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 26 April 2011

AP Magazine

A few weeks ago I had a phone call totally out of the blue, it was from a chap called Ollie and he represented the monthly national magazine, Amateur Photographer. He had been referred to my owlsaboutthatthen website and was very interested in my owl project and in particular my images!  He thought "my story so far" complemented with some of my pictures would make an excellent article for his magazine and something he thought his readers would be very interested in. 

So after a lengthy one to one interview with Ollie and loads and loads of emails going back and forth, today I received a pre-publication copy of this months magazine. Wow a four page spread with the added bonus of a small front cover image.....what a result!!!!

I have taken an image of each page of my feature (below) so as to give a feel for the article.



I have purposely made the images (above) low res so the text can't be read (I have to be fair to AP magazine) so if you would like to read the article please go and buy a copy, it is a superb magazine that is packed full of other really interesting features and articles on how to improve your photography......out on April 30th!!!!

Thursday 21 April 2011

Eastern Promises!

A couple of days ago I located four new Little Owl sites in a matter of an hour, an  almost unforgettable evening that I thought could never be matched, well this evening I nearly did just that!!!! I fell one site short though this time with only three new sites! I was over in the eastern part of Leicestershire again, an area that I have gone in search of Little Owls on two occasions and so far it has produced a very healthy SEVEN new sites.

Of the three sites located tonight one was a very brief encounter on a roadside fence, too quick for me to get an image, at another site there was a pair perched up in an old ash tree, the sun was shining straight at me so getting anything but a pair of silhouettes was impossible.
But the best site located today in terms of image opportunities was at an old barn that I stumbled upon not too far from the village of Owston (pronounce Ooston.). Below is an image of the barn taken from the car, looks good hey.......you bet it was! This type of habitat is just perfect for Little Owls so I wasn't surprised at all when I located a single bird hanging around inside it.

Home of the owl at new site No 172

I parked up and after a bit of fumbling around with my camo mesh and "black out screen" that I hand up at the windows it was time to settle down and play a waiting game. The location was perfect, the light levels were excellent so all I needed now to complete the scene was a showy owl. And boy o boy was he a showy owl, maybe the best I have ever encountered!

He first appeared on the roof, I think it must have been curious as to what I was, and what was I doing?

He soon gained some confidence to drop down a bit lower to take a closer look!

Then lower still!

At all times he kept a safe distance (about 20 feet) but I wasn't complaining, it was a perfect distance for near frame filling shots.

Eventually he came down to eye level, he was totally relaxed with me being there, or rather the car being there as there wasn't a chance he could see me, if he had of done he would of been off like a shot! Maybe it was the sound of the shutter on the camera that was drawing his attention?

As he moved from post to post I had a few chances of a "flight image", this was my best effort.

I think this is my favourite image from the hundred or so that I took.

He had a very hectic 30 minutes or so checking me out, eventually he just ignored me and had a snooze, that was my call to leave him alone and depart.

My running tally of sepearate Little Owl territoties has taken a massive leap forward over this last week and now stands at a whopping 173 sites! My target of 200 (it has been revised 4 times!) is still on for completion this year. Needless to say that I will be visiting the promised land of eastern Leicestershire again very soon, surely I can't keep up the average of three and a half new sites per visit?...........Or can I!!!!!!!

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Late dash to Owl village!

Yesterday after work the evening weather was glorious, there was only one thing on my mind....owls!!! I nipped out into the local country side to see what owls were about and during my search between two known sites a brand new one was discovered!

A roadside tree that I have driven past on dozens of previous occasions produced the goods, goodness knows how I have never seen them before? Anyway, as you have possibly deduced there was a pair and they offered some good views and yes I managed a half decent image of both of them, come on in site No 167!

Owl No 1 site 167 

Owl No 2 site 167

Just before 6.00pm I arrived home and checked my emails, plenty of the usual junk and spam but the subject matter on one particular email caught my eye. It was from my good friend and LROS (Leicester Rutland Ornithology Society) member Ken Goodrich and it was about Little Owls. He and his wife Jean had seen a Little Owl that morning near to the village of Somerby, an area that so far I have never visited. A quick look at the clock, it was nearly 6.30pm, a quick calculation on time verses distance, it was going to be a close run thing if I was to get there before it got dark but that was it, I was in the car and on my way.

I followed Kens directions exactly and 30 minutes later I was sitting there in my car looking at a distant owl in a tree and my brand new site No 168.

Owl No 1 at site 168. 

