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!!!

Saturday, 29 January 2011

A Day Of Firsts.

A full day out owling with Daz today provided a few "firsts"

The first owl sighting of the day was at site No 136 near to Hallaton, it was located sheltering out of the bitterly cold wind just inside it's nest entrance. Only an average image but the best from this site so far.

The second owl sighting was at site No 145 near to Drayton, this Little Owl location was only found a couple of weeks ago and today was my first return visit. The owl was again located roosting up inside an old barn and this is my first ever image.

The next "first" of the day was at site No 139 near to Sutton Bassett, a single bird was located here in December and today was my first sighting since then. I was in luck too as today I made my first sighting of the second bird and whilst there I also managed my first ever images of the owls.

Owl No 1  

Owl No 2

Several other known owl sites were also visited during the day but nothing showing at these, maybe due to poor weather? Whilst out we also followed up a couple of potential leads for  Little Owl sites following the article in the Leicester Mercury. The good old folk of Leicestershire had very kindly informed me of them but sadly nothing was showing at either location, albeit I must admit they both looked very owly and I will return.

Right at the end of the day we found ourselves parked up down a country lane near to  the village of Walton and not too far away from my newest site No 148 that was located last week. It was here that we had our final owl encounter of the day. We sat quietly in the landrover with the windows wound down listening intently for any signs of activity. And then it happened, a Little Owl's call broke the silence, our first encounter at this  location and new site No 149, get in there!!!  After a while a second owl joined in and the pair of them made a right old racket from the obvious comfort of an old Ash Tree that was situated just off the road down a dirt track. We then made our first sighting when one of them landed on top of a public footpath sign right in front of the landrover, great views but sadly it was too dark for an image doohhh!!! 

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Encouraging the natives!

It has got to the stage where I need to "spread my wings" so to speak in my quest to locate new Little Owl sites in Leicestershire. So far I have been on a one man crusade working mainly within a 6 or 7 mile radius of where I live. What I am looking to do now is try and find out if the concentration of territories I have is representative across the county.

Fortunately the local evening newspaper, "The Leicester Mercury" have ran a feature on how well the Little Owl is doing and through this article I am asking the residents of Leicestershire to help me locate more sites further a field by emailing me with details.

In the article they featured this image (below) that I took of the male Little Owl emerging from it's nest hole at my excellent "7 egg" site in Whetstone.

If you are interested in looking at the article click on the link below.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

No Nomad!

A couple of spare hours late on Sunday afternoon found me revisiting (for the fifth time) my site No 140 over near Fleckney. A single owl was first recorded just before Xmas and no further sightings since! I had a pressing need to confirm one way or the other if it was still hanging around, or was it just a nomad bird passing through?

I pulled up near to the tree where it was last seen and waited, after 30 minutes I'd all but given up with yet another "no show", it was time to resigned myself that it may well of just been a "passing through nomad owl". I then noticed that the Ivy on the suspect tree was moving unnaturally, something was causing it to do that, was it the owl??? It most certainly was, and a pair of them as well!

Great news on two counts, the owl was still here, and a pair.....what a bonus! Taking an image was difficult as they were distant,  high up, low light levels and the dam branches kept obscuring the view.

A difficult to take image of the pair at site No 140. 

On the way home I took a some what longer route back through the village of Walton, an area that as yet I haven't checked over for Little Owls. Along the lanes there were some very owly looking areas that would need further investigation. One area in particularly caught my eye, it  had all the signs, a scattering of mature trees, lots of hedgerows and an old ramshackle of a barn.  As I was studying the area a local dog walker came along, we got chatting and not to my surprise he had seen owls here, but not for a few months. As the light was closing in and it was nearing the "owling hour" of dusk I opted to hang around.....just in case! Five minutes was all I had to wait before I heard it, yes a Little Owl calling. Although I waited for what seemed an age and by the time I left it was pitch black I never actually saw the bird, never the less get in there site No 148! 

As with a lot of other sites that I have visited recently, "I will be back" blimey I'm going to be busy boy! 

Saturday, 22 January 2011

As good as it gets!

A very limited week has just passed in terms of getting out and doing any evening owling, far too many work and family commitments saw to that, however all was not lost as yesterday made up for an average week and in the end it turned out to be an unbelievably productive couple of hours. The day was bitterly cold, clear skies and sunshine, conditions like these normally made good for seeing owls.

