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!!!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Tawny before dinner.......

On the way home from work this evening I stopped off at a local Tawny Owl site that I've been keeping an eye on for the last few months. The birds are far from predictable and only show on around one in five visits, and then it is usually too dark for an image attempt. Oh but my luck was in two fold on this latest visit, I only had to wait a few minutes before the first bird showed and when it did it was on the closest branch to me!! 

It had gone 5pm and almost dark, but thankfully my camera/lens combo can produce wonderful results in low light when the aperture is wide open at F2.8. The ISO was pumped right up to 2000 and even then I could still only managed a shutter speed of 1/20th of a second, however I am really chuffed with the results.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

An old friend.....

During the last few years I have been very lucky with my quest to find Little Owls, although my desire to find more new sites has now dwindled somewhat. It use to be the case that every spare minute I had would be spent out in the field searching for more and more new sites! Nowadays I am quite content whilst out to just stop off at some of my known sites and reacquaint myself with the resident owls. One such location is my site No 62 not far from the village of Leire, the owls here use to be quite easy to see without the need to even get out of my car. However, during the last year I haven't seen them at all which lead me to believe that they had vacated the site?

Even though I haven't seen them for ages I still pull over for a few minutes when passing by, just in case they were still there? Well it just goes to show that persistence does pay off because on my last stop off I made a sighting of one of the owls. It was only a brief sighting as it stared back at me from one of the favoured perches in its patch, but it was long enough for me to capture an image.

Considering the poor light conditions I am pleased with the outcome of the image, the owl is holding a nice erect pose and the defused and uncluttered background gives a slightly 3D effect. I wouldn't be surprised if this image finds its way into my 2014 owl calendar.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


Let me introduce you to the latest edition to our family of nest boxes, it has been designed for Barn Owls has been aptly named.....THE BEAST. My good mate Col & I have now made well over a hundred owl nest boxes and this latest version is by far the biggest and heaviest box that we have ever made! 

It has been manufactured out of the thickest ply-board we have ever used and is approx 2 feet square and weighs a ton! It has had four coats of top quality Culprinal wood preserve, a felted roof, brass hinges and bolt clasp. Yes it is a bit over the top but its for my mum so we had to make a "proper" job of it.....didn't we?

My dad was "roped" into helping me erect it and it was a bitch of a job, but we did it as can be seen in this image below. We had to haul it up on ropes and then prop it into position with extra long lengths of timer which were jammed against the gate post below. I then balanced one legged on the ladder and screwed it into place.

The box has been mounted on a solitary Horse-chestnut tree that is situated at the end of my parents garden. It is a very quiet and undisturbed corner of a field that overlooks suitable pasture. The location does have some potential for Barn Owls too as my Dad saw one flying in the area, but that was a while back now. So hopefully if another owl comes flying around again it will locate the box, it will be to its liking and move in!   

Mum and dad have promised to keep a close eye on the box for me and if we are lucky enough to have any activity the news will soon be published on here............

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Field Craft........

This post wasn't planned, I'm not ready to get back into the full swing of blogging on a regular basis just yet! But.............when an new Little Owl site is accidentally stumbled upon and some images are also captured I felt compelled to share the news.

I had Monday & Tuesday off work, the plan was to visit a few local owl sites whilst getting a bit of general birding in too. My plans were almost completely scuppered on both days as all it did was poor with rain, nearly all the time! However, during my driving around there were a few breaks in the clouds and the light improved albeit only for short periods. During one of these rare "dry" periods I  was to found at my latest Little Owl site No 236. I'd only located it a few days ago (see previous post) and the images were pretty poor as it was almost dark, so my first task was to confirm the birds were still there and secondly to get some improved images in the "better light".

After a bit of searching both owls were located again, which was good news and bodes well for the future but they seemed very nervous and kept their distance. A couple of improved images were obtained but I still only consider these to be "record shots".

The slight improvement in image quality from my new Little Owl site No 236 was not the reason for this post? The reason was yet another new Little Owl site that I have managed to find and considering the poor weather I am quite pleased with the accompanying images that I managed to obtain.

