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!!!

Monday, 30 August 2010

120 & 77.

My very late search for more juveniles proved fruitful today, another 5 located across 2 sites today takes the 2010 total to an incredible 77. But the good news doesn't finish there, there was also an added bonus of another two brand new Little Owl sites taking the overall tally to 120 in just 2 years..........a mere 100 more sites than my original target of 20 in 3 years!!!!!!

The first new site (No 119) was just outside the village of Kilby, a very vocal bird but I wasn't able to locate its exact location for the purpose of a photo due to the heavy foliage it was hiding in, I will return!

The second new site of the day (No 120) was just outside the village of Slawston, after a long wait the potential site produced the goods when 2 juveniles showed, unfortunately one of them was very camera shy, nevertheless its sibling made up for that and showed really well in a variety of poses and locations.

A very showy bird at what I think must be the nest entrance.

It went up high in the tree but still kept its eye on me.

After a while it's confidence grew and it came down to feed from the fence posts.

Bloody hell then it landed right in front of me, I had to zoom out otherwise I wouldn't of been able to fit it into the view finder. The light wasn't good (sun from behind the subject) but it wasn't difficult to capture the birds detail when your taking an image from about 6 feet!!

On the way home I made a detour to site No 9 at Welham, this was my first check for juveniles at this site this year, luckily I knew where to look and as it happens it wasn't too late............3 were located on a distant wall. My patience paid off when one of them came over to check me out, as you can perhaps gather from the image it was very vocal and not best pleased of my presence...... I was glad of his though! 

The 2010 tally keeps ticking over, that's now 77 juveniles across 36 sites.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

3 new Little Owl sites.

I was going to get up nice and early today, but you know what its like when you have had one too many the night before and the effects still haven't worn off the morning after......resulting in yet another late start!

Today was all about finding more Little Owl sites, I've been doing some homework after a bit of networking at the Birdfair and I was going to find out today if it was all worth it!

First raptor of the day was this superbly marked Kestrel, makes a change from Little Owls I suppose.

I was searching around the Saddington area and it didn't take too long before site No 116 was located. Sadly no adult birds where seen here but a very satisfying 3 juveniles.

Juvenile No 1

Juvenile No 2 

Juvenile No 3

Next owl to be located was another Juvenile also at Saddington, this territory was pretty close to the first, only two fields away.

An alert juvenile at site No 117.

The final new location of the day and new site No 118 was an adult owl near to Gumley. Sadly the image is really poor due to the distance and the fact it wouldn't come out of the confines of the nest tree.

Can you see him?

Many thanks to David Scott for the shared info on the potential sites.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Comfortable Owling!

This is going to be a brief post as I have only just got in and I have to be out again in 10 minutes, I have a pressing appointment with the landlord down at my local..........well it is Friday night you know!!!!!

Site 115 was located this evening over at Brascote in a local residents back garden. Would you believe I was even allowed to drive my Landrover all over their back lawn in an attempt to get into a decent position to get an image. This is the life I thought, I wish every site could be like this, it couldn't get any better, but it did!!!!!! Tap tap tap on my window "would you like a cup tea or coffee" how could I refuse?

Double click on any image for a slightly bigger version.

Anyway, whilst I was busy sipping away the owl showed, I managed a few images but unfortunately it was a little distant.

He came a little closer.

Closer still.

As close as he got!

A super couple of hours and another site to add to my growing list. I will return soon to try and improve on my images and to obviously sample a bit more of the lovely coffee, and you never know I may get a piece of cake next time too!!

Many thanks to the very kind residents who allowed my to churn up their lawn and thanks to Colin Green who told me about the site.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Going Green!

I have just begun the assembly of my next 20 Little Owl boxes, hopefully they will be made and positioned in the next few weeks just in time to maybe attract some of this years juveniles once they start to disperse from their natal sites.

I now realise I made a fundamental mistake with the first 20 boxes I put up earlier this year........the colour!!!  Its not that the owls have any preference at all, they couldn't give a dam. The problems lies with how obvious they are when compared to the natural colour of a tree trunk, see image below.

Pictured below is the first off the production line sporting the new colour, hopefully they will blend in better with the natural environment and won't bring as much attention to themselves as the "brown box" did at site 96 where some scroat climbed the tree and stole 3 eggs out of the box!

In addition to the colour change I have also made a slight design change, the door has been moved over to the left hand side (did you notice the change?). The reason for this is the hen birds were found to prefer the front right hand side of the box to lay her eggs, therefore I thought it less disturbing to move the door over. 

Many thanks to Ken & Jean Goodrich for organising the supply of the timber through the Leicester And Rutland Ornithological Society.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Now on 113 sites........for 10 minutes!

