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!!!

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Up to date, Oct - Nov.

Flipping great isn't it, you work all week hoping the weekend would come around as soon as possible so you can then get out and see what delights of nature are about. Then the weather takes a dreadful turn for the worst and I find myself house bound looking out of the window at the pouring rain, just typical!!

Therefore, rather than do nothing I have instead just spent a few hours doing this latest blog post with a catch up of what I have been doing during the last few weeks, accompanied of course by some images.........

In the middle of last month (October) I ventured over to the south of the county, there were no real plans, it was just such a nice day it seemed a shame to waste it. Whilst driving around I chanced upon a Red Kite floating around the side of the road, I pursued it for a while and managed a few images. 

Red Kite
I was heavily engrossed with the Kite when annoyingly my phone rang, it was my mate Mick Townsend, (who rings my owls). Mick was over at Stanford reservoir doing some ringing, he had caught a couple of "nice" birds of which he wanted some images, hence he called me. Luckily I wasn't too far away so I abandoned the Red Kite chase and made my way over to Mick.

The first "nice bird" was a Yellow Browed Warbler, a gorgeous bird to which I have only previously had fleeting glimpses of. I was quite taken back at just how small it was? 

Yellow Browed Warbler
 The second "nice bird" was an "eastern" Lesser Whitethroat,  although at the time it's exact identity wasn't known? However it has since been confirmed (feather sent for DNA analysis) to actually be a Siberian race "blythi", a very rare and cool bird which had obviously "lost its way".

Eastern Lesser Whitethroat (Blythi)
On another day in late October I had a very enjoyable but frustrating time trying to capture some flight shots of Skylark at a farm where I regularly watch Little Owls. 

During another venture out where I was searching for Short Eared Owls I chanced upon a family party of Stonechats, they proved to be very obliging birds in glorious sunshine.

Stonechat - male
Stonechat - male

Stonechat - female
Stonechat - male

On the 28th of October I headed up to Scotland for a few days birding, en-route I stopped off at RSPB Leyton Moss, Lancashire with the target species being Bearded Tit. Sadly upon arrival the heavens opened which absolutely ruined  the visit and viewing was limited to just a few bird species.

Because of the weather the only option whilst there was to sit in one of the public hides, photography opportunities were so limited I even turned my attention to this nearby Carrion Crow!

Carrion Crow
From the same hide quite a large flock of Black-tailed Godwits dropped in, nice to see but it was scant consolation for a Bearded Tit! 

Black-tailed Godwit
A distant Kingfisher brightened up the dull day for a while, we watched as it had several successful dives. 
Kingfisher No 1
On walking back to the car this female Marsh Harrier was spotted sitting out the rain in a tree, don't be deceived by the brightness of the image (editing software) the day was still grey, damp and dank!

Marsh Harrier
On the first full day in Scotland the weather was somewhat variable, one minute full sunshine and then the next clouds and rain. There were no plans as to where we were going to go, it was just a case of point the car and follow the bonnet. 

Now I know in recent years there has been an explosion in Common Buzzard numbers in Leicestershire, but what we saw up in Scotland was ridiculous, they were literally everywhere! However, when it comes to gaining a decent image they are just as shy as their English cousins, this one below was one that hung around for just long enough.

Common Buzzard
The other species that seemed to be high in numbers was the tiny Goldcrest, there were literally thousands of them! However, getting an image is somewhat of a challenge, but I finally attained a result that I was pleased with.

Driving along the shores of one of the many lochs was a pleasure in itself, surprisingly not a lot of bird life was seen, apart from that is this very confining Little Grebe.

Little Grebe
Day 2 in Scotland found us catching the ferry over to the Isle of Arran, what a beautiful place! In the six hours we were on the isle we drove around the whole circumference on the coast road,  loads and loads of birds were seen including Golden Eagle and Hen Harrier. This was more of a fact finding mission for a future longer visit rather than a wildlife watching/photography visit. However, a few images were captured as we drove around.......

Black Guillemot

Hen Harrier (female/juvenile)

Common Seal



It was a very short visit where we crammed an awful lot in, but it wasn't a waste of time because I have seen enough to justify a long weekend return visit for the spring of next year.

