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!!!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Remember me?

During the past two breeding seasons (2011 & 2012) I have spent countless hours at one Little Owl site in particular. Initially it took me many painstaking hours where on each individual visit I'd work myself (in the landrover) just that little bit nearer than the time before. After dozens of visits employing the same stealthy tactics I did eventually gain the trust of the adult birds. Eventually I would get close enough to have great views of the day to day antics and when the juveniles finally fledged the nest they automatically accepted my presence because they could see their parents were relaxed with me being there.

For many reasons I have recently neglected this site and have not made a visit to see them since last September, almost 8 months ago! If the owls were still in residence I feared that I was going to have to go through the whole process of reintroducing myself all over again, I just didn't have the time or the inclination to do so.

So this now brings me to one evening last week, as I was near the farm where these owls reside I thought I'd pop in to see if they were still about. After a quick catch up with the farmer and his wife permission was granted for me to drive the landrover over to the quiet corner of the field where the owls have their nest tree. I parked up at a "safe" distance and scanned the general area, it took me a few minutes to check out all their favored perches and posts and to my delight the first owl was located sitting in the hedgerow, just below the nest tree. I was too far away to capture an image but more importantly I was too far away to tell whether or not the owl was spooked by my presence?  The only way I was going to know if it remembered me was by moving closer. It wasn't going to be a stealthy maneuver either as its pretty difficult to be subtle when one is sitting inside a 2 tonne vehicle with a 2.5lt diesel engine revving away! 

I didn't just go a drive straight up to it, that would have been foolish! Instead I drove across it from left to right and with each pass I steadily got closer. In all this time (about 10 minutes) it just sat motionless apart from its head which swiveled as it watched me going back and forth. Eventually I got to within 20 feet of it, the last hurdle I now needed to cross was the switching off of the engine, I knew from previous experience's that this action can spook owls more than the driving by. The final test was passed with flying colours as the owl didn't budge a muscle, this is a wild owl and it stilled sat there unperturbed, it was at this point that I realised it remembered me from last year and it didn't feel threatened.


Scattered around the nest tree are several favoured perches that the owls use, some of which are ones that I put up for them last year. I strategically positioned some of them so as to give a nice neutral and uncluttered background, and it was to one of these perches that the owl flew. In order to capture an image of it on this perch it meant I had to manoeuvre the Landrover yet again. This was done with the minimum of fuss and the owl didn't move, it was as if it was waiting for me to turn around!  


Things were good, but then things got even better when the second owl flew in and landed next to its mate. That was definitely the defining moment, the second owl was still here and it too had accepted my presence. They were only together on the post for a few seconds but it was time enough to capture this image below.


I spent the next hour or so watching as the owls as they went about their business, it was like I wasn't even there! It was pretty obvious that they had chicks in the nest as they were making plenty of visits to the nest hole with a variety of food offerings, worms, beetles and insects. I have no idea what age the chicks are, but as I didn't hear them begging I would assume not too old? Now I have re-acquainted myself with the parents it shouldn't be too difficult for the youngsters to get use to me once they fledge.  




Whilst with the owls I performed one final act that really pushed the boundaries further than I could have foreseen.  I covered myself with camo netting and got out of the Landrover on the furthest side away from the owls. I knew that this action could have been destructive for my relationship with the owls and possible scare them off for good, but I still chanced it. Once out of the landrover I got onto the ground and crawled underneath it, I so wanted to get down at eye level with the owls whilst they grubbed around in the grass whilst looking for food.  Yes they did seem to be alert to me being there but it didn't scare them off. And at one stage one of the owls came within only a few feet from me and this image below was captured, my favourite from the day.

 
I will now be keeping a close eye on the activity at this site and hopefully there will be some chicks out of the nest very soon...............

22 comments:

  1. A risk that really paid off. i love this series and the last image, at eye-level is a real beauty.

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    1. Yes it was a risk Christian but worth it for the results......i think?

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  2. A brilliant series of photos. Your patience was well rewarded.

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  3. Fabulous, Paul! I guess that this is the site that I had the privilege of visiting with you once? It was a session that I shall never forget! So pleased that your credentials still hold good with this pair. I guess that it's not long before we get some amazing images of juveniles from you. Looks like these moments are going to be even more precious this year, because of the bad weather.

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    Replies
    1. Yes it is the same site Richard, and I am pleased you still recall it so well. Yes the juveniles will be fledging soon, I just hope they like the Landie!

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  4. Great set of images mate,flight shots are my fave!!!!!

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  5. I though the flight images were going to be my favourite's (they were) until I saw the last image at ground level with the owl, brilliant work.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Doug, it is nice when you try something different and it "works".

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  6. Great images Paul, I like the one with the two owls together and the one of the owl on the ground.

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    Replies
    1. Cheers Carl, it took a lot of working out and time to get those shots.

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  7. Simply brilliant work mate!!!! Great that they still accept you and the photo's are excellent. The skill for the flight shots is spot-on but that final shot is brilliant! Ground level makes such a difference. Keep up the good work.

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    Replies
    1. Thank for the very kind words Stephen, it is nice that many of you also like the shots taken from ground level.

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