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!!!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

All worth while...........

Just lately any spare time has been taken up with box checking, more box checking and a bit more box checking. Occasionally a bit of ringing has taken place in between the box checking!  Completing these tasks is a labour of live really but it is so time consuming it doesn't leave time for any general birding or owling. 

Well I needed a freshener and a change of scene so I made time to go and check a few Little Owl sites out where I know there has been proven breeding in previous years. None of these sites have a box, they are all in either natural cavities in trees or holes buildings but never the less I went and sussed them out to see if there was any early emerging chicks, sadly there wasn't. However, at one site both the adult owls were out so this suggests they may well have young in the nest?  

After a lengthy wait a single adult owl popped through the small gap in between the wall and an old wooden door to have a look at me!

Although the perspective of the image (above) possibly gives the impression I was relative close to this bird I wasn't! I'd parked the Land-rover up in a gateway and because of the height I was able to photograph over the field gate which I was parallel to. The building where the owl sat was a good 20 meters away, hence a heavy crop.

The owl was soon joined by presumably its partner, no sooner had it popped out of the same hole they both took flight and perched up on the corner of the building.

Here they stayed for a good five minutes battling to keep a grip in the high winds, they seem quite content sheltering out of the elements until their piece was shattered by a mobbing family of Swallows. The Swallows are nesting very close by in the building and I don't think they were comfortable with where the owls were settled so I assume the best method of defense is attack!

Because the light had improved somewhat it allowed for quite high shutter speeds so I gave it a go at trying to capture a Swallow as it attacked. I messed up the majority of my attempts (they fly so fast!) but one reasonable image was captured that gives a sense of the action. 

The luxury of chilling out and doing a bit of owl watching and photography soon came to an end though, more box checking was needed! I wasn't too far from one of my potential Barn Owl sites so over to there I went. 

As I entered the barn two adult Barn Owls flew past my head in the opposite direction, things looked promising. After carefully removing the observation cover I was greeted by the stink from hell! The ammonia nearly knocked me off my ladder! There was a chick right at the front of the box, it was tiny and I'd hazard a guess and say was no more that 1-2 days old. It lay right next to it's next dinner, not sure what type of rodent it is, a mouse I think?

I used my torch to see further into the box and I managed to make out at least three further chicks and six or seven rodent corpses. The adults are obviously having an easier time of it than of late with catching their prey, it appears that they are in abundance this year. The cover was soon replaced on the box and I made a hasty retreat.

The next lot of ringing has also taken place, Neil, Col and I visited one of my Tawny Owl sites that has taken up residence in a Barn Owl box. Luckily neither of the adults were home when we visited which gave us the opportunity to ring the two owlets. 

Yours truly went up to the box first, once I'd made sure there were no adults in residence Neil went up to extract our bounty.

I've no experience on aging Tawnies, but I'd take an educated guess and say they were a couple of weeks old? Below Neil and Col can be seen completing the ringing task.

I had a quick cuddle with the owlets before they were safely returned to the box.

And finally here is a close up of one of the chicks, beautiful or ugly..........you decide? 

So far of the boxes we have checked we have Tawnies in four boxes all with chicks, Little Owls are also in four boxes but only one has chicks so far with the rest still on eggs. And finally there are also four pairs of Barn Owls in boxes with a mixture of eggs and chicks.

It is dam hard work but when you reap the rewards as we are doing now it is all well worth it!

Thanks for stopping by................


  1. Another good blog and its nice to see that the barn owls are having an easier time on the food hunting front. The time and effort you put in shows as many of the boxes that you have put up are thriving and bringing the next generation of owlets into the world.I'm sure if it was not for your commitment and keenness for the conservation of these birds there would not be as many as there are in your local area.

  2. Beautiful photographs and great job with ringed owls. Picture with swallow is fantastic! Congratulations!
    Greetings from Poland

  3. Sure does make it worth while buddy, great images as usual especially the swallow mate!!!!!!