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!!!

Monday, 31 October 2011

Owl Fest!!!

Another trip was made late Sunday afternoon to see the SEO's, only three where showing this time. The light was pretty good and I was hoping for some closer views than on previous visits so as to make myself less conspicuous I settled low down in the hedgerow.

My tactics seemed to work as they did come very close on a couple of occasions as they grappled with each other midair, but not for long! I was covered in a camo blanket and I'm confident the owls didn't see me? But when I starting rattling off a few shots the noise of the shutter definitely caught the birds attention!

Most of my "up close and personal" images were blurred, out of focus or of no bird at all!!! They move so quick and tracking them in flight was almost impossible!! Looking back at my results the best and most "usable" images was when the birds were at mid range, about 20-30 metres away, and in the sky. 

Tracking the birds low down (just over the grass) resulted in 90% of my images being out of focus, my camera/lens set up struggled to "lock on" to the moving bird, or maybe its not the equipment but just a poor operator!!!

Three other owl species were also seen on the day, a single flyby Barn Owl, a day roosting Tawny Owl, sadly no images of either and two Little Owls.......a new site too!

New Little Owl site No 201, I spied a single bird sitting on top of a distant barn.

After further investigations a second bird was located in what I suspected to be the nest tree, as you can see in the image (below) it appears to be blind in one eye!

It was a cracking day for viewing owls, although frustrating when it came to "birds in flight" images. I can't complain though as it was the best views of SEO's I've ever had and a new Little Owl site, can't wait to go again!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Better Light.

More shorties, better light but the birds, all nine of them were distant most of the time. A few mid air territorial squabbles occurred, talons were flashing a plenty all pretty trivial though, they were just putting a show on for me!!!. It is such a privilege to be able to watch these fantastic birds go about their dusk time hunting, many thanks must go to the local land owner and gamekeeper who have been very co operative.

The late setting sun offered a nice golden glow, the odd bird did come a little closer although the images are still heavily cropped.

I was so pre occupide watching another bird I nearly missed this one as it flew straight over me, it went and settled in a distant tree with four other owls.

This was possible the closest flyby I had, shame I clipped the wing tip!!!

I will now be keeping a close vigil on this site in an attempt to get some real close up and intimate images. It is inevitable that my presence makes the owls a little nervous and pushes them further away, therefore more work is required, maybe I'll build a hide there this weekend???

Friday, 28 October 2011

Roll up roll up!

Yes it is that time again folks, oh OK its a bit earlier than last year but I needed to get myself organised as last year I left it rather late to produce and some folk didn't  receive theirs until late January!

What am I ranting on about I hear you ask???

My 2012 Little Owl calendar that's what!!!

So if you would like to support my Little & Barn Owl box scheme you will not only have that "feel good factor" knowing you are supporting a good cause but also by return post you will receive one of my limited edition calendars........WOW!!!

There is a different picture for each month plus the front cover, all the images used were taken by myself during 2011.

Front Cover (of the first batch).

A typical example of the inside layout.

I am totally aware that we all all feeling the pinch in these particularly tough economic times so this time I have ordered them in larger quantities to help keep the price down as low as possible. 100% of the profit from the sale of each calendar (£3.50) goes towards the cost of making and erecting more new boxes.

They are priced at only £10.00 each, (plus P & P @ £1.00 for UK deliveries).

So if you would like one (or two or even three!) please send me an email  (it's at the bottom of the page) stating how many you would like and don't forget to let me have your postal address, I'll then do the rest!

Many thanks for reading my blog and hopefully your support too.

All the best........Paul.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Found em!

The distinct lack of posts recently is not because I've haven't been getting out, quite the opposite in fact. It's just that I haven't had anything to post, image wise that is! I have been out most evenings searching high and low for those elusive SEO's (Short Eared Owls).

Sadly the SEO don't actually breed here in the Leicestershire area but during the autumn they move down from their northern breeding grounds and over winter where ever they can find suitable habitats that are rich in voles and shrews. I would love to get some images of these very majestic birds and have visited many areas recently where other folk have sighted them.........but up until tonight I have seen zero birds!!!

So a change of tactics was required, rather than chase up other people's sightings I opted to get out there and find my own birds. The area I was at tonight is absolutely perfect for SEO's, trouble was after several visits I'd seen nothing, until tonight that is and boy o boy did they show.....at least SEVEN of them! 

