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, 29 April 2013

Barn Owl cam update......

A quick update from the Barn Owl cam. As can be seen in the latest screen shot (below) the hen owl now has four eggs. She laid her forth egg a few days ago so I guess that is it for this clutch. Although not easy to see the egg furthest to the left has been damaged, slightly flat on top with what appears to be a small puncture. I can only assume it was when she was moving them about or when hubby came and and mated with her (which he does on a daily basis!).   

I fear the damaged egg will not hatch so the maximum we can expect from this clutch is 3 chicks, that is unless the male owl continues with his amorous approaches and damages any more?

Saturday, 27 April 2013

An afternoon's owling.

I was slightly sombre this morning, I went to watch the MIGHTY Leicester City FC last night with Daz and we lost again 1-2 to Watford, we are still alive......just......but with only one game to go of a very long season we have to win away at our arch enemy (Forest). And if that wasn't hard enough we also have to hope the results at another three games go in our favour too, and that is just to reach the play offs. We have two hopes and one of those is Bob!
OK I apologise for venting my spleen, lets get back to this afternoons owling...........
Three different owl species were seen, firstly it was the Little Owls. My buddy Adey has been keeping an eye on my site No 81 since their nest tree got rather heavily pruned. We needn't have worried, they are still there and seem to be thriving even though the happy chainsaw wielding "prunist" has made their entrance hole somewhat larger!

Firstly the male owl showed, he'd just finished a meal judging by the "bloody morsel" that was still stuck to his beak!

Then the hen owl showed, I had her in view for all of 2 seconds! She gave me a quick glance before disappearing into the nest cavity.

I then made my way over to my "flavour of the week", the Tawney site. Only one bird was visible today although I did hear the second owl calling. I can't believe that these birds are still showing so well??? I know I am a bit of a novice when it comes to this species but they are normally so nocturnal, maybe it is characteristic that when in the middle of the breeding season they show better, who knows??

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Whilst with the Tawnies I had the opportunity to capture a bit of video footage. It does have a lot of distracting background noise but it was very windy. If you listen carefully the hen owl can be heard calling back to the male from her nest site.

Click on the arrow to view.
On my way home I stopped off to check out one of the Barn Owl boxes that Col and erected a few weeks ago, I wasn't expecting to see any evidence that it is being used. Whilst in the building that the box is in a Barn Owl flew from the box and up into the rafters, well I wasn't expecting that!!!
Before I got home I also stopped off at my Little Owl site No 21, the door of the nest box was carefully opened and to my delight there sat the hen owl with her new clutch of 3 freshly laid eggs. Although all the owls have been delayed somewhat with the bad weather I still have high hopes that it is going to be a breeding season to remember...... 

Nothing of note.......

Last week was cram packed full of eventful and memorable moments, since then I have hardly been out. No particular reason really, just busy with work, chores, football & table tennis.  So this morning I was raring to go but other unforeseen "things" have cropped up which meant being grounded, for now anyway!
I took advantage of this lull in my activities to go through a few more images from last week and whilst filing them all away in their respective folders I came across this image again, below. Originally I wasn't going to upload it to my blog as it wasn't as sharpe as I'd like it to have been and thought I'd wait for a similar but improved version. But that wait could be weeks, days even years so beings as I don't have anything else to upload I've shared it with you all. Yes I know I didn't get it all in the frame, doooogh! I'd like to say that I'd cropped it like that on purpose but I'd be telling fibs. From memory I have had 3 or 4 chances to capture a Tawny Owl as it takes flight, and I keep chopping the wings off!!

Anyway, I am planning a trip out this afternoon (Saturday) and hopefully I'll have a few goodies to share with you later???

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

As good as it gets.........

Late this afternoon/early evening it was again very mild and spring like, too good to waste sitting in home watching the telly so I dragged myself out to see my new favourite friends......The Tawny Owls. It has taken me nearly six years to find an accommodating Tawny that will show before it gets too dark, and these particular birds definitely fit that bill! Having the normal nocturnal habits that this species possess they are not!!! I'd have been quite satisfied if they were to show themselves just as dusk was falling, but they go completely against the grain and are quite willing to show even in the daytime.
So when I arrived today to see if they were showing I was again surprised to discover both birds were out foraging in the undergrowth on the edge of the small group of trees they call home. I didn't stop the car for fear of spooking them, instead I drove past and pulled up a safe distance away. The camera gear was prepared and then I reversed back up keeping the spinney/copse on my right hand side. The first bird was still perched up in the same spot, just a couple of metres in from the edge of the spinney. It didn't even lift its head up to take a look at me! Instead it seemed intent just to stare at the leafy undergrowth, I could only assume watching for prey? To give you a feel for the environment and how close I was to the owl this first image is full frame and taken at 300mm.

