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, 5 May 2011

Is it all worth it????

Last night was the perfect time to start monitoring my Little Owl sites for breeding activity, by now the hen birds should be well and truly in the advanced stages of laying their egg clutches. So Daz and I set off around 6.30pm with the intention of checking out around a dozen sites, the evening was to be a 50/50 split between checking nest boxes and natural cavities.

At the first site (a nest box near to Blaby) it looked to be good news, as we drove along the field edge approaching the box a Little Owl flew out of the hedgerow and up into a tree. I have never seen an owl in this location before, wow the evening had only just started and a new site (No 174)......get in there!!!

After the owl sighting we were expecting a great start, surely the owl we saw only 40 metres from the box had found it and set up home??? Whilst I stayed on the ground holding the ladders Daz went up to check it out, he opened the door and then relayed down to me that it was good news, 4 eggs and a chick but not Little Owl..........But a Great Tit!!!!!

Unperturbed we moved on, the second site was a natural cavity that I would have put money on was occupied by Little Owls.......it was empty and I would have lost a lot of cash!!!!

Things then looked up, at the third site, another of my boxes, great news both adult owls we in residence along with........3 EGGS!!!

Daz and I were now a bit more confident and we moved on to the fourth site, 8 eggs was the message, but not Little Owl but Great Tits........AGAIN!!!!!!

Below is an image of the box at the fourth site, almost identical to that of the box at the first site, absolutely crammed full of moss and other fine pieces of nesting material. Although it was disappointing and one starts to question if all the time and effort that has gone into making and erecting the boxes was worth it? Having said that you have to  admire the work rate of these little birds to fill a box of this size, they must have made thousands of visits!

The Biggest Tit Box in the Britain!  

That was it, we didn't want any more disappointments during the evening so the next site we visited was another of my boxes, I had seen owls emerging from it only a week or so ago so it has just got to be good news here.....well you would think so! This box was located quite high up in an old Ash tree, too high in fact for the ladder to fully reach, which meant the ladder was out to its full extent of around 24 feet and then you had to climb onto the tree to reach the box. As Daz has a better "head for heights" than me he elected to go up the ladder, oh how he now wishes he hadn't!!!!!!

Daz was as high as he could get and was about to step off the ladder when it COLLAPSED!!!! It was an agonising few split seconds watching him trying to hang onto the tree, he failed and he fell the full 24 feet!!! Luckily or unluckily, depends on which way you look at it he landed on top of the ladder which by now was straddled across a ditch. I had to jump into the ditch to help Daz get free from the mangled ladder and the very unforgiving Hawthorne bush which was branding some very nasty thorns of which a few were left deep in Daz!!! The ladder definitely broke his fall otherwise I fear we could have been looking at plenty of broken bones, or god forbid even worse...........????

The few images below just don't do justice of the severity of Daz's injuries, one can possible visualize the impact when you look at the last image!

Later on in the evening Daz did have to make a visit to the A & E department to have those deeply in bedded thorns removed, although he suffered some horrid injuries and is full of bruises a full recovery is expected......in time.

One now questions what could have been.......and is it all worth it???????????   


  1. Excellant story and i'm glad that taking photo's was priority over administering First Aid.....

  2. Dead right Simon, one has to keep as calm as possible at all times, and keep the shutter going!!!!

  3. Very lucky there guys. I worked with ladders for twenty years and you have to be aware at all times. All well and good joking about it but you need to think about what happened and why. A ladder can only be extended so far. i know of two guys who where fatally injured falling from ladders.
    Love the site and totally jealous of ALL your sightings. i know you and yer mates put loads of time and effort in to get your rewards.

  4. Oh it was a massive reality shock Johnny, not funny at the time at all, but luckily we can learn from our close call!