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!!!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Braving It!

Due to the recent snow fall yesterday was absolutely no good for doing any photography, all the owls are tucked away and sheltering out of the elements. I still got out though but instead I went around a few local barns and derelict buildings to check on any Barn Owl activity.
Walking in the snow drifts was terribly difficult and very time consuming, consequently only four different locations were checked out. At the first site a Little Owl was flushed from the barn as I entered, that was a good start and my first siting of an owl this year at my site No 117. But the real reason for visiting this location near to Saddington was the fact that I have a Barn Owl box here, and it is being used! The box has been up a couple of years and to date only Stock Doves have shown any interest in it, but now it looks as though a Barnie has finally moved in. There were dozens of pellets in the barn and some directly under the box, so that bodes well for the future.
Two of the other sites that were visited produced nothing at one and another Little Owl was flushed at the third. The final location I visited was another derelict barn, it was here that I accidently flushed a Barn Owl only a couple of weeks ago, and it was there again! It had been day roosting in between two old pieces of corrugated iron sheet (not ideal?) and I'd never of known it was there if it hadn't taken flight. There were dozens of pellets scattered all around the barn so that tells me that it has now taken up residence, but I don't have a box at this site and considering where it was roosting a box was needed badly and quickly if it was to stay!
So that brings me to this morning (Sunday) again it was snowing and that meant no photography opportunities but I had another plan! I gathered up the troops (my kids Lou, Joe and my mate John and his dog Freddie) and to their utter dismay they couldn't believe we were going out in the blizzard like conditions. They all thought I was crazy when I told them we were going to put up a nest box for the Barn Owl that I saw yesterday. But once I explained the plight that this particular bird must be going through and how a box could make a big difference to its survival chances they agreed to help me and the owl!
Normally when I erect a box I have the Landrover available and it makes life nice and easy as all the kit, ladders and box are on board and all I do then is drive right up to the site, but not today! The closest we could get was a few hundred yards away so we had to walk across a couple of fields. To make life easier we employed the use of Joe's sledge, in these first two images Louise & Joe can be seen making light work of transporting the box and kit across the snow. 

This next image shows "Sherpa John" carrying my new telescopic ladders, they are a brilliant piece of equipment that makes erecting boxes and monitoring them a piece of cake, more about them later.

"Freddie" the dog seemed to be the only one of us who was enjoying the conditions!

The Barn, home of the owl.

The box was soon in position.

And finally let me introduce you properly to my new ladders, I had them for an xmas gift and this was the first time I'd actually used them. Fully extended they reach to nearly thirteen feet, they are not as sturdy as my normal ladders (a bit dodgy for a bloater like me!) but for transporting purposes they fold down smaller enough to fit in the boot of my car and that makes them extremely useful, you will no doubt be seeing them again! 

I will re-visit this site in a few weeks time and hopefully by then the owl should have found the box? If it does the small sacrifice of today would have been well worth it.


  1. You're a brave man, Mr Riddle. Well done!! I've been staying tucked up warm indoors.

    1. I was regretting in whilst out there Richard, but I am sure it will all be worth it in the end?

  2. Not seen those type of ladders before, look quite clever, well done for braving the elements

    1. Yes thay are brilliant for checking boxes out Doug but not so cleverwhen used for putting up boxes, I guess they would be fine if I lost a couple of stones!