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!!!

Friday, 31 December 2010

2010 Review

What a superb year 2010 proved to be with my local Little Owls, on 289 separate site visits (spread across all my sites) I actually recorded a total of 517 Little Ow sighting.

For the year I had set myself 2 main objectives, firstly to make and erect 40 nest boxes and secondly to reach the magical 100 different Little Owl territories. I started the year on 93 and on April 9th the day I had been waiting for since Aug 2008 finally arrived, my 100th territory was located near the village of Huncote, a memorable day even though I still haven't managed a decent image yet! 

Although I promised myself that once the "BIG 100" was achieved the searching for new sites would stop, I was weak and actually exceeded all expectations and added another 40 making it 47 new sites for the year!!!

My run also continues of locating at least one new site per month since Aug 2008 (29 months and counting....), although there was a very  close scrape in March.

New sites by month, 2010. 

Jan - 2, Feb - 3, Mar - 1, Apr - 4, May - 4, Jun - 2, Jul - 2, Aug - 9, Sep - 8, Oct - 3, Nov - 5 Dec - 4.

My second main objective for the year of making and erecting 40 little Owl nest boxes was also achieved, 41 are up and in place, I still have 1 more to go but that's currently sitting in my garage (I'll do it in January!) many thanks must go to LROS for supplying the timber, the local land owners who gave me access permission and to Ron, Daz, John, Colin and Phil who all helped with erecting them.

Breeding evidence was recorded at 39 different sites producing a confirmed 82 juveniles, sadly only 1 pair successfully raised a brood in one of my boxes, although this was to be expected as the boxes were put up a little late! The Charnwood Ringing Group visited on the 14th of June,  and during the evening 5 sites were visited and a total of 15 juveniles and 1 adult were rung, many thanks to them.

And Finally, a selection of some of my images captured during 2010, not necessarily the "best ones" quality wise, just ones that have special memories for one reason or another, please enjoy..........   

During the last couple of years of my Little Owl survey I have thoroughly enjoyed myself and it has become a labour of love. But more importantly it has become apparent that here in Leicestershire we are "bucking" the UK trend for a species reportedly in decline. In addition to the 140 sites I have located in South Leicestershire my good friend Richard Pegler has located 15 in NW Leicestershire, a whopping combined 165 sites!!! What I need to do now is try and understand why? I shall continue to search for more territories, monitor any breeding successes (and failures) and with the help of the Charnwood Ringing Group ring any juveniles that are reared in my boxes, hopefully in time the secret will be revealed!!!!!!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Home bound bonus!

Today for the first time over the Xmas period I managed to get out for a few hours, not a good choice though as it was a cold, damp and foggy day, not very conductive for seeing owls!

Anyhow, during my rounds I visited a good 10 sites and sadly owls were only seen at two. The first sighting was of a sleepy Little Owl located hiding in a conifer bush at site No 11 near to Claybrook Magna.

All the time I was there it never moved, it just sat and stared!

The second owl located was at site No 99 near to Barwell, it obviously wasn't too keen on me and the noisy Landrover as it kept partially hidden, a good siting though as I haven't seen birds at this site since April.

Although the weather was poor it was still concerning just how few owls were seen, I am hoping that this isn't a sign that the bad weather has taken its toll on my local owl population?

During my days travels this very handsome Nuthatch was seen, too good an opportunity not to grab a few close up images.

As the light was fading fast and the fog coming down (again!)  I'd given up hope of seeing any more owls and decided to call it a day. As I headed home through a local village what greeted me in a roadside tree in a local residents front garden was just magic..........Waxwings, and loads of them!!

The Landrover was quickly positioned and a good 20 minutes viewing and photography was had. They were great to watch but a nightmare to try and get a decent image of, these are a few of the better images I managed.  

In total I counted 19 different Waxwings whilst there, the residents informed me that had been up to 50 present and they had been around for a couple of weeks. Good news that the tree in question is still laden with berry's (not sure what kind though?) so as soon as the sun is shining............I'll be back! 

Friday, 24 December 2010


New site No 140 was chanced upon earlier in the week, luckily I had the camera on board, again! I was driving back home from Northampton and decided to take the scenic route just in case anything was showing along the country lanes......and it was!!

It was located sitting on top of a gate post along a narrow lane just outside the village of Fleckney, I pulled up along side it and it didn't flinch a muscle. It actually seemed bemused by my presence (possibly star struck!!!) and there it posed nicely for a few seconds giving me "the stare".

Site No 140 - Fleckney.

An unexpected but very welcome encounter, I will hopefully return over the festive season to see if I can improve on my images, to see if I can locate the nest tree and to see if it has a mate.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Bin Blitzed!!!

I thought I would share this image taken yesterday that I shot out of my bedroom window, yes very poor quality but a significant sighting in my front garden tree. No its not of an owl but........Waxwings, and 14 of them!!! I;m not sure how long they had been there but this was the only image I managed before they departed.

The UK is currently under invasion from these continental visitors as they move around in flocks seeking berry laden trees, I too have now had my berry tree blitzed!