It wasn't good for images though as the light had all but gone, although distant and an ISO of 6000 the results are OK I suppose considering the conditions? Putting all the excuses aside the viewing was superb, a real owl fest!

I will be making regular evening visits over the next few weeks to hopefully get them in good light, and then maybe I will be happy with the results? 

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Nearby SEO....

A phone call Saturday morning from my mate John was the perfect tonic needed to kick start my fight against yet another hangover, god dam Friday nights!!! I was just moping around the house feeling sorry for myself (yet again!) when John informed me of a reported SEO (Short Eared Owl) from Friday. As it was only a few miles down the road near to the village of Froelsworth I nipped out for a couple of hours before going to watch the mighty Leicester City against bottom of the table Milwall (what a pitiful performance, again.......lost 0-3!) anyway I had no luck in locating the SEO but the search had me stumble across a cracking "owly" area that I'd never been to before, but shall be returning again very very soon.....

As I didn't manage any SEO images here is a recent pic of a pair of Little Owls that were located on a barn roof, a bit distant but good to see never the less.

My plan this morning (Sunday) was to get up early and go SEO hunting at first light, Saturday's drowning of my sorrows with loads of Guinness put paid to that!! So now that my head has cleared (2.00pm)  I am off out in search again for the SEO, fingers crossed I locate it and some cracking images to follow...........???

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Minds Eye.

I've not been very productive over the last few days owl wise, too busy with work & family commitments to get out, but to be honest though when its as windy as it is a present its a waste of time anyway!

So as I haven't got any new owl photo's to upload or news of a new site to share, therefore I thought I'd upload this sketch of myself (below). It was done by my brother and took him only a couple of minutes to do. He is really gifted when it comes to just picking up a pencil and doodling, he just doesn't realise what a talent he has........what a waste! 

Now he ain't no birder and wouldn't know the difference between a Wren's wing and an Eagle's arse, but he has a conception in his minds eye of what us birders are like, or so he thinks?

Although not very flattering on my behalf  I still think it is brilliant and it really made me laugh!!!!! 

Oh I almost forgot, I did see just the one owl in the week, a snoozing bird sheltering out of the wind at my site No 149 near to the village of Walton.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Bring on the owls!

After two weeks without a computer I was very pleased to take delivery of a brand new unit today, trouble is it has a different operating system to what I'm use (XP to windows 7) and I've about pulled out all my hair out trying to figure out how the dam thing works, where's my 10 year old son when you need him!
"Plug and play" the computer bloke said........yeah but not for an old duffer like me it ain't! I've managed to install some of my processing softwear but there are conflicts all over the place. Oh how close I have come to smashing it to smithereens with a sizable lump hammer! And for Blogger & my Google account, well they just don't want to co-operate, looks like I've gotta delve deep into all my previous setting before I will be able to read other folks blogs and comment properly. Anyway, with a bit of help (yes you guessed right, from my 10 year old son) I have been able to create a post, of sorts....
Recently the weather has been bad for seeing owls, so rather than sitting around watching the TV I've been busy making another four Barn Owl boxes. Now they are completed all that is required is a good home, so I've also been  out searching high and low for some suitable sites in the south of the county. And after much groundwork & networking with the local landowners four suitable and very private sites were finally detected, and all four of them were isolated and disused barns.........just perfect!  
So last Saturday Big Col and I set about getting the boxes up, our first location looked very owly indeed.

I've never seen any owls here but judging by the amount of poo we saw inside it is obviously used by them.

Col doing a grand job of securing the box, he's a right grafter you know!

On entering the barn at the second site we were shocked to find a Barn Owl roosting up in the rafters, we knew it was the perfect location and all that was missing was a box, so we soon fixed that!

At the third site we couldn't get access to the barn because of the close attention of a massive and very angry Bull, neither of us were prepared to risk life and limb so we opted to erect the box in this adjacent lean to, still pretty good though! Oh and for good measures a Little Owl was seen here too.

The fourth and final location, yet again another good site that just oozes Barn Owl, well it ought to now we have put up a box!

So after a fine mornings work (thanks Col) the running tally of Barn Owl boxes we have made and erected has now risen to 37, adding these to the Little Owl boxes already in situ making a whopping total of 79 boxes! Surely if there is any justice in this world next year will be very productive indeed...........COME ON OWLS!!!!!!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Does it work?

