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!!!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

More owls

Although it is very tempting to keep returning to my new Kingfisher project, I knew that I needed to get my priorities right so for now they have been put on the back burner and a concerted effort has been employed with the owls. So during the last few weeks where my enthusiasm for the owls has been re-kindled some-what I have now managed to see and photograph four different owl species. In recent posts I have recently featured my new Little and Tawny Owl sites, in this post new Short Eared and Barn Owl sites.

It is that time of year where the SEO's (Short Eared Owls) start to re-locate to their wintering quarters, I've put in many hours checking out likely looking sites and have now seen birds at two different locations, the more recent sighting was made just up the road from where I live. I was in the village of Leire, Leicestershire and this sighting/encounter was by complete accident, right place at the right time. I was visiting some local landowners to discuss with them the Kingfishers they have visiting a pool in their back garden!!  As we stood over looking the pool a "flappy" bird was noticed flying overhead, the binoculars were soon on it, a SEO!! It then started to spiral down to a "scrubby" area that was in the adjacent field. It flew quite close by but before it could land it was mobbed by a group of corvids that appeared from nowhere, this unwanted attention obviously gave it second thoughts as it then started to climb back up into the sky. It was at this stage that a second SEO was spotted up a little higher than the first bird. The pair of them continued to fly in a southerly direction, because of the topography of where we stood they were soon out of our line of sight and it was all over too quickly but brilliant to witness nevertheless. 

SEO a brief fly past.
Late on Monday evening I had a mystery E-mail from an unknown individual about Barn Owls that had been seen in a tree within my surveyed area. At the time I was in a slumber and not far off going to bed, however this information certainly woke me up! It was 10.15pm and there was no time like the present to go and investigate. This particular sighting was of interest to me because I have erected 3 boxes very close by to the tree in question and they have all been visited by Barn Owls (pellets in the box) but none of them had been used as a breeding site. By 10.45pm I was parked up adjacent to the tree and although I couldn't see any owls I could hear them! The distinctive "hissing" of recently fledged owls told me that this was obviously the breeding site, and a late one at that! I sat there in the car listening and after a while my eyes became accustomed to the dark and in the cloudless sky the nearly full moon gave just enough light so I could make out five different birds in the tree. 

Fortunately I know the landowner so a plan was hatched for me to return the next evening after work and park my Landrover in the field. At 5.30pm the next evening I was as planned parked up near the tree, it had 3 or 4 likely holes that the birds could emerge from? I selected the largest and most likely hole as  the best candidate and manually focused the camera onto this area. At 6.05pm the first Barn Owl showed at the hole entrance, after a bit of hissing and head wobbling it scrambled from the hole and onto the lower branches. As you would expect by this time it was pitch black so in order to gain any images using the flash on my camera was the only method of capturing an image.

The above image is another victim of Bloggers auto-enhance process, sorry!

Juvenile Barn Owls, emerging from their nest entrance.
During the next 30 minutes at least three juvenile owls emerged from the hole, but actually there could have been four or even five as it was difficult to see through my scrim into the pitch black. 

Absolutely fabulous to witness even if it was only partial and silhouettes in the darkness. 

Thanks for taking the time to stop by, catch up again soon.........


  1. Replies
    1. Yes I love @em too Bob, but I guess you already knew that!

  2. Great work mate!! love the header.

  3. Those Barnie images are wonderful, Paul. The light from your flash makes the white of the facial disc look almost metallic! Your header, and the first Barnie images are my favourite.

    Pretty good SEO image too, for a chance unexpected encounter!

    Best wishes - - - Richard

    1. Thank you mate, I am sure that you will bump into a SEO sooner or later?

  4. NICE!!! Hope those Barn Owls stay happy. Love their little niche. Not everyday we get to see them like this. Your pics are great!

  5. Great Barn Owl images Paul, well done

  6. Super images again Paul, how do you get so close without spooking them?

  7. Hi Dawson, there is no particular secret as to getting close to these owls, and other species for that matter. A bit of research always bodes well, knowing the particular species and when they are likely to be most active is the key. Being in situ long before the owls are likely to show helps, in this case I was there for a good 2 hours before they came out. Being very quite, lots of patience, oh a good hide (landrover in my case) and loads of luck!

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  9. We have a lot of barn owls out here in Texas they have always have been one of my favorite owls.