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, 27 November 2014

2015 Owl Calendar

Hi all again,

Following the saddening news in my previous post I thought I'd have a post with a little less depression! It is that time of year again where I have selected some of my favorite owl images taken during 2014 and compiled them into a unique limited edition calendar for 2015, see review below. The premium 235g/m glossy paper stock is of excellent quality and certainly complements the images.

As in previous years the small profit that is made from the sale of each calendar will be circulated straight back into the owl box scheme where more timber, preserve, screws etc will be purchased with the long term aim of having 150 boxes up.   

So whether you are a purchaser from previous years (thank you!) or a first timer this year and you would like to buy a calendar whilst at the same time you'll be supporting the box scheme then please email me at the address below and I will get back to you asap.

The calendars are priced at £11.00 each plus £1.50 p&p to UK addresses.

Many thanks


UPDATE - Calendars now sold out! 
Many thanks to all of you who purchased, you should have received it by now. 

Monday, 24 November 2014


It was bit of a quiet weekend on the owling front, the mighty Leicester City FC were playing at home on Saturday afternoon, because I was being picked up by Daz at 1.0pm it only left a few spare hours in the morning. However, these few hours were efficiently utilized with the setting up of a few perches at a new Kingfisher site (No 3). This is the site where a landowner friend has them regularly visiting a pool and feeder stream that feeds their Mill. Whilst there I didn't actually see the Kingfishers but I did hear two different birds calling nearby. This location is absolutely perfect for Kingfishers and the layout lends itself perfect for photography, or at least it will once they accept and start using my perches, but more about this site at a later date.......

On Sunday morning I didn't go out owl watching, it was a miserable drizzly day and my head was pounding, the consequences of too much booze the night before, I'll never learn? So around midday a walk with the dog in the fresh air was decided upon to be the best tonic, not just to help clear my head but also to cheer up the dog!

We walked across the soggy fields not far from the village of Cosby, I'd purposely chose this walk as I wanted to check out one of my Barn Owl boxes that I erected in an old disused building. Over the last 3-4 years I have seen birds around this particular building on many occasions, they do use the box as it is full of regurgitated  pellets but they have never used it as a breeding site? 

I last visited the box to check for any breeding back in mid July, lots of pellets but no birds and definitely no signs of breeding. However, it now seems as though I may have last checked it out too early, as yesterday morning what greeted was a saddening sight. There on the floor of the building and directly below the nest box were two dead Barn Owls.   

I moved both of the carcasses outside for better inspection, neither bird was rung and neither showed any obvious signs of being predated. The primary feathers on the lower bird were not fully developed so I can only conclude that they were young birds that had either fledged the box too early or something sinister had happened to the parent owls and these youngsters had starved?

Whilst there I also found several very fresh pellets on the floor (jet black, heavy and damp) so even though these dead birds were in attendance other bird(s) are still frequenting the building, maybe the parents? So this discovery was a bitter sweet moment, sweet in the fact that another pair of Barn Owls have attempted to breed in the confines of my survey area but very bitter when young birds are discovered like this!

Hopefully my next post will be a little less morbid?

Back soon!

Saturday, 22 November 2014


Hi all!!

It has been a very busy time since my last post, but not all with owl watching and photography, although I have squeezed a bit of that in too!

One of my land owner pals has a fantastic woodworking shop on his farm, and it is hardly used, well not until now that is! I approached him earlier in the year with the offer of making and erecting a few boxes for him (as he had requested some boxes) and in return was it possible to use his workshop? A deal was soon struck and Col and I made our first visit there one evening last week.

As can be seen from the image below the workshop is huge, however my 35mm lens just doesn't do the size of it justice. Working in there just couldn't be better, there is loads of room, its nice and warm, good lighting and plenty of working space, just perfect for a horrid winters night. 

Available to us are 4 different types of electric wood saw, they make stripping down the 8ft x 4ft sheets that we use a doddle, Col can be seen here in this next image doing some cutting to size.

We made two visits on consecutive evenings and before long the large timber sheets had been transformed into five brand new Barn Owl boxes, yours truly can be seen here taking a well earned rest with the boxes.

Once the boxes had been made the next two evenings were spent treating them with a quality wood preserve, I don't like this part of the task as it is boring and very tedious but it needs to be done! Six hours later the boxes had all had four coats and they were all ready for erecting.

Saturday morning we honored our part of the deal and the first box was erected on my farmer friends land. We selected a mature Oak Tree with a north facing aspect, it was just perfect but before being secured to the tree a large amount of Ivy needed removing, Col told me that was my job, as can be seen below!

Col came in at the eleventh hour and took all the glory by securing the box in place!

Just a mile or so down the road we erected a second box on a huge Ash Tree, again Col can be seen here (below) doing the "good bit" of securing the box, again!

Last year both these boxes had breeding Barn Owls within a mile, so hopefully the fledged young will still be around and find these two offerings very soon?

