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, 23 July 2010

Continental Owls.

Hi all, sorry for the lack of posts recently, I am currently out of the UK in search of some european owls, more info to follow...........fingers crossed!!!!!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Wow......In Print!!!!!

I have just had this months edition of  Bird Watching magazine delivered, I feel quite honoured that they have a two page article on my Little Owl study accompanied with a few of my images.

Hopefully it will encourage a few brit birders to get out there and look for their own local Little Owls.

Go find em guys!!!!!!!!

Thursday, 15 July 2010

More breeding success.

I have a number of Little Owl breeding sites this year where so far I have only managed to confirmed 1 juvenile, I'm sure a few re-visits to these sites will throw up a few more juveniles and get the overall tally ticking over, it is just a case of putting in more time and having a bit of luck that they show.

For this reason I re-visited Fleckney tonight to again check out site No 19,  after a good hour stake out it proved fruitless in terms of more juveniles, the tally at this site still remains at 1 for this year, however both adult birds were located roosting in the nest tree and offered some nice photo opportunities in between the showers.

Adult No 1

Adult No 2

Not wanting to waste too much time at just one location I moved on down the road to check out a potential new site near to Wistow. My mate Nigel thought he saw a Little Owl here a few months ago in a roadside tree so what had I got to lose, I had to go and investigate! I parked up where I thought it looked "owly" and waited. During the hour I was there I heard a Little Owl call on several occasions, but no sightings! I'm not going to give this site the honour of being my 111th site............just yet!!!!! I will re-visit very soon and with a bit of luck will make a sighting and then I will spend some time observing the birds habits and movements, this should then enable me to locate the nest tree and maybe............juveniles!!!!

I have another Little Owl site (No 97) not far from where I found myself so it was off to investigate that further, there is a pair of adults here and I have seen them on many occasions but sadly no breeding evidence this year........so far!

I pulled up next to the nest site and after a half an hours wait an adult bird showed right at the very top of the nest tree. After a while it swooped down into an adjacent field and caught a vole. It flew back with the vole and disappeared in the nest tree,  the next thing there was a right commotion .........it was feeding its chicks!

It wasn't long before the greedy little blighters wanted more and showed themselves on the outer limbs of the tree..........and there was three of them!!!!!

Juveniles No 1 & 2. 

Juvenile No 3.

What a result, tonight's observations have pushed this years juvenile tally up nicely to 59 from 28 sites.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Late Starters?

I re-visited site No 11 at Claybrook Magna this evening, although it is getting on in the breeding season I had a hunch that there could still be some late chicks yet to emerge at this site............and there was!!!!

After a short wait one of the adult owls was located sitting at the entrance to the nest location (a barn window), I managed some images (in terms of Little Owls that is) that I'd never achieved before, a natural solid black background, I like it as well, a little different? 

I am undecided on which works best though, portrait or landscape? So I uploaded both of them!!!!!

As usual double click on any image for a larger more detailed version.


Or Landscape??

Then I heard what I'd come for, the hissing of a Little Owl chick, it was coming from a nearby tree so without further ado I investigated. A single juvenile was soon found huddling up against the tree trunk. Taking images proved quite a problem, loads of branches in the way and to compound that low light levels too. Thank goodness I had my tripod with me to steady the lens as the shutter speeds were as low as 1/40th of a second.  

Whilst taking these images a second juvenile was heard "hissing" but I failed in to locate it, nevertheless another two more to add to this years tally.............which now stands at 56 at 27 different sites.

On my way back I purposely went past site No 64 at Leire, I was really hoping for some more late showing juveniles at this site too! Both adults were again located in what seems to be their favourite tree, but no signs of any juveniles.

I must make an effort to get to this site earlier next time, I think I will then be able to obtain some better images in the light! 

Whilst I was attempting to improve on my images I witnessed something that  took me  totally by surprise, it also answered the question on why there has been no evidence of chicks this year.......... they have only just started mating!!!!!

Are these owls very late starters or could they be having a second clutch? I think the latter is unlikely as  second clutches for Little Owls are very very rare!

Saturday, 10 July 2010


Today just seemed to be totally devoid of owls, I was owl n about for around 7 hrs and must have visited over 20 different sites. In total 4 owls were seen at 3 sites and one of those was just a fleeting glimpse...........just what is going on????

Anyhow, as it was a pretty uneventful day and I have nothing much more to say so I'll just leave you with a few images of three of the birds that did show!

As usual, double click on any image for a more detailed and larger version.

Site No 11 at Claybrook Magna, unusual perch?

Site No 107 at Gilmorton, an alert adult.

 Say aaaargh!!!

Site No 107 at Gilmorton, an alert juvenile, one I rung a few weeks ago.

Say aaaargh again!!!

Friday, 9 July 2010

54 and rising!

Tonight I returned to my new site 108 at Gilmorton, I was attempting to capture my first images of the resident owls, whilst there I also wanted to try and identify the nest site and also if there had been any breeding success this year..........I was triumphant on all three counts.

