Tuesday, March 24, 2009

GIFTS

Ok, I want to say straight off, that if you are easily grossed out or easily offended, please skip this post.  I put the photos at the bottom of the post so you can avoid them if you want. Don't be emailing me later about my photos of animal cruelty or about how you barfed on your shoes.  If you didn't grow up on a farm or don't watch a lot of Discovery Channel, this post might not be for you.   You've been warned.
Last Saturday my sister Jamie, came to our house early in the morning so that she and Paul and I could go shopping in Des Moines.  When she and I went outside we noticed massive amounts of bird poop all over my front steps.  I mean a massive amount.  I couldn't quite figure out how this happened as there is too much tree cover for there to have been a fly over by Canadian Geese.  It had to be some really large bird sitting in the tree that hangs above the steps.  Then she and I found these lovely "gifts" left on the sidewalk.  The curvy thing is a bit of Garter Snake and the lumpy thing is what's known as an owl pellet.  An owl pellet is the indigestible remains of animals and insects that the owl eats.  Kind of like a kitty hairball.  Hawks also regurgitate the indigestible parts of their prey as well.  Since their stomach muscles are relatively weak, the bones of their prey remain pretty much in tact.  I know this is gross, but I really think it's cool too.  Do you see the bird foot in the pellet?  There was a lot of fur and mammal bones too.  Probably rabbits and mice.  I had no idea owls would go for snakes.  For the past couple of years we've had many Barred Owls living in the woods around our house (see my post from September 17th 2008).  We haven't seen or heard them much since last fall though.  I'm really happy that they're still around.  As harsh as it is for the unsuspecting animals, they really are amazing to watch.  I was in the yard a couple of years ago when an owl soundlessly plucked a rabbit off the ground right in front of me.  The rabbit never knew what happened, it was over that fast.  In years previous, we were completely over run by rabbits.  No so these days.  My only problem is that I have a feeling that I've been an unwitting participant in the slaughter.  We have a bird feeder about 10 feet from the house, really close to where the pellet was found.  I think maybe we set up this owl buffet.  Oh well.  At least I didn't see any red Cardinal feathers in the pellet.

Part of a Garter Snake and a pellet from a Barred Owl.

A close up of the pellet, complete with the foot of some poor, unfortunate bird.

2 comments:

Suz said...

I'm with you, VERY cool...words just don't do them justice! I'm trying to get a perspective on how large these were....are they smaller than a breadbox? (I believe that's the standard by which things are measured, right?)
Suz

Cris Leonard said...

Hey Suz,
It was the size of a clementine. Thanks for the comment. I think it grossed-out many of my readers!