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!!!

Wednesday, 31 March 2010


Great the clocks have changed giving a little more time after work to get owl and about but somebody needs to remind the weather gods that we are now into spring and the summer is just around the corner. Tonight was a total wipe out, only 3 owls seen at 11 different sites and not surprising giving the drizzle, winds and low temperatures!

Believe it or not there was a 10 minute rest bite when the sun tried to shine through and I managed these images of the pair at Preistlands, site 75.

The male bird having a quick peep!

The female bird came half out but she soon had better ideas and back in she went.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Owls 5 Owlers 15 (ish)

Today I met up with John Turner, an avid birder and great photographer whom normally spends most of his time over at Eyebrook reservoir. Anyhow John was after seeing some little owls and if possible the chance to improve on his images so he tagged along with me for the day.

Our meeting point was wistow craft and garden centre at 10.00am, we met up but before the off we decided to pop into the onsite tearooms for a quick brew and a bacon sarnie, well only I had the sarnie, it was to help soak up the Guinness from the night before, thank you John it was delicious.

The weather forecast for the day was pretty good and I was very confident that we would see plenty of owls? The day started pretty slow and after two sites visited nothing was seen, and I told John the second site we visited was a dead cert banker!!!! What do I know?? (owls 2 owlers 0). The worm slowly turned as the day unfolded as we made sighting at the next five locations (owls 2 owlers 5).

During the nonstop site to site search we stopped off at Peatling Parva where I managed to get my best image yet from this site (below) of the male bird.

Site 75, Peatling Parva - Preistlands

The day progressed really nicely and loads of owls were eventually seen, I think John was well pleased as he managed some smashing images, these can be seen on the Birdguides Website. Although I couldn't be sure of the exact final score (probably 15-5) it was a deffo win for the owlers.

After I dropped John off and on my way back I decided to stop off again at the Preistands site and again good views were had (a pair this time). The birds were soon flying about the site and at one stage they were quite busy mating, through those observations I can now confirm that both the pictures taken today were of the male bird.

Peek a boo!

Friday, 26 March 2010

Expectant owl dad!!!!

A couple of weeks ago I found a new site over at Smoke Hall, Enderby (site 98) and since then I haven't returned apart from the day after the finding to put up one of my owl nest boxes in the old barn. Well today was well worth the visit because as I entered where the box was erected a pair of little owls vacated pretty dam smartish out of the hole in the roof where a tile had fallen off. Dam and blast if I had been a little less like a bull in a china shop maybe I could of got an image or two but not a chance in hell when one acts like a great lumbering oaf!!! a lesson learnt.......I hope???

Anyway, whilst here I thought I might as well check out the nest box to see if there had been any signs of interest. The problem was it was too high up on top of a shelf for me to check it out, oh but that wasn't going to perturb me, with a bit of shunting back and forth I managed to squeeze the Landover inside the barn! It was now in a position that would allow me to climb up onto the roof and be at just the right height. The box was checked out and all the wood chipping that I had put in for bedding had been moved around and a nice (owl size) depression had been formed in one corner. Yipeeeeeee my first tenants have taken up residence, fingers crossed now they go on to breed.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Pairs A Plenty!

This evening I visited a site where I had only ever previously seen 1 bird on two separate occasions and that was when it was almost dark so no images to speak of.........so far! Although I haven't mentioned it yet, I set my self a challenge of seeing at least 50, YES 50 different little owls this month. This was the reason that made me make the effort and get out there tonight even though the weather was just appalling, dark, windy and very wet. Nevertheless it turned out to be a fine evening for little owl sightings, although I make no apologies for the poor quality of the images because I can't do anything about the low light levels!

I didn't have to wait long before I located this bird sitting in a nearby ash tree, excellent, my first proper image from this site. Although difficult to see it is actually sitting on top of its nest hole entrance, small or what?

He moved around from perch to post and then to a stump giving me some different photographic opportunities.

He was obviously pleased to see me judging by that wink!!!

Another perch and another pose.

Then to really finish off an excellent half hour or so another bird appeared from nowhere, superb.... my expectations of more owlets for this summer increases with yet another confirmed pair!

Site 75, Peatling Parva - Preistlands.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Wind in the Willows

Got my daily owl fix this morning before work had even started, I was making my way cross country (to avoid all the traffic) out towards Rutland. I decided to make a slight detour to hopefully get a glimpse of any resident owls that may be showing at the first little owl site I ever found. Although a little distant for good images a single bird was out on one of its usual perches catching some early morning sun.

Site 1, Carlton Curlieu - Marks Plantation.

On my return journey I decided to catch up with a relatively new site over at Burrough Hill that I located a few weeks ago. Now I wasn't very hopeful of any sightings as this morning’s glorious sunshine had been replace with drizzle and driving winds (and we all now know little owls don't like the wind!). Anyhow, shows how much I know because almost as soon as I had arrived I located a single bird in a willow tree, albeit it was sheltering out of the elements. It then flew over to the nearby ash tree where it settled down tight up against the main trunk  Hang on a minute.............that single bird has company!!! This was only my third visit to this site and already confirmation of a pair.....result!!

