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!


  1. Owl pellets are interesting. When the grandkids were little I would have them take apart the pellets we found, and try to figure out what the owls had been eating. Lots of fun, and a little science! Knew a fellow that made a good living going around to the local farms and ranches collecting pellets to sell to the universities and high schools.

  2. Good memory!

    Hey, I got an idea!

    Nope, too late. There are already 47,000 people selling owl pellets on the interweb!

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting Brig.

  3. Today's mission can be marked as "Accomplished."

    As in, I learned something new. Which is pretty much my mission everyday.

    Great post!

  4. There is something about owls that I quite like! owls make me happy!

  5. Hey Evert,
    Penrose here. Just found this. cool

  6. I'm doing. Much time has passed, about 25yrs? Things are surprisingly the same with me, I guess it's my nature. Typed in MSE and magically you appeared.

    1. Nothing like interwebs magic. I was trying to find that place in Churchland on gmaps, do you remember the street name? That was close to 40 years ago, wonder if our tower is still there or if it's all new homes.

    2. There's homes all the way back to the water. It was 3814 Georgia court. I wonder what they thought when they dug up the fox hole filled with beer cans. Someone was scratching their head. I tend to not look back, it saddens me. The place on Washington street is still there. The Portsmouth Catholic High School, across the street is gone, replaced with apartments. There are houses all down Queen street out back of the place.

    3. Holy cow, that place has changed. It was kind of out in the sticks back then, complete with banjo music. NRMC has changed a lot too. Not one but two "old" hospital buildings. Back gate where I broke my elbow is still there, but the old e-club is gone. I don't think they have e-clubs any more. I take your point on the past; the windshield is a lot bigger than the rear view mirror as they say. Sometimes it's fun to remember causing problems for the Yankee Imperialist Pigs though. :)

  7. They tore GLNH down. I just found about that this year. Brought tears to my eyes.
    I see you went back home. I did too. Got sick of the whole Baltimore thing. It was pushing a rock. I got tired and the rock enjoyed the attention.
    I did a bit of browsing and found that Rocco V and Charlie E went into business together somewhere in Pa.
    Wonder if they'd hire Elva B to mess up their records....

    1. Yeah, wasn't exactly the plan but it's worked out for the best. I'm actually using stuff I learned back in the GI clinic while taking care of my Dad, he's got cirrhosis from NASH and I'm draining 3-4 L of ascites fluid from his belly every other day. I remember Charlie was from Pa. Rocco was from NYC? Those guys gotta be old as hell by now, but with Elva's help they could still be hanging in there. I wonder how many of Victah and Natalie's kids ended up in the WVA state pen?

    2. Hard to tell. That was a strange brew of bent and broken DNA, all sorts of genetic repercussions possible...
      Most likely, in the grand scheme of cosmic jest, they are poster children ( wait, Nick would be almost 40) of respect, civility, etc..., basically the negative of that which spawned them

  8. Sorry to hear about your dads health. They spent all of our infancy, childhood and adolescence taking care of us and our sometime unwise choices and now it's our turn..