Just got back from the Birdfair, and my Little Owl tally has moved on to 114 (capitalisation again John H, I took note and remembered!!). A couple of new sites near to Carlton Curlieu were added to my list on the drive back, many thanks to the couple who visited the stand on Saturday who gave me the info on the probable sites ........you were dead right. No photos to add (no camera) but they will follow sometime in the week, nothing much more to add so I am now going to go and attack a curry and a few pints, at my age and with my growing waistline maybe I should reconsider and go for salad and a low cal lager, mmmmmmmmmm I don't think so!!!!

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Birdfair 2010

Two days down and only one to go, what a privilege it has been so far being on the LROS stand at this years Birdfair, (apart from the aching feet that is!). Loads of visitors too, plenty of old faces and loads and loads of new! I thought it was going to be hard work talking "all things owl" for three days but so far it has been an absolute breeze and the enthusiasm shown by some visitors to the stand has been exceptional and very rewarding.

The LROS stand, what a fabulous job Sue & Jim Graham have done putting it all together, well done guys a well deserved pat on the pack is due.

The new LROS membership has been steadily growing too, with Mr Hague showing us all how it is done recruiting new members, something to do with his good looks and natural charm..........apparently!!!!!

For all those visitors who have shown an interest in the Little Owl nest box that was on show, as promised this is the link, just double click here - LITTLE OWL NEST BOX.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Two out two in!

 A very early start to work today, I decided to take my camera with me just in case............

At around 6.30am I drove by site No 16 and a brace of owls were showing, after further inspection both the owls were confirmed to be adults, sadly still no evidence of any offspring so far this year. Never the less, it was still good to see them as this was the first sighting of both birds at the same time for a good few months.

I only managed an image of one of the owls, pretty poor quality though as it was taken from a considerable distance in poor light.

On my return journey I stopped off at around 5.30pm at site No 97 near to Wistow, here I encountered a pair of juveniles sitting out on the outer limbs of the nest tree, and in reasonable light conditions, too good a chance to miss!!!

A much better quality image of a pair of very amenable Little Owls!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Are the Buzzards to blame?

I was "owl n about" again Saturday evening, checking on a few local sites hoping for some more "late show" juveniles. The weather through the day had been really terrible (usless for seeing owls) which lead to the late start.

Again I went over to South Wigston but the pair juveniles that had set up a temporary home in a pile of logs had gone (see previous posting), or at least they weren't showing! Maybe it was the wet conditions they didn't like?

Anyhow, as I was in the area I thought I'd check out site No 77 as no owls had shown here on my last 3 or 4 visits, I was a little concerned for their welfare as a pair of Buzzards have built a nest in an adjacent tree and I feared the worse!!!! 

I staked out the nest tree for about 30 mins when I caught a movement up high in the canopy, upon closer inspection I located one of the adult Little Owls. It allowed me to get quite close, albeit it was never really in full view and never out in the open! I am now wondering if the close proximity of the breeding Buzzards has made them particularly nervous, maybe this is the answer to why there has been no breeding evidence  this year? 

 Little Owl Site 77, a nervous bird!

Although I didn't get any more owl action whilst in the fields at South Wigston there was plenty of activity from some other notable species, Lesser Whitethroat, Wheatear x 2, Stonechat, Green Sandpiper, Snipe and 3 x Kingfishers.

It was by now getting late so it was a quick dash over to Fleckney to check out sites 19 & 28 to see if this years tally of juveniles could be improved upon. No such luck, nothing showing at site 19 and only a single owl at site 28 and that was an adult.

On my return journey I stopped off at site 97 near to Wistow, beings as I know where to look it didn't take me long to locate the juveniles, and good news there are still 3 of them! It was not very conducive for images though as they were staying partially hidden and high up in the nest tree.   

Juveniles No 1 & 2 at site 97, can you see them both? 

I was just about to leave when one of the parent owls came in with a small vole, it landed on one of the outer limbs and started squawking, the temptation of food coaxed the youngsters out, the vole was ripped to bits by the juveniles in about 30 seconds, and yes all the action was missed........ I had just packed the camera away!!!!!!

Juvenile No 2 - post feeding frenzy! 

Juvenile No 3 - post feeding frenzy!  

Oh well I'm sure I'll have better luck next time with the action shots but it was still good to see all 3 juveniles showing and still doing really well.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Preparing for the Birdfair!

This years Birdfair at Rutland Water, promises to be the biggest and best yet, and this years show will have just a little bit of "owls about that then" on display on one of the stands!

LROS (Leicestershire & Rutland Ornithological Society) have a stand every year promoting the whys and wherefores of the society, any work undertaken and anything of note that has happened during the year. It appears that every year they have a "theme" of which the stand is based around, and this year I am very pleased to announce, it will be my owl survey. There will hopefully be plenty of details on how the survey began, how it is progressing and what has been understood so far along with a selection of owl pictures that should complement the story so far.

