half way then!

Of this last week I have manage to locate two new owl sites, firstly a pair of Tawnies have set up a territory in a tiny roadside copse along one of my more frequented "back lanes". They are currently quite active and very vocal, even in the daylight! This is not surprising as they surely will be getting on with breeding very soon? No images as yet but hopefully when I start to "work" this site there will be some good photo opportunities in the early spring. 

I have also managed to locate a new Little Owl site, this individual, (below) was chanced upon by complete accident. Again along one of the "back lanes" that I frequent on a regular basis is a roadside tree with a very owly hole at about 8 feet high. I always give it a glance and nothing has ever been seen, that is until one day last week! I was making my way out through the lanes and to my amazement on this particular morning there nestled in the hole was a Little Owl!  


At the time when I first spotted this new Little Owl site I was working and had no camera gear with me, but come the weekend I made an effort and returned, I was to be rewarded as yet again there it sat. It had obviously become accustomed to the passing traffic as it didn't batter an eyelid as I pulled up alongside and captured an image.

I have also had a brief encounter with a Barn Owl, it was accidentally flushed from one of my boxes whilst I was adorning it with a nice new shiny numbered disc. This particular box has never shown any evidence that it was being used by Barn Owls so it was quite a shock when it flew out. 


Luckily I'd got my camera with me so once the disc had been attached I sat in the car awaiting its return. Five minutes later it duly obliged and I managed to capture this fly past image just before it re-entered the barn.

So all in all things are still quiet but momentum is slowly being gained, with a bit of luck my posts will become a bit more frequent as the weather improves and the action increases. 

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

Friday, 23 January 2015

Production........

Hi all,

Not one birding or owl encounter of any description to report since my last post, the weather has been foul which just hasn't allowed me to get out to check on any. However, I'm not one for sitting around and doing nothing, oh no! So instead Col and I have been very productive and made the most of our recent limited outdoor access?  

We have been very fortunate in as much that a local land owner friend "acquired" some old crates and asked if they would be any good for converting into owl boxes? We went over to have a look at them and couldn't believe our luck when we checked them out. They were just the right shape and size for Barn Owls, albeit with them only being 6mm ply they are not really suited for outdoor use but absolutely perfect for use inside a building/barn. So for two evenings this week we set about the challenge of cleaning them up and converting them into owl boxes.

As can be seen in this image (very dodgy quality as it was taken with my i-phone) our task has almost been completed with sixteen being made so far. 


Although Col doesn't know (until he reads this of course) that our job is only really half done, we now need to get all the boxes erected..........by the end of February!!!

Catch up soon folks.........


Friday, 16 January 2015

New boxes - 2015

Hi all and happy new year!

After all the recent distractions that have taken me away from my owling, I.E Xmas, bad weather & owls being shot, I am glad to say that I am now back in the groove again. The box making production line has ground back into action and Col and I have been burning the midnight oil with a further 7 boxes to add to the ever growing numbers.  

Because of the time and cost that is involved with making and erecting the boxes we don't just put them up haphazardly, we do try to give it some thought! However, there have been so many put up during the last few years I'm not even sure of  the exact numbers? There is even a distinct possibility that there was a few we didn't even check during the breeding season of 2014. So to enable us to keep closer controls and better records and files we are now attaching an aluminium disc to each box as we either newly erect it, or revisit older ones. 

Each aluminium disc is numbered so in time each box will actually have its own unique identity rather than just remembering it as being "near somewhere" (that's why I forget!). I will then be able to compile exact records on the progress for each box over the years.  This system is also useful for making notes about the condition of a box, does it need maintenance, have we fitted a slate roof or does it need re-painting. Of course the main aim is to document the breeding success and failures, owl species, clutch sizes etc etc, but I am also going to document the direction the box faces and the erected height as this may well throw up trends and lead to more future success. 

So here are the images of our six  no sorry five latest editions, and as you will see they all have the new numbered disc on them.

This first box is intended for Barn Owls, it was erected north facing on the main trunk of a Oak Tree at about 15 feet high.  Behind the tree are a few rough pasture fields that should be ideal for hunting owls, considering the fact that in 2014 we had two pairs of breeding Barn Owls within a mile of this box there are high hopes it will be used for either breeding or roosting in 2015.
Box No 17 - Barn Owl
The next location where we erected boxes is a new one for us as we have only just gained permission to access this bit of land. The area looks really good as the local landowner leaves plenty of marginal strips of rough grass around the margins of his fields, in turn it should be ideally suited to hunting owls. 