Then without notice it pounced down into the leafy foliage at the base of the trees. It wasn't easy to see as it was very shaded and perfectly camouflaged, I could make out that it was nearly chest deep in dead leaves and twigs. It stayed there partially hidden for a few minutes, maybe it had caught some prey?  Finally it took flight and landed on a verge side fence post, it hadn't made a kill, oh that would have been nice to see and photograph.
I then noticed the second bird fly out from the copse further down and up into one of the more mature trees that surround the area. This gave me a chance to get a shot out of the passenger window, but just as I was focusing it took flight and this image below was the result. Oh so near to nailing that perfect take off shot!!
My attentions were then quickly reverted back to the first bird but it had gone! I'd no idea as to where so I started to systematically scan the undergrowth. It was quickly re-located up high in the spinney canopy, its huge dark profile giving it away. It was then joined by the second bird, I then realised why they had so suddenly retreated, a couple of joggers were making their was towards us. My only option now was to sit back and wait for the coast to clear and then wait for the next bit of action to commence.
The owls sat together not moving for the next half an hour,  there was a nearby tractor making a right racket that was obviously disturbing them. Eventually silence fell upon the whole area and the owls started to rummage around in the spinney again. One of them flew over to the mature tree again but this time I was completely ignoring it as the second owl swooped down and landed in the grassy paddock area not 30 feet from where I was parked! I had never seen a Tawny Owl on the ground before, I'd no idea as to what it was doing but it gave me 10 seconds of full unobstructed views, no doubt about it my best ever Tawny experience so far, thankfully I'd got my camera with me to capture this unique activity.
Talk about being in the right place at the right time, this evening I was blessed with fantastic viewing, it was a real privilege to witness and an encounter I will never forget.

What a significant day!

Did you know that today (April 23rd) is the anniversary of the very first Little Owl nest to be found in the UK? No I didn't either! But thanks to Rob (a follower of owls about that then) sent me a link to Mark Avery's blog and a nice piece about this great day in history!!! (click here to view).
So a happy Little Owl day to you all!!!!!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Tawny Owl, re-visited.....

A revisit to the Tawny Owl site on Saturday resulted in some more stunning views, in good light too. For the first time a second bird was seen although I am now waiting to capture an image of it. Obviously another re-visit will be made very soon!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Its getting otter!!!

It has been a very good and really busy week, and for a variety of reasons really. We now have good light levels before AND after work which means if one can be bothered there are opportunities to be had at each end of the day, and I have taken them! I have had some superb encounters and consequently have fallen behind with posting what I have been up to and seen, so this is a brief catch up with a few accompanying images.
One of my work customers (who has an interest in owls) had told me on a couple of occasions that he was regally seeing a Barn Owl on his way to work. Because at the time I thought the location was nearer to my mate Richard I rang him and revealed the whereabouts, he made a visit the next morning and even though the light levels were poor he got some great results. This spurred me to make a visit myself the following morning before work. I was due to meet a supplier at 8.30am so in order to get out on location, find the owl, get some images and then return before getting ready I had to leave out early!! I set off at 5.0am and just before 6.30am the owl was finally located, but it was distant! As I hung around keeping a watchful eye on its movements the light did start to improve but then it started to rain, dooough!! My time was running out as I'd calculated that 7.00am was the latest I dare leave it before having to make my way home. At 7.10 I was still there and chancing my luck, but the tight time scales were worth it as the owl made a nearish swoop over the hedgerow and then landed on the side of it. 
Still at a high ISO and distant but my first images of this new bird at a new site! It was well worth the early morning start and after a quick dash back I still made my meeting on time.

