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!!!

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The apprentice.

Like most 14 year old boys of today they love their fast cars, gaming systems and are just starting to show an interest in beer and girls! My brothers son Sam is no different, he is a typical lad of today but he also loves the Army and that is where our interests collide. No he isn't bothered about birds and owls but he does like my Landrover!

Sam Riddle - A typical 14 year old boy!

Sam stayed over at our house on Sunday night after a party and we came to an agreement/action plan for the Monday. I was due to go out and check a few owl boxes and as going up and down ladders is a main requisite for the job, but it shouldn't be done alone! So Sam reluctantly agreed to accompany me and help and in return I was going to allow him a ride in my beloved Landrover.

We set off to one of my favourite owling locations not far from South Wigston, I chose this area as I hadn't been there for a while and a visit was well overdue. It is a privately owned complex of 4 or 5 huge fields and Sam could have a drive (although he didn't know it at the time) of the Landrover in complete safety........that is if I allowed him!

On route Sam mentioned that he was hungry and thirsty, this I couldn't understand as he'd only just had his breakfast but reluctantly I pulled over and loaded up with fizzy pop and chocolate. He'd got no idea at the time that he WAS going to earn that "boys breakfast". As we pulled up at the closed gate Sam soon realised he wasn't just there for the ride, he was going to be the gate opener for the day (a tough job that many a better man before him had failed!). He completed his first job without any moaning or whinging, mmmmmmm a good start I thought!

Once we were in the fields I pulled up and gave him a five minute introduction to Little Owls. He did seem slightly interested (nodding at the right times, good boy!) as he swigged his pop. I briefed him on what we were looking for and that we were going to drive very slowly up and down a line of old Willow Trees. I decided that to keep him keen and enthusiastic I should try and use "army terminology" when ever possible. So Sam was appointed as "chief lookout" and he eagerly took on his role and grabbed the binoculars.

We'd only covered a hundred yards when Private Riddle spotted the "enemy" hiding in a bush, it must be an ambush uncle Paul!! He'd done a fine reconnaissance job and was well on his way to earning his stripes. There 50 yards from us was a Little Owl, it was perched up low down in the hedgerow, its distinctive silhouette giving it away.

I was really pleased to see this particular owl (site No 105) as its usual nest site had been completely wrecked during the winter storms. If it was still going to be around I suspected it would have relocated to the Willows, and it had! We drove very slowly to the other side of the hedgerow as the light was much better on that side. Sam kept the owl in view the best he could and directed me into its rough location. Here we parked up and erected the camouflage nets up at the windows, goodness knows what what going through Sam's mind but he was "playing along". 

We spent the next hour parked up and eventually the owl came close enough for me to grab some shots. 

It wasn't long before Sam started to yawn, I knew he would tire of this boring activity that his uncle pursues so passionately. So we moved away from the owl into a clearing in the field  (away from any trees) and Sam was over the moon when I gave him a "crash course" in changing gears, clutch control etc.

And the lad picked it all up pretty dam quick and he couldn't believe it when I told him he could have a drive. He was soon bombing around the field all on his own whilst I grabbed a few shots for the family photo album as he whizzed past.

We did check out some boxes later in the day and one of my boxes was found to have a pair of Barn Owls roosting in it, (yes a nice surprise!) but more about them at a later date. I think Sam has now got the bug for driving the Landrover, I am sure that it will be arranged again for him to have another go but that will be when he has perfected opening more gates and ladder carrying!!


Although over the years I have been lucky enough to have made thousands of Little Owl sighting across hundreds of different locations this site that Sam and I were at is definitely one of my favourites. I am so pleased the owls are still here and this prompted me to look back through my archives of previous images that I have taken over the years from this site. For this reason (and the fact that there is not a lot else happening at the moment) I have decided to showcase a few of my more memorable images from this site.



And finally this last image ranks up there in my top ten of Little Owl images that I have ever taken. 

That's all for now folks, thanks for stopping by and all being well I'll be back soon....................


  1. I think Sam should stay as your apprentice, you can teach him a bit about how to use Camo' and sneaking up to your target unnoticed it'll benefit him in the long run if he chooses a life in the army.
    Those images are stunning, the flight shots again stand out as my favourites with the water droplets, but the last still makes me laugh as I type I'm humming the theme to Batman:)....or is it Owlman?

  2. The last image is a classic mate............