Friday October 3rd
With some of our team out training our colleagues in the world of wildlife enquiries Claire and I decided that we would use our time to brush up on our wildlife skill set. Having taken delivery of a fresh batch of owl pellets we set about dissecting them on Friday...at lunch time.
First we selected a pellet that we felt would have a good haul of bones and hopefully an intact skull having never actually dissected owl pellets before we chose a rather large one and set it to soak in water with some alcohol disinfectant. The pellet was produced by a barn owl. They are quite large and characteristically black in appearance often with a varnish like gloss when fresh.
They are also the best material for pellet studies as many are produced at the same site and the bones they produce are remarkably intact.
Having bought in my dissection kit and put on gloves that Claire had provided we set about pulling the soaked pellet apart. It was easy enough and the fur parted like meat that had been cooking for hours. Although the large white grub of a clothes moth was enough to put us of eating for the rest of the day.
We removed 3 skulls from one pellet as well as scapulars, jaw bones, ear capsules, what felt like thousands of rib bones and vertebrae.
Each dish was a soup of fur and bones, the fur lead us to expect mammal remains and we were right as we pulled the remains of three (Blind, after being eaten and regurgitated) mice.
On the dark blue card we arranged the bones and examined them under the lamp placing them into position and identifying them with the key. Feeling like we were in Wildlife silent witness or CSI RSPB we thoroughly enjoyed our day brushing up on our wildlife skills and I would encourage anyone to have a go as well.
Well, it's true that Owl pellets offer an excellent opportunity for students at all grade levels to engage in hands-on, inquiry-based learning.
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