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, 14 August 2015

In dusk we must trust - Site No 47

Since returning from my successful owling trip to Scotland getting out to see/monitor the local owl scene has reluctantly had to take a back seat.

However, I did make an effort on two consecutive evenings and I definitely got the "owling fix" that I so desperately yearned for. My chosen location was not far from the local village of Peckleton, here to be found is my Little Owl site No 47. I've been monitoring this particular site for over six years and over that time it's been quite a reliable location for watching and photographing the owls. The parent owls here are prolific breeders too with proven success every year whilst I've been monitoring them. But that then brings us to this year, because of my lack of recent visits I was yet to confirm if this year had been a success too? So my main objective was to see if there were any juveniles around, because it is now at the back end of the breeding season this years chicks (if there were any?) could well of already fledged?  

Initially after parking up near to one of the favoured perches that the birds frequently use nothing was either seen or heard. This wasn't anything out of the ordinary and par for the course really, especially as a pair of Buzzards were consistently floating around overhead (Little Owls don't like Buzzards!!). The waiting for "a show" gave me the opportunity to finely tune my camera settings, the light levels were not very good and as it turned out I had to pump up the ISO to 1600 in order to achieve any kind of shutter speed, hence slightly grainy images.

My vigil commenced around 8.00pm, although Little Owls can be seen at any time during the day they do favour the few hours leading up to dusk, especially if there are youngsters around as a drop in the light levels usually coincides with their time to come out to play! 

At around 8.30pm the first bird to be seen was the adult male owl, I didn't see where he flew in from but sure enough there he was on his favoured perch!


The other fact that I forgot to mention (that I have witnessed on many occasions) is that parent owls very regularly "move" the young owls away from the actual nest site to a more secure location, usually near or on the ground, ie a rabbit burrow, small hedge, a low down hole, log pile etc etc. At this site there is a huge hole in a tree at ground level, just perfect for housing and keeping safe young owls. 

The male owl flew in, flew out and then back in again, each time he landed he made quite a commotion with his high pitch calling. This I now suspect was a, "the coast is all clear call, it is safe to come out". Whilst the male made these jerky flights back and forth it coincided with the emergence of  a youngster from within the log!   


Seeing this was very satisfying on a couple of scores, firstly it was great to see the owls had successfully bred again and secondly my intuition as to where they would be "housed up" was right.

After a few seconds a second young owl also emerged from the same cavity, they seemed a little nervous at first, maybe the presence of my car had put them off?  However, with the adult male in close attendance they soon forgot about me and out they came.


The first owl to leave the relative security of the roosting site scampered across the grass in pursuit of some tiny flying bugs, it did stop for a few fleeting seconds right in front of me! 


The second youngster flew across (with great agility) onto a nearby branch, here it gave me "the stare" before flying off again to join it's dad.



Great to see that this site has yet again been successful with it's breeding attempt, I suspect by the look of the youngsters (age wise) and their ability to fly around that they will very soon be departing this natal site in search of a territory all of their own.

Finally, sorry for the lack of post lately and that this one was relatively short, I'm sure I will make amends in the near future.

Thanks for stopping by, catch up again soon, I hope........

9 comments:

  1. As always great images mate!!

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  2. Hi Paul, you certainly appear to be having more luck with juveniles than we do, have only seen two juveniles this year and they are both at the same site and could be just a singleton.

    John

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    1. I haven't seen that many either this year John, numbers definitely seem to be down? Either that or maybe I haven't put as much effort in this year..........

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  3. Fantastic set of images Paul. Numbers of young little owls seem to have taken a dive this year across the country. The local quarry near me only has one youngster at that was almost predated by an adult female sprawk luckily it dived for cover under the boulders

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    1. Yes incoming reports do suggest numbers are lower this year Doug, maybe there is more predation occurring?

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  4. It's great to hear of a good news story like this, Paul. As John mentions, above, we've not had much good news this year. The latest bad news is two sites that have previously been good breeding sites being taken over by Stock Doves just in the last couple of weeks. Until then, they were occupied.

    I think that there possibly is more predation occurring. Buzards and Sparrowhawks seem to be on the increase. Just a week ago we noticed a pair of Sprawks sitting in a tree just above a Little Owl. Fortunately getting out of the car scared off the Sprawks but not the owl.

    Best wishes - - - - Richard

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