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!!!

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Owl N About 30/01/10

After many visits and countless hours of waiting this was the first image I have managed from this location. Two birds showed well today and the observations were mainly attributed to my new hide, (more info on that later). 

Site 77, South Wigston - Pochins Bridge. 

Tuesday, 26 January 2010


I have recently been contacted out of the blue by a guy called Milan Ruzic whom is working hard on publishing a book about a special nature reserve "zasavica" in Serbia!!!! It will be mainly about the birds to be found in that part of the world and will be one of only a handful of bird books ever to be published in Serbia. It will hopefully be published around March 2010 and its basic purpose is to improve public awareness for nature and birdlife in Serbia. On this particular nature reserve they have recorded 186 different species and Milan would like to have a representative image for every species. This is when he contacted me as he had seen this little owl (kukumavka..........ahh so that’s what it means?) image of mine on Birdguides and has since asked my permission to include it in his Serbian bird book. How could I refuse, especially as I have since found out that Milan and his friends have just started an organisation called "The Serbian Owl Conservation Centre" which is doing some large scale research on the Long-eared Owl.
Good Luck to you and your team Milan..................and I'm sure I speak on behalf of all UK birders. 
Little owl site 54, Broughton Astley - Lodge Farm.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

By Royal Appointment.

Over the last two days we have been very honoured that the "Little Owl Queen" has been residing in Leicestershire (better known to her loyal subjects as Emily Joachim star of the BBC's The One Show!!!!!!).

Emily who is doing a PHD  on the demise of the little owl was up in Leicestershire for the weekend to meet with myself and Ken Goodrich from LROS. We were planning to discuss my little owl project and to see if Emily could offer any help or advise on its progression. On Saturday morning it was over to Ken's house for a very relaxed chat and a light lunch, I have to say that the banquet that Mrs Goodrich put on would have been fitting for a King let alone a Queen!!! (thank you Mrs Goodrich).

One of the main outcomes of the meeting was an agreement that a nest box scheme is required that will hopefully enable me to provide the BTO with some vital and factual information about the owls here in Leicestershire. Ken has organised some funding through LROS for the purchase of the required materials for 20 boxes and I will then be burning the midnight oil assembling them in the evenings, little bit of a rush though as time is against us if we want to try and position them in time for the oncoming breeding season.

On Sunday the three of us were joined by Ken's good friend Dave Robins for a field trip out to investigate some likely looking areas for the nest box locations. Whilst out I was hoping to show the guys some owls, luckily the weather wasn't too bad and things looked promising? We met up at 9.30am at the Navigation Public House near to Kilby Bridge and returned some 4 or so hours later after driving round in a loop with-in the SP59 area. The result at the end of the day was some really promising locations for the nest boxes and a very respectable 16 different little owl sightings, I was especially pleased with these numbers as I had concerns over possible fatalities during the recent cold snap.

 Ken Goodrich, Emily Joachim and Dave Robins

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Getting Closer......No 95!

New site found today whilst taking a short cut down some country lane at the back end of god knows where? Actually I do know where....now, but at the time I was lost!! I was trying to be clever and thought I knew better than MR Sat Nav, I took the left turn when he said right. Eventually I gave up and decided to pull over to reluctantly consult the map. Whilst trying to fathom out if I was lost on page 16 or 17 I happened to glance up to the ash tree across the road...............OMG LITTLE OWL!!!!  I couldn't believe it, the owl gods are with me again today.  This little owl takes my overall tally to 95 different sites and the initial target of a 100 is now with-in touching distance. Luckily I had my camera on the back seat and before he flew off I managed the image below, shame about the branches in the way....again!!!

Site 95, Burrough Hill - Court Farm

Monday, 18 January 2010

Owl N About 18th Jan 2010

Just the one bird seen today whilst taking my lunch break, not too bad though concidering this image was taken through the car window, shame about all the dam twigs in the way.
Site 6, Peckleton - Peckleton Hall.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Owl N about - 17th Jan 2010

Finally some half decent weather today, I was hopeful it would encourage a few of the local owls out for good viewing and photo opportunities, how wrong I was there! Of the 20 or so sites I visited, sighting (and brief ones at that) were only made at 5 sites. This was a really poor return compared to similar weather conditions before xmas, has the cold snap taken its toll on the local little owl population??? Only time will tell!

Todays sites where owls were observed;

  1. Site 29 Lubbesthorpe - 2 birds

  2. Site 88 Enderby - 1 bird

  3. Site 91 - Kilby Bridge- 1 bird

  4. Site 53 - Countesthorpe - 1 bird

  5. Site 60 - Willoughby - 1 bird
I did however manage to get some images (below) of birds yet to grace this blog.

Where's owley?
This guy took some finding this morning, I heard him call but just
couldn't locate him....I did eventually..............can you see him?
   Site 29, Lubbesthorpe - Old Warren Farm
This was one of two birds at this site today, unlike the first bird which took to the wing as soon as I got out of my car this one was quite confiding.
Site 88, Enderby - Enderby Estate

Anyone for a game of hide and seek?
Site 91, Kilby Bridge - Wayside Farm

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Leicestershire - The promised land?