Another pair for the records.

Site 95, Borrough Hill - Court Farm

Just as I was about to pull off one of the owls came over for a closer look, a nosey little so and so (must be the hen bird!!!) although it was nearly dark, windy and still raining I was able to managed this image, the best from this site so far. It was a shame but she didn't hang around long though, this was due to the farmer spooking her as he drove by in his tractor, but the good news was I gained permission from him to set up my hide in the field near the potential nest tree so fingers crossed some much better images to come?

Saturday, 20 March 2010


Managed to get a few hours out this afternoon and after visiting 10 local sites the running tally of owls seen or heard was.................ZERO!!!!!! I know the weather was real crappy with the wind and driving rain but you'd of thought little owls were made of tougher stuff than this, what a bunch of whimps!!! Apart from that is............ a pair of tough little blighters over at Whetstone!

These guys saved the day for me, I'd only been waiting around 10 minutes when the first bird poked its head out of the nest hole.

This guy was made of tough stuff, he soon came out and braved it in the wind and rain, he was the owl equivelent of Rambo!

And then things got even better proving every cloud does have a silver lining, his other half came out to brave the elements too!

The pair of them moved around the tree for a few minutes offering some good views,

Concidering the poor conditions, low light levels and high ISO's some of the images came out ok?

Site 31, Whetstone - Crossways Farm

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Late Lunch

After my successful early morning venture over to Gilmorton I wasn't planning on having any more trips out until at least the weekend, however when my 2.40pm appointment was cancelled it meant I had an hour or so to kill, mmmmmmm what could I do?????? That was it a decision was made, i'll take my late lunch at one of my local owl sites and as luck would have it my camera was in the car...........just in case!!!!!

Upon arrival both birds were observed flying around the nest tree, there seemed to be something that was exciting them, they were making a right racket squawking and screeching at each other not to mention all the fluttering and flapping, maybe it was something courtship ritual?

After a few minutes they calmed down and it was at this point I think they noticed me, or maybe they even heard the shutter on the camera?

My presence didn't seem to deter them at all, then to my amazement and good fortune they flew in my direction landing on a branch and a bushes right in front of me!!!

Bird No 1, presumably the female due to it's slightly larger size

Bird No 2

Bird No 2

Bird No 2

Site 62, Valley View Farm - Leire

Well I just couldn't believe my luck and to think I hadn't even managed any images of the adults from this site before. What a fantastic lunch half hour it was and I didn't even get to eat my sandwiches!!!!
And to think I so nearly nailed that dam elusive little owl in flight shot too!!

Crack Of Sparrows

Before the delights of another days work I decided to go out really early today!!! The reasoning for this early start (up at the crack of sparrows) was to get some images from a relatively new little owl site over at Gilmorton. Due to its location the best time for photography is early morning whilst the sun is in my favour and on the subject......if it showed?

Site 92, Holt Farm - Gilmorton.

At the nest hole entrance.
I was really pleased with this mornings visit on four counts, firstly the owls showed, secondly these images are the best I have managed from this site (and the sun played its part), thirdly, my suspisions of where the nest entrance was were confirmed as the birds were sitting at it and just inside it, and finally I thought this site only had a single bird  but a pair were sitting snuggled up together when I first approached, sadly though I wasn't able to capture them both together........this time!!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Stake Out.

Yesterday on the whole was a poor day for little owl viewing, of all the sites visited (20ish) birds were only showing at 6 or 7 locations. I have come to the conclusion/excuse (and I'm sticking by it!) is that little owls just don't like the wind! So first thing this morning I was in a dilemma because it was actually windier than it was yesterday.  So should I do as yesterday and visit loads and loads of sites and just hope I get lucky with the odd sighting and distant photo or should I select one site and sit it out? The latter was the chosen option and the selected site was a local one over at Whetstone.

After waiting around an hour my invested time was paid off when this bird appeared at the nest hole entrance

He popped out and flew around for a few minutes, dooohh still can't nail that owl in flight image!!!

After the little flying display I think he realised he'd be far warmer back inside the tree.

Site 31, Whetstone - Crossways Farm

Saturday, 13 March 2010

A Day With The Enemy!

Today I was showing Derbyshire birder (and big Derby County supporter.....booooooo) Pete Whewell around a few of my owl sites.  Although the weather seemed to be perfect I struggled to show Pete any birds let alone get near enough for any decent images!! Anyway the day ended up ok in the end as I was able to show him half a dozen birds or so and I think he was happy with the images he managed.

After dropping Pete off I decided I would spend the afternoon (listening to city on the radio........winning again!) and checking out a couple of sites that we didn't get round to visiting in the morning. My luck was in as a pair of little owls showed really well at both sites.

