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, 20 March 2011

TOOOOO Bright!!

Yesterday it was time forget putting Barn Owl boxes up, for one weekend at least! The morning was bathe in glorious sunshine so as not to waste the opportunity I downed the tools and went out with the camera. Off I went to site No 147 near to Wistow, a relatively new site for me and as yet no images of the resident owls!

After a few introductions to the local residents access was granted for me to drive the Landrover across the grassy pasture to set up next to what I thought was the Little Owl nest tree? I'd only been there 2 minutes when I noticed I was being watched!! A guy was standing at the bottom of the field giving me the once over. Here we go again I thought, my camera lens can be seen poking out of the window and from a distance it can easily be mistaken for A GUN!!! It has happened before so I abandoned the owls and went to put things straight.

It turned out that this guy was the local gamekeeper and he manages over 2,000 acres on the local estate. After a quick intro and assurances I was not poaching we got chatting away. It soon became quite apparent that he knew his stuff when it came to all things nature related, especially owls! He was recounting stories of pass through Short Eared Owls, problematic Tawny Owls that keep him awake at night, some potential Little Owl sites and the creme de la creme, breeding Barn Owls!!!!! A couple of years ago he put up a box in an old barn and in no time at all a breeding pair had moved in, last year they successfully reared 4 chicks!!!!

What mouth watering prospects indeed, needless to say, I WILL be re-visiting......very soon!!!

I did eventually get back to looking for the Little Owls at site No 147, I finally located them, but not where I originally thought they would be. I'd been sitting awaiting for their emergence from a hole in the suspect tree when I heard calls coming from the other side of the paddock. A quick manoeuvre soon had me watching a pair coming and going from a hole very high up in a Ash Tree.

I did managed my first images from this site though, the female popping out of the nest hole and the male posing in the nearby Oak Tree. Difficult lighting (too bright) combined with shadows made getting a decent image a challenge!

My second location was to re-visit to site No 154 at Glooston, again both birds were located sitting out in a huge wood pile. I had some real difficulties with my images here too, as both birds were out in full sun it was difficult to get the exposure correct without "blowing" the whites out. As you can see from both the images below the owls white eyebrow has completely lost all of its detail, any ideas on how to overcome this would be gratefully received.

I did return to this site later in the day when the sun was lower and it had lost it strength, much better results I think?

I visited a number of other sites during the day but owls were proving difficult to locate, strange really considering the conditions? The only other site where I managed a "useable" image was at site No 136 near to Hallaton.

Here one of the owls was located sitting high up in a tree, I was hoping for a "take off" image as the good light was allowing for high shutter speeds that would enable  a "freeze of the action" and I very nearly nailed it!

An enjoyable day with some vital lessons learnt, or rather than lessons learnt more of a don't try and take images of Little Owls in the full sun. Due to their cryptic feathering pattern (the contrast of whites on dark browns) the subject matter can be very difficult to expose just right, or am I doing something wrong????


  1. As always Rid fantastic shots and story! I'm really looking forward to your impending Barn Owl images and successful nesting tales. You may want to add a bit of fill flash to even things out with your too bright and late day shots. A Better Beamer attached to a flash unit will give you much more reach. More info at:






  2. Phil, the subject matter can be upto 40 feet away, will they still work at that distance?
    Thanks anyway, I will investigate!

  3. Thanks for your kind comments Anouk & Col.

  4. You have shot some outstanding photography in the last week or so mate!!

    I will phone you on Tuesday and have a chat mate.

  5. Dont worry about your blown whites because there is a few things you can do about it :)

  6. Nice one Ben, speak to you Tuesday!