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, 17 August 2013

Late Checks......

Since returning from my fabulous visit to Mull I have found it difficult to motivate myself to get out and see what has been occurring locally with my owls. But the time came when I had to make an effort as there were still more Barn Owl nest boxes that desperately needed surveying. In previous years there had only been two breeding pairs of Barn Owls in my survey area, but after several years of hard work and dozens of boxes being made and erected the tide was starting to turn. Back in Feb of this year Col Green and I were very excited about the up and coming breeding season as we now had Barn Owls using/visiting at least twelve of our boxes!! 

But then we had the horrid spring weather and the heavy snow falls (do you recall?),  the ground was covered for a couple of weeks which was far too long! It made it very difficult for the owls to hunt and eventually it took its toll on the birds and eight individuals were found either dead or dying. Goodness knows how many other "unfound" individuals suffered the same fate? This was damming to the local population and could possibly put things back a couple of years? However, once the weather had improved we again went around all the boxes that were being used and we had some survivors! There were seven boxes where we discovered roosting birds, three had pairs in residence and individuals in the remaining four. One of our pairs did go on to raise a brood of three youngsters so we did at least have some success albeit of minor consolation.

News then started filtering in from other survey areas in the UK and the story was the same. One particular area had seven pairs that had bred, pretty good news you would think but that number was down from over ninety breeding pairs in 2012!! The consensus was that any surviving birds would probably still breed but later in the year, so that brings us up to date as to why Col and I were out checking boxes again, and I wish we hadn't!! We concentrated our efforts on the boxes where we felt there was the greatest chance of birds breeding in the hope of discovering a hen bird sitting tight on a late clutch of eggs, or better still a box full of growing chicks. It was a false dawn, not one of our boxes even had a Barn Owl in it, in fact the three boxes that did have pairs in only two months ago were now being occupied by Stock Doves and their chicks!

At this time of year I was hoping to be reporting that it had been a successful breeding season and we  were now starting to see a rise in the local numbers and things look positive for next year. Sadly I am afraid to say that this year has been a complete disaster and the very sparse population has almost disintegrated to being non existent. So now it is even more important than ever before that Col and I continue to make and erect more boxes in the hope that the "bumper breeding season" we were preying for will still happen, it has just been delayed!

On our travels we came across a couple of sites that had some fledged juvenile Little Owls, (image above). At least they as a species seemed to have fared better than the Barn Owls this year.


  1. Firstly Paul it has to be said that what Col and you are doing out of your own pockets and spare time is priceless, I love my birds but would struggle to find both money and time to erect so many boxes. Also it's a sad fact that with conservation there are many up's and downs, this year has been terrible for weather but think were LO's and BO's numbers would be if you hadn't worked so hard, how many others do what you do. Hopefully it'll be a better start to next spring and you will be non-stop recording numbers etc....chin up mate.

  2. I'm also impressed with your efforts, and wish you had had more success with your Barn Owls.

    Barn Owls must have had a successful breeding year in Victoria a couple of years ago, but sadly most of the reports that showed that were road kills.

  3. Lovely composition. A few years ago a Barn Owl box was put high up on a North(ish) facing wall of a nearby house. Though I hear that other boxes about a quarter of a mile away have been used unfortunately this one hasn't had any takers so far. The house is at the end of a lane next to farmland.