Unintentionally I parked quite close to the nest tree, and a glance upwards produced the second owl at this site, nice close views but the light didn't allow for a great image.

Owl No 2 at site 168. 

It had been a good evening owling wise, two new sites and pairs at them both! It was now getting late, the owls had gone into hiding and the light was receding fast so it was time to head home. I retraced my tracks back through Somerby and on the other side of the village guess what??? Yep you guessed right, another Little Owl!!! This one couldn't be missed, it was sitting there on top of an old barn roof, I'm sure it must have been saying "here I am!!!". Although it was late I did manage this record shot (below), unfortunately that is as good as image as I could manage as it didn't come any closer. I'm not complaining though, how could I it was another new site!!

First image at new site No 169

I waited around at site No 169 but only the single owl was seen, wow what a night! I moved off and continued on my way home. After another half mile or so and still within the confines of the village of Somerby things started to get ridiculous, there in a roadside tree sat another pair of Little Owls!!! Oh my god this area was magic for owls, they were around every corner, almost dripping out of the trees!. The owls sat there in the tree looking at me whilst I fumbled around with my camera, it was just too dark for the auto focus to work, I had no choice but to switch to manual focus and flash. The resultant image is absolutely terrible, but believe me it was the best of a really bad bunch!

The pair of Little Owls at new site No 170

What more can be said about an absolutely stunning evenings owling, 4 new sites in a matter of a few hours and my personal tally takes a huge jump upto 170 sites. Thanks to Ken for the tip off on the first site, needless to say I shall be returning to Somerby or should it be Somowlsby again very soon, next visit I hope to find FIVE new sites........yeah righto!!!!!!

Sunday 17 April 2011

A lack of power!

A couple of nights ago I located my latest Little Owl site No 166, at the time of location it was far too dark to obtain an image of any quality, so tonight whilst on my way to the Wistow Barn Owl site I made a point of stopping off to see if it was still around.

Luck would have it that it was there again sitting next to its nest hole and in some good light too. I'd got myself well prepared with the camera settings as I knew I'd only have a few fleeting seconds to nail the image. As the nest tree is on the left hand side of a very busy road all I could do is wait for a gap in the traffic, quickly pull up along side, open the passenger window and rattle off a few handheld shots. 

Considering all the handicaps I was up against I am well chuffed with the final outcome, below. 

I finally arrived at the Barn Owl site around 7.15pm, the objective for tonight was a flighty image, and I so nearly got it! I knew that due to a lagging effect with the flash I'd only have the chance to take just the one frame whilst it was in flight. After a 45 minute wait the moment came and the flash didn't go off, I couldn't believe it, please no not flat batteries!!!!!!!!

After reviewing the "so nearly" image I was pleased with my timing but it was so dark! All I could do was try and work some wonders with the post processing and attempt  to recover what could have been a really nice image, you can only do so much with a crappy image and this is the result........dohhhhhh!!!!  

After the owl landed on the stump it sat there for a few seconds looking around, I tried the flash again and would you credit it the dam thing worked this time, just the once!

Saturday 16 April 2011

On the wagon....for one night!

Last night I made an astonishing decision, I opted to stake out one of my more recently found Little Owl sites rather than go to the pub! Yes I am very much a creature of habit when it comes to having a few beers on a Friday night but in making the ultimate sacrifice it turned out that I was well rewarded.....

I opted to make my second visit to my site No 162 at Fleckney, I recorded a single owl here on the 26th of last month and I wanted to see if it had a mate, where its nest site was and if possible get an image.

I succeeded in all three objectives and with a nice bonus too! 

The male owl which was very vocal a times.

The male was soon joined by his mate.

And it wasn't long before they were at it!!!

On the way home and near to the village of Foston I had the additional bonus of spotting a Little Owl in a roadside tree in an area where I have never recorded one before. Attaining the image was risky business though, I had to pull half onto the verge of a very busy "fast" road and to make matters even worse it was on a semi-blind bend. The light had all but gone so my only option was to use flash,  I did at least manage this image but it only really qualifies as a "record" shot.!!!

New site No 166 near to Foston

A super couple of hours at site No 162, and a new site which takes my overall tally onto 166, a good decision to stay out I think...........I wouldn't have seen them in the pub!!!!

Friday 15 April 2011

Is it worthy???

Good news on 3 fronts tonight.........

