Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is now available from www.trafalgarbooks.com or your local bookseller.
Thanks to my dog Emma’s acute sense of smell, we located an owl pellet in the woods this morning. It was probably that of a barred owl, given the size and the prevalence of these owls in this area. The pellet appears as a somewhat flattened mass of hair, skulls, teeth and nails (the indigestible parts of the owl’s prey), and not its typical oval shape, due to the torrential rains we’ve had lately – this was not a fresh pellet. Still, you can identify its meal prior to coughing up the pellet – to the left in the picture is one half of the bottom jaw of either a North American or white-footed deer mouse (as a rodent, it has two large incisors at the front of both upper and bottom jaw, good for tackling its omnivorous diet of seeds, berries and insects). Next to it are the upper half of the skull (center) and half of the lower jaw (right) of an insectivorous shrew (note sharp, pointed teeth well-adapted for crunching the hard exoskeletons of insects). Look closely and you can see the telltale purple tinge to the shrew’s teeth.