Because the weather has improved the recent soggy ground has started to dry and now I can take the Landie into areas that possibly haven't been visited for over 7 months. One such area holds my Little Owl site No 22. Viewing of these birds (if they were still there?) is only possible from a hide (following a lengthy wait) or reasonably quickly from my Landrover. The owls here get quite use to the farm machinery going past them at a snails pace and they tend to be ignored. So I employed the slow approach in the Landie and hey ho the owls were still there! However, when I pulled up adjacent to the tree and stopped the engine they became suspicious. The pair of them were watching intently, a great time to capture an image as they both looked in my direction.  

A couple of evenings during the week have been spent looking for Barn Owls, not just for new ones but also re-visits to areas where birds have already been seen this year. In one such area I have been seeing two different birds although at the time I didn't realise it? I'd managed to capture some flight images in good light of "the bird" a few weeks ago but then on a following visit I managed another image at the same location albeit very blurred and out of focus. The strange thing was although it was a terrible image it clearly showed the bird had a ring on its left leg and it was only then that I realised there were two birds!
Since this incident I haven't seen an owl in this area, I was hoping that it was down to the owls reverting to their more nocturnal ways rather than anything more sinister happening! Well there was nothing to worry about, in the week I caught up with the "ringed" bird and managed my first in focus images of it. The images were taken late in the day, 8.19pm to be exact, hand held and at a very high ISO shot out of the car window. I am very please with the results considering the conditions, and this individual shouldn't be too difficult to identify in the future as it has a very "grey" colouration to its feathers on its back.

And then I come to my absolute highlight of the week, if not the year! Some of you may of thought that the heading to this post was a spelling mistake, but now you will realise differently. After years of being in the right place at the right time (or so I thought?) I'd never seen one! I've spoken to many local people who'd had an encounter so I knew they were about. I am taking about a wild Otter, I had my very first glimpse and managed a few shots of it too! t was a very brief encounter as it swan from right to left across me, it paused for a second or two under a bridge and then it was gone!! But I now have the images and the memories from this brilliant a very rare encounter.

That's a quick catch up folks, I guess I am going to be in for another busy "owling" weekend and if I manage to capture anything of note be assured it will soon be posted on here.

Have a great weekend all!

Friday, 19 April 2013


As many readers/followers of this blog will know I regularly upload my images to another website,
"Birdguides". It is a brilliant source for bird info, recent bird sightings and a super forum for other like minded folk to share their recent bird images. It is a very popular site, with approximately 10,000 individual visits/hits per day!!!
As you can image there are an enormous amount of images that get up loaded on a weekly basis, and many are of extremely high quality. Every week the Birdguides panel select what they deem to be the top ten images in that particular week and are awarded a "notable accreditation". They also have the unenviable task of singling out just the one image for their POTW (picture of the week). I guess by now you can see where this is going???? Yep that's right this week I was awarded the prestigious award of POTW, yippee!!!!
The image in question was of a Little Owl, no surprises there then? These birds have been occupying this particular nest site for the last five years. Their nest tree is situated smack back in the middle of a farmers field and access is only allowed when the weather is good and the grass is dry, yep not very often!! Therefore I hadn't visited this site for well over six months. In this instance we'd had a spell of dry weather that coincided with me getting my Landrover back on the road, a visit was well overdue. There had been some very light drizzle that made the bark on the tree darker in colouration with an additional sheen like appearance, mmmmm very nice. The Landrover was positioned at an advantageous  angle and the wait then commenced. After an hours wait I was rewarded with the owl popping its head out of the hole and hey presto the image was captured!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Barn Owl - The clutch size increases.

As can be seen from the latest screen capture (below) things are progressing nicely with the Barn Owls where we have the camera in the box. She has now laid 3 eggs which in itself is brilliant news, but I want more!! I am hoping she can at least repeat last years achievement where she had a second clutch total of........seven eggs!!!.
I'll keep you updated of any significant developments with another post in a few days time, any guesses on how many eggs she will lay in this clutch?? 

Monday, 15 April 2013

A bitter sweet moment......

Here below are two very serious contenders for possibly my best Tawny Owl images, I was very lucky indeed to capture them both in absolutely brilliant light levels. Just a shame about those distracting twigs!!

This image (below) was taken as the owl was in mid flight between two trees. It's a bitter sweet image though, I can't believe I didn't get it all in the frame, what a plonker!!!
Even though I clipped its wings in this "once in a lifetime" opportunity I am still a very happy chappy with the overall results, its not every day you get to witness such a spectacular bird as this, especially in the daytime!