Ideal hunting ground for Barn Owls.
The landowner has seen the occasional Barn Owl around his farm during the last couple of years and consequently put up a couple of breeding boxes of his own. Sadly these two boxes haven't been used yet although we have incorporated them into our monitoring system, both have had numbered discs put on them, how cheeky of us! There is obviously still every chance that his boxes could still be used although I think that maybe they are a little close to the working farm and a bit too noisy.

At this new location there's a semi-derelict dutch barn set about a mile away from the farm, Col and I thought it was an ideal location to erect a couple of boxes. The first box (No 18) was erected about 12 feet high on one of the concrete stanchions, 

Box No 18 - Barn Owl
The second box we erected at this same site, (box 19) was a Little Owl box. It too was mounted on one of the concrete stanchions but at the other end so as not to interfere with the Barn Owl box. 

Box No 19 - Little Owl
In 2014 we had our first ever breeding Tawny Owls, in fact we had three different pairs take up residence in three different boxes that were intended for Barn Owls. Don't get me wrong we were thrilled to bits and they were more than welcome, especially as all three pairs bred successfully. So this year we have designed and manufactured some Tawny Owl boxes of our own. 

Col can be seen in this next image posing with the first one that has been erected, (box No 20).  It is a beast of a box and was very awkward to erect, for the first time ever we had to use a rope to haul a box up. The main problem being the weight and how high it needed to be erected, 20-25 feet, where as the Barn Owl boxes are erected between 10-15 feet. The selected location compromises a small amount of huge Scot's Pine Trees, Tawnies have been heard here before so we think a good location, time will tell? 

Col & new Tawny Box (No 20).
Box No 21 has been designed for Little Owls, we have had most occupancy success when the boxes are erected between 5-10 feet high. This one was secured to the side of a very old Pollard Willow Tree at around 7 feet. The area does look very suitable for this species even though I have never seen one here before. 

Box No 21 - Little Owl
Col and I have also for the first time made some Kestrel nesting boxes, quite a simple design really. We erected our first one (Box No 22) on the side of an old Ash Tree among some Ivy but I can't show you this image because I forgot to take an photo of it!

Thanks for stopping by and hopefully will be back soon.........

Friday, 2 January 2015

Barn Owl - Shooting Update.

Hi all,

Following on from the appalling news last week when one of our Barn Owls had been discovered dead after being maliciously shot. After further investigations by the landowner(s) it transpires that the "shooting parties & individuals" who do have permission to be on the land have all been cleared of any association with this crime. 

After the discovery of the owl it's carcass was taken to a local veterinarian practice for x-rays, it was at this point that it was officially confirmed to have been shot. I have just received a copy of one of the x-rays (below), not brilliant quality as it was taken with an I-phone but some of the pellets can be made out. Apparently there was one pellet in its leg, one in its neck and a small group in its wing. 




Since my last blog post the support has been overwhelming, social media forums such as Twitter, Facebook and other blogs and websites (that are against wildlife crime) have spread the news far and wide. The consensus is everyone is disgusted by such a callous act. The Investigative Support Officer for the National Wildlife Crime Unit has contacted me and I now await the local police wildlife crime unit to get in touch so the incident can be officially logged. The RSPB have also been in touch and the incident has been logged with them too.

Six years ago there was only one known breeding pair of Barn Owls within my survey area, this number has slowly risen to an all time best of nine pairs in 2014. It obviously proves that the nest box program  is slowy having an effect, but for how long as all this hard work is undone in seconds when low life scumbags trespass around the countryside with firearms performing vicious and cowardly acts like this...........words almost fail me!

Paul.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Bastards!!!!

I do apologise if the title of this post affends, but I couldn't think of a more fitting way to describe the scum to who it refers.

Please let me explain the recent events that have lead to me feeling this way. On Boxing Day morning I had a call from one of my very good landowner friends, he had found a dead Barn Owl in one of his out buildings. Yes a tragic discovery especially as this site was one of our successful breeding locations from this year. As we discussed his discovery in more depth it became apparent that it was one of the adult birds, but there was something else? The breast feathers on the corpse were soaked in blood?? We both agreed that this was rather odd and not really consistent of a death from natural causes? This made us suspect foul play especially as there had been people seen shooting on Xmas eve morning in the field adjacent to where the nest box is located. 

