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!!!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Doing my bit.......

Whilst at the Birdfair last Sunday I made a point to visit the LROS (Leicester & Rutland Ornithological Society) display stand, well done to Sue & Jim who have yet again done a fine job. As I approached the stand a couple of very dodgy looking geezers were manning it, namely Mark Skevington & Dave Grey (Aka Bush Whacker & Taffy Bo-yo). I went to say hello to the guys and within seconds of my arrival they were shaming me as I hadn't paid my annual subscription, ooh arrh yes but mmm. I could feel myself squirming as I tried desperately to come up with a good reason as to why not, I wasn't getting out of it and fifteen quid was soon plucked out of my wallet, ouch! 

Once they had fleeced me of my last bit of cash (that was to be used to buy my mum some flowers, shame on you guys) they then proceeded to give me even more grief? They wanted to know why I had stopped sending in my bird sighting records? Again it was another bit of ooh arrh yes but mmm on my behalf. I could sense that they were not going to be fobbed off with any old rubbish and I needed a dam good reason, I feared that they were conspiring together to extract even more cash out of me! When I assured them that I will start doing them soon they both started to calm down and the bulging veins in their faces reduced in size, pheeew that was another close call.

So last night I had a mini dilemma on my hands, go and do a couple of hours owling and pretend I didn't see anything hence no need to send in any sighting records, or do as I'd promised and send in records of what I'd seen? I opted for the latter otherwise the next time I see them they could well be greeting me with a clenched fist!!

So last night I ventured out with the intention of recording everything I saw, and the first bird of note was a Tawny Owl. This bird is becoming quite reliable for a sighting as it has been roosting in the same tree on each of my last four visits, there was a second bird present but I only had a fleeting glimpse of it.  

Tawny Owl at my site No 3.
The Tawnies weren't very active so I was soon on my way to see what else could be seen elsewhere. As I wasn't too far from the village of Arnesby and my relatively new Little Owl site No 230 that is where I headed. Once I'd negotiated the gates and combo locks I headed off across the fields towards the nest tree. Upon arrival there were no owls showing, but a strategically positioned Landrover and a wait of around 15 minutes soon had me on to a bird. It was perched up in an Ash Tree next to what appeared to be quite a sizable crevice, possibly the nest entrance? 

At first I wasn't quite sure if I was observing an adult bird or a well developed juvenile that was starting to develop its adult plumage? I had my suspicions and they were to be confirmed later in the evening. For photography purposes the light was appalling,  this image below is quite a heavy crop that was captured with a shutter speed of 1/15th of a second!

I wanted to get a little closer so as to capture an image that wouldn't need to be cropped as much as the one above. I used my tried and trusted tactic of driving off slowly and then reversing back on a slightly different line, it worked a treat! I was now right underneath the owl but it had hopped onto a different perch but it had a nicer background, thanks Mr owl! From the angle I was now at I could see a second adult owl perched higher up, I did try to get an image but the results just weren't usable. It was now 8.30pm and the light was fading fast, matters were only compounded with the heavy leaf canopy above. This next image was captured at 1/10th of a second, thank goodness they sit still!

I'd had enough of those two owls as all they were doing was watching me watching them, so I moved off. I'd only driven for fifty yards along the hedgerow when another owl was spotted, then another and then another! I used my binoculars to identify them, they were all juvenile Little Owl's. I am very confident that these three little guys were the offspring of the two owls I'd just been watching and they were having some "playtime".  It took me a couple of minutes to get close enough for an image, but they didn't panic they just sat and watched from their respective post!


After I left the juveniles I decided to continue driving around the periphery of the same field in the hope of maybe catching a glimpse of a hunting Barn Owl. The field in question is huge, maybe the same size as around 100 football pitches! I made my way to the furthest corner and nothing much of note had been seen, but then up in front of me I spotted a couple of dark "blobs" in a leafless tree. The bins were soon latched onto the silhouettes and the mystery shapes were confirmed to be Little Owls. 

I'd never even been to this area before let alone see owls there, so that then confirmed yet another new site for me, No 235! Because of the distance and how dark it was I wasn't able to determine if they were adults or juveniles? My plan then was to engage the flash unit on the camera just in case I could get close enough for a record shot. I crept along at a snails pace parallel to the hedgerow, things were now getting tense as they hadn't budged and I was almost within range. Then just as I pulled up they both flew off, dam and bloody blast!! As I sat there cursing my luck I couldn't believe it when they both returned. I managed a couple of shots and this image below was the best of a very bad bunch! Further along the hedgerow was a third owl but this turned to be an adult, presumably one of the parents of the two juveniles.

It was a very rewarding and productive couple of hours, always nice to see fledged juveniles and even better to locate another new site and yes I will be sending in my records to LROS, I dare not do anything else!!


  1. How cruel of the guys at the LROS stand dneying your mum of some flowers....how do they sleep at night:)

  2. Sounds like a great evening out, and I particularly like the last photo. Good luck with the records - wouldn't it be nice if we could just think them through!

  3. I was all ready with the thumb screws in case you showed up at the LROS stand on my watch!

    A great evening's results there! Sometimes one has to choose, but if you don't go out into the field you've got nothing to report anyway! I know what I'd rather be doing!