Looking for a brilliant present for a young naturalist ? Buy my book ! Available from Amazon UK,
Amazon US and worldwide but buy from a local bookshop if you can.
Looking for a brilliant present for a young naturalist ? Buy my book ! Available from Amazon UK,
Amazon US and worldwide but buy from a local bookshop if you can.
Welcome to Jake's Bones - my blog all about bone collecting !

My name is Jake McGowan-Lowe, and I'm a fourteen year-old naturalist and bone collector from Scotland. I've been collecting skulls and bones since I was six, and I now have hundreds of amazing skulls and thousands of other bones.

I began blogging about bones when I was seven and ever since then every single weekend I have written something new here (over 400 posts so far !) Mostly it's about skulls or bones that I've found, but sometimes it's about places I've explored or wildlife that I see on my walks. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it !

Exploring the abandoned bunker


WARNING: Even by my standards, climbing into a disused, 50 year old flooded underground structure in the remote countryside is a really dangerous idea. But you're probably going to do it anyway, so here's the rules. Never do it alone, always have someone at the top, bring a rope, phone, torch and appropriate footwear, and make sure your tetanus jabs are up to date !

This picture shows a little bit of history hidden away - and one I've been meaning to explore for ages ! In some remote woodland outside my village is a fenced off clearing, where there are three tiny structures. Two are no bigger than a tree stump, and the third looks the size of a sheep trough form a distance. This is a place that was designed to be difficult to find - and also it's a bit of local history you may find near you !

The difference between deer and sheep skulls


Two of the most common skulls  that I find are deer and sheep. There's huge variation in different types of deer and breeds of sheep - but there are some rules which can tell you which are which.

They can look very similar, because they are both herbivores with eyes on the side of their heads. So, I'm going to take you how to tell the difference between the two skulls, even if you only have a small fragment of the skull. In all of this I'm using a red deer skull, as the bigger UK deer (red, sika, fallow) are closer in size to sheep than the smaller deer (such as Chinese Water Deer, muntjac and roe) and fragments can be mistaken for sheep...read on to find out more !

Triceratops at the Ulster Museum


This week's post is partly inspired by Sir David Attenborough and Ben Garrod's one-off TV special, Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur, which is on BBC1 at 6.30pm tonight - don't miss it ! Read about it here. 

I spent Christmas and New Year in Northern Ireland. Belfast is home to one of my favourite museums - the Ulster Museum - which has a particularly cool skeleton of a Triceratops horridus. Triceratops are one of the best known dinosaurs, along with the T-rex, which I wrote about here.

Attenborough And The Giant Dinosaur


Next Sunday, there is a must see programme for bone and dinosaur lovers. Ben Garrod and Sir David Attenborough are two of the most amazing presenters, and now they are doing a TV programme together. It will be called Attenborough And The Giant Dinosaur and it will be on BBC One on Sunday the 24th of January at 6:30pm.

Apart from being a great bit of TV, there is a bit of a personal connection for me. As you probably remember, in December 2014 I was on The One Show with Sir David. It was one of the best moments of my life, as I have always wanted to meet him. When I was on the One Show sofa, they showed a pre-recorded piece of Ben and I analysing bones at Bristol Museum. Ben also presented a brilliant BBC TV series called Secrets of BONES, which I wrote about here, and has been a great inspiration to me (we first met at the Grant Museum in London) .Read on to find out more about the dig !

Mysteries from my inbox


Of the 1,214 emails I received last year, many of them are from people trying to identify bones. This can be tricky - especially as they can be from animals from other countries that I've rarely seen before !

Here are some of the recent ones I've had - many of which have me stumped ! Can you help me out or give me some clues ?

Goodbye 2015, hello 2016


At the end of each year, since the start of my blog, I have written a post on New Year's Eve, looking back on the year. At the end of last year, I said that this year would not have been as good as last.-  it's not every year that your first book comes out, you get to present a copy to the Royal Family, and then do live TV on the BBC with Sir David Attenborough - but this year has had its good moments.

I always enjoy writing these posts, because it reminds me of the best parts of the year, and there was quite a lot this year ! This is what I have learned...

Happy Christmas !


Happy Christmas ! I'm spending time with my family and having a great time. Sadly, it's not snowing over here, and we only had about two or three snow days in Scotland so far - I hope we get more, because it's really beautiful near my house when it snows. (Apart from a few winters ago when it got so cold it was -18c one night)

Here's a quick fun fact for Christmas. Rudolph, Santa's reindeer was actually most likely to have been a girl. How do I know this ? It's to do with the timing of when antlers fall off and regrow each year. Both male and female reindeer have antlers (which is unusual for deer - normally it's just males). Anyway, male reindeer's antlers usually fall off before Christmas time, whereas the female's antlers do not, making Rudolph more likely to be a girl (*) !

(*) Scientists tend to try and be very exact about the timings of antlers, but I've found it varies a LOT with roe deer - it depends on age, diet, health and region. I've seen roe deer still in velvet in May, and other roe deer close by with hard antlers by March. Here's my guide anyway.

Where are all the woods going?


Here's the thing: my woods are vanishing.

The badger wood ? Gone. Mortuary wood, where I left the badger to decompose ? Gone - and it was small, but an hour spent there showed it was rich with wildlife. Parts of the Pheasant Woods where I began bone collecting ? Gone. More recently, a wood near the pine marten wood was cut down. A big part of Titus Well wood was cut down for a major power line. The wood where I filmed the roe deer carcass was cut down earlier this year. And a wood just beside the main road north past my village has been cut down.

So why is it happening ? To find out, we need to go back in the past. After WWII, most of the timber was used in the war effort, and to replenish the stock, there were tax incentives to plant thousands of trees were planted in the 1960s and 70s. These trees take about 40 or 50 years to grow, so are now coming to maturity. The problem is, the tax breaks stopped in the 1990s, so there aren't enough plantations to replace those being cut down.

A win and a loss


Two quick bits of news: firstly thank you to everyone who voted for me in the Cairngorms Nature Wildlife Presenter competition, and  a big congratulations to James Miller from Surrey who was the eventual winner. I'm pretty sad not to have won, but as runner up I do get some great prizes, like a trail camera, a signed book by Iolo Willliams and a day watching wildlife in the Cairngorms. I also really enjoyed making the video, and I'll try to make some more in 2016.

Secondly, last week The Courier ranked me at #24 in their Impact power list of people in this area of Scotland who were most influential in 2015, which was very kind of them and a very nice surprise (I didn't know in advance) although quite why I'm ranked nine places higher than Professor Sue Black at CAHID (which I visited in 2011) I don't know !

Braco 200: My village - then and now !


I know this path well because it leads to the pheasant woods which is where I started bone collecting, and I've walked by it so many times. But until recently I didn't realise that but over 100 years ago, this man stood right here in this exact spot for a photograph, outside his long demolished house.

 How do I know this ? Because while I have been researching blog posts about my village for its 200th anniversary I have found loads of old photographs of my village (I'm pretty sure they're all out of copyright, which is why I've used them below). 

This weeks post is a bit different because I went out to find the exact spot where the photos were taken, and taken a new one from the exact position to show how much it has changed. Read on to find out more...

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