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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of four. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bottled owl breath

Barn owl pellets from Chimineas -- chock full of  pocket gopher skulls and a few remnants of white-footed mouse, pocket mouse, and harvest mouse (to be confirmed). 

A quart jar of macerating owl pellets is not an appetizing thing, but that didn't dampen my granddaughters' interest.

The Redhead often views the Codger's ideas of little girl activities with a jaundiced eye, but I had wisely vetted the owl pellet dissection with her beforehand.  

Yes, I know who the boss is.

And in their grandmother's presence the girls knew there would be no surprises of the pull-my-finger kind. 

So there they sat on the back porch with forceps in hand waiting to dig for treasure in soggy rodent fur.     

Having steeped the pellets in warm water the night before, it was time to open the jar and pour the dark broth through a sieve.

That's when the girls' enthusiasm started to wane.

"That stinks", protested the redhead. and the girls echoed their grandmother. 

" I wouldn't exactly say it stinks", I countered. "It's just a little tangy smelling, like owl breath." 

"Look! There's a skull in there," I exclaimed. 

They ignored my feeble attempt at distraction. 

Grandma and the girls retired to the house for a game of Mexican train, while the Codger tweezed the bones by himself.

I hope you admire the fruits of my labor in the picture above. They are now packaged and awaiting identification on a winter day.

As for the bottled owl breath, I poured it on a dying Nandina in the garden.

That was a week ago, and I am happy to report that the plant's leaves have already turned from red to green. 

Conclusion: bottled owl breath is equally effective as child repellent and fertilizer.


Hugh Griffith said...

Very impressive array.

My Nandina defoliated and died this year. Had only I known. I have a few pellets kicking around.

Unknown said...

G'day. I love that: "child repellent".
I shall remember it for when we will have our grandchild/ren .... not for some time. Regards to "the boss"/nana

Anonymous said...

Those bones make a nice image - I never knew you could have such fun with owl pellets.

Mr. Smiley said...

Sounds like my family. I'm sure they think we are both nutz.

suek said...

Ummm...please forgive an ignorant question...

were _all_ those remains in _one_ owl pellet??

If so...it definitely falls into the "Holy Moses!" category for me!

Bay Laurel said...

That is a very artistic layout! I don't know about "child repellent", definitely little girl repellent, but with my experience thus far, it seems like just the thing a little boy would wallow in!

Camera Trap Codger said...

Suek -- no not one. There were maybe a dozen complete and partial ones.

Bay Laurel -- I think you are right about that.

riverswindnotess said...

Well that brings back fond memories of days long ago when I collected and identified the remains of 100's of Barn owl pellets. However, I found them to be of great interest to middle school kids teaching them about the natural history of owls, mammalian anatomy,etc.
Nice work Codge!