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!!!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Nosy Neighbors........

Whilst out checking owl nest boxes at the weekend one of my landowner friends told me he'd seen a woodpecker flying away from a newly excavated hold along one of his tracks. I needed no further encouragement and went off to investigate.....

The said tree and then the hole were soon located, it was a bit awkward getting the car into the right position as the track was very narrow, but after a bit of back and forth shunting I was ready. As is the norm with most woodpecker holes it was quite high, this meant pointing the camera up a quite an angle, this made it most uncomfortable as I sat there straining my neck.

As I waited for a bird to show matters were made worse when it started to drizzle, this obviously lowered the light levels which in turn made getting a usable shutter speed even more demanding than just coping with the heavy shade from the tree canopy. I could cope with the additional challenge of the low light but then it started to rain heavier and due to the angle of the camera the lens started to get splattered with water droplets. I persevered and after the camera had been brought back into the car for its sixth or seventh wipe down a woodpecker showed.

I was surprised it was a Great Spotted Woodpecker as all along I was expecting a Green Woodpecker? Anyhow, it was a nice male bird (red on the back of the head) it shuffled slowly upwards around the tree trunk, most of those images were too blurred to use as all I could muster at ISO 1000 was 1/50th of a second shutter speed. However, when it reached the hole it did hold its pose long enough for me to attain this first image.      

Great Spotted Woodpecker - Male
The Great Spotted didn't hang around long and was soon on its way, this gave me another opportunity to withdraw the camera once more for yet another quick dry off.

The next half an hour or so was very quiet, then the rain ceased slightly which coincided with another woodpecker visit. But this is when I got totally confused as this time it was a Green Woodpecker that visited the cavity?? 

I rattled off a few shots and made the most of the slightly improved light levels (now at 1/200 second). This woodpecker, a female (lack of a red mustachial stripe) posed lovely at the hole entrance for me, I was reveling in this viewing, by far the best ever I'd had of this species.

Green Woodpecker - female

The brilliant views of her then came to an abrupt end as she flew off, initially I couldn't understand why she'd left but then I noticed the male Great Spotted Woodpecker had returned, he was this time a little closer and in much better light which lent for much better photography conditions.

Then the fun and even more confusion (on my behalf) set in, the Green Woodpecker again returned which in turn shooed off the Great Spotted. This time she held her pose for a good while and I was allowed (by her) to spend a bit more time trying to get a better exposure. 

Then whilst I was watching and photographing her another movement caught my eye up near the hole, no it wasn't the Great Spotted that had returned yet again but the male Green Woodpecker (red mustachial stripe) that had stuck his head out of the hole!

So after all that confusion it appears that the cavity did after all belong to the Green Woodpeckers and the Great Spotted was just being nosy, or maybe just a good neighbor?

Thanks for stopping by, catch up again I hope?

Friday, 20 May 2016

Watching and waiting..........

During the course of the last two evenings I have been spent quite some time parked up at two different potential Barn Owl locations/buildings where boxes have been recently erected. Things seem to be on a real roll at the moment as at both locations single owls where seen, I can't as yet confirm if they are actually using the box (or if there is a pair) as I didn't enter either of the buildings to check.

Last night (Weds) this bird below offered some nice views as it perched up in the fading light. 

At the second site that I visited this evening (Thurs) this single bird was seen perched up on this old rustic gate after a wait of almost 2 hours. At the time of showing it was pouring with rain and consequently it didn't venture far from the barn.   

I will be re-visiting both sites again within the next week or so to see if there is a pair in residence and if any breeding has commenced?

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

Monday, 16 May 2016

What a surprise!

Due to the fact that my owling wing man is currently laid up recovering from a hip operation our Barn Owl box checking this year has been somewhat delayed. It isn't really a job I can do on my own as it involves climbing up and down ladders, so things will just have to wait until Col is fit again. Anyhow, I was pestered last night by the Mrs to accompany her with a bit of dog walking, reluctantly I agreed, (but unknown to her at the time I secretly had another motive to go?).  

About this time last year Col and I made and erected 4 Barn Owl boxes that we sited in the western part of our study area. These were the first boxes in this area and we didn't even know if there were any Barn Owls local or not?  So after agreeing with the Mrs to take the dog (Patch) for a walk I suggested where we should go, (oh you can see where this is going now).  

The 4 boxes in question are all situated in old buildings/hovels within an area of approx 2 square miles, too far to walk between them all during an evening stroll but maybe we could have two or three small walks? Obviously I didn't have any checking equipment with me (ladders, drills etc) otherwise the Mrs would have smelt a rat right from the off, therefore I had to be content with the casual walk past an old building and then just casually pop in to see if there was any activity or evidence that Barn Owls had been visiting?

At the first location the plan went perfect (well nearly!) just as we approached the building I pointed it out to the Mrs and said "oh look a barn, I'll be back in a mo, just going to check it out". Luckily in this building there was a couple of old oil drums that allowed me to climb up to the box. I quickly got the screwdriver out of my pocket (I'd stashed that earlier) and started to unscrew the door, just then the Mrs walked in. She saw I'd got the screwdriver with me and instantly knew what I'd been up to, I was rumbled!! But luck was deffo on my side as before she could speak a Barn Owl flew out of the box, yeeeeeesssss!! I could see that she was as excited as me to see the Barn Owl and no further explanations on my behalf were necessary, thankfully. 

In this box were four chicks and 1 unhatched egg, the eldest chick was nearest to the door, (see crappy i-phone image below) and I'd estimate it to have been around a week old?

Walking back to the car I obviously had some explaining to do, but I managed to wriggle out of getting a rollicking and persuaded her that beings we were in the area we may as well go and check the other 3 new boxes, see agreed!

At the second site my good fortunes continued, just as I walked into the building a pair of Barn Owls were flushed from a post they'd been perched on against the far wall, they had obviously been using this location for a while as the floor was littered with pellets and poo!  The nest box here is quite high and there was no way I could check it out without my ladders, I was more than satisfied to just see them and I'm sure that this pair were new residents and almost certain breeders, get in there!!!!

The third site/farm we checked belongs to my cousins in-laws, here we chatted on the front lawn for a while and they said that no owls were using my box but I was more than welcome to go and have a look. As we all entered the building the first thing I saw was a fresh primary feather from a Barn Owl, it lay on the floor right beneath the box!  I suspected it must have belonged to one of the birds from either of the two sites we'd already visited, maybe it was using this site as a roosting location? 

Dave (the farmer) eagerly fetched me a pair of ladders, up I went and after a light scratch on the side of the box out flew a Barn Owl!!! It flew over the heads of the observers below and out of the window, if you could have seen the look on Dave and his Mrs's face, it was of utter disbelief! 

I didn't need to remove the door on this box as I could peer into the entrance hole, it was now my turn to disbelieve what I was seeing, (image below) two chicks and three eggs, unbelievable!!!

By now the Mrs was very eager to go and check out the fourth box, here we parked up opposite the old barn and whilst I was explaining to her that there was no way I could check out this box as again ladders were needed a bloody Barn Owl flew out!!! 

This was a crazy crazy Barn Owl evening, I just can't believe that we have managed to encourage Barn Owls into these four different boxes so quickly, and because they are quite close to each other too, just what is going on????

Saturday, 7 May 2016


Not much doing at the mo, too busy celebrating Leicester City winning the premier league. It has been one long party and booze up since last Monday when it was official that we were champions of England, unbelievable!! 

I did have one evening out in between all the chaos, I went in search of some newly arrived summer migrants and photo opportunities. Along the Hamilton to Goadby field road in the east of the county I located up to a dozen Wheatear, nice to see but too far for any images. Also there were two Yellow Wagtails, a single female Whinchat and a fly over Hobby, again all too far away to capture any decent images. 

However, during my "migrant search" I did chance upon this stunning male Cuckoo. Initially it gave its presence away by its distinctive call, it didn't come as close I'd I have liked and the below image is quite a heavy crop, but I am happy!

The only other "usable" image I managed was not of a migrant bird but a resident that I just don't see that often anymore? A superbly conditioned male Grey Partridge, he gave me a great showing calling and wing flapping along the side of the car.

Sorry but this is a very short post, not because I don't have much to talk about but more to do with I'm leaving in an hour to go to the King Power Stadium to watch the mighty City play Everton in our last home game of the season. Regardless off the outcome, after the game we are going to be presented with the Premier trophy, (I'm sure you have heard about it on the news, ha ha) let the party begin!!!!!!

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Leicester City

My team, Premiership Champions, DREAMLAND!!!!!!!!!!