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, 19 July 2013

In the pink....

When time has allowed during the last week or so I have been making a beeline to one or the other of my two favourite Little Owl sites. There isn't really anything to choose between them really as they are equally as good as one another. Both sites have 3 fledged juveniles and because the adult owls are comfortable with my presence (it took three long years!) the juveniles also allow me to get quite close in the landrover without spooking them.

Because of the mini heatwave we are having at present I have only been visiting the owls in the evenings, it is absolute torture being in the landrover in the middle of the day in this heat, it is like being in a pressure cooker! But just because I have been limited to evening visits it doesn't mean I have had less photo opportunities, quite the opposite! The owls have been tending to use the same perches that are quite close to the nest tree, which hasn't been offering much variety and becomes difficult to offer something a bit different. However, because the juveniles are getting older, wiser and braver they are starting to spread their wings so to speak and are wandering a little further afield. This is not good news for the parent owls as they are now struggling to keep a close eye on them as they go off exploring, but its great news for me because it is now offering a whole new  spectrum of photo opportunities.

One such instance was very late on just as the sun was setting, I knew the owls were out on the feed and moving along a hedgerow in a family pack. I'd driven up ahead of them a positioned the Landrover adjacent to a gap and waited for them to approach me. One by one the juveniles passed by and a few shots were captured (all blurred because of the low light & shutter speeds) but one of the adult birds stopped and sat on a wooden fence with the setting sun behind it. Wow this was a fantastic opportunity to capture a really different kind of image. Although I was unsure on what would be the best camera settings as I'd never been faced with this situation before?

Although the sun had nearly set it was still giving off enough light to put the owl into complete shadow. I quickly played around with the settings and exposed for the owl, which was OK but then it bleached out the sun to the extent it couldn't even be seen! I needed a compromise, I then under exposed my settings so as to capture the brilliant yellows and red glow of the sun and engaged my flash so as to lift the shadows around the owl, below.

I am pretty chuffed with the final results although still a little dark, it did need two passes of my noise reduction software because it was very grainy indeed. I think the "reddish bob" to the left of the owl is what they call lens flare, a phenomenon I know nothing about?? If anyone has any suggestions as to what would have been more suitable settings in this scenario (without major image manipulation) I'd be very grateful to hear from you.

Another "new" opportunity was when a trio of owls perched up amongst some thistles (or at least that's what I think they are?). Two days previous I had envisaged this image in my head and strategically positioned a small branch amongst the "pink pricklers". This was more in hope than anything else but during another time when I was tracking the family on  an outing along the hedgerow they settled on it for a few seconds. The sun had almost set and the lowest owl was partially in shadow but I don't think it spoils the overall effect?  I have aptly named this image, "owls in the pink".

The last image in this mini set probably took 20 hours of waiting to attain (5 x 4 hour sessions). I chose to "stake out" this log as it is a favoured perch of the owls and I like the dark background too. Normally it is only used by one and sometime two of the owls at a time. I've been desperately trying to get a family portrait of all five resident owls together in one shot (I still am!) and I think this log is my best chance. However I have twice managed four of them together on two separate occasions, yes I am being greedy wanting all five but I am very thankful for getting four. 

No doubt I will be spending some more time with these owls over the forth coming weekend, who knows what other opportunities will present themselves???


  1. Ohhhh.. lovely pictures delightful photographed.. Cheers!!!..

  2. That first shot is fantastic and the others superb, what else can I say :-)

  3. Love the owl by sunset.
    Suggestion re the red lens flare - I would have been tempted to try MV's free Wire Worm plugin. It can do a good job in those circumstances (an evenly lit random background) and I find it easier to use than a stamp tool or such like. It should replace the red with the nearby background and blend it in. Might take a couple of goes to get it correct.

    I think the darker body on the second photo helps to draw ones eyes in to the picture. Might have been much of a muchness if they were all brightly lit.

    Great 4 in 1 shot - good luck making it a 5 in 1.

    1. Thanks for your suggestions and the link John, much appreciated.

  4. Great set of images mate......

  5. Simply stunning images Paul. Well done