Tuesday, 3 February 2015

A Lifelong Ambition

Yesterday I achieved something I've been wanting to do since I was a young girl. My favourite book when I was growing up was this, the Usborne Naturetrail Omnibus:

I was, and continue to be, a keen amateur naturalist if that's not too grandiose a term (not, as I was corrected once, a keen 'naturist'.....) and one of the pages that always fascinated me was this one, about owl pellets:


I have never found one, and although I am aware that you can buy them for dissection purposes, it just wouldn't be the same; there wouldn't be that connection with place and time and the feeling of happening upon a moment with nature.

On yesterday's morning dog walk up through the copse of Scot's Pine, I spotted what looked like a large dark grey pine cone, which on closer examination - including a quick sniff to make sure it wasn't poo of some description - I took to be a pellet. We get tawny, barn and little owls around here, as well as buzzards and kestrels nesting in the copse. Cradling the frozen pellet in my gloved hand, I walked back home and put it in an old dish to warm up a bit so I could investigate.

I found this PDF from the RSPB about studying owl pellets and deduced after a surprisingly relaxing and hugely absorbing hour or so with tweezers and disposable gloves, that I had a pellet which had emanated from a tawny owl with a predilection for wood mice. The diminutive size of the bones was rather enchanting and I must admit, not remotely morbid! Sadly I didn't discover any rat bones which would have been quite welcome. Mandibles, a skull, teeny ribs and femurs: just incredible.

Maybe such a find wouldn't put a grin on many people's faces but I was thrilled to finally realise this long-held ambition!

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