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, 18 December 2014

Bad News.....

Hi all, sorry for the lack of posts of late, the weather hasn't allowed me to get out to do any birding.

However, on a related note I had a phone call last week from my buddy Adey and with hindsight it was a call that I rather not have taken? Whilst on his way to work he got held up in a traffic jam, as he was inching his way through the congestion  he made a  sighting out of the corner of his eye (a private joke!). There laying on the roadside verge was a dead Barn Owl! I asked him to pull over and check it out and to see if it was a ringed bird, unfortunately he was already late for work and explained he didn't have time. To be fair I think the thought of parading up and down the grass verge to check out a corpse whilst in full view of the slow moving traffic was too much of an embarrassment for him?

Because this gruesome discovery was made on the most southern boundary of my monitoring area I felt compelled to investigate further. A few hours later I too was in the same congestion, but the slow moving traffic enabled me to locate the bird quite easily. I managed to park the car safely in a lay-by and then made my way back along the roadside to where the bird lay. As I was standing there taking a few photo's of the bird with my I-phone I got some very strange looks from the passers by. I picked up the bird to check to see if it had been ringed, it hadn't. I don't think it had been there too long as it appeared to quite fresh, obviously a result of being hit by a passing car/lorry. As I stood there arm outstretched with the bird dangling a passing driver open their window and shouted out "sicko" how very charming of them, well I suppose it must have looked quite strange!   

A sad sight for anyone's eyes.
Unknown to my Mrs the unfortunate Barn Owl is now wrapped in a plastic bag and nestling nicely on the bottom shelf of our freezer, goodness knows what she will say if its found? I hope to have the bird looked at by a local taxidermists that I know and maybe soon it will have pride of place in my office?

Whilst on this sad subject of dead Barn Owls, I had another message come through last week from my ringing buddy, Mike Townsend. He'd had information sent through to him of a "recovery" (details of a bird he'd previously rung). This was bad news too, a young owl that we rung at one of my breeding sites this year (near to the village of Gilmorton) had been found dead. It was found near the village of Ashley in the county of Northamptonshire, it had traveled 21 km due east. I don't have any further information at this time but I suspect it was another roadside collision with a car/lorry that resulted in its untimely end? 

This image below was taken at the time we rung the said owl along with it's three siblings back in June. I have no way of knowing which one of the four is the unfortunate one but I do hope the other three are still out there and fairing well.

The question I have now is why did the young Barn Owl travel so far from its natal site? Its not as if we don't have enough boxes up for them, or maybe we don't? Colin and I are on the case and as we speak more boxes are in production, they will soon be erected in strategic locations within my monitoring area, more about that soon........

Thanks for stopping by and hopefully the next post won't be too far away?


  1. That's sad news I wonder if the wide dispersal of the young is due to suitable habitat rather then nest boxes?

    1. I think you have hit the nail on the head Doug, I am trying to educate the local landowners into leaving more marginal rough strips around the field edges, but sadly doing that effects their income. However, we don't just put boxes up on a whim, we do try to select suitable locations with nearby feeding areas.

  2. Very sad news, indeed, Paul.

    That Barn Owl Handbook I'm (slowly) reading (only on P.87 of 395 pages!) after stating that the post-fledging survival rate has the biggest influence on the BO population, goes on to say that the biggest danger to dispersing juveniles is their first encounters with major roads - so it could be argued that roads have the biggest influence on the BO population. Not much you can do about that, except not do anything that will encourage BOs to nest within a few miles of a major road.

    The book also states that the median dispersal distance of juvenile BOs found in the third month after ringing is 12 km, so 21 km is not out of this world.

    I hope your thoughts on a new venture come to fruition.

    Have a great Christmas, and all the best for 2015 - - - - - Richard

    1. Sounds a very interesting read Richard, the comments/stats all make sense. We do try to keep our boxes away from nearby roads but Barn Owls do move about a lot and sadly they will have these death defining encounters with traffic. You too have a great xmas and 2015 mate!

  3. I think its just how it goes mate, I dont think for one minute that all juveniles make it through to be breeding adults, but we will keep putting up new homes for them here's to 2015 mate!!!!!!

    1. Yep your dead right Col, and here's to a box filled 2015!