Just Reward...........

Occasionally during the last few years whilst I have been doing this "owling thing" I have had an experience or encounter that will stay with me for the rest of my life. A few that immediately spring to mind are the first times when an owl has taken up residence in one of my boxes, believe me when that happens it is bloody brilliant. I don't expect anyone else to understand that feeling or emotion, apart from maybe the brilliant team around me who have helped me along the way (you know who you are guys, thank you!!!!). Weeks and weeks of work goes into sourcing materials, designing the boxes, making them, erecting them and finally monitoring them............continuously!!!
Some of the other "stay in the mind" memories are when an owl lays her first egg, or seeing chicks for the first time, or possibly the first ringing that we did. All that is very important to me but as time has progressed the photography side of things has become just as much of a challenge and an important part of the whole concept. In years to come I want to be able to look back at what I am doing now and be proud of my achievements. I also want to be able to look at a particular image that then floods my mind with when and how it was obtained. Some of my images have possibly taken me weeks to create or manipulate. For instance my first Barn Owl in flight shot, to be honest I felt like a million dollars when that was eventually canned, after weeks if not months of trying. 
Well tonight I had one of those never forget experiences. Yes I have been luckily enough over the years to get loads of Little & Barn Owl images but I've always wanted to have a "up close and personal" encounter with a Tawny Owl, and now it has happened. It has taken me nearly six years to have it and it was totally awesome! There have been plenty of brief encounters but nothing like tonight! I am a great believer in that you get out of something what you put into it, and my time with a Tawny Owl was well over due, well in my opinion it was!
I was on my way out to see if any Barn Owls were out hunting and as I passed by a huge pile of manure I spotted my first migrant of the year, a Yellow Wagtail. I was now in a dilemma, should I stay and try and capture an image or should I stay focused and continue on my way, the Wagtail won! It took an hour of waiting and some awkward re-locating but it was eventually found and an image captured. It never came close and the resultant image (below) is a massive crop of the original (oh for a 500mm lens!).
Yellow Wagtail
Staying with the Wagtail consumed loads of valuable "owling" time but it proved to be beneficial as when I finally decided to leave a Tawny was seen in a nearby tree. I couldn't believe what I was looking at, I fumbled around nervously trying to get the camera out of the window but my luck was in as the owl stayed perched up in the nearby tree. I made a few quick adjustments of the settings and rattled off some shots. God knows what it was doing there in the daylight but I didn't have time to question why, what or when all I had to do was get it in focus and nail a half decent shot. I know it is a bit of a "messy" image with all those horrid branches and twigs but what can one do about them?

Please excuse my french but I was as happy as a pig in shit, a Tawny in reasonable light just does NOT happen, well to me it hadn't........until now!! I didn't realise but at the time but it was 7.42pm (I'd spent far too much time with the Wagtail) but an adjustment of my camera settings allowed for me to capture the image. It just sat there perched in the tree, during that time I must of rattled off over a hundred images........and yes all virtually the same!
As the light faded the owl started to call, but it still didn't budge from its original position?? It was fantastic to witness but even though I'd waited years for this to happen it was now getting boring! Then it moved, a quick flight to a nearby ivy covered tree was its now favoured perch. Far too dark for an image, dooooughh!! My only option was to engage the flash, which resulted in the image below, my best ever Tawny shot, yeeeeeeeeess!!!!!!!!! 

Sorry but not many images and loads of rambling in this latest post, but as I said before it has been a long time in the waiting for this shot, definitely an encounter I will NEVER EVER forget..........

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Spring Cleaning

Saturday morning Col and I decided to get around as many of our owl boxes as possible, but not the ones where we already knew were being used or frequented but the ones where we suspected there had been no activity or visits made. We had resigned ourselves that maybe because of our naivety some had been positioned badly and not to the owls liking, so maybe if they were cleaned out and re-located some owl "action" would follow?
After a later start then we planned (something to do with Col forgetting his tools!) and a bacon sandwich stop en route we finally got to our first box. This box was intended for Barn Owls and was erected in 2011, it has been checked annually and so far only Stock Doves have used it. We were convinced that because it had been mounted on a tree (and not a building) it wasn't to the owls liking and needed to be moved. But prior to taking it down we removed the front inspection hatch just to make sure, and to our surprise and delight it was cram packed full with Barn Owl pellets!!! Not the best of images but the pile of pellets can just about be seen behind Col's head. An owl has never been seen here, and to be fair it is off the beat and track somewhat and monitoring it isn't easy (well that's my excuse!). Obviously the box was left in situ now we know it is being used, possibly just a roosting site but never the less a good start to the day.

