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!!!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

S.L.O.P - South Leicestershire Owl Project.

Hi again folks,

Not a lot to keep you updated with since my last post, apart from the fact that another sixteen Barn Owl boxes have been put up! You can see from this bespoke map below of south Leicestershire, my monitoring area that is highlighted by the thick red line. This area is approx 500 km square and the yellow markers within are the approx locations of the 75 Barn Owl boxes that have been erected so far. The central and central eastern areas are pretty much covered now, there is a nice spread that should hopefully entice a few Barnies to breed this year. 

Barn Owl boxes, approx locations.
So for this last batch I have been concentrating on the central western area with each one being sited inside an old building or barn. One box in particular was erected last Saturday in what has been up to now a totally secure building, I'd got permission to put up the box and then leave the wooden hay loft door ajar. In returning to the same site on Sunday morning to finish off the job a Barn Owl was accidentally flushed from the building, a mere twelve hours after the box was erected!!!

As for getting out and doing any owling the opportunities of late have been minimal due to all the time spent net-working, and then making and erecting boxes. However, on Sunday I had a huge reason to get out for a few hours.......I've got some new camera equipment!!!

At very long last I have managed to buy the lens that I have always dreamed of owning, a Canon 500mm F4. It is a second hand unit purchased of my mate Nigel, he'd upgraded to a new lens so this one was surplus to his requirements. So after the exchange of nearly 4 grand the lens was mine, oh yeeeesss!!!

So far I have only managed to get out for an hour or so but I must say that I am mightily impressed with its performance. Its a heavy beast so a new tripod has been ordered that will surely make the handling matters a lot easier. On the one outing I've had so far I had to use a beanbag and shoot out of the car window. three different Little Owls were located at two sites, here are a few images.......

At the first location (site No 26) two birds were out sitting in their nest tree. Noting too impressive with the images until I tell you they were a good 20 metres away. Yes the image has been cropped but I am still very impressed with the amount of detail that is still present considering the post processing involved nothing more that a crop to improve the composure.

This next flight image was a lucky capture to be honest, one of the perched birds looked like it was about to fly off and I bagged a bit of the action as it took flight. With the distances involved my old lens (300mm) capturing an image like this would never have been possible. 

At the second site I positioned the car parallel to a favoured perch used by the owls at my site No 62. Previously when ever I have managed images from here they always have to be really cropped hard, resulting in lost quality and detail, but not this time! The perch is around 10 metres away and the level of detail that is captured compared to my old lens is remarkable. Again hardly any post processing was required, the original was a little under exposed so it has been lightened slightly but that is it. 

I am also very impressed with the defused background results, I suppose that's down to the compression of the 500mm. But what I can't understand is the lack of noise (grainy effect) in the image. I was shooting at ISO 1250 and I always thought it was the camera settings that effected/contributed to the noise (high ISO), maybe someone can help me with this one?

So now I await the delivery of my new tripod, oh and a new Canon x 1.4 converter (did I forget to mention that earlier?) and then I am hoping to get out for a full day come the weekend and give it a dam good work out.

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


  1. Really pleased that you have finally got the lens that you have always wanted......

    1. Cheers buddy, your encouragement made me go for it!

  2. Replies
    1. It won't be for the lack of trying Stevie...

  3. That's a really impressive effort with the Barn Owl boxes, Paul.

    Carrying that lens is going to be better than any work-out in a gym l!!

    Keep up the good work.

    1. Yep very true Richard, it's a beast of a lens, thinking of hiring a sherpa!!

  4. Great work on all the nest boxes Paul, big fan of your dedication to this vital work.
    So glad you got your hands on a 500mm f4. The weight of the lens to hand hold isn't too bad you will soon get used to it, I hand hold all the time even with a broken elbow lol. On a serious note if you're using on a tripod TURN OFF the image stabilisation. It will break it happened to my mate John Peacock who only did bird portraits.

    1. Thanks for that invaluable bit of advice Doug, will take heed in the future.