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!!!

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Super September!

As it was a reasonably bright evening and the last day of September  I dragged myself out for a couple of hours tonight to see if I could add some more sightings to what has already proved to be a very good month.

The only publishable image I managed was of this bird at site No 11 at Claybrook.

Even though I didn't managed any more images it was still a good evening, the second site to be visited was an orchard not far from Whetstone. Although I have never seen any owls here the landowner believes he hears them on occasions, he seemed quite convincing so last weekend I put up a box.

This was my first visit since then so I was very surprised and very pleased when as I approached a Little Owl flew from the box!!!  Blimey that didn't take long did it?........Get in site No 128!

I am really hoping they take up residence here as the setting is absolutely brilliant for photo opportunities, loads of light throughout the day and some very nice and interesting trees and perches,  I am going to spend some serious time here next spring if they move in.

Birds were seen at a further two sites ( No's 14 & 66) before the light beat me, and the good news here was these were the first sightings for a good six months!

So that's another month that has come and gone, and if my records are correct it was a record for me on two counts. Firstly it was the most productive month I have had with records being made across 38 different sites totalling 76 birds and best of all.........EIGHT new sites, it's going to be a long long time before I get anywhere near those figures again.....or is it!!!!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

The Mystery Man!!!!!

Following the recent poll on the next batch of nest box colours (thanks to those who voted) Green came out well on top with 60% of the vote, Brown pulled in 30% and 10% voted neither! Therefore to get the balance about right the 6 boxes erected today were 5 green and a solitary brown. 

Today's gofa, gate opener and ladder carrier giving me a hand was..........??????? Unfortunately his identify can't be revealed due to an ongoing police investigation, but hey I don't care what he has suppose to have done he wasn't harassing any dogs or cats when he was with me!

The mystery man! 

As last week I again drew the short straw and was the one going up the ladder (where's  Colin Green when you need him?). Yours truly in action, puffing and panting and it was only the first box!

The first box of the day and overall box No 35 was put up at Blaby, a different photo angle than the norm which shows the landing perch that was attached to make the comings and goings a little easier.

Box No 2 was also at Blaby.

The 3rd box was sited in an area that lies between two different breeding sites at South Wigston, there's high hopes for this box for next year?

The next location was not far from the only successful breeding site that used one of my boxes this year, hopefully the juveniles will have a familiarity with the box design..........if they can find it?

Different angle showing landing perch.

The fifth site and the only Brown box of the day was near to Peatling Magna, only 2 fields away from an established breeding site that raised 3 young this year.

The last selected site of the day was in an orchard near to Whetstone, I have never seen or heard any Little Owls here but the landowner thinks he has.......time will tell!

I only have 1 more box left to put up over at Brascote, but unfortunately time ran out today due to a richly deserved pit stop at the very hospitable General Elliot Public House at Willoughby, a superb couple of pints and complementary bar nibbles/sandwiches were gratefully received........well worth a visit if you are in the area, just tell them the "owl man" sent you there for your free pint!!!!!!!  

The long wait!

Saturday found me returning to new site 127 that I found earlier in the week, it proved quite a long wait but I managed some images in the end.

Both birds were located high up in a willow tree.

Finally one bird gave me some excellent views.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Chilled out owls.

Owl 'n' about again tonight catching up with a few sites that I haven't visited for a while, first stop was site No 6 at Peckleton, a pair were out here and showed well in good light, sadly too distant for good images but it was great to watch them as they went about business looking for grub.

Site No 6, owl No 1 

Site No 6, owl No 2 

A single owl showed well at site No 1, it did absolutely nothing but sit and stare me out, how bizarre!! 

At site No 32 things got very interesting with some super close up views of the resident pair, the first bird to show kept partially hidden behind the main tree trunk, the cheeky little chap! 

Then a second owl showed, this bird emerged from the nest cavity and just sat there staring, it was if it was totally mesmerised by my presence.

It then popped out of the hole and sat on the edge, totally chilled out. What a privilege to be so close, the light could have been better but I wasn't going to waste such a fantastic photo opportunity, I was really pleased with how this image turned out.

The final site of the night near to Peatling Parva didn't offer very good photo opportunities due to the distance involved, hey but who cares when it is another new site! Yes that's right, site No 127!!!!!! I was checking out a very "owly" wind damaged Willow tree and I couldn't believe my luck when I spotted a pair sitting together low down in quite a large hole, the image only shows 1 bird though as by the time I had grabbed the camera 1 had flown off!

 A distant image of the new site/owl.

It's good news for this site though, I introduced myself to the local land owners and they were very hospitable and permission was granted for me to return and hopefully get some better images.......watch this space!

Monday, 20 September 2010

I had a hunch!

This evening I went back over to Gilmorton to check on the "haystack" owl that I saw last night, site No 107 and true to form he was there again, better light this time around although still distant. 

