Monday, June 12, 2006

Itty Bitty Boneyard

One of my favorite things looks like a turd.

Worse, it looks like a turd with feathers and fur stuck in it. If I find them on the ground while I'm working as a park ranger, I don't even get to say something educational to the people around because they tend to turn away when they see me picking up what look like turds.

What I like to do next, is to pull them apart with tweezers. These "turds' are owl pellets. Owls can't chew, nor can they dissolve bones with their stomach acids. Their gizzards compact bones and fur and feathers and whatnot into compressed nuggets, then they are conveyed back out to the throat for the owl to expel later. It's like a fur ball, but delivered with less theatrics. The owl just opens it's mouth and drops it out. And the evidence of all the wee rodents and birds an owl ate in a couple hours time is represented in it.

Apparently it is quite common for grade schools to teach kids about owls and their pellets these days, as it is easy to buy pellets rather than find them the old fashioned way. Science companies sell them pre-treated for fur eating moths. and sell 'em. They want your kids to play with turds because it is fun and educational.

Me, I am fascinated by skeletons. I love seeing how the bones fit together. I love the archeological dig feeling of slowly pulling apart a pellet. I'm kind of still a five year old. I had a jewelry idea that requires some tiny bones, so today I spent some time pulling apart some pellets I had in a bag. (What? you don't have a secret owl pellet stash in your house?)

We went to dinner with some friends tonight and I was glad no one asked me what I'd done today.

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At 7:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice post. It's good to be reminded that the natural world is not only stranger than I imagine, but stranger than I can imagine. -DavidC

At 1:08 PM, Anonymous David Lewis said...

> We went to dinner with some friends
> tonight and I was glad no one asked
> me what I'd done today.

I guess that was OK as long as you washed your hands before helping set the table! ;-)))


At 11:48 PM, Blogger Michael Boydston said...

Really cool -- the post and the photo both. I sometimes think I'm a birder, but I've never seen an owl pellet. So, speaking of stranger than DavidC can imagine, I envy your bone-pickings.


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