Firstly the Little Owls at my site No 42 near to Kirkby Mallory have started using the box I erected for them last year.......and about time too!!! Below is a distant image of the hen bird sticking her head out of the entrance hole, the male is in the image too, can you see him???? I bet you can't!!!!!

Secondly, another new Little Owl site was located this evening, taking my overall tally onto 165 territories, soon be on 200!!! I was on my way to the "Wistow feeding site" to see if the Barn Owls would show again but as it was a little too early for them to emerge I opted to kill some time driving around the local lanes.  I was making my way down a very quiet back lane near to Kibworth  when I spotted a single bird in a roadside tree. I drove past, got my camera set up and then drove back very slowly. It was still there and posed nicely for me.

Then unexpectedly it was joined by its mate, the terrible light lead to these terrible images but I'm sure I will be back soon to improve on them.

After the thrill of finding the new Little Owl site time was getting on so I hurried on to the Barn Owl site as I didn't want to miss the male coming out. Glynn the game keeper had again put out some free offering on top of the post so all I had to do was sit in the car and wait, and wait and wait!!!!

After 2 hours the Barnie finally showed and considering it was pitch black I was very pleased with the image I got, so pleased in fact that I have put it at the top of my blog, hope you agree it is worthy enough?

Sunday 10 April 2011

Not quite!!!!

The light this afternoon was just perfect for high shutter speeds and that only meant one thing......owls in flight! I was moving from site to site to try and find some accommodating owls that would help in my task. At site No 42 near to Kirkby Mallory I found the perfect setting and an obliging owl. I sat watching it as it flew back and forth between two different trees on several occasions. I'm not sure what it was up to but I didn't hesitate any longer and in between flights I set my hide up in the middle. I had to wait around 30 minutes before it continued with its unusual antics but I wasn't complaining as this was a great chance for me to nail that dam illusive "quality flight shot" I so desperately crave.

Any image of an owl in flight is pretty dam difficult to obtain and as with most other peoples images (mine included) they are of either slower flying birds like Barn & Short Ears or ones that have the bird panning across in font of them at an even distance. This owl today made my life an absolute nightmare, I don't think the situation could of got any harder, it was coming straight at me with its undulating flight and very, very fast, almost an impossible task! 

In all I had 7 different fly past opportunities to achieve "the shot" of which I totally wasted a couple of them. However, I wasn't too disappointed with the five " keepers" (below) but they are all nearly shots really, maybe next time? 

Thursday 7 April 2011

Chick Nicker!

Tonight I had an experimental evening where I wanted to try out my new "speed lite" flash, a much wanted accessory that should enable me to capture some images of my intended quarry......Barn Owls.

Due to the fact that Barn Owls are very much nocturnal creatures (most of the time) and very flighty when out hunting they can be extremely difficult to observe at close quarters let alone get images. Therefore, I have teamed up with Glynn (the local estate gamekeeper) and together we have set  up a "feeding shelf" where free food offerings have left out every other night for the owls. Due to the fact that Glynn is a falconer he has a regular supply of day old chicks (dead ones of course!) and tonight he left one out.

Although all the offerings left out on previous feeding nights had disappeared we weren't sure what was taking it? So at around 7.45pm I positioned my car at the far end of the yard and waited, I had no idea if it would even reveal itself and if it did, would it take the free offerings?

At 8.30pm the light had all but gone and my quarry showed up, the image below reveals the culprit!

Not too bad an image considering it was at distance and the first time I have used my new flash, much better to come when I master how to use it properly!

Monday 4 April 2011


Work took me to Manchester again today, on departing Leicester it was surprising just how bright it was considering it was only 6.00am. Sunglasses at the ready it was going to be a pleasant drive northwards.....NOT!!! The traffic was atrocious, the journey normally takes just over 2 hours but today with all the hold ups it took 3 and a half hours!!! 

Anyway, after my two meeting were out of the way I opted to stop off on my way home at my Little Owl site No 160 near to the village of Flash in Staffordshire. The plan was to sit and watch the owls whilst I ate my late lunch, well that was the plan anyway!  The weather had turned foul and it was hammering it down with rain, needless to say no owls, there was no point in hanging around here so I continued my journey home.

By mistake I had the sat nav on the shortest route option and it started taking me up hill and down dale along isolated roads I never been on before. Then when I was in Derbyshire it happened, it was like a mirage appearing out of the fading rain, there in front of me was a derelict roadside barn that just looked perfect for Little Owls. This must be what they say about every cloud has a silver lining and all that! I pulled up in a good, but distant vantage point and started munching my late lunch come dinner come tea?