Back home I was again out looking for owls on the morning of November the 1st, none were located but this Kingfisher was seen from the bridge at Eyebrook Reservoir. 

Kingfisher No 2
On the 2nd of November I had a day off work, it was an early start to the but the weather wasn't on my side at all, thick fog almost everywhere!

Over near Launde Abbey in the east of the county I was rewarded after a long wait with some close up views of a Little Owl as it day-roosted at its nest entrance.

Little Owl
Also near to Launde Abbey I chanced upon another Kingfisher, my third different one in under a week! Photography wasn't easy as the hanging fog made for very difficult conditions.

Kingfisher No 3
Last weekend I had an overnight trip to Norfolk, the weather was again atrocious with this Little Egret image being to only image taken!

Little Egret
It was a superb visit though with 107 different bird species being seen, the highlight birds being; Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Rough Legged Buzzard, Great White Egret, Common Crane, Short Eared Owl, Snow Bunting and MERLIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Yes yes yes, in 15 years of local searching and dedicated visits to Anglesey, the Isle of Man, umpteen visits to the coast and four visits to Scotland at last I've finally nailed my bogey bird, the dam elusive Merlin is now on my list! What a bird too, they were only scope views as it sat on top of a grassy tussock but hey I'll take it............

That's all for now folks, just about up to date now, lets hope the weather settles down and I can bring you a few more goodies from a day out tomorrow, fingers crossed!

Catch up again soon.............


Thursday, 12 November 2015

Owl Calendar

Owl Calendar update.................

All email orders for my 2016 owl calendars have now been posted, please email me if yours hasn't yet arrived?

Many thanks to all who have either purchased or have pledge to buy, all of the original 100 have now be allocated!


Wednesday, 4 November 2015


Hi all,

Not a lot doing on the owling front of late, so my apologies on the lack of recent posts! To be fair this time of year is always a bit slow, I guess that my own motivation is also dampened somewhat with the nights drawing in, my only real opportunities to get out and about are limited to weekends and then most Saturdays are taken up with following the mighty L.C.F.C, so that really only leaves Sunday's! 

However, I have just managed to squeeze in a short trip to Ayrshire, I'd never been to this area of Scotland before and I wasn't disappointed at all! The scenery was just as spectacular as other areas that I have previously visited but this was my first visit in the autumn which made it extra special.

It was a general birding trip with no real target species, except for Short Eared Owls that is! 

Of the four days spent in the area three of them were in and around our base of Ayr, we visited lots of different towns and villages along the coast. Many small bays and inlets were searched and plenty of goodies seen. A total 84 different bird species were ticked off, but the highlight was a day trip to the isle of Arran where Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier, Red Breasted Merganser and Red Squirrel were all seen.

But by a country mile the most memorable sighting of the trip was made on Saturday morning, we were parked up overlooking the rocks at Troon whilst enjoying breakfast. Purple Sandpiper was the target species, sadly these were not seen but this was more than compensated when a Otter was seen. 

This was only my second ever sighting of a wild Otter (and my first "self found"). The light was terrible but that didn't stop me from attempting a few "record shots" as it swam along in the surf. 

The Otter was quite distant so the x 1.4 converter was attached, this compounding matters for the worse as it slowed my potential shutter speeds down to only 1/250th second. 

It appeared to catch a fish, then to our delight it then came out of the sea and chomped on its dinner whilst resting on the rocks. 

Once it had finished eating the fish off it went again, in and out of the rock pools in search of more food, all the time is inched nearer and nearer to us.

Then to our utter amazement it started to run straight at us! It got within 20 yards sniffing the ground as it hurried along. 

The Otter seemed to go straight under the car and then disappeared? I was still having problems with slow shutter speeds so the converter was quickly removed whilst we waited for it to re-appear.

It was then spotted again right down beside the car on the passenger side. It was heading away from us so I made a squeaking noise, this stopped it in its tracks and it looked back. Luckily the passenger window was open and the next full frame image was attained, 

It didn't seem very impressed with my squeak and off it scampered not to be seen again. What a fantastic 10 minutes we had with this delightful creature, an encounter never to be forgotten.......

Thanks for stopping by, catch up again soon folks!