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!!!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Brighter times!

Today I took my last day off work for this year, it was booked a week or so ago and it was a bit of a gamble on what the weather would be like? I lost the gamble badly as it has been bloody atrocious here in Leicestershire........all day!

High winds and driving rain made it a total no no for going out, so I have made the most of a bad thing and spent some time organising my owl images from yesterday, these didn't make the first cut as I thought they were sub standard but seeing as I don't have any other new images to post they will have to do.

So in keeping with the theme "Little Owls" here are a few more images that were taken only 24 hours ago, when the weather was far more forgiving!

Monday, 28 November 2011

The grass is not greener.

As anyone who is a regular reader of this blog will know, just recently I have been playing away! I have been indulging myself with my guilty pleasure........Short Eared Owls. There is no hiding the fact that my head had been turned and my life long birding love, the Little Owl had definitely taken a back seat.

Well today it was a case of "better the devil you know" my long standing affair with the "little one" was rekindled, I was taking a day off work and what better way to spend it than catching up with my old mates.....that is if I could locate some?

I spent the morning over at a couple of known sites near to South Wigston, luckily enough some birds were located with the added bonus that the light was just fantastic, so no excuses there!

I've been trying to convince myself of late that the Short Eared Owl were a much more handsome and photogenic subject than the Little Owl............I think I may have got it wrong?

It was good to be back with the little "uns".

Monday, 21 November 2011

Back with the 'little un's" soon!

Firstly I must apologise for all the SEO images that have completely taken over my blog recently, I promise that once I've had "my fix" I'll get back to the local Little & Barn owls. Anyhow, during my most recent visit to see the SEO's the views were excellent but the light was atrocious.

Normally when presented with conditions like this I very rarely have any "keepers" but beings as I am starting to perfect shooting in manual mode (well sort of) I have now started to surprise myself just what is possible!

Due to the constraints of the blog layout this first image of a SEO calling in flight is as large as I can make it because it is in a landscape format, just double click on it for a larger version.

Although this next image lends itself better to be again cropped in a landscape mode it did have enough space to crop it in portrait.  

Sunday, 20 November 2011

All fingers and thumbs!

Its addictive this SEO watching, I was compelled to make yet another visit on Saturday. The weather was indifferent though, one minute it was dull and drab the next the clouds broke and the sun shone through.

I was lucky enough to yet again get some superb views of these majestic birds, at times they came close, too close sometimes as I couldn't fit them into the frame and ended up cropping off their wings!!  

The light levels were forever changing and this proved to be challenging at times. Trying to get the correct exposure was tough, especially when the birds were moving from high up in the sky to low down over the grass in a matter of seconds. So in order to try and over come this I had a go at shooting in manual mode (thanks for that Pete!) this involves continually adjusting the exposure, ISO, depth of field and taking the shot all at the same time, oh and I forgot to mention whilst doing all that you also have to track the bird in flight as well!

Using this new technique resulted in loads of crappy images, I was all fingers and thumbs because I just wasn't able to change the settings quick enough, there was loads of good opportunities wasted! However, as the day progressed I was starting to get the hang of it which resulted in a few keepers. Yes it is as difficult as it sounds but I think in time I will slowly perfect the technique, all I'll need then is a Canon lens!!!    

  I took loads and loads of images and below is a selection of them.....


This final image (almost full frame) is of the closest encounter I had all day, it was flying straight at me and I just couldn't "lock on" to it, then just as it went overhead (about 10ft away) I locked on  and unbelievably caught the action, well sort of.........! 

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Best batch todate?

My patience and continued studying of the SEO's finally paid dividends today, the word has obviously got around now about the SEO's at this site and each time I visit the watching crowd continues to swell. This makes it more of a challenge to get any decent images as the owls are being pushed further away from where they were comfortable when they first arrived.

So rather than stand in a group at the hedgerow with everyone else I employed slightly different tactics and they paid off. Along with some better light and accommodating owls I think this latest batch is probably my best to date? 

Double click any "landscape" image for larger and much improve quality.

Dinner is served in the form of a vole.

Not wanting to forget my other friends, the Little Owls. Here is my latest and long over due image from my site No 101. My first sighting at this location for over 6 months! 

Thursday, 10 November 2011

A talon of turf!

A late drop in to see the SEO's threw up a couple of salvageable images. Although taken just before dusk the light was still better than it had been last weekend, and that was in the middle of the day!

Four birds were showing well but sadly they kept their distance most of the time, mainly due I think to the other observers who'd gathering to watch the hunting and Ariel displays.  

I settled down in an area where the birds don't often frequent, it was well away from the other folk and a bit of a gamble really but in order to get any close up views it was a gamble that had to be taken. 

After 20 minutes nothing came close and I was resigned to a gamble that hadn't paid off, then a solitary owl was spotted coming towards me along the hedgerow. It coincided with a split in the clouds and a slither of late sun shone through, this was my chance. It got nearer and nearer and at about 20 meters away it spotted me and turned, the precise moment the shutter rattled off.

Still not the full frame image I am after but a pretty good result never the less.  

I had one more semi near fly by, this was due to a successful capture of a vole by an owl and then a second owl pursued it whilst trying to steel its bounty. They were so involved in the ariel "dog fight" dispute they moved away from the relative security of their hunting area and towards me!

This action occurred after dusk and the light was terrible, thankfully though I was able to capture the action with a high ISO setting. The lead bird (on the left) can be seen trying to evade its pursuer, although the vole can't really be seen the clump of grass that got tangled around it can.

Although I only had a couple of near views my gamble of moving away from "the crowd" definitely paid off as I don't think an owl went anywhere near them!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Bloody Horrid!

Drab, gloomy, grey, drizzly, dank, damp, dark, dingy, grim, dismal, depressing, or just good old fashioned dam miserable, what ever descriptive is used they all individually or collectively describe it! Yes I am talking about the weather of late, not good for viewing SEO's let alone managing an image!

I did however give it a go, sadly these are the best I could manage...........

I thought the sun was suppose to shine on the righteous, well I'm righteous all right.....so where is it?

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Even more!

I've just been sifting through and organising my images from earlier in the week and I was surprised to find a few more "keepers" that I missed first time round!  

Sorry but they are all of more SEO's, I just can't get enough of these brilliant birds at the moment.

Friday, 4 November 2011

The Eagle has landed.

Well not so much an Eagle, but it was feathered, mottled brown, a big beak, huge talon's and a bird of prey, OK it wasn't an Eagle but an owl....but it had landed!!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

More SEO's

Another late visit to the SEO site, I got there late and the light was fading fast, the birds were mostly distant but they did come reasonably close on a couple of occasions. With the recent advice I'd received about my camera setting (thanks guys) I was now able to "lock on" to the birds for just that little bit longer which resulted in a few more "keepers".

God dam are these stunning birds......hope you agree?