 At the second location that we wanted to check out was another Barn Owl box, we had high expectations for this box and it has been checked out on numerous occasions but nothing? It had been positioned inside an old disused building that sat smack in the middle of a huge field. Upon arrival we were taken back when we realised the roof of the building had gone! No doubt a result of the high winds during the last few months? Normally the field is full of crops and we have to walk to the barn, but today we were lazy and I thought I'd drive across to it. If the owls weren't using the box when the roof was on there was going to be no chance now, or was there? To our amazement this box too had pellets inside it, not as many as the first box but enough to suggest it had been used on many occasions. We again decided to leave the box where it was, even though it could now get wet when it rained it was still pretty well protected from the wind.
This image below is of the old building without its roof, taken after we had already checked it out. I don't think we left any clues to the fact that we'd been there!!!!! I do hope I don't get into trouble?

The third box to be checked was again mounted on a tree, because of its position this is an easy box to watch and observe but I'd never seen an owl here either. So when we opened the hatch we weren't surprised to see it cram packed full of nesting material (almost definitely Stock Dove). It was decided that this box would be moved so in order to be able to do that the front of the box needed to be removed.

After Col had removed the front of the box (below) he began to drag out the debris, on his second handful there were Barn Owl pellets!! That was now a 100% hit rate so of boxes that HAD been used by Barn Owls, needless to say we cleaned out the box, replaced the front and left it where it was. 

We knew the whole day was about cleaning out boxes and then re-locating them but I was secretly hoping that the fourth box that we checked out would not only have pellets in it but a bird too! This box hadn't been visited since this time last year as the only way of getting to it was in the Landrover. The setting is excellent, very remote and quiet with lots of suitable hunting habitat.
Col decided it was time for me to get up the ladder to check this box whilst he did the easy bit of taking some photo's, yeah OK mate!
I opened up the hatch and again it was full of nesting material and debris. I gingerly looked inside hoping to see an owl, there was no owl but instead there was a fury thing in the corner? Although it wasn't moving there was NO WAY I was going to put my hand inside. Instead I got a small branch and poked it....... There was no movement so what ever it was it was either asleep or dead! After a few more pokes with the stick and a bit of encouragement from Col (like get on with it you wuss!) I reached inside.................... 

The fury thing turned out to be a dead Squirrel, the first that I'd encountered in one of my boxes. I do apologise for the lack of quality in this next image. Believe me I have tried to work wonders with my editing software but if the original image wasn't taken properly there is only so much that one can do!

OK I was now safe to reach deeper inside the box to start clearing it out, I have to admit I then gave out a bit of a girly yelp as I touched another fury thing? Bloody hell there was another dead Squirrel inside, how very bazaar? I am so sorry but I will have to apologise again for the lack of quality in this next image, I think it is definitely a case of "right man for the right job" so Col you are now re-employed as the bloke who goes up the ladder, or should I put it another way, you are sacked as the cameraman!

Upon further inspection both of the Squirrels were pretty fresh and had had their throats ripped out, mmmmmm they had obviously not died of natural causes. The only feasible reason I can think of as to why they were there is that something had killed them and stored them there for later consumption, a Stoat maybe??? I'd like to hear if anyone else has a theory as to what may of occurred?
A few other sites were then visited for the purpose of checking yet more boxes, no activity of any kind was found but these were relatively new boxes apart from in one! This particular box was erected in January and today was the first time it had been visited, as Col and I walked into the building a Barn Owl flew from the box! We quickly departed allowing it to return back to its new home and hopefully future breeding site. During the day we also checked out two nearby Little Owl boxes and both had birds in them!
There were also high hopes for the  final site we visited, although the box hadn't been checked for well over a year I'd been recently informed that a Barn Owl had been seen hunting nearby. On first impressions things looked really positive, there were loads of pellets on the ground directly beneath the box but then something else was noticed on the ground, a dead Barn Owl. We didn't suspect foul play as all the evidence pointed towards yet another tragic casualty of the recent bad weather.
We got back around 3.0pm and although the dead Barn Owl was still fresh in our thoughts we were very pleased with the days results. In the afternoon I went out again on my own to do I bit of photography, whilst out I checked another Barn Owl box that hadn't been checked for well over a year. I'll let you know what I found in my next post......................