I was traveling home from Cambridge and the monotony of the motorways found me turning off earlier than normal to take a different and new route home. Nothing out the ordinary occurring, some nice scenery and plenty of "owly looking locations were passed. Then when I entered the eastern part of Leicestershire I started to look a bit more intently, as I passed nearby to the village of Drayton a roadside hovel was noted. Hmmmmm, it looked so good for owls I was compelled to turn around and investigate further. I parked up alongside and from my vantage point I could see right inside. Good job too as would you believe my luck, perched up at the back was a Little Owl!!! It spotted me and I don't think it liked what it saw, a very nervous bird because in a flash it was up and off!  Obviously no time for any images, but hey ho a new site, No 145. Just after the land owners came by in their tractor and we got talking all things owls, a very obliging couple and permission was granted for me to return and stake out the site, a trip for a weekend maybe?

Further on and a little nearer home I passed my site No 58 near to Peatling Magna, I pulled the car over and the resident pair of owls were out basking in the late sun, no images though as they were too obscured by the branches.  Whilst sitting there I casually scanned the horizon through my binoculars and a glowing blob caught my eye in a distant Oak tree, (image below). I was sure the blob was a Little Owl, this needed further investigation!

The glowing blob, can you see it? Double click the image for larger version.

I drove around the corner and pulled up next to the tree, I was right a Little Owl, my second new site of the day, get in there site 146!!! As can be seen from the image I took from the car it was sitting next to what appears to be its nest hole.

Once I'd canned a few record shots I got out of the car in an attempt for a closer image. It took a few minutes as I slowly circumnavigated the tree getting closer and closer, all the time the owl didn't budge but it watched me like a hawk, then eventually I was in a position with good light and the sun off my back to get the image I was after. 

Some much closer views were had which resulted in this image.

Ten minutes later I was at it again, yes unbelievably another new site!!!  I was driving through the village of Wistow when again I spotted a shining blob in a very nice looking tree. I pulled up got the binoculars out and BINGO!!! A Little Owl was sitting in the huge crack of a tree getting some sun, a terrible record shot from distance was all I could manage, I will be planning in a return visit soon.

New site 147, can you see it? 

By now I was absolutely elated with the 3 new sites, the day couldn't get any better........but it did! As I was entering the village of Kilby I passed my site No 119, I glance across and the owl was out. Normally I wouldn't be too fussed but as I have never managed an image of the birds here I pulled up and got out camera at the ready. I had to lean across a gate to get a clear view, a little distant but at least I'd got what I was after.

My first ever image at site No 119.  

The same thing happened at site No 73, as I drove by the owl was out! Another site that I'd never managed an image at.....until now. I watched the owl fly and land in a tree of a back garden of a nearby house. Wasting no time I knocked on the door and again a very hospital resident allowed me to investigate. I walked up the garden and the owl was located sitting in the isolated tree. Slowly I inched nearer and nearer and although the light wasn't brilliant I got the shot.

My first ever image at site No 73.

Nothing else to be said, a brilliant few hours, possibly never to be bettered!!!

Friday, 21 January 2011

Know your calls

I have been asked on many occasions how I've manage to locate so many Little Owl sites, well going out in the evening and listening for them has proved to be a great method, second only to actually seeing the birds. As we are now approaching the time of year when the Little Owl will be thinking about establishing new territories and looking for mates prior to the breeding season they become extremely vocal, in particular around dusk. 

In order for you to locate your own Little Owls by call alone one must firstly get familiar with the variety of sounds they make. They are not the traditional "twit to woo" that many people associate with owls (Tawny) but a selection of screeches and short high pitched yelps. Here is an excellent link (below) to the "Owl Pages", where samples of Little Owl (and other owls) calls can be heardare.
The owl pages

But remember, before you are going to locate them it is absolutely critical that you are where they are to be found, open countryside, paddocks and orchards with a scattering of hedgerows, mature trees and farm buildings are all good, but not heavily wooded areas!

Good luck and let me know if it helped?

Monday, 17 January 2011


Just a quick post before I slope off to bed, yes I know it's early (only 7.45pm) but I'm shattered as work took me over to north Wales today (Bangor) and it was a 3.30am start and 390 mile round trip. But as I arrived back into Leicestershire it was still light (the first time in ages) so not one for turning down such an opportunity I thought I'd make the most of it. 

During the weekend when Daz and I were out looking for Barn Owl box locations we chanced upon a really good looking area near Misterton that definitely had Little Owl potential, so after a quick change that's where I headed for. 

