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, 28 August 2015

Barn Owls - Natural Sites

Currently I am monitoring nine different active Barn Owl breeding sites within my survey area (south Leicestershire), I know this isn't a huge amount compared to some areas but considering only six years ago there was only one breeding pair it is defiantly going in the right direction.

Monitoring the sites isn't an easy task either, initially I had to apply to the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) for a special licence because the Barn Owl is a schedule 1 species and MUST NOT be disturbed unless 1, a licence has been issued and 2, proper etiquette must be employed whilst near the nest. Once this was issued it then allowed me to visit the sites and monitor any activity. All visits are recorded and at the end of the year my collated information is submitted back to the BTO. 

My licence was issued a few years ago but the initial problem was I only had the one Barn Owl site to monitor! Obviously more breeding sites were required so the next action entailed approaching local landowners to seek their permission to conduct area surveys. Once suitable habitat had been identified that it was felt could support a pair of breeding owls nest boxes had to be made and then erected, and that was a huge task in itself. Many an hour has been spent during the winter months (with Col Green) making the boxes, then early in the year we spend most weekends erecting them. 

In addition to the owls that have now taken up residence in our boxes there are another five pairs that I have located that have chosen natural sites (cavities in trees) to use as their home. The logistics behind proving breeding success in this scenario is more difficult because of lack of access to the nesting chamber. Therefore, the only way to collate any evidence is to make many visits hoping to either see an adult bird visiting with fresh prey, hear the begging calls of the chicks from within the tree or to actually see the young birds at the nest entrance! 

One evening last week I managed to actually get confirmation of breeding success at two of these natural sites. Even though I had heard chick begging calls coming from within the respective trees actually seeing the birds is the final (and most important for me) evidence that is required. 

At my site No 83/natural two young owls were observed at the cavity entrance, they looked the picture of heath and judging by their development will no doubt be fledging any day now.

Juveniles - Site No 83/natural
A hundred yards of so from the above nest location is another very mature Oak Tree that is riddled with nice owly looking holes and cavities. It is here that the parent owls roost up when they want to get away from the demanding youngsters. It was a long wait but my hunch that the adult(s) were still using this tree was proven when one of them emerged just before setting off on a hunting excursion.

Adult - Site 83/natural roosting tree

Adult - Site 83/natural roosting tree
The second location where the owls had used a tree cavity to nest and breeding was eventually proven was my site No 82/natural. Viewing the birds wasn't really a problem but capturing a record shot proved very awkward indeed. It was approaching 10.00pm and as you can image very dark, the camera struggled to focus lock so this had to be overridden and done manually, with the ISO at 2000 only 1/25 of a second shutter speed was achieved (very slooooow).


I am sure you have gathered that I am very enthused about the positive results so far with the local breeding Barn Owls, the work will continue with the ultimate aim of having 30 breeding pairs within the survey area, could take a few more years yet!!! 

Hopefully we'll catch up again soon guys, thanks for stopping by.



18 comments:

  1. It's a massive testimony to your hard work that you've increased from one breeding pair to your current total, which I don't think is too bad to be fair. Well done to both you and Col.
    Your reward is the stunning images. They look so relaxed with your presence. Great work Paul.

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  2. We will get there buddy eventually, great images as usual!!

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    1. Yes I am sure we will Mr G, eventually??

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  3. A fabulous, and what must be, a gratifying sight of those juvenile Barnies. You and Col have to be commended on all the hard work you put in, not only for the Barn Owls but also the Little Owls. It's always a pleasure to stop by and share your trials and tribulations AND your fine images.

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  4. Another great blog Paul. Nice pictures too.

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  6. Hello Paul,
    these birds I always find fascinating. With us here in the region, there are very few tawny owls. I have for several years been many owls boxes suspended but always without success, maybe it will work out next year, and if not, I watch with you the great photos ... ;-))
    greetings Frank

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    1. Sometimes moving an unused box can pay off Frank, I know it's a chore but sometimes worth it? Good luck!

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  7. These might be 'natural nests', Paul, but I guess there's a chance that these owls are only there because they once fledged from one of your boxes elsewhere.

    Brilliant images as always.

    I'll add my voice to those of everyone else in thanking you and congratulating you (and Col) on your efforts in looking after our owls. You're an inspiration to us all!

    Best wishes - - - - Richard

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  8. I can appreciate the effort you two have put into building, erecting and monitoring the boxes, I over the years have only made eight which is nothing in comparison to your work and leave the site to monitor the box for me. Well done. Our owls are still only coming out well after dark and very difficult to get a decent image.

    All the best John

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    1. Getting images away from the roosting site and in the daytime has proved difficult for me too this year John, cheers for your comment.

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