I was driving along a route that I have used on many previous occasions, I do tend to slow down and give the derelict roadside barn the once over but have never before seen anything. Because this time the main road was relatively quiet it gave me the opportunity to slow right down, just as on previous occasions nothing perched up so no reason to stop. Then just as I was starting to accelerate away a movement caught my eye in the ploughed field. Because of the angle I was now out it was a very fleeting glimpse indeed before the hedgerow blocked my view. Was that a Little Owl I saw in the field?? The curiosity got the better of me so I pulled over and turned back. I pulled up slowly into the field gateway and cut the engine.

There was nothing to see, it must have been wishful thinking on my behalf, yes maybe I was grasping at straws for something to brighten up an otherwise drab and event-less day. It was nearly lunch time so I decided to have a sandwich and kill another 10 minutes watching the general area.......just in case! Then there was another movement in the field, difficult to make it out because it was really well camouflaged, the binoculars were soon on it and the culprit was identified, a Red Legged Partridge! It must have been the Partridge that I saw on my first pass by, an easy mistake I suppose?

Because I hadn't finished eating my lunch I continued to stay parked up chomping away, then a another movement from the building caught my eye, flipping heck there on the old chimney stack was a Little Owl!!!! I couldn't believe it, was this just a pure coincidence or was it an owl that I saw earlier?? It wasn't the time to go into a deep analysis of whether it was or wasn't, the sandwiches were soon ditched and replaced with the camera. The owl didn't seem to be bothered by the presence of the car and stood up erect and very statue like watching me.

It wasn't too long before the owl dropped down behind the building and out of sight. I took this opportunity to review the images I just taken whilst keeping a check on the chimney for its return. A good 30 minutes had elapsed and it didn't show again, maybe it had been spooked? I was satisfied, a new Little Owl site had been located, I'd managed a few images of the bird and I'd just finished my lunch! It was time to move on, I gave the general area one final check over before departing.  It was at this eleventh hour that I spotted the owl again, it was sitting in an opening where a tile was missing from the roof! It's colouration blending in well with the tiles, I wonder just how long had it been there watching me? 

Again it soon disappeared, only this time it dropped back down into the barn. It was curious, I was confident it would re-appear to have another look at me, but where? 

The barn had obviously seen better days and was in quite a state of ruin, this offered the owl a vast array of access options. On the end of the barn was quite a large aperture where I suspect there use to be a door, it was here that it again re-emerged.  

It continued to play "hide & seek" with me for quite some time, then during a period of "no show" I heard it call. It was now adjacent to me perched up in the hedgerow, I couldn't see it because of the angle but it was close! It then offered me the best views of all when it dropped down onto the ploughed field, it gave me the occasional glance as it hopped from mud clump to mud clump. It slowly moved further and further away, I then realised it was feeding as it captured and gorged itself on a nice juicy earthworm.

I now wonder if the first sighting I made as I drove by was of the owl and not the Partridge after all, never the less it was a very rewarding hour or so that I spent with this owl and my new site No 237.

Friday, 11 October 2013

A rare excursion out!

Getting back into the swing of things and doing a bit of "owling" has been well over due, I have really missed it! But I don't think the "leaving it alone" for a while has done me too much harm, in fact it has only fuelled my fire to get out all the more to see what my owls have been up to?

One such site where an owl showed during an evenings drive out was at my site No 107 not too far from the village of Gilmorton.  Two owls showed briefly, one on the perch just outside the nest hole and the second deep inside the hole itself.

During another brief evening outing I finally caught up with a couple of owls at a site that I'd been monitoring on and off for a few months. I never seen an owl here before but because it looked so good for them I kept going back in the hope that one day my persistence would be rewarded, and it was!

I know the quality of the image is terrible, but give me a break as it was taken just before 7.0pm in drizzle and near darkness. However, the significance is it is my first ever image of the resident owls at my new site No 236!!!

When things get back into full "owling mode" I will be visiting this site on a regular basis, it is just perfect! The site consists of a very remote barn on a permissible track that is good for driving the car down. Because of the "openness" of the site it lends itself for parking the car in what ever position I like around the barn so the light will always be in my favour for photography. The are loads of natural perches that I have already envisaged the owls posing on whilst I snap away, but best of all it is very remote and disturbance will be minimal, mmmmm lovely!

Back again soon..............................