En route I drove passed my site No 31 near to Whetstone, both owls were out, my first sighting for a couple of months. Although distant I did manage separate images of them both.

Owl No 1, taken into the sun, a typical Little Owl silhouette,

Owl No 2 was located on top of the hedgerow.

Only 10 minutes later I arrived at the potential site, and 1 minute later I located a Little Owl on top of a fence post. Get in there site No 144!!! 

It soon spotted me!

I drove the Landrover closer and spooked it, but for the better really as it landed in a nearby tree that offered some better photo opportunities.

It soon tiered of me and flew off, but I watched carefully and saw it disappear in to a crack in a tree. A quick manoeuvre and reposition then a 2 minute wait produced more close views as it popped its head out, the red eye was caused by using flash as the light had all but gone.......and then so was I!!!!!!!

Just as I was driving off the owl reemerged from the tree, followed closely by it's mate, terrific a pair but too tired and too dark for any more images, I'll will be back!

Good night ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!!!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Windy Woes!

Owl 'n' about with Daz today, our primary aim was to have a rekkie around the southern area looking for suitable habitat that would be good for Barn Owl box locations. Obviously we would welcomed any Little Owl showing along the way, but we knew it was going to be tough as it was blowing a gale, and Little Owls just don't like these conditions! 

Anyhow,  during the day we did see a few Little Owls, first to show itself, or rather show its head was this single bird at site No 92 near to Gilmorton. He was tucked away nicely sheltering out of the wind just inside the nest entrance.

Second Little Owl to reveal itself was at my recently found site No 141 near Ashby Parva. As with the first owl it was located sheltering out the wind tight up to the tree trunk. Pretty pleased with this image as its the first half decent image in the day time of this owl.

The third and final Little Owl sighting of the day was again found near its nest hole sheltering out of the wind. It was at site No 142 near to a local golf course at Leicester Forest East. I am also pretty pleased with this image, not because of the quality but because it is my first ever image of an owl at this site after at least a dozen visits!

So not a lot to talk about today, pretty uneventful really. We did however locate a few derelict barns that showed signs of Barn Owls using them as roosting sites, won't be long before there's a box up and hopefully they will then become breeding sites?

Monday, 10 January 2011

Heading South!

Work took me south today, and rather than take the "rat racing, featureless"  main roads I decided to opt for an alternative route out of Leicestershire along the more picturesque rural lanes, and what a good decision it turned out to be!

Not too far past the village of Walcote a Little Owl was spotted sitting in a roadside tree, get in there new site No 143!! I'd learnt from previous times when I'd seen owls on my travels and didn't have my camera with me so luckily today it was on board, thank goodness!

I soon turned the car around and positioned it in a way that I could attain a picture, a very obliging owl too. Once I'd got a couple of record shots in the bag I inched the car nearer and nearer until I was right under its nose (or beak if you want to be technical or bill if you want to be really technical!!). 

Owl No 1

Feeling elated that I'd knocked off another new site (and my most southern one to date) it was time to get on with the days work, just as I was pulling away a movement higher in the tree caught my eye, yahooo a second owl! 

Owl No 2

From where the owls were positioned in the tree (above and below a cavity facing the road) I suspect this to be the nest entrance, if so I am hopeful of some really good juvenile images come the breeding season.

Considering what a good start I have had to the new year, 3 new Little Owl sites already I have decided to increase my Leicestershire target to 200 sites in 5 years, hmmmmm a bit over ambitious maybe, is it possible???

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Getting The Buzz!

Went out owling again this morning, my intentions were to get an image at my new Little Owl site No 144, although I did hear owls calling at this new site I never saw them.......... so I had to make do with these Waxwings I saw on the way home!

There were four individuals showing really well on and off, bloody buggers to get a good image of, either the light was in the wrong direction, the image was too messy (I.E. too many twigs in the way) or the back ground was too light! Anyhow, after taking dozens of images there was a few that "made the grade|" that luckily enough had a house in the background that offered a nice neutral background......

And a traditional Waxwing image showing a nice neutral sky.

Yep it was great to sit and watch these little beauties come and go and many thanks to the local residents for the allowed access of whom the berry tree is owned, but I didn't get the same buzz as if they were owls, maybe they could arrange that for next time!!!!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Upwards & Onwards.

Today my Barn Owl Box project gathered a little more momentum with three more being made. And yes it was that man again, wannabe X-factor contestant Colin Green who very kindly offered his time and expertise in their manufacture.

