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!!!

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Premier league owls.........

During recent years my main focal point has somewhat drifted away from Little Owls and moved more over towards Barn Owls, don't get me wrong my affection for Little Owls is still as strong as it ever was and I really enjoy spending time with them, but when it comes to "making a difference" and putting something back the local Barn Owls needed more help. Col Green and I have already started doing "our bit" again this year, only two weekends ago we made another 3 Barn Owl boxes (see poor quality iPhone image below) of which one has already been sited because a local farmer disturbed a pair of Barn Owls that were roosting in haystacks in his barn.

Col with more "internal" Barn Owl boxes
Back in 2009 I knew of only one breeding pair of Barns Owls within my survey area, for this reason Col and I started making and erecting boxes and slowly slowly they are starting to make a difference. Last year we had eleven breeding pairs and that was in somewhat challenging weather conditions, so goodness knows how many there would have been if we'd had settled weather? It is very satisfying to visit a nest box in the spring to find Barn Owls have taken up residency, they don't always breed (bad weather, young birds, lack of food, just a roost site etc) but never the less it is just enough reward to know we have helped in someway to support/repopulate the local numbers. However, the problem with Barn Owls is they are almost entirely nocturnal (90% ish) which makes watching them very difficult indeed. 

So to compensate for the lack of watching daytime activity with the Barnies I then turn back to my Little Owls to get my "owling fix" because they are far more active in the daytime. I have found that early spring (yes it's upon us earlier this year, or the birds in my garden think so as the Robins and Blue Tits are nest building already!) is an excellent time to search out owls because they do tend to be quite vocal and give up their presences prior to the breeding season, especially Tawny Owls. So for this reason I have started to get out and about again in the evenings, I crawl slowly along the quiet country lanes (far away from any noise pollution) listening for any calling birds. So far on 5 or 6 trips out I have located 12 different Tawny territories (5 of them new ones!) but only 6 Little Owl territories (which is concerning), of which none were new ones. I must admit though, my gut feeling is the local numbers of Little Owls is also starting to dwindle, I'm just not seeing as many as I use to, or is it that I am not dedicating as much time to them?

It was good to confirm that one of my Little Owl sites (No 47) was again holding a pair, at the time of finding it was dark so viewing and photographic opportunities were obviously limited. I had to wait for the weekend before I was able to re-visit, but again my time was limited because the mighty Leicester City FC were live on the TV in a top of the table premiership clash against Manchester City, and I wasn't going to miss that!  

Initially I parked up near to an area that I knew the owls favoured and regularly frequented. After a 30 minute wait the male owl appeared in a nearby tree, soon to be followed by the female.

After a while the male's confidence grew and he moved a little closer, but he continued to give me "the stare". 

During the next hour or so the views of both the owls (mainly the male) were excellent, it was windy and spasmodically cloudy which kept changing the light conditions making it a challenge for photography, but I did manage a few "keepers" below........

The hen bird (below) is very shy compared to the male, she only came close on the one occasion. I did notice however that her left eye didn't appear to be quite right?

It appears that since my last visit back in late 2015 she has damaged her left eye, see close up image below. Initially I was concerned but it didn't seem to be bothering her as she was flying around without too much bother.

This last image was my favorite from the session, good light and a great pose whilst he was calling.

As it turned out I was very lucky that day, early morning the weather held off (later it turned into a horrid grey day with torrential rain) whilst I managed my "owly fix" and later on that day I joined my mates down the pub where we watched my beloved Leicester City trounce Man City 3-1 for us to go back to the summit of the Premier League, as you may have guessed a few pints were had in celebration, it would have been rude not to!!!! 

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