On the way back I stopped off at a potential area that just  oozes Little Owl, this must have been the tenth time I have stopped here without ever seeing anything before, well if at first you don't succeed try try again, and again, and again and again............

Well tonight my perseverance finally paid off, a pair of Little Owls were located in an mature Ash Tree, the weather conditions made it a bit easier to locate them as they were sheltering out of the wind but in the sun, a tactic I have used before!!!
 Owl No 1, getting some sun!

Owl No 2, hiding in the depths of the tree.

The new territory located tonight takes my overall tally to 126 different sites, although it is very pleasing to attain images at a new site I am not totally happy due to the fact that I had to use a flash to lose the shadows, the owls didn't appear to be bothered though.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Watching The World Go By.

Its been ages since I did some "normal" birding so with that thought in mind I decided to pop over to "Rids Patch" late this afternoon so see if anything interesting had dropped in. Upon approaching the first scrape I managed 2 new site ticks in the form of a Black Headed Gull & Lesser Black Backed Gull, common birds I know but the first sightings I have made since I set myself the challenge of seeing 75 different species in 12 months.

2 new Gulls for the patch.

Although a very poor image it was a pleasing sight to see 12 Snipe busily feeding on the second scrape. They did however have to keep dodging the presence of a low fly over Buzzard who scattered them on two occasions.

Feeding Snipe

Nothing much more of note was seen apart from another 2 patch ticks in the form of Collard Dove & Wren taking my overall tally to 72. At this rate it shouldn't be too difficult to reach my target of 75 as long as I don't leave it so long until my next visit!

On the way home I stopped off at Gilmorton and caught with some Little Owls that I hadn't seen for quite sometime. At site No 107 a single bird was sitting out on a haystack just watching the world go by!

I then did a drive by at site No 92 and this juvenile was posing nicely near the entrance to the nest hole.

Also finished making the final 7 Little Owl nest boxes this morning, but I'm holding back on painting them until my "colour poll" has finished, (top right of this blog) if you haven't yet voted please do so by clicking on your preference and then click on the vote button.............thanks.

No head for heights!

Little Owl boxes 31-34 went up on Saturday, all around the parish of Lubbesthorpe, this parkland and pasture area is only a mile or so west of  a major retail park and industrial area. It has the M1 motorway bordering the eastern side and the north and south areas are dissected by another motorway, the M69. Believe it or not this is actually a superb area for owls, Little, Barn and Tawny are all regularly seen here.

Today I had yet another assistant in tow, "Big Phil" but unlike on previous occasions where "the guest" would always go up the ladders and secure the box Phil decided this time it would be ME who would be going up the ladders............WHAT!!!!!!!!!

Phil wasn't listening to my pathetic pleas of having vertigo and just generally being an idle sod, so reluctantly here I am "up the ladder" having just secured the 1st box of the day! 

2nd box of the day, a really nice position in a Oak Tree.

The 3rd location of the day was again in an Oak Tree, but unlike the 2 previous boxes which weren't put up too high this one was ridiculous,  when up there and looking down it felt as though I was at least a 100 feet up, although the perspective of the photo doesn't show it!

Holding on for dear life whilst doing my posing bit!

In contrast to the previous "high" box the 4th location was the lowest of the day, although still just as dangerous!!!

When possible the box will have a branch below the entrance hole, this assists the juveniles when leaving and returning to the box, this wasn't possible on the 4th box so one was created and attached to the side of the box, as can be seen in this final image. 

Another productive day with four more boxes erected, tally now at 34 so far this year, cheers for your help Phil. As can be seen all the boxes today were green in colouration, I'm still not sure what colour the next batch will be so please don't forget to vote in my poll, you can do this at the top right hand side of my blog............thanks!

Friday, 17 September 2010

Awsome Foursome!!

 I was out working in the north east area of Leicestershire today, and whilst in between customer visits I stopped off near to Burrough Hill to check out my site No 95.

I pulled up near the nest tree and peered over the hedgerow, a single Little Owl was located sitting on a broken tree limb that was resting on top of the hedgerow. I was too far away for images so I decided to get a little nearer by making my way along a nearby footpath that worked its way back towards the owl. I got within 25 yards or so and sat down on the grass, luckily the owl hadn't moved although he was getting twitchy by my presence. 

Owl No 1

I sat quiet for around 15 minutes waiting for owl No 1 to do something worth taking a photo of when I spotted a movement in the adjacent tree, a second owl!!!!

Owl No 2 remained partially hidden behind the tree trunk.

Crikey, then from absolutely nowhere a third owl landed on a fence post just to the right of the first owl, which incidentally was still on its hedgerow log!

Owl No 3.