.Site 22, Blaby - Whetstone Gorse Site B
This is the first image of a bird from this location that has graced my blog.
Site 32, Peatling magna - Sambury Farm

Site 32, Peatling magna - Sambury Farm

Site 32, Peatling magna - Sambury Farm

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Good Old Gaddesby!

Work took me out towards Melton and beyond today, I left nice and early so I could make a detour via Gaddesby to see if my site No 41 had any owls showing. Due to the location being in and around some mature trees the lighting was ever changing but in comparision with previous visits todays sightings and photo opportunities were by far the best I have ever had.

Site No 41, Gaddesby - Underwood lodge Farm

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Third Time Lucky!

Went out in the landrover tonight for an hour or so, first call was Lodge Farm at Blaby but after a good 30 minutes or so no birds were either seen or heard. After Lodge Farm I decided to go down the road to Port Hill, South Wigston, a new site found a couple of weeks ago. Same story here, absolutely nothing about although I did have a quick chat with a gentleman who did see a little owl here a few days ago. Next stop was at Pochins Bridge, South Wigston and thank goodness......a couple of owls were obliging here!

Site 77, Pochins Bridge - South Wigston.
Shame about the twigs otherwise this would have made a really nice image!

The nest tree at this site is only 10 mts or so from the river's edge and whilst I was watching and waiting for the owls to move into a more photographic position I noticed something moving and twitching along the shoreline. After investigation this little chap was pinpointed and the resultant image was obtained.

Common Snipe.

Buzzard out - Owl in!

Work had me starting out early yesterday morning and as I was heading out towards Lutterworth I drove past this buzzard sitting on a wire fence, I had the camera on board so I chanced my arm and turned back; luckily he hadn't flown off and actually posed quite nicely. Due to the low light levels and the mist shutter speeds were slow but I was pleased with the outcome considering the conditions.

No buzzard images for months and then 2 in a week, are buzzards buses???

On my return journey I went via the small Leicestershire village of Welham with the hope of seeing some little owls, according to my records I haven't seen these particulars birds since last summer! Anyway, upon arrival at the location no birds were in evidence so plan B came into action............playback my little owl call  that I have on my mobile phone! Within seconds a response, a calling bird was located on a wall about 100 mts away.

A heavily cropped image.....can you see him?

The calling wall owl then flew up to my left and into some ash trees where he was then joined by a second bird. The pair of them then excitedly went into a calling and screeching fit which lasted a good couple of minutes.

Site 9, Home Farm - Welham

Monday, 8 March 2010

99 Not out!!!!!

This evening the sun stayed out albeit being bitterly cold.......again! Not sure if it would be a good time for owl watching or not? I decided that I hadn't been over to the western side of my patch for a while as I had a tip to follow up from my mate Tony about a likely site at Barwell.
On route I went via Peckleton, here both the local owls were out getting a bit of evening sun. It is not easy to get near to the birds at this site so I had to be content with these distant images.

Site 6, Peckleton Hall, owl No 1.

Site 6, Peckleton Hall, owl No 2.

Next stop was Brockey Farm near to Kirkby Mallory, I wanted to check out the nest box that I'd put up here recently and see if it had any new residents. As I pulled up both birds were spotted at distance sitting together on some low posts, image below.  

Site 42, Brockey Farm site A

Whilst I watched and waited for them to come closer one bird dived from the post and onto the ground with wings spread. Then to my surprise it flew in my direction and landed in a tree no more than 15 mts away, I then realised it had caught a mouse/shrew or some kind of small rodent and was now perched up readily devouring its meal, image below.

If you look closely you can just about make out his dinner in his tallon

Before my destination of Barwell was reached I wanted to make one more slight detour to a site where I haven’t seen an owl for absolutely ages..........Brockey Farm site B. Due to the location of the nest tree here I can't use the Landover as a hide, this maybe the reason why it proves difficult to see the owls here because they see you coming first! Anyway today my luck change because as I approached the nest tree I spotted the owl just before he spotted me and the below image was possible.

Site 50, Stapleton - Brockey Farm site B
Finally I arrived at Brookhill Farm, Barwell, I went to see the land owner and gained permission to drive around the estate in the Landover, that was a result because idle so and so's like me don't want to be walking too far now do we!!!!

Going on the info that Tony had given me I started searching the area, after a while I came upon a group of willows that looked very very owley. As I drove up slowly I spotted an owl sitting among the sprouting foliage, yes yes yes Tony was right.......COME ON IN LITTLE OWL No 99!!!!!!

This bird stayed dead still relying heavily on his camoflage to keep him safe from detection.

I was at an awkward angle for good views so I drove off and turned back round giving a better perspective of the whole tree, it was a good decision as I then spotted a second bird...............RESULT!!!!! Once I'd made eye contact he wasn't hanging around and off he flew to the next tree, I followed slowly and managed this image below.

Site 99, Barwell -  Brookhill Farm Site B