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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, 30 June 2010
Tuesday, 29 June 2010
More checking for signs of Little Owl chicks last night, three more sites produced the goods.
As usual, double click on any image for a larger more detailed version.
Firstly, there was two out of the nest at site No 75 at Peatling Parva, again I located them by sitting quietly within the vicinity of the nest site and listening. After a twenty minute wait the characteristic "hissing" was heard and they were soon located in a nearby oak tree.
I did managed an image of both Juveniles but unfortunately only this one was usable.
The second location that came up trumps was site No 45 at Willoughby Waterleys. Sadly only one young bird was seen at this site....so far!! But the good news is this was the site that I dismissed at being productive this year as I saw a Weasel was seen coming out of the nest entrance a few weeks ago!
The final location that confirmed breeding success was site No 103 at Willoughby Waterleys, and this turned out to be quite a surprise! Previously I had only ever seen a single Little Owl at this site, again it was seen as I drove up the lane. It was sitting on a broken limb in a Weeping Ash (apparently this type of tree is quite rare!!) it sat motionless as I managed a few images, my best of this bird so far.
Just after I bumped into the local land owner (Dave) and we got talking "Little Owls". He had seen the local owls and he was sure there was a pair....and they had young!!! After a refreshing beer and a tour of his nest boxes (thank you Dave) I was compelled to go back and investigate further. I drove back to the Weeping Ash tree and parked up, by now it was 10.30pm and dark, so seeing the owls was an almost impossibility. So it was a waiting and listening game, and I didn't have to wait long! Out of the silence came a hissing, once my eyes had become adjusted to the darkness I was able to make out 3 Little Owl silhouettes up high in a tree, 2 adults and 1 juvenile, Dave was right, there was a pair and they had a youngster!!!!
During the evening search I also stopped off at few other sites where only adult birds were seen, I did managed this atmospheric image at site No 19, hopefully chicks here on my next visit?
And finally, some more good news from last night, Little Owl site No 108 was located, a new site for me over at Gilmorton. He was located sitting in a Pear Tree but I wasn't ready and sadly no photo, that is until my next visit!!!!
As usual, double click on any image for a larger more detailed version.
Monday, 28 June 2010
Over the next half an hour or so what I witnessed was pure magic, one by one they all took the leap of faith and make their first flight to join their parents in the next tree. All three made the short journey safely, although the landings were not that proficient, a little scrambling and holding on for dear life but all seemed to be OK.
Saturday, 26 June 2010
A couple of nights ago I erected a permanent hide at one of my local sites, it was made out of some old wooden pallets and a large tarpaulin. It took me a couple of hours to make and if all goes to plan the resident Little Owls will accept it and some super close up images should follow!
Anyway, today I tried it out for the first time, my intentions were to make the most of the early rising sun, so I arrived very early.....4.45am! It was a great start too, one of the resident Little Owls was sitting out on one of the new stumps that I'd put up, right next to my brand new shiny hide!
At 9.45am I departed...................FIVE HOURS of waiting and nothing, the owl didn't return and not even a dam sparrow showed!!!!
Oh well, all things come to those who wait, I'm sure I'll have better luck next time?
Next stop was South Wigston and site 105, I was hoping for some better luck at this location. I parked the Landrover near to the nest tree and within minutes I picked up the hissing sound of begging Little Owl chicks, the noise was coming from high up in a tree, but not the nest tree. This meant they have fledged the nest, all I had to do now was locate the blighters, this didn't take long, and there was a pair!! They were running, yes running back and forth along a fallen limb that was wedged horizontally about 5 metres up. Although the light was not favourable I did manage some images of them, double click on any picture for a larger size with more detail.
Getting a little weary now, a big yawn, maybe ready for bedtime?
I may go and try the new hide again tomorrow, but not as early as today because I need my ugly sleep and I won't be staying too long as I have a pressing appointment with a few pints of Guinness at a local pub, its time to cheer on England in the footie again.
Tuesday, 22 June 2010
After my "chick chase" (see previous posting) I found myself driving home past site 16, sadly no chicks showing here yet but one of the parent owls was out having a right good old flutter around. Although the sun had set (9.45pm) and the light levels were extremely poor I thought I would chance my arm and see if it was possible to get some images? Shooting at an ISO of 1600 and shutter speeds in the region of a 1/40th of a second most of the images were blurred or too dark but here are a few that I thought were ok, as usual double click on any image for a larger and more detailed version.
The next item of prey to be seized upon were a few black beetles taken from the ground, once caught he made his way back into the nest hole, mmmmmmmmm maybe to the chicks????? In this image you can just make out one of the caught beetles in the right claw.
One of the parent owls keeping a very close watch on me!
During my dash from site to site chicks were seen in or around the nest at a total of 3 locations, (site 51 x 2, site 22 x 1 and site 19 x 1) this now takes my running tally to 25 chicks seen at 11 different sites. Many many more to come..............fingers crossed!
Sunday, 20 June 2010
Not much to shout about this weekend in terms of Little owl's sightings, my intentions were to have a nice early start on Saturday. This didn't happen......I think the drowning of my sorrows the night before took its toll, too many toasts to our gloriously useless England Football Team (what a bunch of TO#*ERS!!!!).
After the late start (and still throbbing head) a nice lazy day was planned, but not as lazy as it turned out! I went over to my site 33 at the local quarry. My intention was to hopefully get some adult images bringing in a variety of food for the juveniles. I was in situ and in my hide for 11.30am, after half an hour a juvenile appeared and sat at the nest entrance. Great the plan was coming together, all I needed now was the adults to appear...........at 7.30pm I packed up, no adults showed after a wait of EIGHT hours!!!!!!
All I had to show for a very loooooooooong day was this "fluff ball" of a juvenile Little Owl.
Wednesday, 16 June 2010
On Monday night just gone I invited some members of the Charnwood Ringers Group over to south Leicestershire to accompany myself and my mate Daz around some of my local Little Owl sites. From previous investigations I knew of 5 easy accessible sites that had "Pullus" in the nest, apparently this is the proper terminology for juveniles still in the nest, you learn something every day.......or so they say!.
The intention was to ring the Pullus, obviously the ringing can only be done by qualified and licenced individuals, hence the Charwood Ringers were in attendance. Each ring has its own unique identity on it and if ever the owl (with the ring on) was encountered again it would help to provide vital information on the birds age and movements.
Here we can see the gathering at the first location not far from Kilby Bridge, we were at my Little Owl site No 91 and the only occupied breeding box this year that had any success.