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Every cloud has a silver lining.........

Towards the end of last month viewing of the local Barn Owls was excellent, but there was a sad side to these daily sightings. The harsh weather conditions made it extremely difficult for these birds to locate their prey as they scurried around under a couple of inches of snow. Consequently the owls were forced out into daytime hunting because they were starving. Although the weather has now improved somewhat and the hunting conditions are much improve it is only now that the mortality rates are becoming known.
But as they say life must go on and how true that saying is today! Luckily the Barn Owls that we monitor via our barn & nest box camera survived the bitter weather and yesterday the hen bird laid her first egg!

This image below is a screen shot from the video footage and the first egg can clearly been seen.

Last year this pair had two broods and successfully raised 7 youngsters, considering resent events and the loss of local birds (due to the weather) it is vitally important that they have a good breeding year and contribute to getting the numbers back up.
Here's to wishing them well!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Attentions turn to Little Owls

Last night I was drawn back out into the countryside and drove around the lanes in my Landrover in a desperate attempt to locate a Barn Owl. I am getting quite concerned now that there is a notable absence every where I look. I know of dead birds being found at several locations but now the weather is far milder than that of late and one would think they would be out hunting more regular?
I'd only been cruising around for 30 minutes when it started to rain, if all the recent snow wasn't enough for the Barn Owls to cope with now they were being hampered again! No doubt about it their fight for survival and weight gain sure is proving to be a major struggle this year. 
Instead of wasting more time looking for and finding Barnie's in the rain (not much chance of that!) I turned my attentions to Little Owls. They will tolerate the wet conditions much more readily so I went to see if I could re-locate the owl at my new site No 230 that was found two nights ago.
I positioned myself mid-way between the tree that the bird was seen in last time and a huge pile of old logs/branches that lay in the middle of the field. It is all very well me saying this now but at the time I would have bet good money that the pile of logs would be a magnet for the owl, they just love prominent perches where they can easily survey the general area. All the windows were blacked out and my camo scrim was up at the drivers window, I was ready for it to show, it was now a waiting game and a fight against the fading light and drizzle.

It was 7.01pm and the radio was turned on (obviously very quiet) as it helps to pass the time while waiting. After all the disturbance no activity was expected for a while so I made myself comfortable by spreading myself out on the front bench seat. At 7.15pm the first showing occurred, a lot earlier than I expected really and the light levels were still pretty reasonable. I don't know where it flew in from but it was exactly where I predicted (or hoped) it would be, on the highest branch in the pile of logs!

He was giving the Landrover the once over, I wasn't sure if the sound of the camera shutter had spooked him as he bobbed his head a couple of times and then flew off! There was no need for concern though, he was soon back only this time on a different and nearer perch. He was still bobbing and weaving, a little agitated and curious as to what was this "thing" was in the middle of his territory no doubt? 
Because the rain was driving straight at me and into the window the camera lens was getting soaked, I had no option but to move the Landrover. The new position offered a different angle of light and a variety of perches that weren't visible before. He was soon back checking me out again, this was the closest view I had, from only about 20 feet!

Again he flew off back to the tree, there was a gap of around 10 minutes before he returned and when he did he had company!! The light now was all but gone but I did manage to get an image of both of them together, the resultant image in colour was very grainy and washed out but converting it to monochrome (black & white) it is just about usable?

Because I'd managed a few images of them together I was now quite content just to sit back and watch their antics in the near dark. But at 8.00pm they started mating,  I just had to have a go at capturing the action. My only option was to manual focus and use the flash, (hence the red eyes) it didn't bother them one iota as they got on with the job! 

Please don't misunderstand me, I am not a voyeur of these kind of antics in the evenings, unless of course it is owls that I am watching!! 

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Bits & Bobs...

Nothing too exciting to report from the last few days, but here's a quick round up.........

