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, 31 July 2012

Wake up call!

I wasn't going to bother going out owling today, the marathon session I had the other day in near tropical temperatures (for minimal returns may I add) put me off! I should have known better being out in the hottest part of the day would be no good for the owls, or me! However, at first light this morning it had clouded over and cooled off some what. It brought a smile to my face as it meant I could well find some owls doing something?

But where to go?? That was easy as a couple of mates have shamed me just recently and I needed to make amends. Well not so much shamed me but unknowingly to them they gave me a gentle reminder that I had selfishly been spending too much time at just two different sites. It acted as a bit of a wake up call that I have been neglecting all of my other 200 owl locations. But in my defence the viewing at the two sites in question has been just brilliant and I keep returning as on offer is the chance to get a shot of 5 owls together, but so far I have failed miserably! So they were left alone today as it was time to do "the rounds" and see what the other owls have been up to?

Getting back to being shamed; firstly it was my mate Adey who alerted me to calling owls he heard one evening last week near to the village of Potters Marston. He thought it could be a new site for me and sent me a text message whilst there, a quick check on the location and it turned out to be my site No 90.  This is a site where I have heard owls calling many times but never actually managed a sighting let alone an image, so that was my first destination.

I'd only been on site 5 minutes when I heard an adult owl call, but where was it? The next 30 minutes passed and nothing! Here we go again I thought, hearing but not seeing, just like on previous visits. It wasn't a surprise though as it was pouring down with rain. The bloke on the radio said the rain was going to blow over in an hour so rather sit and wait I went and had some breakfast. On my return it was still rather gloomy and raining, I wasn't very hopeful. But as I pulled up I couldn't believe my eyes, there sat on the distant fence posts sat two owls!!  This image (below) was the best I managed, poor light and very distant for my 300mm lens but my first sighting and image never the less. 

The second prompt was from my mate "Hoodie". He too sent me a text message alerting me to a sighting he had made near to Sharnford and thought it was a potential new Little Owl site for me. After looking at the location on his accompanying map (which by the way is very near a notorious "dogging site" - what was he doing there I ask?)  I had to inform him it was my site No 4! Well this is another site where I have never managed an image, the birds are always too distant.

My luck was defiantly in here as I located an adult owl within 10 seconds of arriving. As I pulled into the gateway it was already perched up right next to the car. I wasn't prepared for such a quick sighting and just managed the one image (below) before it flew off to a nearby tree. 

I wasn't going to chase it, I was going to stay put and wait for it to return. This lapse in activity gave me the chance to put up my camo netting and get the camera set up. An hour passed and no returning owl, maybe my tactics needed to change? I opted to stay put, but then another hour passed without incident. From across the other side of the road I thought I heard the hissing of a juvenile? That was the prompt I need to move. I re-positioned the car nearer to where the hissing was coming from and it wasn't long before I was proved right, two juveniles were up high in the tree. A quick look around and a likely perch that may be used by the owls was selected, trouble was it had a horrid background. I chanced moving the car to a better position and luckily it didn't bother the juveniles.

It was a very long wait (2 hrs) but eventually one of the adult owls landed on "the perch" that I had selected as being a potential. I am glad I made the effort of surveying the area properly as I am well chuffed with the image results.......nice background hey?

The adult owl was by now comfortable with the presence of my car, it obviously didn't see it as a threat and just chilled out right in front of me. Things then got even better, a juvenile came down from up high and joined it, it goes without saying that an image of that too was captured, below.

So after the kick up my backside from Adey and Hoodie things turned out rather well, sadly they were not new sites but I did get my first ever owl images from both of them. I think I may well have to pull a similar stunt the next time I go out! 


  1. Hey Rid! You have such a nice blog, I've been following and reading your posts and seeing your owl pictures for some weeks and I find it very interesting. It's fascinating the contrast I see between your owl pics and mine. I live in Spain and our Little owls tend to live in groups of stones in the middle of nowhere, we call them 'majanos' in Spanish. The farmers gather all the big stones they find when plowing, so they create these structures where the Little Owls find a comfortable place to live. Not only them but also the rabbits, which are super abundant as you might know. Some minutes before the dusk, you can see how the little dwarves start to appear so their silhouettes get kind of blurred as it gets darker. These 'majanos' are normally in the middle of a plain and usually not very close to trees like holm oaks or almond trees. I've seen that they prefer these 'majanos' than the trees.

    Your pictures are so cool and I like your stories. I'm afraid I only publish in Spanish in my blog but if you want to leave any comment you're more than welcome!

    Good job.

  2. I just discovered how you call the majanos in English. It's 'heap'.
    See you!

  3. Great stuff Paul. Yes, I too have found that it's so easy to get hooked on 'favourite sites' and overlook the others. I'm hoping, this month, to try and 'rediscover' a few of my older sites - I've managed one recently, where I'd not seen a owl for a couple of years.

  4. Hooded birder has been roused from his blogging lethargy to defend his fine name against the accusations of dogging - it was you, good sir, that informed the Hooded Birder of the dogging potential of the area in question in the first place, and so, it must be you who needs to answer the questions of what you are truly up to whilst out "owling". Paul Riddle, you have been rumbled! Sincerly, the Hooded Birder

    1. This has to be a case of mistaken identity Hoodie, I had to do a google search on the word "dogging" before I realised what you were on about!!! But hey mate not to worry, what you do or don't do in your own time is your business. Rest assured I'll keep it to myself but let me know if you see any other birds of note in that particular area!!!!!