The summer is stretching in front of me like a road with no end. Lorelei's been out of school for a week, and Isabelle's last day is Friday. I have to keep two smart energetic children occupied for three months, and that takes more than just parking them in front of the TV.
Today, Lorelei and I went to RAPTOR. I had seen a neat pellet display at the CNC and wanted to investigate some of my saved pellets and see if I could replicate the display.
Our owl pellets don't hold any secrets...we feed them, so we know what's going in and what will be coming out. I chose one of Storm's pellets, since he is fed mice and swallows them whole (our larger owls seem to pick apart their food and leave leftovers, so their pellets aren't quite as interesting).
Quick pellet lesson:
All birds of prey (and some other birds, like herons) make pellets. What can't be digested is coughed (cast) up and you can pull it apart and determine their diet. Owl pellets are special in that the owls tend to swallow their food whole, or at least pull it apart and finish it all...so the entire skeleton (give or take a few tiny pieces) is wrapped in the fur or feathers of the prey.
Scientists can gather owl pellets and evaluate the food supply of an area.
Owl pellets also hold a larger amount of food residue, since their stomach acids are weaker than other birds of prey.
Barn owl pellets look a little different from other pellets...they are round, instead of oblong.
I started to pull it open....
Arggh! A treasure trove of bony secrets!
I separated the bones into piles (ribs, tail and vertebrae, skull, legs) and Lorelei got very interested...
...so I let her do some pulling herself.
She wanted to know what every piece was, so I explained that the ribs protect the lungs and heart, and the vertebra are the back, etc. I showed her on her body where her ribs and spine were, and there came a moment when something clicked in her. I saw a light come on...
I assumed there were slightly more than one whole skeleton in this pellet. (Lorelei said it was one really BIG mouse)
Lorelei has said repeatedly over the past few years that she wants to be a veterinarian. Seeing that light come on in her eyes made me think that this is not just a dream or fancy. She really got into this. And made connections between the bones we were pulling out of the pellet and her own bones. It was so cool to witness, this awakening.
Pulling the bones out, with Daisy the stuffed Puppy looking on: