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, 15 April 2014

Super Sunday!

On Sunday morning Col Green and I had a couple of spare hours so we used the time wisely and went and checked some more owl boxes. Due to the time constraints we only managed to check two boxes as the rest of the time was spent doing a bit of networking with a local landowner of whom I'd never met before. This guy (I'll call him Mr X) got to find out about us through the "farmers grapevine" and wanted to discuss things with us further, we were intrigued! But before we went and met this mystery guy we checked out two Barn Owl boxes not far from where he lived. 

Normally when a box is "in use" there are some tell tale signs that there maybe occupancy, like pellets on the ground below the box or poo on the landing shelf, but there was neither in evidence here?

Barn Owl box, a pair in residence.
So when we accidentally flushed a pair of Barn Owls out of the first box we were totally surprised (yes I do have a schedule 1 licence that allows me to check/disturb potential breeding sites at this time of year). We then took the opportunity to quickly check inside the box and what we discovered next was even more a surprise.........four eggs!!! Obviously as soon as we found out this brilliant news a hasty retreat was made leaving the owls to return and get on with it.

At the second box we had more great news, before we erected the ladder a gentle tap was made on the side of the box and a Tawny Owl came scuttling out and flew to the nearby woods, wow we never expected that!
A box meant for Barn Owls, we didn't mind that a Tawny family is now in residence.
Col then gingerly placed the ladders up against the box and peered in, another adult owl was tucked away in the corner which exposed at least 3 chicks and 2 unhatched eggs!!!! This was a very unexpected but gladly received find, unbelievably my eighth new Tawny Owl territory located this year!

Once we'd done the box checking off we went to meet Mr X, a really nice guy who just loves his birds, especially owls! He'd heard of the work that Col and I had been doing over the last few years and wanted to offer us a deal? Although he owns an enormous swath of land with lots of suitable habitat for Barn Owls he hadn't seen one for years and that is where we came in. He thought we could help by doing a survey and then make and erect a couple of boxes in the most suitable locations. In return he is able to offer us as much reclaimed timber as we liked (gets it through his business) and the use of his carpentry shop, how could we refuse? So phone numbers were exchanged and I now await his call when the timber is ready, what a top chap!!

That was the end to time spent with Col as he had a pressing appointment elsewhere. I was then joined by Jonah and the two of us decided to go and check out some more owl boxes. En route over the fields I noticed a passerine on top of a manure heap, I checked it out through my binoculars and although distant there was no doubt about the species, a male Wheatear. As I turned the Land-rover in the direction of the Wheatear a Lapwing was noticed sitting in the middle of the field, as we approached it took flight but only landed a few yards away. We were suspicious there was a nest and without even getting out of the Land-rover it was discovered, along with four eggs!

Lapwing nest & eggs
The Lapwing was a brave individual as within minutes she was back on her nest incubating the eggs.

It was a nice distraction seeing the Lapwing but we soon got back to finding where the Wheatear had gone? In the field in question there was around 20 separate manure piles, we parked up right in the middle of them all and waited. It took around an hour of waiting but the Wheatear returned to feed, and it was accompanied by at least three others!

Wheatear - female

Wheatear - male
The Wheatears never really came as close as I would have liked (possibly around 7-8 metres) which resulted in both the above images being quite heavy crops. Great birds to discover and witness at such close quarters and with the added bonus of another species to my annual list (now at 98).

Since my last post I have also made another couple of evening visits to my Tawny Owl site No 7, one visit resulted in no birds being seen at all and on the second visit one bird posed nicely for just a few seconds on one of its favoured perches. Sadly I didn't manage the flight shots that I am now after but never the less I am well chuffed with the one image I did get, below.

Tawny Owl - Site No 7
Thanks for stopping by, will catch up with you all again soon...........


  1. So glad to hear all yours and Col. work is starting to pay dividends wether it be with actual birds or friendly farmers like Mr.X

  2. It was a great Sunday! Congratulations!
    Nice photographs! Eggs of lapwing have a excellent camouflage.
    Greetings from Poland
    Michał and Piotr, ornithologists

    1. Yes we would never have discovered the eggs if it hadn't of been for the parent bird fleeing the nest.

  3. Really nice images of the Wheatear mate, and you don't come across Lapwing nest often, well done mate great set of images.

  4. Great to hear of your superb results with the nest boxes, Paul. Well deserved!

    Excellent images of the Lapwing and nest, Wheatear, and (of course) the Tawny!

    Keep making the most of this good weather - as sure as eggs is eggs, it won't last forever!

    All the best - - Richard

  5. I am a sucker for owls. Great shots of the Tawny Owl.

    1. I think that there are a lot of us who are suckers for them too David.

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