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!!!

Friday, 17 May 2013

I've returned!!!!!

Since getting back from my break in Spain getting out and about has been bit of a premium, and to be honest I just couldn't be bothered! I have fell into a bit of a rut of not going out in the evenings, strange really as the light is better and more time is obviously available. I know from previous years that there is a bit of a lull in activity with the owls just before, and at the start of the breeding season, then BANG there is activity all over the place. So I suppose I am in a sort of limbo waiting for the explosion of activity to start.
So when I had a call from my buddy Carl telling me of a location where he had stumbled upon a Fox's den with four cubs I was semi-woken from my period of recent slumber.  I nearly didn't bother going though as when I went to gather up all my camera gear it was all still packed away from when I went to Spain. But he had stirred me into life and I made the effort and went to investigate.
I found the location without any problem and it was just as Carl had described. I parked up parallel the the wooden gate and waited. Carl said the cubs came very close to him on his last visit and managed a few shots of them through the gaps in the gate. I'd been quietly waiting for around half an hour and nothing had been seen apart from a pair of Long Tailed Tits that were busy feeding in the nearby bushes.
Previously when I have seen Foxes out in the wild I have successfully "squeaked" them nearer by making a noise with my puckered lips, a trick that I learnt from an old gamekeeper! I think that the Fox believes it is an animal in distress and maybe an easy meal is on the cards. So I'd got nothing to lose and tried it, and it worked very well but it didn't attract a my intended quarry???
Initially I'd given up "squeaking" as it was making my lips sore, but my attentions were drawn to the previously seen Long Tailed Tits, they were now frantically calling and fluttering around, something had disturbed them?
I was watching the far side of the gate but no Fox could be seen, I then noticed a movement low down to the left and there staring back at me was a Little Owl!!! 
My squeaking had obviously attracted the owl, he couldn't see me as I was behind my camo scrim. I managed the above image just before he flew off down the nearby track. Superb, a new Little Owl site No 231! 
I gave it a couple of minutes and tried the squeak again, but this time it didn't return, the owl was too clever to be fooled a second time! I then settled back down and waited for one of the Fox cubs to show. I guess another 30 minutes had passed when I was alerted to the alarm calls of the Long Tailed Tits, I looked up and there on top of the gate was the owl, he had returned! 
He was staring straight at me, I was now making no noise apart from the camera shutter rattling away. He then nonchalantly turned away and watched the Long Tailed Tits, he then flew to a nearby bush and disappeared inside it. The Tits were now going mental, it was at this point that it dawned on me that I'd never attracted him with my squeaking at all, it was the Tits he was after all the time. I think he was looking for their nest that must have bee deep in the bush? They hassled him so much he was soon popped back out on to the gate post.
The owl then proved his persistence and whilst doing his best to avoid the Tits went back into the bush. I could just about make him out as he moved about inside  with the Tits in close attendance. Again he popped back out empty handed but this time landed on a different and more natural looking perch.
Although I did hang around for another hour or so until the light started to fade the owl didn't return and I never did see the Foxes but I was very pleased with the resultant images of the owl.
Big thanks must go to Carl for firstly putting me onto this site and secondly for giving me the theoretic kick up my ass to get me back out there again!


  1. Stunning images Paul, like them all but that last one is gorgeous.

  2. Some great images. Especially like the first one.

  3. Like you, Paul, I've found it difficult to get myself motivated for the past week or so. Inspired by this post of yours, I went out on Friday evening - and (unlike you!) drew a complete blank. Enjoyed the evening out, however, and got some much-needed exercise!

    I agree with Doug. Although they're all great images, that last one is superb. The only thing that could have made it better would have been if the owl had been a bit more obliging and had shown its feet - like Doug, I have a bit of a thing about feet!

  4. Great tip mate - guess what I'm doing later in the field! Lovely framing using the gate.