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!!!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Round 1.......

This morning (Sunday 10th May) Col and I managed to get out for a few hours to conduct our first round of box checking this year and of the fifteen boxes checked we had a bag of mixed results. 

At the first site the day got off to a great start, last year a pair of Barn Owls took up residence in one of our two boxes that are at this site and then went on to raise three youngsters, this was the first ever record of Barn Owls at this particular site. Then over the xmas period one of the adults was shot and killed, I'm sure you can recall me reporting this despicable news? Well, I now have the pleasure of reporting that there is a pair in residence once more!

In this first image Col can be seen giving the box a little scratch, for the majority of time this is our method of letting the inhabitants (if there are any?) know that we are there, usually they will fly out of the box, roost up quietly nearby and then return once we depart.

Whilst Col did the "box scratching" I stood off with the camera at the ready and luckily I managed to capture an owl as it vacated the box.

Box No 2 Owl No 1.
Fractions of seconds later a SECOND bird also vacated the box, yeeeeessss!!!  This was brilliant to see after all the hardship associated with this site of late. But where had this bird come from? 

Box No 2 owl No 2.
In this next image, (a crop from the above image) it can be clearly seen that the owl has been ringed, because neither of the original adult owls from last year had been ringed we can only assume that this owl is one of last years fledged birds (from either this site or another nearby one) that has paired up with the female that was left widowed?  

Box No 2 Owl No 2 a ringed bird.

The good news didn't stop there, after both owls had vacated we quickly removed the inspection hatch and looked inside, four eggs were nicely nestled in the far corner of the box, definitely a great result, so far!!

The next two boxes we checked resulted in both of them being clear and bird free, however the fifth box of the day, a Little Owl box did have residents in the form of a Great Tits nest, see image below. We have had Great Tits use boxes intended for Little Owls before, neither of us minded this squatter setting up home here so we closed up the box front and left them to it.

Little Owl box, Great Tit nest!
We then checked another two boxes, neither had residents in them but both had Barn Owl pellets inside,  this bodes well because they are either being used as roosting sites or maybe even breeding sites later in the year?

The next location we visited (Box No 10) was occupied last year by Barn Owls and they successfully raised four youngsters. Consequently we had very high hopes for this site, initially it was good news because there was a pair occupying the box, but there was no eggs. We are hoping that maybe this pair are just late in laying rather than not bothering to breed this year?

Box No 10 owl No 2.

We also had high hopes for the next box we checked (No 37) because I saw a pair of Barn Owls near to this box only a few weeks ago. Col did his usual light scratch n the bottom of the box and we heard movement from within, I got the camera at the ready and we were disappointed with the species that came flying out, a Stock Dove!

Box 31, Stock Dove.
Later in the morning we were to be disappointed again when we had another pair of Stock Doves nesting in a box intended for Barn Owls.

The next location we visited was a group of old buildings where we have both Barn and Little Owl boxes. The Barn Owl box had loads of evidence that it is being used because of all the mute (owl poo) on the floor and pellets inside, but no birds.

Neither Col or I had any realistic thoughts that the Little Owl box would be used, it was of a totally different design to the "norm" and nothing had been anywhere near it since it was put up three years ago. So you can possibly sense my delight when I lifted the lid and there inside was a hen Little Owl and four eggs!!

Box No 13 and "yours truly" doing the checking.
In this next image (taken with my I-phone) the inside of the box can clearly been seen, it's a very simple design of a small box with a piece of drainpipe being used as a tunnel for entry. As I mentioned before we had lost confidence with this design but now we could even make some more!

Box 13, Little Owl and eggs.
At the next two sites we drew blanks again, no birds but pellets in the boxes, we were beginning to think that some of the owls for what ever reason are breeding a little later this year?

The final and fifteenth box to be checked was one of my supposed "banker" sites for this year as I'd accidentally disturbed a pair of Barn Owls from the barn only a few weeks ago. The barn here was quiet a walk too across a ploughed field, not to the liking of either of us but it needed to be done as we'd never had breeding birds here before! 

Col can be seen in the image above next to the barn in question, no I'm not giving any clues to the barns location or whereabouts with the sharing of this picture as this view can only be possible if one is either the landowner in his tractor or me!!!

On entering the building things looked very positive indeed as this is what greeted us on the floor, loads and loads of owl mute and pellets. And to think I cleared away all the pellets on my last visit!

Owl poo and pellets.
I got the camera at the ready and Col did his scratchy thing again, two Barn Owls vacated the box and I managed to grab this image below of one of them.

Box 67, owl No 2.
After checking back through the images neither bird was ringed so these are new birds to us again. We quickly checked inside the box and to our amazement there was SEVEN eggs, oh these birds are going to be busy once they all hatch!

To summarise it was a day of mixed results I suppose, not as many boxes occupied as we'd have liked but to be fair it's early days yet.

So that's all for now folks, I hope you enjoyed your visit?


  1. It's great to see that the female Barn Owl has found a mate and is incubating eggs. I bet you were chuffed after the heart ache of losing the male to a dick-head with a gun. Here's hoping your owls have a good breeding season.

    1. Yes we were all well chuffed with the appearance of a pair of Barn Owls Carl, just got to keep a watch out for tossers with guns now!

  2. Great news all round. Even the Great Tit and Collared Dove is good news. I find the owl box with a drain pipe tunnel an interesting design, is this to stop intruders like Jackdaws etc from stealing eggs?

    1. The drainpipe acts as a tunnel Doug and is exactly what you have suggested, we have tried to replicate a natural site and this is what LO's look for, ie a tunnel leading to a safe dark nesting chamber. We were Ok with the Great Tit nesting but not so much with the Stock Dove, they are becoming a a bit of a pain in the neck to be honest and they WILL evict Barn Owls!!

  3. Well done Paul, your efforts in putting up the boxes has certainly been rewarded, Richard and myself must make the effort and get another couple in place.

    1. The satisfaction of making, erecting and then getting residents in a box is eminence John, go for it!

  4. More impressive results from your efforts, Paul. There'll always be a few disappointments, but I'm pleased to see that you don't get disheartened. Titus is right- it's about time he and I did a bit more for the owls and started putting up some more boxes.

    Best wishes - - - - Richard

    1. All that is needed Richard are a few positives (owls in boxes) and all the disappointments/negatives are soon forgotten. As I said to John, yes go for some more boxes, the rewards are tremendous!