Today I collected several dozen barn owl pellets from beneath several perches favored by the owls. I suppose that two or three would have sufficed, but I couldn't help myself. They were like nuggets of biological gold just laying there on the ground!
I brought my treasures home, anxious to tear a few apart and see what the owls had been eating. For the hard-to-see little guys like voles and mice, this is a good way to find out who else is in the neighborhood.
Before I dug into the pellets, I needed to sterilize them. Once an owl eats a meal of a mouse or a vole, it takes about 6 hours for the indigestible matter, essentially the fur and bones, to form in a pellet in the owl's stomach. about 10 hours after that, the owl regurgitates the pellet onto the ground. Pellets are not scat--they do not pass through the digestive system--but they still aren't the cleanest things in the world and sanitizing them is important.
The process is really quite simple: Wrap each pellet in a layer of aluminum foil and place it in an oven pre-heated to 325 degrees F.
Forty minutes later, the entire pellet will have been heated to 325 degrees and that is hot enough to kill any bacteria such as E. coli or other bad stuff that might be present.
(I probably should mention that when collecting owl pellets, you should use gloves or pick them up with a plastic bag. A little hand sanitizer isn't a bad investment, either.)
Let them cool, unwrap them and dig in!
You can buy sterilized owl pellets for about $1.25 each plus shipping, but I would rather find my own.
Here is the finished product. It doesn't look any different, but all the bacteria and other nasties have been killed.
The contents of one owl pellet. Bones are already clean and ready for re-assembly!
"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson
That is embarrassing but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.
Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.
Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.
"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman
"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.
To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version
Copies are also available at:
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Perfect Light Photo Supply
Museum of Idaho
Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming
Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah
Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho