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!!!

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Before the storm.........

Yesterday (Saturday) was as predicted a pretty miserable day weather wise. It was inevitable I suppose, the first bank holiday of the year and the conditions were against us, bloody typical! However, at first light the expected high winds and rain hadn't yet materialized into the blowy damp conditions that were predicted so it was deffo a case of make hay while the sun shone as it wasn't going to last for long?

My first call was to pop down my local patch down near the river, all kind of goodies have been showing here lately, Kingfishers, Water Rail, Grey Wagtails, Little Egrets, Goosanders and Green Sandpipers. However, my main quarry over the years and the species that brings me back time and time again hasn't yet been seen this year, the Little Owls. It has been whilst watching the owls that I started to notice all the other species and realised just what a gem the wildlife this location is.

Upon arrival I drove slowly along the shallow part of the river, I parked up near the weed raft where I'd been seeing the Water Rail lately (see previous post). It was seen again, but no photo opportunities this time as it stayed deep in the cover. I'm sure if I'd waited long enough it would have eventually showed better but because of the impending weather I moved on.

I next parked up parallel to one of the perches that the Kingfishers use, this proved to be a far more productive stop and the male arrived within minutes. 

From where I was parked the Little Egret flew in and landed on the bank around 30 metres downstream. A very skittish bird this one and I had to be satisfied with a few shots from distance.

Little Egret
Again I also saw two Goosanders, (both redheads this time) that's three sightings in the last four visits. They were diving and feeding upstream from where I was parked, but just as previous times as soon as I started to drive nearer to them up they went and flew off!

The pair of Grey Wagtails were still showing well along the shallow part of the river, on this visit they kept their distance so I have used an image that I attained whilst visiting the previous day.

Grey Wagtail
These next two images of the male Kingfisher were also attained in better light the previous day (Friday) whilst visiting with Col Green. This first shot the bird held a high erect posture as a rival male Kingfisher darted past.

Back to yesterday..............

The weather was still holding out, just! A few other delights offered nice views as I worked my way along the river, this Wren sat out in the open for a few seconds as it blasted out its territorial song.

An earlier in the week visit didn't offer up any Green Sandpiper sightings, this was the first "non show" for months. I thought that their over wintering at this site had come to an end and they had finally departed to more northern breeding grounds? But I was wrong, as today one of the birds was seen yet again feeding in the river. 

Green Sandpiper
I know it's a real long shot but I am really hoping that the Sandpipers hold this territory and stay here and breed. Because of the chance of this I've been doing a bit of research on Green Sandpipers and their breeding habits, I was quite surprised to read that they actually nest in trees!!! They don't make a nest themselves but prefer to use old nests of other birds, now did you know that?

As the morning drew on the weather continued to deteriorate, that was my call to change tactics and search for other targets. As I previously mentioned I'd not seen a Little Owl here so far this year. The two active sites that use to be so reliable have both been effected, a blown down nest tree at the first site and Stock Doves moving in and evicting the owls at the second site. However, there was some hope as during Fridays visit with Col I did hear a Little Owl calling from the other side of the river, so I knew they were still here but where? It proved to be a fruitless exercise as my usual tactic of moving slowly around the site and scanning every lowdown post and likely roosting spot offered nothing, the high winds and driving rain didn't help.

I was now in the mood for more Little Owl hunting, something I hadn't really dedicated any time to for what seemed to be such a long time. Therefore, that is what I decided to do for the rest of my time out. I left the river location and drove out into the countryside where there were a few sites I knew of which would offer the owls some shelter, and maybe some sightings?

The first site I visited, an old farmhouse offered an owl almost straight away, all I had to do was park up on the sheltered side and scan all the likely nook and crannies where an owl would perch, and there it was sitting on an old rafter. 

Just down the road my second sighting took a while longer to materialise, but again an owl was seen and photographed perched in a crevice on the sheltered side of the nest tree.

The third and final owl was seen at another known site where they frequent a group of old brick building, this was my closest view of the day albeit it only lasted a few seconds!

So that is a catch up of where I am up to, the forecast for later today (Sunday) and tomorrow is still not that good, but given half a chance and a break in the weather I will be out to see what other goodies can be located.

Thanks for stopping by, hopefully catch up again soon ............


  1. Incredibly some great sightings and photos!

  2. Yet another great set of images mate, love the Kingfisher sentry!!

  3. Excellent images, the Kingfisher is superb.

  4. Hi Paul, Some wonderful and varied images, Kingfisher is excellent
    Regards John

  5. Nice series of pictures.. Love the little owl and the kingfisher.. Happy easter..

  6. More superb images, Paul. Fingers crossed for better weather!

    Best wishes - - - Richard

  7. Loving the Kingfisher stood to attention (2nd kf image) it's quite a unique pose. Do you get/had any Green Sandpiper breeding in Leicestershire? It would be great if it did though I'm guessing it'll soon be moving North, I'll be honest I never knew they nested in old nests in trees. I knew Hobbies like using old crows nests.

  8. Not sure about previous breeding records in Leicester Doug, I'll find out? Thanks for your comment buddy!