Thursday, April 4, 2019
Сова гранулы и другие случайные вещи
Or, Sova granuly i drugiye sluchaynyye veshchi
According to the gurgle translate anyway. For all I know it might mean anything, but what I was trying for is...
Owl pellets and other random stuff.
We had a nice thunderstorm last evening. It was a cold thunderstorm, with the air temperature about 38, so that part wasn't nice, but the quarter inch of rain that came with the storm was nice.
Nona the Wonder Dog did not think the storm was nice. She's quite terrified of thunder (also fireworks, engine backfires, gunfire, and other sudden loud noises) and went into doggie panic mode at the first grumble. Since she's a dog, and doesn't do the whole reasoning/understanding thing, and since she doesn't even understand English, she was deeply frightened for the entire duration of the storm. That's kind of sad, to my human way of thinking. On the other hand, once the storm was done she stopped panicking and appeared to forget the whole thing.
This morning I did a heartless experiment.
Also this morning it was coolish and occasionally breezy.
At sunrise the air temperature dipped down to the freezing mark, prompting a bit of frost deposition on many surfaces.
As soon as the sun got high enough (it comes up over Colorado, you know) those beautiful waves of warming light began to melt the frost and dry out the rain sodden landscape. Just beautiful.
Not perfect, but beautiful nonetheless.
Meanwhile, in Herefordshire...
And now, onto the owl pellets.
I think most people know that birds of prey spit up pellets as part of their digestive process. Like most birds, owls and other birds of prey have rather different digestive anatomy than humans or most other mammals. In more or less plain English, birds have a crop and gizzard between the end of their esophagus and the beginning of the stomach. This is something we mammals lack. When we swallow food it slides right through the esophagus and into the stomach. When birds swallow food it finds temporary storage in the crop, where it's slowly metered into the gizzard. The gizzard is a muscular organ that mashes and grinds the food, doing the job that we do with our mouth and teeth. Only then does the food enter into the stomach.
In birds of prey, the gizzard allows nutrients to pass into the stomach, but it also sequesters less digestible parts of the prey meal -- like bones and fur -- and doesn't let them pass into the stomach. This indigestible matter is later regurgitated in the form of "pellets" or "casts."
It's kind of icky-gross, I guess, but owl pellets are fun to tear apart and explore. You can often figure out exactly what the owl had for dinner, or at least find some interesting bones and teeth.
The pellets I collected yesterday yielded lots of fur and bone fragments as well as a ground squirrel jaw and a rabbit tooth.
So what's the big deal?
Why, Nature is the big deal!