Several months ago (around sept '09) the BBC's "THE ONE SHOW" had a short film article about the demise of the little owl in the UK. It featured a lady called Emily Joachim who was doing a PHD out of Reading university on behalf of the Hawk and Owl trust. Although a very interesting article I was compelled to contacrt Emily as my little owl survey in Leicestershire seemed to be bucking the UK trend.  I explained what I had been doing over the previous 13 months or so and that here in Leicestershire there seemed to be a very healthy population. I explained that at that time I had located around 75 different little owl sites, Emily expressed a great interest in my findings and this weekend she is finally making the trip up to Leicestershire for our first meeting. I am hoping that we can help each other with our individual surveys and also come to an understanding on why Leicestershire seems to be the centre of the earth as far as little owls are concerned!;-)

Monday, 11 January 2010

Daily Fix!

Nothing much to report today in the way of owl's, too busy working! However I did get my daily "fix" when I managed to squeeze in this one distant little guy who was located on the back road from Mallory to Barwell. This is my first picture of a LO from this site even though I've visited it many times since I first located it on 3rd April 2009.  There is a breeding pair here at this site as fledglings were heard in the nest tree (ash) although numbers were not confirmed.

Little owl site No 42, Kirkby Mallory - Brockey Farm (A).

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Reminder Of Summer.

Today I made a trip to Bragate Park to follow up a good tip from LROS (Leicester Rutland Ornithological Society) membership secertary Ken Goodrich that he had sighted Little Owls in and around an old oak tree near to the ruins. Upon arrival the quite pleasant flutters of light snow showers turned to a freezing slush that stung the face into a red raw blister, that was it
.............the little owl search was aborted!
So after returning and having nothing to post I decided to try and warm myself up by uploading an image from last spring of a juv little owl enjoying sunnier times!

Site No 31, Whetstone - Crossways Farm. (click on image for higher quality picture).

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Masters of Disgise

Nipped out for an hour or so this morning, over at Countesthorpe I picked up this bird sunning itself in the middle of a pollarded willow............can you see him?

Site 53, Countesthopre - Soars Lodge (site B)
Willoughby Waterleys was the next destination, and after drawing a blank and seeing nothing at 3 other near locations this site provided the goods. I had an inclin to investigate an old apple tree and this proved to be a great hunch as a single LO was located low down in a crevice. He was enjoying what little warmth he could get from the winter sun in between the snow flurries. Very pleased it wasn't a "fruitless" visit as I hadn't previously managed a LO image from this site;-)

Site 60, Willoughby Waterleys - West End Farm .

Captured at last!

Work took me over to Melton yesterday, this gave me an opportunity to look up an old friend that had so far eluded me and not yielded any images. As I pulled along side the nest tree a single bird was sheltering from the snow, he held fast for a few seconds allowing my first image of him albeit partially obscured by the ivy.
Site 41 - Gaddesby, Underlodge Farm
Later on in the afternoon I decided to take the back roads home and this took me by another site in Leire that can sometimes offer good views of LO's albeit somewhat distant and not good for images.............until now!!! Luck would have it a single bird was sighted quite close sheltering amongst the ivy, he seemed very reluctant to move allowing me this first ever image;-).
Site 62 - Leire, Valley View Farm.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Little Owl No 94

After leaving the morphing owls I was driving down by the cosby golf club and suddenly in the headlights............................................"LITTLE OWL!!!!!!!!"

The anti-lock brakes kicked in with that terrible peddle rumble we all dread and the car was now in a full uncontrollable sideways slide, shite the owl was in that bush that I'd just whizzed past. Finally after what seemed an aged the car bumped to a stop on the snowy grass verge. OMG the owl gods are with me tonight, the owl had flown down the lane and he was now perched in a small tree right next to the car.............what luck!

I had time to take just this one image in manual focus and flash.

Only 6 more sites needed for the BIG...........100!!

The morphing owls!

Driving back from work tonight or rather slipping and sliding I decided to skid off at one of my little owl sites (No 20) over near Willoughby Waterleys. Bit of a peculiar site this one! One never can tell what type of owl will pop out of this particular hole, tonight it was the little owls turn (pic above) the last time it was the tawny's turn! (pic below).
I know nature has some miracle ways but is there something sinister going on here????

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Hello World!!!!!

Over the last couple of months I have had the great pleasure of meeting some really nice blokes whilst out pursuing my first birding love (drum roll please).......THE LITTLE OWL.
It was a couple of these guys who encourage me to start this blog to help keep them up to date with my continued drive and desire to locate, record and photograph a targeted 100 different little owl sites local to where I live in south leicestershire.
Well as this is my first posting I'm not quite sure how it is going to pan out but in time I will hopefully be able to put you in the picture of where I am with my quest for the 100. But without further ado I think it only appropriate for me to introduce to you my very favourite little owl 'scabby'. He's a cracking male bird and due to the direction work sends me he and I regularly 'eyeball' one and other over the hedgerow. He can be seen here posing on the log I gave him for xmas!
Well that's it for this posting...........over time I will explain how it all started.