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, 3 March 2014

Unleash the beast!

This particular post title makes reference to the "beast" being my Landrover! After 6 long months standing idle on my driveway (no tax!) it has now passed its MOT and is now legally back on the road, and raring to go. It is an exciting time for me because the landie allows me to go to places that otherwise would not be accessible and haven't been visited for well over six months! If they are accessible the intended quarry doesn't usually get to be seen because the element of disguise that the landie offers is just not there!

My very first outing in the landie was over to one of my favourite Little Owl sites near to the village of Enderby. This site has a proven track record of being very reliable for owl sightings but one has to be in the landie otherwise nothing is ever seen! And right bang on form, after being parked up for no more than five minutes the resident pair of Little Owls showed themselves. They didn't venture away from the nest entrance but good to see they made it through the winter, again! 

The hen owl, site No 88.

The male owl, site No 88

The male owl again, site No 88. Being quite vocal.

During my first venture out in the landie of 2014 I was not alone? Keeping me company was my new (and very excited) buddy. He is four years old and his name is Patch. He was acquired a few weeks ago from a couple who had just retired and were moving back to America. Patch is a very obedient and well trained  dog and has settled in very nicely. I think he and I are destined to spend many hours together out in the landie and no doubt he will be featuring on my blog again!

Patch, in his mobile kennel. What a handsome chap!
So Patch and I made our second site visit to an area near to South Wigston. I was eager to re-visit this area because during my last visit back in September 2013 disaster had struck? During high winds the nest site was destroyed rendering the Little Owl's at site No 105 homeless. This was my first visit since then and I was eager to see if the owls were still holding their old territory? 

Firstly we visited the old nest tree, my fears were confirmed when the damage was witnessed, even worse than I recalled. A huge limb had fallen from high above smashing the nest entrance wide open leaving nothing more than a gaping hole that a space hopper could fit into. Do you remember the space hopper? Amazing how much fun you could have with a big orange ball with antennas!. 

After further inspection of the carnage there was no evidence of any owl activity, had they survived the ordeal and if so where were they now? There were two other likely nearby trees that could be candidates for a re-location, so they were checked out. The landie was relocated adjacent to the first tree and with good light behind I checked it out through my binoculars. BINGO!!! After five seconds of scanning the tree a Little Owl was spotted. Now this owl didn't seem to be fazed out by the presence of the landie, it appeared to be quite relaxed. This was excellent news because the male owl from the decimated site was one of the most confiding owls that I know. He was use to the landie and at times would allow me to drive within just a few meters of him! I was confident that this was the same owl, so a quick manoeuvre to a nearer and more advantageous position for a photo was undertaken, the owl remained in the same spot, (presumably the new nest entrance) I am now very confident it was him!

Male owl - site No 105.
Although the male owl at this site is extremely confiding the hen owl is totally the opposite. She has always been shy and usually keeps hidden away. For this reason I pulled back and observed from a position further away, after a while she too showed herself (too far for an image). So both owls had survived the ordeal of the previous nest site being destroyed, excellent news.

After leaving the owls I decided to have a drive around this particular area, it seemed an age since I was last here and it's always nice to reacquaint yourself with a favoured area. During this drive about  I spotted a Green Sandpiper flitting along an old storm drain. Because I don't have any "decent" images of this species I decided to invest some time and give it a go. I positioned the landie paralell to the storm drain near to where it was being bathed in glorious morning sunshine. 

Whilst waiting for the Sandpiper to come close I was entertained by a trio of Grey Wagtails, a couple of images were captured, but the quality has been lost somewhat because of their relative small size and heavy crops.

Grey Wagtail
Balancing act - Grey Wagtail
 It was a long wait, but finally my two hour endurance paid off when the Sandpiper finally settled on the wall right in front of me!

Green Sandpiper - South Wigston
Green Sandpiper
Without doubt the best ever Green Sandpiper views I've ever had, well worth investing the time waiting for it to come close, using the landie as a hide paid off yet again!

Patch and I then moved on, he'd been a good boy and never made a murmur all the time we waited, he was well overdue a comfort break and a bit of a run. Here he is again enjoying having a splash about!

My next planned visit out in the landie is to start my monitoring all the owl nest boxes, some of them are now looking worse for wear and desperately in need of some maintenance, but Col and I have a plan, but that will be next time........

See you all soon!


  1. Wonderfull captures, greeting from Belgium

    1. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment Louisette.

  2. Great pictures.. Congrats and regards..

  3. Patch looks like a cracking dog mate. As does the Greensandpiper really like the image of it calling. The male LO at site88 calling is also a favourite, I can imagine that call whilst looking at the image, glad to hear the owl at site105 is ok, I lost a LO tree during the winds and after hearing it call i was struggling to locate it TWO hours later I felt stupid as it as at the entrance to a rabbit hole!!! Never knew they'd do that.

    1. Patch is a cracker mate, we fell lucky there. Thanks for the comments mate!

  4. Top pictures Rid and great to see Patch and the landie featuring. Yes the space hoppers, I was going to crack a joke about them but thought better of it as it was rather rude..........

    1. Go on Simon, share the joke! Thanks for leaving a comment.

  5. Great to hear that your trusty(?) Landie is back in action, Paul. Some superb results there too. My favourite images are the second and third LO images and the first Green Sand image. But the really special image is that last one, of Patch. I can see that you and he are going to be great friends.

    1. Oh yes Richard, patch and I are already inseparable. Thanks for your comment.

  6. Great to see you out and about in the Landie and that you have a new friend. Great photo of him running through the water.

  7. Looks like you're set now with a vehicle and a friend! Some great shots there. I do like the one of the male being vocal!

  8. Impressive photos of the owls!
    My goodness they are soooo cute!!
    Your dog is a "killer"!!! How handsome!!
    Yep, I bet you will have much pleasure with the landie!
    A very enjoyable post!
    Keep well Rich!

  9. Great that you've got your landie back up and on the road again! Love the image of the male owl screeching - amazing capture! They really do have such a piercing glare don't they!