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, 22 March 2016

Full frame Rail.......

During the last few visits down to my local river I have been chancing upon a few bird species of note. The main target has been the Kingfishers (see previous posts), it can take quite sometime for these little blue gems to show, if they show at all? Consequently when parked up for hours on end other species do come along and sometimes can show quite well, or not!

A week or so ago I spotted a Water Rail sneaking along in the reedy fringes that boarder the shallow part of the river. This was my first ever sighting of this species down here after eight years of visiting. OK Water Rails are not that uncommon but to have one show here on my part of the river was really quite unusual and a very notable sighting as far as I am concerned. 

On my next visit on Saturday morning (with Col Green) the Water Rail was again seen, it was in the exact same location as it had been during my previous sighting, under a large reed raft and only occasionally venturing to the waters edge where it could been clearly seen. Yes I did manage a couple of distant shots of it (with Col's camera) as it scurried between the patches of dense vegetation. The resultant images were OK but I thought I could do better so a return on Sunday morning was planned.

On the Sunday morning I ignored, the Kingfishers, the newly arrived Little Egret, the pair of Grey Wagtails and the Green Sandpipers, this morning was going to be dedicated to the Water Rail. Now Water Rails are notably cautious and secretive creatures which makes watching them a challenge. For this reason driving slowly up and down the rivers edge (as I usually do) wasn't the tactic for today, instead I parked up opposite the weed raft where I'd seen it on two previous occasions and waited. 

After only 20 minutes the bird was seen as it dashed from one side of the shallow river to the other, the problem was it was 20 metres downstream! Then within seconds it emerged again and bolted straight into the weed raft opposite me, this is when the waiting game really started. For the next hour the bird was occasionally seen, it would come to the edge of the dense undergrowth, over turn a couple of damp leaves, feed avidly on what it had revealed and then disappear. In all that time I didn't manage any images that would be deemed "keepers"  the bird was either too fast or there was obstacles blocking the view.

Then remarkably and uncharacteristically and without warning the Rail just sauntered out from within the cover and just stood there, right out in the open in all its glory! I just couldn't believe my luck and the camera rocked into action.

It seemed relaxed and totally unfazed with the presence of the car or the camera shutter rattling away. It had a bit of a shake then to my almost disbelief it started to cross the river straight towards me!

As it crossed the river it actually started to come too close, I was now completely filling the frame with just the bird!

Just before it disappeared it held one last pose right in front of me, here I was able to attain this full frame shot with the water droplet on its bill. 

What a fantastic encounter, to have photograph a Water Rail right out in the open and up so close was an almost unimaginable encounter, and one I shall not forget in a long time.

Thanks for stopping by, hopefully catch up again soon.


  1. You're on a roll Paul. To get the rail to come fully out into the open like that is really lucky like. I guess it proves that shooting from a vehicle is a real winner. I'd be happy with any the images but the last one is brilliant with the water droplet you can see how relaxed the bird truly was

    1. Yes I was very lucky Doug, I'd have had no chance unless I was in the car with a scrimmed window. The last image was full frame so you can imagine how close the bird came. Thanks for your comment mate!

  2. Hi Paul, Super images of the Water Rail, hide on wheels worked yet again, had it been much closer you would have a scratched lens. Regards John

  3. John, I have found over the years that the employment of a hide, static or mobile definitely offers the best chance of close up encounters, a bit of field craft and patience helps too! Thanks for your comment.

  4. Superb set of images buddy....

  5. Again your hard work and dedication pays off big-time, Paul. Great set of images of an elusive bird!

    1. I'm going to spend more time in pursuit of this Rail Richard, hopefully more to come soon....