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!!!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Owl Update

Recently I had a dig in the ribs that subtlety reminded me that I'd not being doing a lot with my owls of late, too occupied with the Kingfishers I suppose. So to make amends I have unbelievably put a little more effort in and the rewards were there to be had.

Initially it was off to check a few sites for SEO's (Short Eared Owls), after numerous visits to several "known" sites I managed my first siting of the winter. It was a distant bird in pretty awful light conditions but nevertheless good to see and a record shot of shorts was obtained, below.

Short Eared Owl
Now that I have finally located this SEO wintering site I will no doubt be investing some more time there to see if I can improve on this first image.

Recently I have also managed two new Little Owl sites, the first one is not too far from my first Kingfisher  site. I was pretty sure that during my marathon waiting about for the Kingfisher to show I'd heard Little Owls calling from a distant corner of the opposing field. So one evening when I was taking Patch (my dog) out for his evening run I went into this corner of the field and whilst passing a couple of very owly looking Ash Trees I heard an owl call. There was absolutely no mistaking the alarm call, the culprits identity being Little Owl. The trouble was it was pitch black and there was no way I could see anything. The area consisted of the two trees, a boarding hedgerow and in between was a small field gate. I called Patch in to the Landrover and then positioned it facing the gate, I had a plan but a very far fetched one at that!  The engine was turned off but I left all the lights on, the full beam and spots lit up the gate and lower limbs of the tree lovely. I dare not stay like that for too long for fear of draining the battery down, but I needn't have worried as within a few minutes there was a pair of birds perched on the gate!

I sat and watched them with a smug grin on my face, always good when a plan comes to fruition. They didn't seem to be put off by the glaring headlights at all, if anything they seemed to drop down onto the grass to feed more where the light shone than in the darkened areas. I attempted to capture an image but they were all blurred apart from this single image below. I know it is not of the highest quality but when you consider it was 6.45pm and even with the headlights on I could still only muster a shutter speed of 1/6th of a second at ISO 2000.  In addition to this the lens was rested precariously on top of the steering wheel and the image captured through the windscreen!

First record shot of  an owl from site No 250
Needless to say I shall be keeping a close eye on this site and hopefully some much improved images to follow?

My second new site was encountered last weekend when I went to check out one of my as yet unoccupied Barn Owl boxes. As I approached the old building that houses the box a movement caught my eye on the internal brick wall, Little Owl! The engine of the Landrover was killed instantly, I'd never seen an owl of any species here before so it was quite a plesent surprise. The scrim was erected up at the window and the camera positioned on the beanbag. Luckily the owl remained in the same location as when I first spotted it and a few record shots were captured. Attempting to get the correction exposure was very problematic in itself what with the very dark interior of the barn and the bright sunlight that was streaming through the gap above the wall. I sat and watch the owl in question do nothing for ages but then things got more interesting when a second bird appeared, below.

I invested a few hours at this site and eventually managed some "better" images when the birds came a little closer. Again getting the exposure right was a real problem and the resultant images tend to have a "flat" feel about them. Nevertheless this collection is a good start for my first encounter at new site No 251 and I will be returning when the light is more in my favour.

Whilst there I witnessed the pair of owls mating, see below. Yes I know it is very late in the year, or incredibly early if you look at it another way but this very mild autumn we are having can do strange things to nature?

So not too bad a return for my latest owl excursions, ironically I never did get around to checking if the Barn Owl box has been occupied, I'll have to check that out next time.

Thanks for stopping by and catch up soon..........


  1. Look at them all! Pretty cool. Love your owl shots. And for us, it's that time of year for the Great Horned Owls. They begin their courting behaviors.

    1. Greetings Chris, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  2. Great results for your efforts, Paul. I now feel that I've been prodded into trying to do better than I have been lately. I must start looking for SEOs!

    Have a great weekend!

    1. Good luck with finding a SEO, not looking like a very productive year for them........yet!

  3. How weird the LO's decided to mate. As you point out it must be the mild weather, would the mating be successful? Well done on the Shortie.

    1. I think it is just a bonding thing Doug, too late or too early for breeding?

  4. That would be a good breeding record if they are successful, nice images mate considering the light situation.