All 3 of them remained still but very alert on their respective perches not taking their piercing eyes off me. It then got bloody ridiculous........a fourth bird showed!!!!!! It appeared just as the 3rd one did, from nowhere! This bird landed low down on a wooden fence in between birds 1 & 3. It was quite a surreal experience sitting there having four pairs of eyes staring at me, it was like a stand off!

Owl No 4.

I weakened and made the first move, I wanted to get nearer to improve on my images. As I did all four birds took flight and disappeared high up in the nest tree,  dam and blast, I'd blew it!!

I sat back down in my slightly nearer position, and waited........

After a while a single owl dropped down from its lofty position and a much improved image was attained. Hopefully the others would follow?

The "drop down" owl, a little closer.

After another 5 minutes of waiting I couldn't stand it any longer, I had to move, it was just too uncomfortable as I can't sit crossed legged like I could when I was a kid! I then tried to shuffled around into a more appropriate position without disturbing the owls..... aaaaarhhhhh, I'd put my hand straight into the middle of a cow pat, a crusty topped one with a slimy stinky centre!! My left hand was covered in SH#T, obviously with all the blaspheming and hand wiping on the grass the owls had long departed, no doubt they were all having a good laugh at my expense........!!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Brown.....or Green??????

As regular visitors to this blog will know I have been recently making more Little Owl nest boxes, 40 so far. In the second batch I still have another 11 to make/paint and I am now undecided on which colour is actually best suited, brown or green? 

Here is a reminder of what both look like when erected out in the field.



You can help me in my decision making by casting your vote on the poll, it can be located at the top of the right hand side column on this blog, just click on the colour you prefer and then press the vote button, its as simple that................thanks for helping.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

The Right man!!!

Not much time for owling this weekend, it was a trip over to Coventry to watch the footie early Saturday and then back to watch the rugby in the evening, a great day that was made all the better with a few customary pints of beer..........they kept me going!!!!! Then today it was more Little Owl box erecting, as explained in a earlier post I have been very busy lately making the second batch of 20 boxes, 3 were put up with my mate Daz earlier in the week and a few more this morning.

Only today, I had a new assistant, I think all the previous helpers suddenly find themselves busy when they know I'm looking for a hand........only joking fellers!!!!!  Mr Colin Green was the victim today and what a fine bloke he is to help with a chore of this type, he's a chippy by trade so together (well Colin) should make mince meat of the task in hand.  

Before we set off  we had a bacon roll and a cuppa, this was tactical on my behalf though as apparently grafters (like Colin) don't work as efficient on an empty stomach, so I thought I would fill him up and get the man at full steam for the morning!!

First stop was over at Whetstone Pastures, Colin was up and down the ladders in no time at all and the first box was up!

The second box at Whetstone Gorse East was put up even quicker, he was in the groove!

The 3rd Box at Whetstone Gorse West went up without a hitch, deffo the right man for the job, he can come and help again! 

At the 4th site at Willoughby, I was in charge of taking photo's, a job that is just as important as putting up the boxes!

 The 5th site at Kilby the man was just a blurr! 

The final and 6th box of the morning, the bacon butty deffo did the job!

And finally, just to prove I was there, and I did go up the ladder.......just the once!

Many thanks to Colin, he was a great help and superb company, even if he did sing (badly) country and western songs all morning!

So that's another 6 boxes up from this second batch, only another 11 to go. I guess I will be at it again next weekend, I wonder who's arm I can twist to help me then? Any offers.................... 

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Hung like a Bull!

No time for watching owls tonight, I was far too busy erecting some of the first completed owl boxes in the second batch of 20. My very good mate Daz came along to lend a hand and do all the donkey work, he's a good lad you know!

The selected area was a huge pasture area south of the village of Willoughby Waterleys, an area that already has half a dozen or so established Little Owl territories. The location is a perfect choice for the boxes, plenty of grassy pasture, an abundance of isolated mature trees, dense hedgerow all around and best of all it is totally private with no roads or footpaths.

It was decided not to erect the first two boxes near to where any existing nests sites are, they were positioned "in between" territories, thus hoping to create attractive sites for the now roaming juveniles and an overall longer term denser population.

Daz doing the donkey work, I was directing the operation!!!!!!!

The first box in its final position, an Ash tree with a nice open aspect and a hedgerow running along underneath..........just about perfect!

The second box was erected in a mature Oak tree, again a hedgerow underneath which will offer protection to the birds as well as an excellent environment for them to grub around for food. Note how the green box blends in much better than the old brown ones did.

The 3rd box was also erected in a Ash tree, Little Owls are in residence here so we are hoping they will find the box a more attractive proposition and move in........time will tell.

Whilst putting up the 3rd box we were in close attendance of this menacing character, we kept a very close eye on him at all times, Daz reckons he is built like a bull, not sure which part of his anatomy he is referring to though!!!!

Only another 17 boxes to put up now, that'll be a job for this weekend, and the next weekend, and even the one after that!