I could write about how to:
- make a window star
- make homemade ice cream
- can and freeze fresh produce so it can be enjoyed during the winter
- make hand-embroidered toys
- travel with children and tweens
Instead, I chose something a bit untraditional: how to dissect an owl pellet. This is an activity that we did at William O'Brien State Park during the Memorial Day weekend. They had a variety of free naturalist-led programs, and this is one that the girls enjoyed.
First, we learned about owls, the types of owls that live in Minnesota, and the definition of an owl pellet. According to Wikipedia, a pellet is "...the mass of undigested parts of a bird's food that some bird species occasionally regurgitate. The contents of a bird's pellet depend on its diet, but can include the exoskeletons of insects, indigestible plant matter, bones, fur, feathers, bills, claws, and teeth."
We each chose an owl pellet that had been sterilized. These can be obtained from companies on the internet - there are many from which to choose.
Some people chose to use tools to pick apart the pellet - like the wooden stick and tweezers that Olivia is using in the photograph below.
As this is being done, different items are discovered. For example, in the photograph below you can see part of an animal's jaw and teeth.
Since the pellets have been sterilized, sometimes it is easier to use your hands to get the tiny bones and other items that are in the pellets. Sophia ended up doing this since she found the tweezers and stick a bit cumbersome to use.
As you're going through and removing items, it is interesting to set aside the fur that was regurgitated. It's surprising how much fur is in one that is in one pellet (see picture below).
As you go through the pellet, lay the items you find on a sheet of paper. The picture below shows the items that Sophia found in the owl pellet she dissected.
When you are done dissecting the pellet, you can use a reference sheet that has the names of bones and skeletons of small rodents that an owl typically would eat. Sometimes it is possible to create almost an entire skeleton from one pellet.
(As a side note, the majority of the state parks in Minnesota are offering a variety of free science programs throughout the summer. These are a wonderful way to augment and enhance our homeschool science curriculum.)