A massive thank you must go to the "Build Centre" in Rugby who got the project off to a flyer with a  donation of some sheet timber and to the local businessman who has very kindly made a donation to the box scheme,  this will now enable the project to continue upwards and onwards.

Thursday, 6 January 2011


In between customer visits today I took 5 minutes out to drive down a lane that leads to a local golf course, I had been persistent and done this little journey on many previous occasions,  hoping one day to see the reported Little Owls. 

Well today they finally revealed themselves (albeit they did take some finding) and it was worth it in the end because there was a pair! Thanks must go to Skev who gave me the info on his sighting that was made a couple of years ago sorry 15 years ago!!!! Sadly no camera with me today as the visit wasn't planned, so no images but never the less a new site (No 142) and I'm sure some images of the pair will very soon be gracing these pages!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

1st Birthday!

Wednesday 5th January marks a year since the first post on "Owls about that then".

Judging by the amount of visitors to the blog I definitely think the message is getting across about the demise and struggle to survive of the Little Owl.

I'm totally amazed by the 6,032 unique visitors I've had from 66 different countries, who between them have totaled up an astonishing 18,037 individual page views!

Many thanks to all of you who've taken the time to read my posts (hopefully not to boring) and look at my images (I think I am slowly improving) and it makes it all the more rewarding when readers make the effort to leave comments and remarks, of which mostly are very complimentary.

Thanks to you all, happy new year and here's to another 12 months of owl blogging.


Monday, 3 January 2011

Man Flu Owling!

As with all males of the species when we come down with the likes of man flu we don't make a big fuss about it, we just get on with what needs to be done, hmmmmmm!!!!! So with that last thought in mind I topped myself up with all the required pills and potions and got out owling again.

I wanted to get the month off to a flyer with my Little Owl sightings and so to keep the owlometer ticking over I chose to visit a couple of very reliable sites near  to Peckleton.

First port of call was site No 6, here a solitary owl was located sitting at the nest entrance, I had to make do with a distant image taken from the Landrover, I couldn't possibly get out and walk with my terrible ailments!

The second sighting of the morning was at site No 42, again I had to be satisfied with distant viewing and images from the comfort of the Landrover (not only was I still feeling rough but bloody idle too!) As can be seen the resident owl was located sitting at the nest entrance, sadly it still hasn't been tempted to relocate to the nest box I erected, if you look closely the twig I positioned at the entrance hole is still in place, the dam things haven't even had the courtesy to have a look inside..........how rude!!  

An owl was also seen at site No 99, no image though as my arms were by now aching so much I couldn't even lift my camera, dam man flu, but I'm not complaining.......much! During the afternoon most of the sites I visited didn't yield any owls, the weather wasn't the best for good viewing though, or, maybe it was because my eyes were hurting so much I couldn't see them?

However, I was to find out later there wasn't much wrong with my eyes and they were working fine. I decided that prior to dusk I would check out a good looking roadside orchard in Ashby Parva, I'd passed it on many occasions and always thought it looked "owly". I parked up in a good vantage point where I could see most of the trees. After 30 minutes of waiting the light had all but gone and nothing was seen, then I heard the territorial call of a Little Owl,  BINGO another new site!!!! I could just make out its silhouette in a apple tree just along the lane, I drove alongside and luckily it hung around long enough for me to obtain an image, albeit withthe aid of flash, hence the red eyes. 

New site 141. 

What a smashing start, the new year is only 3 days old and I have a new site already, bring on 2011!

Sunday, 2 January 2011


Although I am currently suffering with a terrible bout of "man flu" I couldn't face the thought of another day sat on my arse watching all the crap rubbish on TV and comfort eating all the kids chocolate. So I dragged myself out for an hour or so this morning for a drive around in the landrover, my aim was to see if I could get my first 2011 Little Owl sighting.

I drove up to my favorite site No 16 and parked up, nothing on arrival but after 10 minutes one of the resident owls popped out of the nest hole to check me out. In between all the coughing and sneezing I managed this one image.

Whilst there I got some distant views of a Buzzard "worming " in the nearby field, the light wasn't in my favour but I did manage a few flighty images once I had pumped up the ISO to 1600.

The Buzzard finally and very briefly settled very close to where I had parked up, I enjoyed the views but the Little Owl made a very quick exit and wasn't seen again!

I trust I will soon be back to full fitness and owl 'n' about again as I have to keep the "owl ometer" ticking over if I want to get anywhere near the 517 sightings made in 2010!