Last Sunday I re-visited my newly found Little Owl site No 250, previously I'd not managed any images of the resident birds, apart from the one that was taken at night with the aid of the Landrover headlights, it was a terrible image.

So on this visit I set about checking the small group of trees in the corner of the field, initially I wasn't looking for the birds but their nest hole. If the hole could be found then the birds are usually found too. This theory was put to practice as the hole that I suspected belonged to the owls did actually result in seeing the pair albeit after a lengthy wait. The hole was unusually quite high up in the tree, hence these next two images are heavy crops and the quality has diminished somewhat but always nice to see two owls cuddled together!

One of the owls flew from the relative security of the nest hole down to a lower limb to my left, it was an awkward angle for photography but I managed to grab a shot before it flew back up to its mate.

During the next few months Col and I will be burning the midnight oil when ever we can with the manufacture of more boxes, so watch this space to see how things develop.......

That's all for now folks.

Catch up soon........

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Soon to be gone.....

OK, since my conscious decision a few weeks ago where I decided to dedicate more time to the owls things have been pretty productive to be fair. I have managed to see and photograph Barn, Little, Tawny and Short Eared Owls, and unbelievably they were all new sites for me!

My latest trip out was back again to the new Barn Owl site, yes I suppose I have become a bit of an obsessive when it comes to this site but seeing anything else in the week is a none starter because of the limited day light hours. But at this site the birds don't appear from the nest tree until well after dark so it doesn't interfere with work. 

I was again in situ and parked up in the Landrover by 6pm, the first emerging occurred just before 7pm and that bird appears to be the oldest and bravest of this brood as it doesn't hang around waiting for me to photograph it, no soon after it has popped up its off practicing its flying along the hedgerow. It's two younger siblings gave me a right royal show though. They both appeared at the entrance a few seconds after big brother had flown off and they sat transfixed at the entrance watching him flying around. 

As can be seen in this next image the two remaining youngsters are pretty well developed now, although their respective plumage do look very different indeed. The right hand bird (and I suspect the elder of these two) has a much more "adult" looking facial disc and darker breast feathers.

It is also the one who spends most of its time nearer the entrance, I suspect it is some kind of pecking order as it will be first in line when one of the adults comes in with a vole. This does happen quite frequently but sadly I have not managed to capture an image of the exchange of a meal package as it happens all too quickly and with it being pitch dark there is not sufficient shutter speed.

The young Barn Owls are very inquisitive creatures, they are constantly checking out every tiny movement they observe or sound they hear by way or twisting and contorting their heads in the strangest of positions.

I suspect that due to how well these young owls are developing they will be dispersing their natal site any day now. They will be off to establish a territory of their own and hopefully they will stay local, hence why I keep visiting as it may be the last time I ever see them?

Thanks for stopping by, catch up again soon..........

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Peas in a pod.

I was up and out early this morning, accompanied by a banging hangover that was a result of the previous nights alcohol abuse. Needless to say I deserved to be feeling awful, one can't expect to down a dozen cans of beer without paying the consequences. I obviously didn't feel much like walking anywhere, in fact what I needed was some easy birding that could be done from the car, and I knew just the place!

After a steady drive I was soon at the new Barn Owl site that has featured in my recent posts. It was only just getting light and with the heavy fog that cloaked the area meant viewing wasn't too good. For the first time I saw three owls huddled together like peas in a pod at the nest entrance, the resultant image is definitely in the "record shot" category as it was taken with high ISO and has also been heavily cropped. 

Three young Barn Owls from the second brood.
Whilst at the site, Craig (the guy who informed of these owls) came driving along and parked up behind me. As we watched the owls he told me that he had managed (and showed me) an image with five Barn Owls together taken at this location, but that was back in July/August?  This could only mean that the young birds we were viewing were from the second brood this year, so as it turns out this has been a pretty productive site with at least 8 fledged birds to add to the ever expanding local population, I guess that means I'd better get making and erecting some more boxes asap!

Catch up soon.........

Friday, 7 November 2014

Sorted at last.....

Last night I had another lengthy session at the new Barn Owl site, there were high winds and driving rain showers which consequently resulted in the birds showing a lot later than on previous visits. The photo opportunities were limited, but I am pretty pleased with this image, below and the new header, above especially now I have managed to disable Bloggers auto photo enhancer, yippee!!

This second image is exactly the same as the one above?? The only difference (and a big one at that) is it has been "auto enhanced" by blogger, this results in it being too bright and over saturated. I know they do it with the best of intentions but it is NOT how I intended my image(s) to look. I want them to represent what I am seeing out there in real life, and at 7.00pm in bitch darkness it doesn't look like this below!!

All my uploaded images of late have been through the dreaded auto enhancer and to be fair the majority weren't really effected, however there were a few that were woeful! So now that I have upgraded (I was loathed to initially) my images will be published as I intend for them to be seen, I hope you agree that the first of the above images is the better one, or am I missing something?

Catch up again soon.......

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.........