After I'd parked up within the vicinity of where I saw an owl on my last visit I immediately heard the distinctive "hissing" of a begging juvenile. The sound was coming from a very large wooden shed/workshop, I surveyed it for any potential nest entrances when an adult owl exited out of a tiny cavity in the apex of the roof.  

Not the best of images but my first of an owl from this site.

The juvenile then put in its first appearance, it had a quick peek at me before it disappeared, it wasn't seen or heard again whilst I was there. Good news though, breeding confirmation at another site this year.

I then moved on down the road to re-visit another new owl location that was also in Gilmorton, site No 109. A single bird showed tonight but it was quite late and the light had almost but gone, sadly no evidence of any breeding success was evident.

I have now recorded a minimum of 54 juveniles at 26 different sites so far this year.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Cardinal Sin!

Tonight I decided to stake out site 79 at Peatling Magna, the intention was two fold, firstly I have never managed an image of an owl from this site, and secondly it needed checking out for any breeding success.

The Landrover was positioned at 7.15pm, the light was good for images and there was plenty of attractive "owl like" posts for them to land on, all that was needed now was some owls!!

After a 2 hour wait they finally emerged from their nest hole, by now the light was pretty poor but I'm not complaining, I got my first ever image, and a pair too!

The first bird then dropped down onto one of the further away posts and posed nicely, a few more images were in the can.

Then the second bird dropped down a little nearer to me and onto a post with some old string wrapped around it, again it posed nicely whilst I took a few images. 

Not being completely satisfied with the images (too far away) I decided to chance my arm and get a little closer. The Landrover was started....the owl didn't move, I drove a lot nearer and then manoeuvred into position....the owl didn't move, I fumbled around and made more noise than I'd wanted to....the owl didn't move. Blimey my luck was in tonight, this was one confiding owl, I couldn't believe how close I was. I framed the bird, waited a few seconds for it to turn and look straight down the lens and then nothing? WHAT!!!!!! Oh my god a flat battery........what a pillock, a fantastic opportunity gone! I didn't bring my spares with me, a lesson learnt and I will never, never do that again.

Oh by the way no chicks were either seen or heard.

Monday, 5 July 2010

In the Gutter

Pheeeewwww, what a Sunday evening I had! Loads of owls seen and heard, in fact too many to recall actually, but here are just a few extracts from a very productive few hours.

Cross Eyed!

I have a Little Owl territory over at Leire, site No 63 and I just haven't visited since last year! I don't know why it has been so long but nevertheless I was there on Sunday. In the breeding season of 2009 I recorded 1 juvenile here but funny enough I have never seen any adult birds......ever!!! (maybe because I don't visit enough?). Anyhow, this is a superb location in an old orchard, I made my way to the far corner and settled down in the shade of an apple tree, this gave me a good vantage point of the whole area and as it was completely saturated in sunshine seeing something shouldn't be too difficult?

I'd been sitting quietly for around 10 minutes when I caught a glimpse of an owl, and would you believe it, an adult!! Although a little distant a did manage an image, it moved around from tree to tree but didn't come any closer. I then pursued it through the orchard and managed a few more images, although all of them were pretty poor! I then heard the distinct hissing of a juvenile, as much as I tried I just couldn't locate it, but what it did prove was there was a breeding pair here and another success for this years records.  

It wasn't until I was reviewing my images that I realised this owl was cross eyed, and it wasn't just a one off, I have reviewed every image I took and in them all the eyes are the same! Here is a heavily cropped section from one of the images, I know its very poor quality but it does show, the "strange eyes"!!!  

New site 110!

Another notable visit was the one to site No 54 at Broughton Astley, sadly nothing at all showing here although the local resident said she had seen the owls recently but no juveniles........as yet!. Not being perturbed I set off on a back lane along the side of the fields that run away from site No 54, three or fields in I came across a disused barn, and low and behold what did I see sitting on the roof? You've guessed it a Little Owl!!

The owl can be seen on the right hand side of the apex.

To get a better, closer look I manoeuvred the landrover to the bottom of the field, still a long way but near enough for me to confirm that what I was looking at was indeed a juvenile! Not only was it new site 110 but a breeding site too!

Same bird, different angle.

In The Gutter!

My planned final location of the night was at Claybrook Magna and site No 11, a pair had been seen here on many occasions but the nesting site had yet to be confirmed. My suspicions where heavily in favour of the old barn, so this is where I parked up and waited. I was keeping a watchful eye on the entrance to the hayloft, after a while this came up trumps as a bird came from nowhere and flew straight in!

Hissing chicks could now be heard, the owl had taken in food for its young. Judging by the racket they were making  it sounded like there was a number of them as well. Two minutes later the adult popped its head out of the hayloft window.

Before flying off in search of more food he checked that the coast was clear, he then looked straight at me, oh no had I been too noisy, he had sussed me out?

