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, 23 January 2015


Hi all,

Not one birding or owl encounter of any description to report since my last post, the weather has been foul which just hasn't allowed me to get out to check on any. However, I'm not one for sitting around and doing nothing, oh no! So instead Col and I have been very productive and made the most of our recent limited outdoor access?  

We have been very fortunate in as much that a local land owner friend "acquired" some old crates and asked if they would be any good for converting into owl boxes? We went over to have a look at them and couldn't believe our luck when we checked them out. They were just the right shape and size for Barn Owls, albeit with them only being 6mm ply they are not really suited for outdoor use but absolutely perfect for use inside a building/barn. So for two evenings this week we set about the challenge of cleaning them up and converting them into owl boxes.

As can be seen in this image (very dodgy quality as it was taken with my i-phone) our task has almost been completed with sixteen being made so far. 

Although Col doesn't know (until he reads this of course) that our job is only really half done, we now need to get all the boxes erected..........by the end of February!!!

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

Friday, 16 January 2015

New boxes - 2015

Hi all and happy new year!

After all the recent distractions that have taken me away from my owling, I.E Xmas, bad weather & owls being shot, I am glad to say that I am now back in the groove again. The box making production line has ground back into action and Col and I have been burning the midnight oil with a further 7 boxes to add to the ever growing numbers.  

Because of the time and cost that is involved with making and erecting the boxes we don't just put them up haphazardly, we do try to give it some thought! However, there have been so many put up during the last few years I'm not even sure of  the exact numbers? There is even a distinct possibility that there was a few we didn't even check during the breeding season of 2014. So to enable us to keep closer controls and better records and files we are now attaching an aluminium disc to each box as we either newly erect it, or revisit older ones. 

Each aluminium disc is numbered so in time each box will actually have its own unique identity rather than just remembering it as being "near somewhere" (that's why I forget!). I will then be able to compile exact records on the progress for each box over the years.  This system is also useful for making notes about the condition of a box, does it need maintenance, have we fitted a slate roof or does it need re-painting. Of course the main aim is to document the breeding success and failures, owl species, clutch sizes etc etc, but I am also going to document the direction the box faces and the erected height as this may well throw up trends and lead to more future success. 

So here are the images of our six  no sorry five latest editions, and as you will see they all have the new numbered disc on them.

This first box is intended for Barn Owls, it was erected north facing on the main trunk of a Oak Tree at about 15 feet high.  Behind the tree are a few rough pasture fields that should be ideal for hunting owls, considering the fact that in 2014 we had two pairs of breeding Barn Owls within a mile of this box there are high hopes it will be used for either breeding or roosting in 2015.
Box No 17 - Barn Owl
The next location where we erected boxes is a new one for us as we have only just gained permission to access this bit of land. The area looks really good as the local landowner leaves plenty of marginal strips of rough grass around the margins of his fields, in turn it should be ideally suited to hunting owls. 

Ideal hunting ground for Barn Owls.
The landowner has seen the occasional Barn Owl around his farm during the last couple of years and consequently put up a couple of breeding boxes of his own. Sadly these two boxes haven't been used yet although we have incorporated them into our monitoring system, both have had numbered discs put on them, how cheeky of us! There is obviously still every chance that his boxes could still be used although I think that maybe they are a little close to the working farm and a bit too noisy.

At this new location there's a semi-derelict dutch barn set about a mile away from the farm, Col and I thought it was an ideal location to erect a couple of boxes. The first box (No 18) was erected about 12 feet high on one of the concrete stanchions, 

Box No 18 - Barn Owl
The second box we erected at this same site, (box 19) was a Little Owl box. It too was mounted on one of the concrete stanchions but at the other end so as not to interfere with the Barn Owl box. 

Box No 19 - Little Owl
In 2014 we had our first ever breeding Tawny Owls, in fact we had three different pairs take up residence in three different boxes that were intended for Barn Owls. Don't get me wrong we were thrilled to bits and they were more than welcome, especially as all three pairs bred successfully. So this year we have designed and manufactured some Tawny Owl boxes of our own. 

Col can be seen in this next image posing with the first one that has been erected, (box No 20).  It is a beast of a box and was very awkward to erect, for the first time ever we had to use a rope to haul a box up. The main problem being the weight and how high it needed to be erected, 20-25 feet, where as the Barn Owl boxes are erected between 10-15 feet. The selected location compromises a small amount of huge Scot's Pine Trees, Tawnies have been heard here before so we think a good location, time will tell? 

Col & new Tawny Box (No 20).
Box No 21 has been designed for Little Owls, we have had most occupancy success when the boxes are erected between 5-10 feet high. This one was secured to the side of a very old Pollard Willow Tree at around 7 feet. The area does look very suitable for this species even though I have never seen one here before. 

Box No 21 - Little Owl
Col and I have also for the first time made some Kestrel nesting boxes, quite a simple design really. We erected our first one (Box No 22) on the side of an old Ash Tree among some Ivy but I can't show you this image because I forgot to take an photo of it!

Thanks for stopping by and hopefully will be back soon.........

Friday, 2 January 2015

Barn Owl - Shooting Update.

Hi all,

Following on from the appalling news last week when one of our Barn Owls had been discovered dead after being maliciously shot. After further investigations by the landowner(s) it transpires that the "shooting parties & individuals" who do have permission to be on the land have all been cleared of any association with this crime. 

After the discovery of the owl it's carcass was taken to a local veterinarian practice for x-rays, it was at this point that it was officially confirmed to have been shot. I have just received a copy of one of the x-rays (below), not brilliant quality as it was taken with an I-phone but some of the pellets can be made out. Apparently there was one pellet in its leg, one in its neck and a small group in its wing. 

Since my last blog post the support has been overwhelming, social media forums such as Twitter, Facebook and other blogs and websites (that are against wildlife crime) have spread the news far and wide. The consensus is everyone is disgusted by such a callous act. The Investigative Support Officer for the National Wildlife Crime Unit has contacted me and I now await the local police wildlife crime unit to get in touch so the incident can be officially logged. The RSPB have also been in touch and the incident has been logged with them too.

Six years ago there was only one known breeding pair of Barn Owls within my survey area, this number has slowly risen to an all time best of nine pairs in 2014. It obviously proves that the nest box program  is slowy having an effect, but for how long as all this hard work is undone in seconds when low life scumbags trespass around the countryside with firearms performing vicious and cowardly acts like this...........words almost fail me!