Sunday, 6 April 2008

Picking over the bones in all weathers

We went to the Wildfowl Park today. We romped in snow,

ate our picnic in sunshine,

admired the daffodils

and practiced heelying.

This all happened in the space of a couple of hours. No wonder the British spend so much time talking about the weather, it's so changeable.

When we came home Craig and Hermione set to dissecting the owl pellet. I had thought it would be some sort of plastic imitation but it was actually the real thing. Real thing with real smell, believe me!

Here is the pellet, set against a felt tip for scale.

They soaked it in water for a few minutes to soften it up and make it easier to extrapolate the bones. It was once it became wet that it smelled really bad. There were lots of bones and the bigger ones were reasonably easy to remove with the tweezers.

The masses of smaller bones were not as easy to pick out and as time passed the heap of puke became smellier. Hermione gave in and Craig took over. After quarter of an hour or so he was called upon to go into the garden and help build a snowman. I then spent a further ten minutes trying to get the rest of the tiny bones out before giving up and taking the smelly remains up to the compost heap.

The bones are now soaking in a soapy solution to get the rest of the puke off them. Once they are clean we are hoping to sort them and reconstruct on card the skeleton of whatever animal was eaten last.

This evening we chatted about the lambs we saw as we drove past fields today. We read First Sight by Philip Larkin.

Lambs that learn to walk in snow
When their bleating clouds the air
Meet a vast unwelcome, know
Nothing but a sunless glare.
Newly stumbling to and fro
All they find, outside the fold,
Is a wretched width of cold.

As they wait beside the ewe,
Her fleeces wetly caked, there lies
Hidden round them, waiting too,
Earth's immeasureable surprise.
They could not grasp it if they knew,
What so soon will wake and grow
Utterly unlike the snow.

I have vague recollections of hearing this one as a child too.


Bridget said...

I think we'll give the owl puke a miss, we'll study it from afar (on your blog), just reading it had me heaving!!

Claire said...

Wise move. I had to start preparing dinner straight after that, and goodness, I don't think I've ever scrubbed my hands so thoroughly in my life!

CJ said...

He, He, glad you did tis first Claire :-)

Now having been suitabley warned I think I'll wait until better weather and do this one outside!

I'll try and remember to wear surgical gloves too.

Looking forward seeing the bones cleaned up.


Claire said...

Yeah, that's the last time I'll pick up on your tips CJ :-) Seriously though, it was very educational, I don't think any of us will forget our close encounter with an owl pellet in a hurry :-) Great value too as it kept us busy for a fair proportion of the afternoon and we still have to finish it off yet.

ruth said...

Oh now I know why the boys ran a mile. I have no sense of smell so didn't realise how gross it was.I was face down over it for about 2 hours :0 Not to mention I touched them!!!!!!!!!!!