Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Hoo's for dinner?

It's half term this week, so yesterday we headed over to College Lake. The kids love it there, peeping out of the hides to see what birds they can spot, following the trails through the woods and running about in the fresh air.
Living art ... joining in with the beautiful geese sculpture

Peeping at the birds on the feeders
College Lake have lots of great family events throughout the year and yesterday was what Bug Mad Girl described as the "best event ever"! We were there to dissect owl pellets and identify which small mammals, birds, frogs and even bats the owls had been eating. The pellets contain all the undigested parts of the owls diet, such as bones and fur, that the owl coughs up.  

We arrived a couple of minutes early so had a quick cuddle with Steve Backshall, who was very appropriately holding a barn owl!

The warden had seen a pair of barn owls flying over the reserve and heading into the tractor barn earlier that morning. He'd collected some fresh pellets from the barn, where they appear to be roosting, so we had a look at those. They looked a lot like poo, but they're definitely not!

Bug Mad Girl loved dissecting the pellets. She would happily have sat there all day picking out all the tiny bones and identifying them.

Picking though the pellet
Her brother took charge of identifying the bones and recording the findings on a white board. He seemed to find quite  a lot of frog bones (although I don't think we actually found any frogs!)

Not really into the pellets, but very keen on the white board and identification chart

(Picture from @College_lake)
We found several skulls, mostly voles, but also one shrew. You can tell the difference by looking at the shape of the teeth.

Vole skull
Vole skull on the left and part of a shrew skull on the right
There were also several jaw bones (complete with little rows of teeth) and hundreds to other bones such as leg, pelvis and rib bones.

Vole jaw bone

All sorts of other bones

Handy chart that we used to identify the bones we found
Needless to say we had to bundle up all our tiny bones in some paper to take home with us.

Afterwards they were so inspired that the little Barn Owl chased the giant bank vole along the path, eventually rugby tackling her to the ground!

No comments:

Post a Comment