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!!!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Leave the best to last!

Yesterday (Saturday) was "marathon box putting up day", I'd fallen well behind plan with getting them up and if any of my Barn Owl boxes were going to be considered for breeding locations this year, they had to be up NOW! It was an early start, Col (AKA - I wanna be a pop singing Lollipop man) Green arrived around at my place around 7.30am, the plan for the day was to erect 9........yes NINE boxes, could it be done???

All the kit and 5 boxes (that's all we could get in) were loaded into the Landrover and off we went. The first site of the day was near to the village of Narborough, an expansive area of open pasture with loads of rough grassland and a meandering river. I have seen Barn Owl on a couple of occasions only a few hundred yards from here so the area was a good contender for a box. The problem was we were just spoilt for choice as to where to site it. Eventually we both agreed on a specific tree adjacent to the river where we suspected the Barn Owl must patrol when out hunting.

Before erecting a little pruning was required (by Col!).

Although this is my Barn Owl box No 15 it will be known affectionately as "Ivans Box". A long story but it is the result of a bet with my uncle 3 years ago! As you may have guessed I lost the bet and it was pay up time last week.........£50.00! Anyway, he very generously voided me actually giving him the cash as he donated it to my box fund. So many thanks to uncle Ivan and here is a picture of his Barn Owl box (from distance) in its final resting place, nice ah! 

Col on his hands and knees again! No not praying to Allah but picking up hundreds of screws and nails he dropped in the grass, the clumsy bugger!!!

We soon arrived at the second site of the day, a derelict barn near to Ashby Parva. 

There were loads of pellets on the floor, an obvious favourite roosting location for the local owls. It didn't take long before the box was up, and no spilt screws this time!!!

We were now motoring along and the 3rd box at Dunton Basset (No 17) was soon up.

At the 4th site we were just completing the final touches to the box (well Col was) when a couple of local landowners came over for a chat. It appears that we didn't have permission to use this particular field or tree but after a bit of grovelling (by me, cus I am good at that!) all was well.

Site No 18, Peatling Magna. 

The fifth site to have a box was on the back of an old barn, Col said that once we had put this box up he had to go as he had an afternoon appointment......funny he didn't mention that earlier to me? I think he must have got fed up with it being a bit of a one sided affair, he did all the hard graft whilst I just took the pictures!!!

Oh well if he was going to leave me I might as well let him do his final bit of graft!

Box No 19 near to Knaptoft, a nice aspect hoping for a "fly by owl".

I dropped Col off and loaded up with another 4 boxes, a successful morning with 5 more boxes up in good locations. Col was knacked.....I wonder if I will ever see him again?

En route to put up the next 4 boxes I picked up Daz, I wonder if he was going to have more stamina than Col? We arrived at the 6th site and as to be consistent I let Daz do all the graft, it just wouldn't have been fair to Col if I started doing a bit now!

Site No 20 near to Willoughby and a "fresh" looking Daz!

A super location with plenty of rough grassland where hunting Barn Owls are often seen.

Daz and I then wasted an hour or so looking for the next suitable site, several potential locations were visited but none of them quite fitted the bill. Eventually we were both in agreement that the site we were at had all the necessary criteria. I was feeling very encourage by Daz's enthusiasm to "get on with it" and in no time at all the 7th box of the day was up.

Just look at him go, he was a blurr!!!

Site No 21 near to Willoughby, no evidence of Barn Owls but that will surely soon change?

Time and daylight was now running out and several more potential sites were visited and rejected for one reason or another.  I knew of another site that may be suitable but we had to get a move on but it was a good 5 mile drive. We eventually arrived and had a quick look around, there was no doubt in either of our minds that this was just brilliant!! It had all the attributes required for Barn Owls, a scattering of mature trees, plenty of ditches, a stream, loads and loads of grassy pasture, extremely isolated and no nearby roads or footpaths.

Barn Owl Box site No 22 near to Gumley......too good to be true!

This image doesn't really tell the whole picture and do the area justice, but believe me it ticked all the boxes! 

We eventually ran out of time and the planned 9 boxes for the day wasn't met, but I suppose 8 wasn't  too bad a result, thanks Col & Daz, top men!!!. I shall be going out again today when I have finally finished writing up this long winded account (sorry!) of yesterdays antics. I'm going to do a bit of owling and to put up the 9th box, I already know where it is going but not sure who will be coming with me, I'm just wondering if its worth giving Col a call................???!!!!


  1. Hi Paul - if you want some help doing the easier bits (e.g. painting the boxes) my friend Pauline and I may be able to lend a hand.

  2. Good day mate the other sites look pretty good,you just do all the grovelling to the land owners and me and Daz will put them up mate hahahaha good mornings work Paul enjoyed it mate

  3. Jan; I don't need any help at the moment as I have nearly completed the first batch of boxes, its a labour of love really but thank you for the very kind offer.....Paul.