So if you are thinking of going please stop by to say hello to the LROS people, Marquee 2, Stand No.37 and have a chat (they won't bite!!!) and if you so which why not even take the opportunity to enroll and help boost the membership and help to continue their good work.

Hope to see you there?????????

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Back in the groove.

Posting processing images is a daunting and laborious enough task a the best of times, but doing it with a pounding and thumping head has proved a real chore this morning. Prior to me going out for a few beers last night I thought I'd spend a couple of hours getting back into the "owling groove" after my 2 week break in Spain.

The chosen location was over at South Wigston, this is a private strip of land where I have 4 different Little Owl territories and I have full access to drive freely about in my Land Rover. 

Owls were seen at two locations, firstly two adult birds showed well at site No 104, as ever double click on any image for a larger more detailed version.

Owl No 1 at site 104.

Owl No 2 at site 104.

As I drove around the area nothing was seen or heard at sites 76 and 77, but when I approached site 105 a single juvenile was located sitting high up against a tree trunk. It then flew down and landed in an old pile of branches, I drove a closer to see what it was up to.

The 1st juvenile sheltering out of the wind and rain.

 Upon closer inspection of the pile of branches a second juvenile was seen.

I drove a little closer and parked up, to my amazement they didn't seemed bothered by my presence as they went about their business grubbing about looking for food.

Over the next half hour or so I got some of the best close up views I've ever had of Little Owls, on occasions I had to zoom my lens out because they were too near and I couldn't fit them into the frame!

Although I am very happy with my image collection from yesterday, it was raining and the light was terrible with shutter speeds around 1/50th of a second (very slow) so I am now off for a return visit, hopefully when I get there the conditions will be in better, fingers crossed!........oh, and my hangover will have gone!!!

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Late additions!

Whilst out working today I knew my travels would take me past a site No 40 over at Thornton, as I hadn't had time to check this location so far this breeding season, I decided to take my camera with me just in case!

Around midday I pulled up in the gateway and viewed the nest tree from the car, this location is a perfect example of what  Little Owl's seem to prefer, open countryside, plenty of hedgerows in the area, a mature nesting tree with plenty of cavities that stands in total isolation (not a wooded area).

The perfect tree.

I gave the tree a once over with the binoculars but nothing could be seen, I must note that this tree is a good 100 yards from the road so seeing them from that kind of distance can be difficult. Not to be perturbed I walked across the field camera in hand to get a closer look. From about 50 yards I picked up a movement on the right hand side of the main trunk, could that be an owl??? I sat down and waited, and it wasn't long before my suspicions were confirmed, a pair of juveniles!!!!

View from 50 yards, can you see them?

Although they both seemed inquisitive of my appearance they were holding their ground. I then chanced my arm and tried to get a little closer, unfortunately at about 25 yards the first one decided enough was enough and flew off, the second held fast.

The braver of the two from around 25 yards.

Superb result and another 2 juveniles recorded for this year, this late addition takes the 2010 tally to 61 juveniles across 28 sites.

My appitite had been whetted by the juveniles earlier in the day so a very late run out in the landrover was in order at last light tonight. I was only out for around 30 mins but that was long enough for me to see 1 Tawny Owl and 3 Little Owls, the first 2 Little Owls were known birds at established territories but the third bird which flew across the road in front of me was a new one in an area I had never made a sighting before...........come on in site No 112!!!!

Daily Mail

As regular readers of this blog are aware, the Little Owl is a struggling species here in the UK and numbers are on the demise in most counties. So any publicity and spreading the gospel of their plight and struggle is good news,  especially when it is in the national newspaper, The Daily Mail. Today's issue (Aug 5th 2010) has an excellent and comical article with some stunning images supplied by Andy Rouse complemented with comments from Emily Joachim (both previously of "owls about that then" fame!!!!!) please take a look by clicking on this link, dailymail.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Elusive EL Owl.

I have just returned from my trip to Spain and my hunt for the local Little Owls was a total wipe out, well nearly! After spending many hours in pursuit of the little critters I only located a single bird and due to an "error 99" with my camera all images were lost!!!!

All was not in vain though, I did managed to salvage a few images of some the other species that I saw. 

Spotted Flycatcher 

Spotted Flycatcher (juvenile)

  Woodchat Shrike

Curlew Sandpiper ( I think? )

Southern Grey Shrike

Zitting Cisticola

Black Winged Stilt

Little Egret 

Little Stint & Little Ringed Plover

Squacco Herons

Yellow Wagtail (Iberiae Race)

Purple Herons

Although it was disappointing on an owling front in terms of numbers seen I had a very enjoyable couple of weeks and managed a few additions to my "Birding List" with first ever sightings of; Purple Heron, Squacco Heron, Little Bittern, Alpine Swift, Great Reed Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Curlew Sandpiper and Zitting Cisticola.