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!!!

Saturday 29 September 2012

Walking Owls.

Following my last Little Owl post I received a few complementary comments from readers regarding an image that I'd captured of a "walking" owl. At the time I didn't think much to it but having had chance to review I now quite like it. So with that in mind this morning I re-visited the same site to see if some other similar images could be captured. This site lends itself to capture this type of image because the owls like to frequent and feed around a mound of dirt in a field. I believe the local farmer buried a dead horse here a while ago and since the earth was disturb it now attracts the owls. But the best thing about the mound is its height, standing a good couple of feet proud of the surrounding field level (must of been a Shire Horse?) it gets me at eye level with them.
Upon arrival there were no owls to be seen, which was a surprise as there was no wind and the sun was blaring down. I positioned the car in an opportune position where I could see the whole of the mound whilst having the sun shining from behind me, all I needed now were some owls!
After two hours of waiting a single owl eventually put in an appearance! Sadly it was an all too brief visit, only about 15 minutes but it was well worth it as I managed to grab a few shots of it as it grubbed around looking for some morsels and tit bits. 

I'm pretty pleased with the final results, even if they have all been cropped quite heavily due to the distances involved, a wee bit far for my 300mm lens, but next time I'll park closer and hopefully get some real close ups. Thanks to the readers who prompted me with the idea of the "walking" owls.
Hope you like them?

Dwindling numbers.

Only 3 Barn Owl chicks left now, the fourth and smallest one that we saw in my last post has now gone. It didn't have anywhere to hide  in the box away from (in comparison) its three massive siblings, consequently it was eaten!

The three remaining juveniles seem to be a picture of health, their short term future looks promising as long as the weather holds and the parent owls continue to keep the supply of rodents coming in.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Picking on the smallest!

The local Barn Owls are still doing OK with their second brood of the year. Most evenings I manage to sit down for a few minutes in front of my PC and catch up with all the latest antics via the nest box camera.

I can now confirm that of the 7 eggs initially laid only six of them hatched, but that's a pretty dam good ratio considering how late in the year we are. So one would now expect to see six healthy chicks in the box albeit at different rates of growth. Well that was the case up until last night, I know the image quality is poor but no matter how hard I looked I could only make out four chicks. So as to confirm the exact numbers and their different sizes I went back through the recording archives. And it didn't take much searching before my suspicions were confirmed, there has been some devious acts taking place which confirms why the numbers have been dwindling!
This latest snap shot just looks like a mass of white fir, but look closer and the five chicks can be made out, to make it easier I have numbered four of them.........see them all now? 

If you are now asking yourself why did I say there was five chicks but only four can be seen? Well look harder, I didn't number the fifth chick on purpose!

Did you find it..............????

Well take another look at the top of chick No 4, see that funny shaped leggy thing? Well that is chick No 5! Well to be exact its legs and feet, they were kicking back and forth relentlessly, just before it was EATEN!!!!!

I think this now explains where chick No 6 also went, and where I suspect chick No 2 will be going soon, he is too small, too tasty and doomed!!!!!

Monday 24 September 2012

Late post!

Considering it is now officially Autumn the weather on Saturday almost defied belief, glorious sunshine almost all day and no wind, very spring like! However, things weren't quite so appealing first thing?

Surprisingly before I could set off I had to clear the car windscreen of the thin layer of ice that had formed overnight, it had been a chilly one! Once cleared I set off in search of some owls, but where? Whilst trying to fathom out a plan for the day I popped into the local petrol station at Whetstone for some fuel and provisions, in doing this I found myself just down the road from my Little Owl site No 31, beings as I was so close it would have been rude not to stop by.

As I made my way down the lane the sun poked its head out above the horizon, the ground was starting to warm up and burn off the overnight frost, I have tried to give you an understanding of the scene in these next two images, not easy though with a 300mm lens, too big!

The owls at my site 31 are best viewed early morning, especially if it is sunny and true to form, there on the low fence railings was my first owl of the day sun bathing! He just sat and watched me watching him, I did get an image but I accidental deleted it.......what an idiot! 
For the rest of the morning the owl viewing was brilliant, I have definitely found a frosty morning with the sun rising to be an excellent time for the owls to be out. Several different birds were seen across four different sites, here are a few images that I was lucky enough to capture. 



Wednesday 19 September 2012

Little Lier!

In my previous post I lied!!! I said that all the juveniles at my monitored sites had now dispersed, well I was wrong! It wasn't an intentional fib, just a generalisation on what I was finding at the majority of my sites.........sorry!!!!!!