I'd been sitting there for around 10 minutes when I about choked on my sandwich, an owl peered over the rooftop and it was looking straight at me, crikey I wasn't expecting that!!! Flipping brilliant, A new site (No 164) and the run continues of finding a new site every month for the last 33 months! Oh what a plonker, my camera was in the boot!! I drove off around the corner and got it out, luckily when I returned the owl was still there.

The next half an hour offered some great views of the owl as it popped in and out of the barn through the various windows and doors. I had problems though, it had started to rain again and due to the extremely low light levels all my shooting had to be done at an ISO of 1600.

Finally the light improved slightly as did my viewing as the "showy" owl was joined by its mate.

Just as I was departing the local land owner drove by, he stopped off for a chat and permission was granted for me to return and set up my hide in his field. That could well be a date for this weekend, weather allowing........up north, not a chance!!!!

Saturday 2 April 2011

Lop sided!

An image from this evening, I haven't got a clue what it was up to, any ideas?

Friday 1 April 2011

Zig Zagging!!

I finished work a little earlier than expected today and as not being one to waste an opportunity to get out, I did just that! I hadn't got much time though so I couldn't go too far, don't get me wrong its great photographing owls and I like nothing more than doing just that, but.............ITS FRIDAY NIGHT!!!!!

So I opted to go to one of my newer sites just down the road at Croft, I have seen this bird on two or three previous occasions and its always tucked away inside an old brick barn which make getting a decent image a real problem, but not today!

Upon arrival I surveyed the site from distance and a single bird was seen sitting just inside a ledge. I approached with real caution painfully zig-zagging across the field until I was close enough to pull up and stop the engine. The bird was really cool with my presence, it didn't batter an eyelid! It was so relaxed it even dropped down onto a fence post, wow the first time I've seen it out of the barn.

I got my insperation for this image from Ben, he crops his images slightly different from the norm, and I think it works? Have a look at his web, I'm sure you will enjoy! Just click on this link  In search of nature.

That's it for this post I can't hang around, should have been down the pub 10 minutes ago, see ya!!!!

No April Fool.....Honest!!!

For the last 3 years or so I have been a regular visitor/user of Birdguides, a superb and very informative website. It has daily updates/reports of all the latest UK bird sightings and even logs them on a map, a huge database on birds and birding sites and a brilliant photo gallery. The gallery is updated by the hour with contributors images that they want to share with like minded souls.

I have been a regular contributor on the images page with a whopping 410 uploads, mostly of my Little Owls (surprise surprise!!) and if other readers/viewers like your image they give it a "thumbs up" or they can even leave a comment. Some of the other contributors uploads are simply stunning, and one can't help but be in awe of them. Each week there is approx 1,000 uploads and the Birdguides team then have the unenviable and difficult task to single out one image to be awarded POTW (picture of the week). They then give a brief explanation as to why they awarded that particular image the accolade.

And yes, believe it or not one of my Little Owl images was this week selected as POTW!!!!!!!!!!

Below is the image and the comments from the Birdguides team.

Birdguides Photo of the Week

"It's not unusual for birders to set themselves targets related to the number of birds they want to see and/or photograph, but it's not often those targets relate to a single species. Since August 2008, Leicestershire-based Paul Riddle has been trying to locate as many Little Owl territories as possible within his local area and is now up to a staggering tally of 163 territories! In addition to recording sites and getting involved in related conservation work, Paul has been taking photos of the owls at the majority of the sites and has shared many of his excellent images on BirdGuides as well as on his own blog. As you'd expect, Paul's focus on a single species has resulted in a great variety of Little Owl images, several of which have featured in our weekly Notables. This week, though, it's our pleasure to be able to award Paul his first Photo of the Week for his stunning portrait of a calling bird in a sumptuously natural setting. Dappled sunlight picks out the owl and its dead tree perch, outlining them against the darker and more diffuse tree trunk backdrop. The outlines of the owl and perch form perfect shapes within the vertical frame, leading up to the centrally placed head facing directly at the viewer. It's easy to imagine an artist choosing exactly this composition as the basis for a painting. As icing on the cake, Paul perfectly timed the shot to capture the brilliant yellow eyes and wide open bill. We now look forward to seeing Paul achieve his aim of bagging the perfect Little Owl flight shot".


A gallery of past photos of the week can be viewed here and the rest of our pictures are freely available at:


It is a great website and if you haven't visited it you should take a look!