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, 29 September 2015

Its been a while.......

As the blog title suggests, I haven't published a post for some time now?  I have still been getting out owling occasionally but my focus of late has just been general birding. I have also made a couple of trips over to the east coast, but more locally I have been concentrating on a few nearby and very under watched areas that just ooze potential.......

In just a few visits to one particular site I have very quickly notched up a list of over 65 different species with the jewels being Kingfisher, Stonechat and passage Redstart and Whinchat. I don't always take my camera with me when walking because of its weight but when I did a few images were bagged.

There were at least two Restarts seen over consecutive days, their presence being given away by their persistent calling. They never really came close and this "record shot" was my best effort.

The single Stonechat was a far more confining individual and after being persistent some closer views we had.

Whilst watching the Stonechat a young Whinchat also put in an appearance, it constantly followed the Stonechat around whilst what appeared to be begging for food, strange behavior?

But for me the far most rewarding bird (and image) was that of the Whinchat. It was a devil to get close to but after what seemed to be several hours in the trying I did eventually manage an image that I was very pleased with.

I think the main reason for not concentrating on my local owls of late is the fact that my beloved Landrover has been sold. She was just too thirsty, at 12 miles to the gallon the wallet was soon bare!! This has obviously hampered my access to the more remote owl sites that I use to visit/monitor. However, I have seen a few owls over the last few weeks at some of my more accessible locations, here is a quick catch up.........

Over the last two months I've made many visits to my Little Owls site No 4, here the results were disappointing. In previous years this location has proven to be a prolific breeding site, but not this year, well not that I have proven? Whilst there the adult bird(s) were regally seen coming and going from the nest hole, (images below) but they weren't taking in any food. The other compounding factor was no begging calls from the chicks could be heard either, I've now resigning myself that for what ever reason this site has failed this year?

Adult at nest entrance - Site No 4

Adult at nest entrance - Site No 4
I was pretty confident that better results would be had at the second location, site No 250, here the outcome was very similar to site No 4. Both adults were in attendance, although they kept quite a low profile most of the time. And after many hours of observing there was just no evidence that they had any youngsters?

LO site 250. Keeping a low profile whilst watching me!
Whilst out searching for juvenile owls I was distracted some what on a couple of occasions by the local Kingfisher family.

Kingfisher - Adult
There was better news on the breeding front with the Kingfishers, this next images shows a pair of recently fledged youngsters.

Kingfisher - Juveniles

Kingfisher - Juvenile
This next image was taken after the young birds had fledged, occasionally one of the adult birds would make another visit to the nest, maybe a second brood was in the making?

Kingfisher - Adult
The male bird would on the very rare occasion pose nicely for me in good light.

The checking of my Barn Owl boxes still continues (to be fair it never really ends!). It has been a fantastic breeding year in my survey area with a confirmed 11 breeding pairs, although I must add the brood sizes are down.

Whilst en-route to check one particular box out a Barn Owl was seen flying from it!!!  This was very much a surprise as the box has only been up a few months. The owl in question flew around for a few minutes before landing in a nearby tree cavity. This gave me a wonderful opportunity to capture an image of it as it stared back at me.

New Barn Owl Location?
Although all of this years young Little Owls have now fledged their respective natal sites I did manage to see a few of them a month or so ago. The numbers of proven breeding sites in my survey area does seem to be very low this year, or is it that I have been too pre-occupied with the Barn Owls I just haven't noticed them?

Juvenile Little Owl
Since my last post two new Little Owl sites have also been found, the first had a pair in residence although only one of them obliged for a photo.

1st new Little Owl site.

1st new Little Owl site.
1st new Little Owl site.
The observations at the second new site was all over and done with in a matter of seconds, I spotted the bird perched up in a roadside tree. It was a very quiet lane so I was able to stop intermediately, the camera was poked out of the window and just the one image (below) was obtained before it flew off!

2nd new Little Owl site.
So that has just about caught up with all my goings on of late folks, thanks for stopping by..............

Friday, 4 September 2015

Mercy Mission?

Hi all, one of my farmer friends called me very early this morning, he'd discovered a Barn Owl lying face down in a ditch and didn't know what to do with it? He said it appeared to be injured but it was still alive as it turned its head when he got close. We talked through the possibilities of what we could do and what may have happened? Maybe it had been hit by a car, or could it have been attacked by another animal or bird, or even worse still had it been shot like the Barn Owl last Christmas? 

Because it was still alive and very close to a barn where I have a box I made a mad dash over to meet the farmer, with me I'd got a plastic box that could be used if necessary to transport it to the vets or local animal sanctuary.

The Barn  (a secret location).
Upon my arrival the farmer (Steve) pointed out the bird in the ditch, I gingerly moved nearer and upon closer inspection I realised it wasn't injured at all, it was a fledged juvenile!!! Now this was very interesting indeed, just where had this bird come from? Judging by its downy appearance pretty close by was my guess, there was no way it could have travelled any distance. There was really only one explanation, it must have come from the box within the nearby barn. The young bird was collected up and placed safely inside the plastic box that I'd brought with me, then Steve called me over to where he was standing, he'd discovered another young owl that was lying on the ground just inside the barn, that too was quickly placed with its sibling inside the plastic box. 

A quick call was then made to Mike our local ringer, my apologies were made for calling him so early, I explained the situation and he said he'd be with us in 30 minutes. Whilst we waited for Mike to arrive Steve and I had a good look around to make sure there were no other young birds that we'd missed, there wasn't. I then checked inside the nest box, it was then that full confirmation was attained as inside was yet another young bird!

The nest box (No 41).
All three owls were now safely placed inside the plastic box, here they seemed content whilst we prepared for the ringing of them. I did managed to record the events on my I-phone, not great images but good enough for me to share in this post.

Mike was soon with us and in no time at all he was ringing the first bird, this one seemed to be the eldest as it was less downy than the other two.

Juvenile No 1

Juvenile No 1

Juvenile No 1

Owl number 2 was soon processed too.

Juvenile No 2

Juvenile No 2

And then finally owl number 3.

Juvenile No 3

Juvenile No 3

The whole brood.
So what initially appeared to be a phone call full of dread and a potential mercy mission actually turned out to be a welcome bonus and a new Barn Owl family that I didn't even know were there! That is now 10 confirmed breeding sites within my survey area in 2015,  we are now well on our way to our target of 30 breeding sites, if things keep going like this then the magical number could well be achievable in a few years?

Many thanks to Steve and Mike, top blokes!!

I'll be back again soon folks!