It can be difficult to bones of even quite big animals like foxes or deer, so you might think it's impossible to find really small bones, like those from voles or mice. In fact it's easy if you can find bird pellets and over the spring and summer I collected loads in the woods. Some of them were from walks that dad did alone when I broke my leg like the one with the trapped roe, and others were ones I found myself, like on my one-hour challenge. A good place to look is in pine forests, or at the base of trees at the edges of fields.
I've written about pellets before and at the time I thought owls were the only birds that left them. In fact loads of birds spit them up, like raptors, herons and crows. What happens is that a bird eats its prey but it cant digest the bones or fur which stay in its stomach. Later on it vomits them up so it spits them out with the fur. Anyway, I has a close look at nine pellets and this is what I found....
If you've never seen an owl pellet they often look like this: dried balls or bullet-shaped balls. It they look too long and thin, though, they might be fox poo. I've picked apart some of those by mistake !
This was what looked like a small
There were five vole(*) skulls in the pellet, all of which had been crushed in the back of the braincase.
There were six halves of tiny pelvises: (each of those lines is 1mm)
This was a lower jaw from a shrew.
There were the eight mandibles from what looked like
And a load of leg bones too:
I find it easy to identify the bones in pellets, but hard to identify what bird the pellets came from. Do you think I got them right ?
(*) Thanks to Ric Morris who in the comments pointed out my mice skulls were voles ! I've corrected the piece
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