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!!!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Owls on a gate?

Very late on Monday evening (around 11pm) I chanced upon a family of Tawny Owls, all five of them! I'd been out searching for hunting Barn Owls (no luck there!) when I pulled up in a gateway to check out a particular patch of rough pasture. It was a very mild night and totally windless, consequently I'd got all the windows on my car open as hearing owls calling is a very productive method of location.
Whilst parked up I started to hear a very strange call, I was sure it was an owl but of which species? At first I got very excited as I thought it was the distinctive call of juvenile Long Eared Owls, a high pitched drawn out screech, a little like an old rusty gate being opened. I got out of the car and closed in on where the sound(s) were coming from, surprising the calls got louder and louder and then they became frantic?? Mmmmmmm, they weren't what I had hoped they were but juvenile Tawny Owls, a brilliant consolation prize never the less. They were begging for food and when the parent owl came in with food that is when they got louder and more frantic. Sadly it was far too late in the day for photography which was a real shame as I have NEVER managed and images of juvenile Tawny Owls.
So after my premature end with the Barn Owl site visit and the attack from the Buzzard I decided to check the Tawny family out again. Upon arrival at my latest new owl site it was just as I thought, no owls. I wasn't surprised by that though as the Tawny is very much a lover of the night and almost totally nocturnal. I decided to stay put as you never know when your luck is in, they may show early enough for an image or two?
I parked the car parallel to an old gate which then lead onto a field and some nice old mature trees. I'd been waiting well over an hour and the light had almost gone, it then started to drizzle which compounded matters, my chance of an image had all but gone. Just then as they had the previous night the juveniles started to call again. Although I couldn't see them they were really close!! Each side of the gate was a thick hedgerow and it sounded as though they were in the right hand side. For what it was worth I picked up the camera and poked it out of the window and took a couple of trial shots. There was still just a hint of light left and if the owls were to show pretty quickly I may just grab a shot or two? 
Well I then nearly crapped my pants as one of the adult Owls flashed in from nowhere and landed on the gate right in front of me.

I managed a couple of shots as it stared back at me but then I was distracted by a movement further along the gate, it was a juvenile!!
It had joined its mum in the hope of being fed, I think? Never the less I had my best ever views of a fledged Tawny Owl and I managed an image too! And with the wonders of my editing software I managed to salvage the image, below.

The same juvenile then flew up into the adjacent tree, it was now far too dark for an image so I switched over to manual focus and with the assistance of a flash nailed this next image.

A brilliant experience and one that had been on my wish list for a very long time.


  1. All three are just stunning images Paul, though the last one has something about it that makes me smile, not sure what it just does

    1. Yes Doug the last image has that comical effect about it, it is my favourite too. But Birdguides have refused to publish it, uploaded twice and nothing!!

  2. What a fabulous encounter, Paul. I guess you'll remember it for a long time!! Wonderful images but, like Doug, I reckon that last one is just magical. It looks almost like a kid's fluffy toy with a puzzled look on its face! Brilliant!

    1. That's a good description Richard, "a kids fluffy toy". Thanks for your comment mate.