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!!!

Friday 30 September 2011

Flighty Falcon

Something a little different this evening..........Kestrels!

A couple of very enjoyable hours were spent at a local beauty spot with this very handsome raptor. The sun was low in the sky which complemented the birds plumage and feather detail but also sadly created some very strong shadows at times. Without doubt the best in-flight & hovering images I have ever managed of this species, a lot easier (and less frustrating) than trying to capture an owl in flight! I had at least 150 images to choose from and it was a difficult task to know which ones to upload as they were all of equal quality.

So rather than swamp this post with loads of in-flight images (which were the best on the day by the way) I have selected various postures & poses to share....... 

Double click any image for a larger and far more detailed version.

Hovering overhead..

Dinner time, a grub of some kind?

More hovering.

A distant landing.......& rest time!

Perched up high.

This "in flight" & not hovering image is my favourite of the day!

I must admit I really enjoyed working with a different subject for a change, it offered different challenges  to that of the owls. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this very confiding individual hangs around as my appetite has been whetted now and I want some more!

Wednesday 28 September 2011

A Fond Farewell!

Oooohh the light was just perfect, at last the sun was still out when I got there & to make matters even better a few owls put an appearance in too!

This evenings session could be the last at this particular site. Each time I visit the four juveniles are harder & harder to locate as they move further away from the natal site. Normally if you locate 1 bird you locate them all, but this evening they were scattered all ovet the place. I was really pleased to eventually track them all down and attain an image in the superb setting sun.

Monday 26 September 2011

Out of town owling?

Getting back to work today prove to be a bit of a chore, Monday's are bad enough to endure after a weekend but after a weeks holiday they are even worse!!! I was over in Ely, Cambridgeshire making some customer calls and whilst driving between two of them guess what I saw????

Did you guess? Oh you know me too well!

Yep that's right, a new Little Owl location, get in there site No 199!

I was casually giving all the roadside barns and shacks the once over as I drove past.......just in case! And then to brighten up my day there one sat on top of a rusty old barn. As ever the camera equipment was in the boot, so after a quick pit stop the kit was out and a record shot was in the can, below.

My clumsy antics flushed the bird, (what an oaf!) but not too far away thankfully, only to the roof of another barn. The car was maneuvered to a more advantageous position where the sun caught the owl perfectly.

I sat there quietly rattling off the shots when hello hello what's this then? A second owl popped its head over the apex.

Next thing they were having a right old squabble

A brief restbite with the arguing, they remembered I was there!

After some good but not too close views one bird flew off across the road, the second owl seemed curious of me and came closer for a better look.

I know these were not Leicestershire owls but I not that fussy, they are still going down on my list. I will try and catch up with them when ever I am working in the area.

Sunday 25 September 2011

Minds Eye.

I have been really busy the last few days and consequently have fallen behind with my blog postings, but not too busy to get owl 'n' about......obviously!

Following is a brief resume of the last few days.......

The four juveniles at my site No 87 are still hanging around the natal site, but I did have a scare on Saturday morning when for the first time ever no owls could be located? The wind had shifted from the west to the south and this I think moved them from their regular day time roost. However a re-visit this morning (Sunday) and all four were relocated, albeit away from their regular haunt! 

Several like minded souls who hold a common fondness for Little Owls have accompanied me to this site and one particular image was attained by John Hauge that I absolutely adore! I have tried to attain this particular image on previous visits but the owls just wouldn't co-operate and land on the right post! So lucky old John made the most of it when they duly obliged, and in good light too! Take a look at his website, The Drunkbirder, the image I refer to is the last but one with the brown background. I was so impressed with the outcome of John's image I was even more determined to attain a similar one for myself. Trouble is during the last 2 or 3 visits the sun has either been in totally the wrong direction or not out at all.....dooough! 

Anyhow, here are a couple that I did manage.......

Late in the evening and after a very long wait a bonus pair perched on just the right stump, problem was the setting sun was coming from the rear left. I don't know there is no pleasing some people!

This next image was attained this morning (Sunday), problem this time was there was just no sun at all, although still not the desired result I'd like I am still really pleased with it ;-)

Also this morning I had one of the juveniles right along side and even underneath my Landrover at times! I can only think it was offering  a certain amount of cover from the wind whilst it fed? I had to zoom out to 150mm to attain this image!

On Saturday after the "no show" with the owls at site 87 I opted to re-visit a couple of other local owl sites, at my site No 11 near to Claybrook a very obliging owl was located sheltering out of the wind in this barn window.

On Saturday I also located another owl sheltering out of the wind at my site No 195, it was in a roadside tree and by far the best image from here to date!

Just up the road near to the village of Ashby Parva this owl was captured exiting its nest cavity at site No 141. The nest site is located in a mature Pear Tree, just look at the detail in the bark, nice hey?

So it is now fingers crossed for the juveniles to hang around just long enough for me to capture that elusive image that I have in my minds eye, oh and for a bit of sun in the up and coming days, that'll help!

Tuesday 20 September 2011

A beautiful noise!

The weather was crappy today, so I didn't get out and consequently there is nothing to post about today's adventures......boooooooo! But worry not, I would like to share a couple of quick movie clips I captured recently of Little Owls calling.

From my experience the Little Owl has quite a repertoire of different calls, I regular hear around 10 different variants. I bet most of you have heard the calls on this clips (or something very similar) at sometime or another and you were possibly wondering what it may have been? Well now you know!

Don't forget to turn up your volume and then press play to view (the triangle button).

Did you recognise either them?????????

Monday 19 September 2011

On a mission!

I have a week off work starting today, (lucky me!) and a few birding/owling trips are planned, so before all the activity commences I thought I'd ease myself in gradually this morning and visit a local owl site......no surprise there then!!

