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!!!

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

North Uist - Day 2

Our first nights sleep at the B&B was sheer bliss, with both slept like logs after the lengthy journey, come to think of it the six pint night cap might have helped to have knocked me out too?? We had pre-arranged our plans for the day with Pat who runs the B&B the night before, Adey and I were to get up at first light (4.00am) to get some dawn birding in and then return for our full English breakfast at 9.00am.

But what met us on our early morning departure made our hearts sink, howling gales and horizontal rain! That had stuffed our plans for the day of making our first sightings of Short Eared Owls and Hen Harriers. Rather that waste our time on the heathlands and moors looking for raptors we felt our best chance of seeing anything worthwhile would be down by the side of the many lochs that can be found scattered all over the islands.

Considering the awful conditions we did locate a few birds to watch and point the lens at from the relative shelter of the car, these included Ringed Plover, Merganser and Eider. All nice birds to see but sadly our target species for the morning, a Red or Black Throated Diver eluded us!

After breakfast we headed for a recommended area up in the north east of the island, it was suppose to be one of the quietest and most remotest places and here we stood a good chance of Merlin.

Along this road we had our first close up views of Red Deer, they didn't hang around long once we'd pulled up but it was long enough to capture this single image.

At the very end of the road we chanced upon a pair of Stonechats, they gave us some great views as they perched up in the rain.

On the return journey a Great Skua was spotted flying straight at us, a big bulky bird that was being thrashed about in the high winds. There was no opportunities for any images but that didn't matter as this was a lifer for me!

For the next few hours we drove around looking for Merlin, no such luck there but we did have our first sighting of a Hen Harrier. A hen bird flew alongside the car for a few seconds before it twisted its wings into the wind and was gone! We did spend some time trying to relocate it but to no avail. In one particular area we heard Golden Plover calling, however we didn't pursue them because of the rain.

Then it happened, we had our first owl!!!! A single bird was spotted by Adey aside a small heather covered mound. It was hunkered down out of the elements looking back at us! We hurriedly turned around as soon as possible, got our lens poking out of the window and drove back slowly. The owl didn't budge and we both filled our boots with loads of images. 

I was so pleased, at long last a Short Eared Owl image in its natural breeding environment, something I'd dreamt of for years. The light obviously wasn't conductive for photography but I think I made the best of a bad lot? I have purposely not cropped the image and left it full frame as it shows the evocative greens, browns and purples of the heather's to much better effect.

Then things got mad, five minutes after leaving the first owl we stumbled across another!!! This individual was a little further away but within our range, it was a little more alert than the first and was cautiously watching us for a couple of minutes before flying off.

Adey and I then had a quick chat about these two owls and the circumstances around them being located. We realised that the wind had turned 90 degrees and this must had made the owls re-position to a more sheltered spot thus being more visible from the road. It also meant that the wind and rain would be coming straight into our open car windows but it just had to be done. 

In the next couple of hours we employed our new tactic and located no fewer than another six sheltering owls. Not all of them were photographable due to distance or heavier than normal rain that just meant the car windows had to be shut.

Just as the day was coming to a close we stumbled across a very wet and soggy male Wheatear, whilst watching it we noticed it kept disappearing behind a large roadside boulder. I was curious so I went and investigated further. To my delight there were three recently fledged juveniles huddled together out of the wind and rain. The car was soon re-positioned and we waited for the adult to return, it was going to be a race against the light if we were to obtain any images. Then just after 9.15pm the male returned and the chicks all squabbled for their feed. With my ISO set to 2000 a shots of the action were captured.

That's all for day 2 folks, I hope you have enjoyed the story and the images so far?

Day 3 soon.........

Thanks for calling in.


  1. I think considering the conditions you done extremely well with the Shorties. I love seeing them in the heather. I can honestly say I've never seen juvenile Wheatears. My favourite images has to be one of my favourite birds, the Stonechat. The rain droplets just add so much more to the images.

    1. Yes I agree Doug, seeing the shorties in the heather made the trip for me, cheers!

  2. Great story so far mate accompanied with brilliant images, like Doug love the Wheatear family!!

    1. We returned to see them again the following morning Col, sadly they had gone. Cheers for your comment mate!

  3. Ooooo I enjoyed that great post.

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  6. The message "never give up" comes over loud and clear in this fabulous post, Paul! It seems that the bad weather might have even enhanced the owl image opportunities. They're wonderful!! However, the Wheatear family come a close second, with the Stonechats hard on their heels.

    I'm looking forward to Pt.3.

    Best wishes - - - - Richard

    1. Very true Richard, we were never going to give up even despite the poor weather, thanks for stopping by and commenting buddy.