My friend was  devestated, and very very angry, he'd not had Barn Owls at his farm for decades and seeing these birds on a regular basis this year gave him enormous pleasure. But before we could jump to any conclusions more evidence was required if our worst thoughts were to be proven. So the corpse was sent to a local veterinary with the background evidence and our request for it to be checked out. This morning (dec 28th)  my friend called me to say the vet had some news, he had x-rayed the bird and three shot gun pellets were discovered lodged in its torso, undoubtedly the reason for its death!!

It appears that the owl must have been disturbed from the box and then shot, it obviously wasn't initially a fatal wound as it managed to make its way to the building to where it must have suffered a lingering death before being discovered the next day. How can someone be so callous, there is no mistaking a Barn Owl for any other type of bird, especially mid morning in good light!

Ironically the image of the Barn Owl with its wings spread in my current header image is the bird that was found, a cracking individual that was hoped to be gracing the countryside of South Leicestershire for years to come........sadly not any more!

My next step is to compile all the evidence and forward it to the local police office who over-sees local wildlife crime, if anyone has any other suggestions as to other actions I could persue in order to see that justice is done then please get in contact.

Paul.





Monday, 22 December 2014

Happy Christmas


Hi all,

This is potentially my last post of the year so I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all visitors to my blog during 2014 a very merry Christmas and a happy  new year. A special thanks must also go to those of you who take the time to leave comments, they are all greatly appreciated.

Have a hoot of a holiday and hopefully we'll catch up again in 2015.

Paul!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Bad News.....

Hi all, sorry for the lack of posts of late, the weather hasn't allowed me to get out to do any birding.

However, on a related note I had a phone call last week from my buddy Adey and with hindsight it was a call that I rather not have taken? Whilst on his way to work he got held up in a traffic jam, as he was inching his way through the congestion  he made a  sighting out of the corner of his eye (a private joke!). There laying on the roadside verge was a dead Barn Owl! I asked him to pull over and check it out and to see if it was a ringed bird, unfortunately he was already late for work and explained he didn't have time. To be fair I think the thought of parading up and down the grass verge to check out a corpse whilst in full view of the slow moving traffic was too much of an embarrassment for him?

Because this gruesome discovery was made on the most southern boundary of my monitoring area I felt compelled to investigate further. A few hours later I too was in the same congestion, but the slow moving traffic enabled me to locate the bird quite easily. I managed to park the car safely in a lay-by and then made my way back along the roadside to where the bird lay. As I was standing there taking a few photo's of the bird with my I-phone I got some very strange looks from the passers by. I picked up the bird to check to see if it had been ringed, it hadn't. I don't think it had been there too long as it appeared to quite fresh, obviously a result of being hit by a passing car/lorry. As I stood there arm outstretched with the bird dangling a passing driver open their window and shouted out "sicko" how very charming of them, well I suppose it must have looked quite strange!   

A sad sight for anyone's eyes.
Unknown to my Mrs the unfortunate Barn Owl is now wrapped in a plastic bag and nestling nicely on the bottom shelf of our freezer, goodness knows what she will say if its found? I hope to have the bird looked at by a local taxidermists that I know and maybe soon it will have pride of place in my office?

Whilst on this sad subject of dead Barn Owls, I had another message come through last week from my ringing buddy, Mike Townsend. He'd had information sent through to him of a "recovery" (details of a bird he'd previously rung). This was bad news too, a young owl that we rung at one of my breeding sites this year (near to the village of Gilmorton) had been found dead. It was found near the village of Ashley in the county of Northamptonshire, it had traveled 21 km due east. I don't have any further information at this time but I suspect it was another roadside collision with a car/lorry that resulted in its untimely end? 

This image below was taken at the time we rung the said owl along with it's three siblings back in June. I have no way of knowing which one of the four is the unfortunate one but I do hope the other three are still out there and fairing well.


The question I have now is why did the young Barn Owl travel so far from its natal site? Its not as if we don't have enough boxes up for them, or maybe we don't? Colin and I are on the case and as we speak more boxes are in production, they will soon be erected in strategic locations within my monitoring area, more about that soon........

Thanks for stopping by and hopefully the next post won't be too far away?