Wednesday, June 03, 2009

What lies beneath...(an impromptu anatomy lesson)

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.


Storm's pellet:
Barn owl pellet


I started to pull it open....
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Arggh! A treasure trove of bony secrets!


I separated the bones into piles (ribs, tail and vertebrae, skull, legs) and Lorelei got very interested...
Lorelei helps with pellet
...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...

sorting the bones

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:
video

11 comments:

Heather said...

Oh Susan, your girl is so cute, and it's FANTASTIC that she got so into that project. It must have been a great experience for you to have her help you!

Susan Gets Native said...

Heather:
It was so very satisfying. All my work at exposing them to different things in our world...it was COOL.

dAwN said...

That video made me smile! Is so great you are exposing your daughter to such interesting things!

LauraHinNJ said...

And she's not even a little grossed out!

Good girl!

I remember doing a similar thing with my second-grade class... even the boys had the heeby-jeebies!

Beth said...

Like mama, like daughter. You must be very proud of her. She will make a compassionate, talented vet some day.

Beth

KGMom said...

Oh this is great--the best way to raise a girl who doesn't go ewww is to have a mother who doesn't go ewww.
Yes, she is on her way.
And I do love the stuffed puppy watching.

NatureWoman said...

This is so COOL! I love taking owl pellets apart, and I love to see Lorelei enjoying it so much. That is one really *big* mouse!

Mary said...

I'm sure you know how lucky your girls are to have you guide them... They are going to be great naturalists - so smart.

Abe Lincoln said...

What an interesting post this one is. I never did this before or never thought about it. I have poked apart raccoon poop to see what they have been eating. Nothing like this though.

You might like to read the story about us almost moving to Alaska...

Homesteading in Alaska

Wren said...

You are such a cool Mom!

mon@rch said...

Hey Lorelei . . . . . this is what I consider FUN!