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, 28 August 2018

A long long time...........

Hi all, remember me?

It has been an awful long time since I did an update on Blogger, there are loads of reasons why I've been absent for so long but I'm not going to get into all that right now. Here in Leicestershire it's the August bank holiday weekend, and guess what? It's raining!

Because of the crappy weather there is not much to do today so I thought why not have a catch up on Blogger! Well I say catch up, if I did manage to catch up from where I left of (well over 12 months ago) I'd be sat here processing images and writing away for months! Therefore, I'm going to limit myself to posting just a few images from a couple of my birding adventures from last year....... 

Back in July 2017 we had a family holiday to Florida, obviously I packed a bit of camera equipment just in case there was a bit of free time in between visiting all the theme parks. I was only allowed to take my 300mm lens which did limit my photo opportunities somewhat but never the less the "birding" was absolutely excellent and here is a selection of some of my "better" captures.........

Eastern Meadow Lark
On the way to one of the theme parks this beauty was spotted perched up on a roadside post. The Caracara was a lifer for me and this was too good an opportunity to miss. Much to the disgust of my passengers I had to do several slow drive by's shooting out of the window and driving at the same time, what a bird!

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Cardinals were seen on an almost daily basis, their vivid scarlet plumage made seeing them an easy task, however getting close for a usable image wasn't, this was my best effort. 

For anyone who doesn't know Florida is awash with pools, marshes, lakes and swamps, these in turn attract an abundance of wildlife and birds. Observing from distance through binoculars was the only real option at most locations because of the vast dense vegetation that fringes all the water courses. However, I did a bit of research and came across one location, Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive that had a one way road that ran through the middle of the swamps for ten miles! It was a 40 mile drive from where were staying so I opted out of hanging around the pool that day and set off on my own at 5am. Upon approach to the reserve I was mystified as to how I was going to gain access as the only way in was through the huge electric gates which barred my way?  Unknown to me at the time the gates opened automatically at dawn, luckily I'd only been waiting for a short while. Once in I pulled over and read the notice board, there were only two rules, no stopping and no feeding the alligators!!

There is no doubt about it, the best birding location I have ever visited. Needless to say I didn't obey one of the rules as I was stopping all the time ticking off lifers. The photo opportunities were also excellent, here are a just a few that I took on the day.

Green Heron

Great Blue Heron

White Ibis

Little Blue Heron

Bold Eagle

Snow Egret


Great Egret



Swallow Tailed Kite
Needless to say there were loads of Alligators too! Everywhere I looked there seemed to be one lurking. This image below was of a female guarding her nest, she charged and came right out of the water and up onto the side of the road, I was soon back in the car!!!!!

Florida is renowned for the Snail Kite, a rare and very elusive species. Now this was one bird that was definitely on my "to see list" and I visited several locations for a distant glimpse but to no avail. Then a local birder I bumped into said the best and most reliable way was to hire a private air-boat and driver. I persuaded the rest of the family to give up on sunbathing and theme parks for one day and accompany me on the quest for the Snail Kite. Once agreed I got onto the internet and booked my guide and air-boat, it was 60 miles away and was going to cost £200 for 2 hours!

Once on the boat our first encounter was with the Gators, hundreds of them! They were everywhere, some would submerge as we approached whilst others didn't seem to be bothered, and allowed us to get within just a few feet! 

Least Bitten
Photography from the boat was a real challenge, vibration, wind, and choppy waters were all making life difficult. However, I did mange to capture a few of the birds that flew close by.

Including the Snail Kite!!!!

Snail Kite
Then we chanced upon a Snail Kite that held it's ground long enough for me to capture a shot of it perched up on a pole right out in the middle of the lake.

We all loved the two hours spent out on the water, definitely worth every penny and on my list to do again when I return. 

During the trip I also managed to photograph two species of Woodpecker.

Red Bellied Woodpecker
And the massive Pileated Woodpecker!

Pileated Woodpecker
And finally, my number one objective for the holiday was to see a Burrowing Owl, I found a family party on the edge of a residential area and lucky me they stayed for just long enough for a couple of images.

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl
So that's all for now folks, I shall be back again soon I hope.

Thanks for stopping by!