Anyhow, last night I chanced upon a pair of juveniles still hanging around at my site No 92 (not far from the village of Gilmorton). This was my first sighting of any juveniles at this site this year so I had to attempt an image......didn't I? They were perched high in the tree and the light was poor which didn't lend to a "quality" image but bumping up the ISO allowed for a single "keeper" of one of them just before it popped back into the nest/roosting hole, below.

I fully expect that by the time I get back out owling properly at the end of the month (when the Landrover is back on the road)  any juveniles will be hard to locate. So I'll postpone my comment that they have all gone until then!

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Off the road.

Nothing much to report on the owling front from the last week or so.........I've hardly been out!

From previous experience I know that when the breeding season comes to an end (as it has now) it is not a good time for seeing owls. The juveniles are now departing the natal sites and will be keen to find new territories and partners for themselves. The parent owls are hiding away in the daytime taking their well earned rest, only really venturing out late in the day to feed.

On one rare occasion that I did ventured out I did chance upon this adult owl at my new site No 215. Only my second ever sighting here, the previous was of a solitary juvenile a couple of weeks ago. The adult owl was perched on exactly the same log that the juvenile was on, must be a favourite? 

The Landrover is off the road again at the moment, which I suppose is the real reason for lack of excersions out, images and posts. Thing are looking promising though for it should be back up and running by the end of the month, and if it is, I will be too! 

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Pecking Order.

Before work commenced this morning I had a quick check on the Barn Owl nest cam, after five minutes of viewing no eggs could be seen so I can now only assume that all seven of them have hatched?  Because of the low image quality it is difficult to count exactly how many chicks there are in that moving fir ball, I can count at least 5, how about you?

The male owl had another good nights hunting as at least 4 prey items can be seen scattered about on the floor. The hen owl spends many hours ripping them apart into small morsels and feeds them to her brood. It is now a critical time for the youngest/smallest chicks, they are definitely last in line when it comes to being fed. If they can get enough food and grow fast enough hopefully they will avoid being eaten by their bigger siblings and their chances of survival will be greatly increased.

Sunday 9 September 2012

Solitary bird.

I managed to squeeze in a few hours owling this afternoon, just the one owl was seen, and here it is...

Sunday 2 September 2012

An expected lull.......

Its becoming very quiet out there now, and it hasn't come as a surprise, I've seen it like this before? After all the high activities of the breeding season the juveniles are now starting to disperse from the natal sites and the parent owls are hiding away and taking a well earned rest. Consequently it is becoming very difficult to locate any owls.
Twelve different sites were visited yesterday, and sightings were only made at two! To be fair it was a little early in the day but I couldn't go out at the best time for viewing (the evening) because I was off to the pub! The mighty Leicester City FC were live on the TV and I have to get my priorities right........don't I?
The first sighting of the day was this very angry looking owl, I think that scowl says it all........bugger off! 

The only other sighting I made was off the resident pair at my site No 157 near to the village of Gumley. This site isn't visited very often as it is situated right at the extreme of my current survey area. Previously any images from this site have all been rubbish, this is by far the best to date and a bonus pair too!

The sacrifice of leaving the owls early was worth it, City beat Blackpool 1-0, the march up the table is on and a few celebratory drinks were had!!!!

Saturday 1 September 2012

Winter owls......?

Here we are the 1st of September and less than four months to Christmas and I am still keeping tabs on breeding owls!
At the Barn Owl site where we have the nest box camera the birds are still doing just fine and the hen owl continues to sit tight on her second clutch of the year.  This screen shot below was taken last night and it shows the hen bird rearranging her 7 eggs, although only 6 can be seen! The cock bird continues to keep her fed with plenty of field mice and voles being delivered, look closely in the box and the rodent larder can be seen .
It is difficult to say exactly when the first egg will hatch but my estimation is somewhere in between the 6th & 12th of this month. If this is the case and the timing from hatching to leaving the nest is similar to the 4 chicks they had earlier in the year then they won't be fledging until early December! 

Once the eggs hatch the parent owls are going to have their work cut out catching enough prey if all the chicks are going to survive. I am looking forward to that period because the owls drop their normal nocturnal activities and can be seen out hunting in the early evening. If it is anything like when they had their first brood the viewing will be excellent and undoubtedly there will be some photo opportunities.
Below is previously unpublished image that I captured of one of the hunting birds earlier in the year, a reminder of good times. 

Here's hoping that the weather keeps mild and there are still plenty of voles for the owls to catch, sadly I fear the worst!