Rather than attempt the normal run of the mill portrait images today I was on a mission, I wanted some action/flight shots, this could prove difficult as owls are notorious for sitting for hours without moving, however I was going to give it a go! Normally for the portrait images the tactics I employ is to try and get as close as possible to the owls (without disturbing them of course) and then try to position myself so as to have an interesting perch or pose with a background as uncluttered as possible. I then edge my bets and try for a flight shot should the situation present itself. I have found this just doesn't work, well not for me anyway! 

What I was going to do today was have the camera set up for high shutter speeds and to keep my distance, this will hopefully allow me to track the owl in flight.......that is if I am quick enough?

During my stake out I did have a few flight opportunities, totally messed most of them up but I did manage to capture a couple of near keepers.They are of reasonable quality but still not what I am after. The light wasn't as good as I'd like and due to me being a little too far away the cropping reduces the quality some what!


Whilst there I also mangaed a few portrait shots (below), I just couldn't resists.......yes I know, I am weak!

Sunday 18 September 2011

Weekend birds.

I managed a few hours at a local owl site on Saturday morning, wasn't there for long as I was off down the footie to watch the mighty Leicester City thrash Brighton, the early table toppers 1-0........get in there!!

The time with the owls was quite productive, some super close up views were had of the four still hanging around juveniles. This image (below) shows a couple of them sitting together and luckily I managed to capture the furthest owl  just as it regurgitates a pellet, uurrrggghhh!

Pellet expulsion.

This morning (Sunday) I had a call from a local birder (cheers John)  he informed me of a very confiding juvenile Kestrel that was showing well at a local site. Off I went in search and eventually I caught up with it, this was by far the best close up views I have ever had of this species and a few images were captured before the weather turned.

Kestrel (juvenile)

Humble Pie & 4 more!

Three weeks ago my daughter (Louise) gave me a tip off  on the where abouts of a new Little Owl site, she was making her way home on the school bus and whilst going through the village of Ashby Parva she saw one sitting on top of a road sign! She explained to me roughly where the sighting took place and I then crossed referenced this with my maps, if she was correct with her location it was definitely a potential new site for me! Without further ado (and against her will) she accompanied me back to show me the exact location.

Since then I have made several visits to the area and seen nothing at all! I was beginning to doubt the credibility of her sighting, even though I must admit the area does look perfectly suitable for owls. Anyway in the week, I again stopped off at the location and BINGO, there sat a Little Owl on a distant post! I was elated to find another new site (No 195) but on the other hand I was deflated in the fact that I ever doubted Louise! Yes it was a difficult thing to have to admit to your teenage daughter that Dad was wrong and all along she was right, oh you should have seen the smug grin on her face!!!

This was the only image I managed (below) a good 300 yards away and a sure contender for one of the "best blobs in the distance" images you will ever encounter (see the Hooded Birders Blog for more info on this black art) .

Little Owl site No 195.

After notching up the new Little Owl site I decided to investigate the area a bit more, on the opposite side of the road was a bridleway so off I went for a bit of a nose around! A couple of fields in I noticed a suspicious looking blob in the distance, no it couldn't be.......could it? I approached it in a zig zag fashion and eventually got close enough to confirm yet another Little Owl!!! It was a good 7-800 yards from the first owl so after much deliberation (with myself) I decided that this will be new site No 196! 

I was very satisfied with my image from around the 100 yard mark but not wanting to eclipse the Hooded Birder  I worked myself nearer and nearer until finally the resultant image was attained (below).

Little Owl site No 196

The owl started to get a bit twitchy so I backed off and left it to play " I'm a statue" all on it's own!  As I was making my way back to the car I flushed yet another owl out of a tree, it was confirmation that there was a pair here and I was well justified giving it the honour of being a new site.

Later on in the evening my good lady (Gaynor) and myself were driving near to Saddington resevoir and we chanced upon TWO more Little Owl sites, No's 197 and 198! On both counts the birds were seen on roadside telegraph poles. Sadly it was far too dark for any images but bet your bottom dollar I will be returning very soon to put that right!

Thursday 15 September 2011


Now the horrid gales have abated and the sun has started to put an appearance in I was hoping that some of my owls would be coming out of hiding? Therefore this evening I opted to visit some owl sites over near the village of Arnesby, an area that has been very "scrooge like" just recently!

En-route I couldn't help but notice a mass of bird activity in a roadside field (no not owls!), the sheer numbers got me interested.......just what were they? I pulled up in a gateway and locked the binoculars onto them, Yellow Wagtails & Meadow Pipits, I suspect they were having a feeding pit stop before continuing on their southerly migration? It was difficult to establish the numbers as they were constantly being flushed by a pair of  Sparrowhawks!! A rough estimate was at least 75 Yellow Wags (wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't double that!) and at least a couple of hundred Meadow Pipits.........nice hey!

From the gate I managed to attain an image of both species, (below). However I failed miserably with the hunting shot of the hawk, far too fast for me!

Yellow Wagtail

Meadow Pipit

Anyway, after that excitement I continued on my way, and yes I did eventually see some owls and surprise surprise here are some of the images!

Wednesday 14 September 2011

On the eastern side.

Considering the poor weather conditions in the last week or so it hasn't been too bad for owl watching. Most sites I visited yielded nothing, and that wasn't really a surprise with the persistent westerly gales of late. However the odd site was productive and in every case it was a matter of locating the birds on the sheltered/eastern side of a hedgerow.   

Due to the high winds the birds were reluctant to move which resulted in getting nearer than normal. In all cases the images were attained from the mobile hide (the Landrover), which was good as it offered some nice photo opportunities (images below).