Last weekend I was down in Sussex to watch the football, whilst there I had a couple of opportunities to get out and enjoy the beautiful scenery. The South Downs appears to be an excellent area to watch for incoming migrants, sadly the horrid northerly wind made it too cold to be out of the car for any length of time, so I saw absolutely zilch!!
On the Sunday morning I went inland and found some more sheltered locations, and guess what I found a pair of Little Owls!!!
They didn't offer the best of photo opportunities or views but nice to see never the less, they won't be added to my list of monitoring sites, too far to go! But I think I will have to start a list of all the different counties in the UK where I have seen owls, I reckon it must be 6 or 7 now???
Sad news on the local Barn Owl front, reports have been coming into me of at least 6 dead birds that have now been found recently, and all of them looking very under nourished and skinny. Definitely a result of all the bad weather of late, the poor things must have starved to death!
I have spent the last three nights out on Barn Owl watch, a few sightings have been made but nothing like the last few weeks. I do hope it is a case of them reverting back to their normal nocturnal ways and coming out just before dusk rather than being deceased? 
Last night I got permission to access a new area of land that I'd never before ventured onto, its always exciting when a new area is checked out. I was secretly hoping for views of Barn Owls but none were seen, although I did locate a new Little Owl site, No 230!!!
The "new owl" was spotted sitting in a crevice, even though the Landrover engine makes loads of noise it allowed me pretty close to capture the above image.
The only other siting I made was of this Munkjack, below. I have seen them before but their secretive nature only normally lends for a quick and distant glimpse. But this guy just wondered across right in front of me sniffing the ground??? I am annoyed with myself that I didn't get it properly in focus, doooough!
That's it for now, but the weekend is fast approaching so hopefully some better and more interesting accounts/images to come soon???

Friday, 5 April 2013

Last night re-visited

Local Barn Owl site No 18 was located last night, so this evening I decided to make the ultimate sacrifice and not go to the pub, instead I went back to see if this latest owl would show again?
Unlike last night when the owl first showed at eight o'clock this evening it came out at 7.43pm, a whopping 17 minutes earlier! But this 17 minutes was vital and made all the difference when it came to the light levels. I was still just about able to capture a flight shot, my settings this evening were ISO 1000, F3.5 which gave me a shutter speed of 1/400 second. I only had the one fly past but the resultant images are a massive improvement on last night but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Two other Barn Owls were seen en route to site No 18, both out hunting but too distant to warrant stopping to try and get an image.
I am now having a few days off the owling, instead I am going down to Brighton for the weekend to watch the mighty Leicester City FC, come on you BLUES!!!!!!! 

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Team Work!

An hour or so before dusk this evening I was out again in search of more hunting Barn Owls. Tonight I was in the company of my mate Adie, well sort of? What I mean by that is we were searching in totally different areas but in constant contact via out mobile phones. 
Neither of us were confident of making any sightings as the wind was so fierce and cold my head had turned to an ice ball! The sun had set and it was getting dark fast, as I knew exactly where Adie was located I suggested to him just to give it one last go and drive down a particular lane that I knew of. I'd never seen an owl there but I recalled it definitely had some potential.
As I was guiding him in via directions over the phone he suddenly yelled "BARN OWL"!!!! I was around 5 miles from him so the next 10 minutes were a complete panic as I drove as fast as I dare down the country back lanes.  As I rounded the last corner just before where Adie was located I was met by his car in the middle of the road, engine still running, lights on and the doors wide open! Adie was standing on the grass verge with camera in hand, he seemed quite excitable. "Did you get him" I asked, with trembling hand he pointed to the owl which was perched up in the adjacent field.
We both rattled off a few shots but capturing a decent image wasn't easy. The owl was very patient with us and just sat there whilst we kept changing our settings until we attained the best we could considering the conditions. 
It was 7.57pm and I had to manually expose and shot at an ISO of 2500, F2.8 which gave me a shutter speed of 1/80 sec, not too bad a result considering it was hand held and with no image stabilisation!
These 3 images below were my best of a bad bunch and only record shots, but never the less it is another site taking the local tally to a mighty 18!!!

Well done to Adie, he did a top job and kept his composure reasonably well, even if he was shaking like a dog in a wet sack! I do hope he managed some "keeper" images himself?

Tomorrow evening I'm not going to the pub, I'll give you a guess as to where I'll be?