Apparently not, he hopped out onto the piece of hose pipe that was protruding from the wall.

From the hose pipe he dropped down onto the wall, how close was he going to come?

It was here he sat for an hour, doing absolutely nothing! Then the sun broke through the cloud cover and offered this chance of a late evening glow image, it was difficult light to get the exposure right........ not sure if this images works or not?

I think the late sun kicked started him back into action as he suddenly flew straight at and over me. Move manoeuvring of the Landrover found him sitting in the gutter of one of the industrial units, here he sat for another 10 minutes.

He was by now moving into another long period of inactivity so it was time to go, I was just pulling away when a second bird showed, it too had been feeding the chicks, the chick numbers are as yet unknown but I will be back soon to hopefully get some confirmation and images.

And finally, and totally unplanned more Little owls. This image is from site No 64 at Leire. It was very late and almost dark, 9.55pm to be exact I was driving by this site and spotted a pair of adult birds sitting in a tree. I had to give it a go as this is my very first owl image from this site.

An excellent and very productive evening, a new site, three more confirmed breeding locations.....I wonder what Monday night will produce???????.................Bring it on!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Chick Checking!

Saturday morning found me "owl 'n' about" again, accompanied by my good mate, Nigel Spencer, he had come along for the day to seize upon any photo opportunities that may arise during my rounds. Again, my main itinerary was to check out more little Owls sites to see if there had been any more juveniles emerging from the nests. 

Time is really against me now as most juveniles should have fledged and locating them becomes harder and harder. My tally for this year has already outweighed last year (which is good news in itself) however I feel it could have been much higher if I'd of had the time to get around and monitor all of my local sites, let alone the further afield ones!!!

The day wasn't going too good and we hadn't seen much until that is we arrived at a location near to site 104 at South Wigston. The local farmer had recently cut the hay in a field which now allowed access to a previous "no go area".  I wanted to follow this area up as a previous visit had shown signs of Little Owl activity (pellets). As we drove around the perimeter we neared the suspect area and Nigel spotted an owl sitting out on a limb. I shunted the Landrover back and forth until I was in a position to take a record shot of the bird.

Not sure if this bird was from the nearby site 104, or could it be a new location and site 110? Only time and further investigations will reveal all but for now it will be site 104!

 A record shot of the adult owl at site 104......or maybe site 110?????

I then panned the adjacent trees with my binoculars and BINGO, a juvenile was there too!!! Sadly not the best of images but another juvenile for this years tally. We hung around for a while but no second adult bird or any more juveniles were seen.

More breeding success, juvenile at site 104 (110?).

The other bit of juvenile success from the day was at site 21 at Willoughby Waterleys, a single bird was seen at very close quarters flying away from the nest site, sadly now image was possible.

We also visited Site 68 at Peatling Magna, here I located one of the three (of this years already  recorded) juveniles hiding in the nest tree. 

Site 68, coming out of hiding!

During the day we also visited site 22 at Willoughby Waterleys, I wasn't able to get any images of the 2 juveniles owls that were showing but after I dropped Nigel off I popped back to have another go.

No juveniles showed but my wait was rewarded when one of the adults popped out of the nest entrance.

Another image from site 22 with a "bit of golden glow".

What I did learn from the day is "juvenile spotting" or as it is also know "chick checking" is far more productive in the late evening to dusk period, but all things considered it wasn't too bad a day with two more being recorded taking this years tally to 49!

Double click on any image for a larger more detailed version.

Friday Night.

I'd got an hour spare on Friday night before I was due to go out and have a few beers, do I sit in an watch a bit of TV or do I nip out and check for more fledged little Owl chicks????? The latter won hands down!

Due to the time constraints I had to go to a local site, and one of which I hadn't checked out yet, the chosen location was site No 32 near to Peatling Magna.

I was conscious of how little time I had, but I needn't of worried as the 1st adult owl was soon sighted in the nest tree and it didn't do its usual disappearing act, I wonder why? It didn't appear to really be bothered by my presence, then I realised why, the chicks were out!!!!! And what good fortune, all 3 of them as well. They were all clambering about high up in the tree, obviously the adult bird was keeping a close eye on them ............and me!!!!!

Double click on any image for an enlarged and more detailed version.

Adult No 1 - Keeping a watch out.

The chicks seemed inquisitive and dropped lower into the tree to get a better look at me and the Landrover, this offered some excellent photo opportunities, when they weren't hiding behind the branches and leaves that is.

 Juvenile No 1 - Peek-a-boo!

Juvenile 2 - A little more showy.

Juvenile 3 - The shyest!

Juvenile 1 - The bravest and boldest!

Adult No 2 then showed with some food, all hell was then let loose as all three Juveniles scrambled and squawked their way up the tree to be the first for the incoming morsel, chick No 1 was the winner..............surprise, surprise!!!!

I wish all my excursions could be as short and productive as this was, guess I will pay for it when I next go out??