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!


  1. Great Shorty images Paul. Looks like this site is really going to pay off for you! I was hoping that you were out last night as the weather was great - I tripled my owl sightings for the month in just three hours! But then I had, up until then, had one of my worst months on record.

  2. Paul do you have a Canon 7D? I have some friends who use it and always say that it's one big fault is it's tracking, they forever complain about it struggling to track birds in flight. However recently they have overcame this problem slightly by using a different camera setting, forgive me but im not 100% sure what they've changed but it's helped no end so if you're struggling let me know and i can find out.


  3. Top-notch images Paul - the clarity in the facial plumage is absolutely stunning. My wife said "Wow, they're calling too!" My sentiments exactly! Pleased for you mate - you deserve it.

  4. My God,these are amazing images,love them lots.

  5. Hi all, thanks for your supportive comments.

    Richard, your right the light was excellent, dam hard to get them in flight though. I had to hide in the bottom of a ditch, still have a few embedded thorns in my a**e!!!!

    Ben, yes I am using a 7D at the moment, haven't had it long so any help/advice on the tracking settings would be more than welcome, and there I was thinking I was useless!!!

    Yes Christian your wife is spot on, they were calling all the while I was there, and the odd wing clapping which I thought they only did during the breeding season????!!!!

  6. Stunning mate...............

  7. Hi Paul - excellent shots. Very envious...

    7d - I use the centre spot for BIF, but you need to be sure the setting for refocusing is down to slow, or nearer that end of the scale, to stop the camera leaping off the subject and immediately tracking the backdrop. Having it on slower means you have a bit longer to get the subject back in line with the focal point.

    I also find that the expanded focal point can be good.

    You're not doing badly though - I must have binned 10s of 1000s of SEO blurred / missing shots!



  8. Paul, I shouldn't worry to much, of all the owls I have photographed (sadly not many of late) the SOE was the hardest to lock on too. I think it simply blends into the background to much, that said I got the best results from the MK2n, but again I probably had more time with them with that camera. I'm not familiar with the 7d and don't know your settings, but on all my canons I have set the Al servo tracking down in between slow and default (down a notch) and only use the center spot focus. Also I have never used the continuous shooting speed at the maximum, mine is set to seven frames a second, I think this gives the camera time to refocus and keep track.
    Cheers David

  9. Peter/David. Thanks guys for your constructive advice, I did have my tracking set to "high" which hopefully was my main cause for losing the focus all the time. Just got to get out there now and find some shorties and give my new settings a go!........Paul.