I'm not expecting another visit as nearly all the berries have been stripped, but just in case the camera is all ready and the settings this time are correct!!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

A Pair Of Pairs!

A bit of good news from earlier in the week, new Little Owl site 139 was located whilst driving home from the office. The news comes late as I am still having problems with my PC and I have had to revert to using another and the image processing and blogging has proved to be a dreadfully laborious task.

The owl in question was first noticed flying low down in a roadside ditch, I turned around and soon re-located it sitting top side of a hedgerow. A bit of a fidgety bird, it just wouldn't settle long enough for me to grab a record shot. However, I persevered and eventually nailed an image when it finally settled in a roadside tree.

Site No 139, nestled down nicely in a tree trunk crevice.

This Kestrel offered some nice views whilst watching the owl.

Not a lot to report from today's venture out in terms of the local owls, the awful weather conditions have really put a dampener on things and only two different pairs were prepared to show themselves.

The first pair were out braving the elements at Site No 92.

The resident pair also showed at Site No 34, amoung the snow showers.

Todays intention wasn't really to see owls, good job really!!! It was to survey some new areas that hopefully have the potential for Barn Owls and boxes, and yes some excellent areas were noted. And what was even more encouraging was evidence of roosting owls was found in a couple of old barns in the form of some  pellets!....... I guess it won't be long before I have a box or two up in this area!!!!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

A Day With The Plumber

Whoopee a couple of days off work!!!! Today (Tuesday) will be spent doing a bit of crimbo shopping and DIY.....brilliant!!!! But yesterday was my day and I was going to do what I wanted! Owling was of course on the agenda, but where and with whom?

I have recently been exchanging emails and text messages with an old mate Ben Harrold who I first met a couple of years ago whilst out at a Short Eared Owl site in Northamptonshire. Ben, or......."Ben The Plumber" as he is better known to his birding circles friends is renowned for his excellent images he regular posts on Birdguides.  

Ben has been asking for a while now if he could accompany me during one of my days out "Owling" to see if he could improve on his own owl images. Now as I was off work yesterday it was the perfect opportunity for us to catch up and hopefully see some owls, there was only one snag......he was car less! Unperturbed I offered to go over and pick him up and then take him out.

The as we drove off from Ben's house we passed a very aptly name public house " The Barn Owl"........the omens looked good!!!

On arriving back at my patch it seemed the lucky omen of earlier seemed to be going against us, the weather was abysmal, foggy, rainy and very cold......not good for seeing owls!

However, during the day we went from site to site and eventually as the weather improved slightly as did seeing a few owls, Ben did managed a few images of the closer birds.

I only managed to photograph two owls during the day, this one at Whetstone at site No 32, a little distant but good to see as they have been keeping a real low profile just recently.

The second image of the day that I managed was at site No 88 near to Enderby, we had some really close and extended views and I am very pleased with the outcome.

All in all we saw 10 birds at 7 different sites, not a great return but not bad considering the awful conditions. Ben managed a few more images than me and hopefully these will be posted later today (Tuesday Dec 14th). You too can see how Ben's images turned out by logging onto Birdguides and then onto the photo page which is called "IRIS" or take the short cut by following this link..... BIRDGUIDES.

Barnie Boxing Day

Sunday morning was a day I had long been waiting for, to finally put into position the first two Barn Owl boxes. Yes this post is a little late being published but some gremlins have sneaked their way into my PC and caused havoc.

Anyway, back to the boxes. The selected area was a very quiet and private strip of land  near to Lubbesthorpe, just west of Leicester. An idea location for Barn Owl, there's a plentiful supply of narrow marginal strips around the field edges, loads of ditches and hedgerows and a small meandering stream, all in all making it an excellent hunting and breeding area for Barn Owls. Within the chosen location there is also a scattering of mature isolated trees that make superb nest box locations. 

Colin Green was again my chosen victim, no sorry my assistant for the day. Colin has been a real gem of late, he has supported my scheme with great enthusiasm and has helped with sourcing materials, making the boxes and putting them up, I guess he sort of does everything!!!! The only real downside is his singing, its not the best of quality (sort of x factor out in the first round standard) and he never stops.......arrrrghhhhh!!!

The first box, nearly complete with a "delightful" rendition of Meat Loaf and Bat Out Of Hell!!  

There was a bit of a delay taking the final picture though, Col had dropped a five pence piece and spent an age looking for it, he said he heard it drop!!!! 

In no time at all we were onto the second box, still in the same area just a few hundred yards away from the first. We have been expertly advised that a breeding pair will require a couple of boxes, one to breed in and one to roost in. 

Here you can see Col hard at it again, but note the second ladder. That was so I could go up and keep a watchful eye on the proceedings and to advise accordingly!!!

Yes I was there too, granted looking a bit of a tit in my woolly hat but it was bloody freezing. I can be seen here doing the final quality control check, I wasn't just there to take photos you know!

Box No 2 in its final resting place, fingers crossed now for some occupancy very very soon.

Again a massive thank you to everyone who has so far helped with the donations towards the boxes, it is hoped you can see we are putting it to good use????