I have just started following a super blog "Hiding in cars" it's author Christian is from from Lancashire and he has plenty of quality images and re-enactment's with his local owls. Recently he posted  under the theme of "so bad it's almost good" it was of a picture of a Barn Owl in flight that wasn't quite what he was after, however after much deliberation he decided he actually liked it, and I do too!

So under the same theme I offer my contribution to this new trend, my image (below) was taken in very low light just as the sun was disappearing over the horizon. I had a pair of Little Owls perched up and posing nicely and at the precise moment of taking the image they both took flight.

The shutter speeds were low, 1/15th of a second which resulted in the "artistic" blurr, what do you think, does it work for you???

Tuesday, 11 October 2011


Nothing much to report on the owling front from the last few days, at the weekend the evenings were spent mostly on the beer and the mornings were for recovering!

So the free time I had (in between the headaches) was spent tidying up my new hard drive now it has returned from the conman, no sorry the repairman!! Although expensive at £300 he did a grand job and salvage 99.99% of the data on it.......phew!!!!! Whilst organising and backing up my hard drive I came across a few images that as yet I hadn't had time to process, so in this period of inactivity I thought I'd share them with you!

This is my only image from the brilliant site No 87 where I managed to capture 3 of the 4 juveniles together, all say aaaarrgghh!

This owl allowed me to get so close to it that you can actually see the reflection of my Landrover in its eyes!

And finally a bit of owl loving, all say aaaarrgghh again!

That's all for now folks, hopefully some more up to date action will be coming this way very soon!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Goodbye Mr Mole!

This evening whilst on my way home from work I chanced upon this gruesome yet bazaar occurrence, it was sightly morbid but somewhat fascinating. Just remind me never to get too near a  Heron as it seems as though they will consume almost anything when hungry. 

The mole struggled and wiggled for its life, thankfully the end was quick as it disappeared in a single gulp! 

Thursday, 6 October 2011


Ever since my owl study began (over 3 years ago) I have amassed an amazing amount of data, so much in fact that I have filled my 160GB external hard drive with it! There is my very impressive bespoke database which holds all the specific info on each individual owl site so far located, along with this there is a record of every individual sighting I have ever made (thousands of them). There is also all my breeding locations, contacts, meeting notes, maps etc etc....... Oh and not to forget all of my images, over 17,000 of them!!!

Last weekend my hard drive died, taking all my info with it!!!!!

I have since taken it in to a couple of local computer outlets to see if the data is retrievable but the story was the same, "sorry there is nothing we can do, the hard drive has failed,  I should have backed it all up".

I have now sent it off to an expert who specialises in this type of data recovery, they can't guarantee they can help, the data could all be lost forever! If they can help  I know it's going to cost me an arm and a leg, the initial quote was at least £300.00................WHAT!!! 

I now have my fingers crossed they can help, I hope you have too!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Good bad & the ugly!

OK, as the title to this post suggests it has been a bit of a mixed bag over the weekend.

GOOD.........Well actually there were two weekend occurrences that fit nicely into this category, the first was a non owly thing but never the less it made my weekend.......watching the mighty Leicester City FC "Ramming" 4 goals past Derby County, that was brilliant in itself but it was made all the better with a celebrating drink that lasted well into the late hours!! The second positive note was another new Little Owl site, taking my overall tally to a very giddy 200!! I chanced upon a really nice old looking barn late on Friday night near the village of Walton. Saturday morning I was compelled to investigate it further but not before I found out who owned it? After a bit of networking the landowner was sought out and permission was granted for me to take a closer look.

The barn in question did come up with the goods, a solitary Little Owl was located inside, a terrible image but it was rather dark in there! I suppose this image should of been under the "bad" category too!

BAD...........I took the time out over the weekend to make several visits to see if the four juvenile little Owls were still hanging around at my site No 87. It is almost certainly bad news now as I just can't relocate them anywhere. I did however locate and photograph the female adult owl sheltering at the entrance to a cavity nearby (below).

UGLY.........I am due to be re-decorating my home office very shortly and thought it would be nice to hang a few of my owl images on the walls. Therefore whilst doing a bit of printing this afternoon I started playing around with my editing software, this was the result.......

Yes it's a bit arty and slightly dramatic, oh yes dam ugly too.......but I like it so it's going to take pride of place!