A friend of mine is into nature conservation in a big way and one of the tools of the trade, which to the outsider may seem rather odd, is owl pellet dissection.
Owl pellets are the regurgitates remains (bones, feathers and other indigestibles) that accumulate in this bird of prey’s gizzard after it dines on small rodents and other critters. The dessicated pellets are to be found lying where they are discarded by the owl and can provide important information about what critters are being preyed on in owl territory.
The only way to get at that information, however, is to tease apart the pellet with tweezers and other implements to extract the bones from the tangle of hair and other detritus. It needs a steady hand, a keen eye, and a lot of patience. What you will find within is quite amazing though, tiny jaw bones and skulls, femurs, tibias pelvic bones and more.
Identifying which bone belongs to which creature takes even more patience, but it is possible and provides useful insights into the prevalence or otherwise of particular small mammals in a given area where owls prey.
For more on owl pellet dissection, check out this site http://www.kidwings.com/owlpellets/.
The reason I bring it up (pardon the pun) today, is that owl pellet dissection was the hot new search phrase on the sciencebase site this last month, with dozens of visitors all flapping for information on the subject. It’s not a topic that’s been searched for here before, so I thought I’d provide some background in case we have another flutter of en-raptor-ed activity.