Monday, 27 July 2015

Whoo ate what for dinner?

As the summer holidays have started, Bug Mad Girl is going to write some of the blog posts about our adventures. This is the first of those ...

Today we dissected the owl pellets that we found a few weeks ago when we were out walking. We found 2 small soft pellets on Pulpit and 5 larger hard pellets on Watlington hill. They look and feel like they are from different birds but can we find out which ones?

First we had a proper look at them and measured them. The smaller ones were between 2.3-3.5cm long, were grey and felt like soft balls of fluff. 

Smaller, soft grey pellets
The larger ones were between 4-6cm long, were grey, very hard and had pointy ends.

Larger, hard grey pellets
After looking at them we put them in hot water mixed with disinfectant and left them to soften. We took them out of the water and pulled the pellets apart with wooden sticks.

The smaller pellets were full of mud and fur. We found a couple of tiny bone fragments and what may have been a feather. There were very few bones in these pellets.

The smaller pellets contained very few bones and were mostly fur and mud
4 of the larger pellets were made up of fur and lots of interesting bones such as the jaw of a small mammal, like a mouse, that had wobbly teeth in it! We also found parts of hip bones, a shoulder blade, back bones, teeth and toe nails with fur still attached! They all looked like bits of small mammal bones, such as mice or voles.

Jaw bone with wobbly teeth in it

 1 of the larger pellets was made up of feathers, including the back/chest of a bird with a wing attached to the side and a wing (not attached to the body like the other one) with the feathers still attached to it. There were lots of bits of feather shaft and even a piece of moss.

Bird for tea! Wings, feathers and feather shafts
After we looked at all the bones/feathers we stuck them to pieces of card and labelled them so we could see what bones we had found. It was very exciting seeing what was in the pellets as well as dissecting them! (Even though it stank a LOT)

We used an RSPB document called "Owl pellets, how to study their contents" and tried to work out what had made the pellets.

I think that the big pellets were from a tawny owl because they are the right size (between 2-5cm long), they are hard with a point at one end and the bones are well digested.

I think the smaller pellets are from a kestrel because the bones are more digested than the ones in the tawny owl pellets. They were also the right size and were a very spongey texture. It's possible that they might also be from a red kite as there are a lot of them around here.
I drew this tawny owl using chalk pastels.


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