Tuesday, 13 April 2021


David Gascoigne from Canada suggested in his comment to my last post that I dissect some Barn Owl pellets and make this part of a blog. David and Miriam both visited us, and David being the only person who comments on my posts who has visited and seen a Barn Owl in situ , Richard brought David over of an evening and sat him in a chair at the end of our patio, some 60 metres from the nearest box and after a very short time a Barn Owl appeared, did the normal  wing and leg stretching before flying away, it all worked perfectly as if by clockwork.

If I had realized  the time this would take in the dissection of the pellets before starting this venture I think I would have had second thoughts on commencing but once underway you have to finish. I have to date spent in excess of 7hrs on this escapade and will soon get them photographed , but in the meantime  I have had a search on line and found some dissected by a lady {Melissa Harrison} and I can only wonder at the hours she must have spent on carrying out this exercise,  but on my attempts it must have taken her several days. 

Pellets are regurgitated by the owls in getting rid of the non digestible  elements of the food, this being after my dissection efforts , mostly skin and fur,  and a smaller element being bones. \to be truthful a really sticky mess.

Dissection by Melissa Harrison {Bless her and the time it must have taken}

Skulls and Jaws, { Mouse}

Pelvic bones, [ mouse]

Barn Owl Science Courtesy  of the Barn Owl Trust.[ of which I am a member.]

Lastly my meagre efforts.

These are from seven pellets I collected over Saturday[3] and Sunday [4] from under the large box.
The idea is you soak the pellets in warm soapy water to soften the pellet then dissect with tooth picks and tweezers.

This after being soaked in hot soapy water several times and then allowed to drain. Then the dissection begins with tooth picks and tweezers.

this is what I eventually had at the end, skin and fur and still some bones, a horrible sticky mess.

to the top I have placed skulls, below jaws and teeth, bottom left are thigh bones, bottom right are pelvic bones.

In 2017 we had a major influx of Waxwing, these beautiful birds were dotted all over the county and the ones below were in the village of Glenfield that is situated approximately half way between our village and the City of Leicester.
Here they had found a still heavily laden apple tree, where they spent many days devouring said apples much to the annoyance of the local birds. It is said that these birds will devour  between 800 and  a1000 berries a day, roughly twice the body weight, not sure as to how this relates to apples but in a few days the stripped the tree clean. They arrive in the UK sometimes in large numbers called irruptions.

Kestrel, Eyebrook Reservoir.

A bird I seem to see on a regular basis at the reservoir.

Chiff Chaff, Eyebrook Reservoir.

Out today  and heard the first one on our land.

Great Crested Grebe, Shallow Water Hide, Rutland Water.

Same bird as above.

Great Crested Grebe, Deepwater Hide.

Young on back having begged a lift.

Thank you for your visit, I hope you have found it interesting with the Barn Owl Pellet dissection, I am thinking of sending some to David to let him see what an awful job messy it is .


  1. Wow, John, this is impressive! I said it as a joke but you took it to heart and got right to it. Bravo! I am sure that you learned quite a bit in the process, and if nothing else it occupied your time during COVID lockdown. I can see that I will have to come up with additional suggestions! Take good care and stay safe. All the best. David

  2. Hello David,
    Yes I must admit in learning a great deal whilst dissecting the pellets, such as as to how fine a mouse rib is and how difficult it is to separate it from the mass of fur without it breaking, but as you say it certainly kept me out of trouble during our lockdown, please come up with other suggestions an I will do my best to help,
    You and Miriam stay safe,

  3. hello John
    Mouse is already the favorite food of your owls, I would never have come up with this idea but nice that you do your work .. learned something again
    Greetings Frank

  4. Hello Frank,
    Yes it does appear that mouse tops the bill on our Barn Owls delicacy list. I must admit the idea was David's and I just carried out the task.
    You and yours stay safe,

  5. Absolutely fascinating!!! Thank you John! Stay safe and healthy :)

    1. Hello Denise,
      Glad you enjoyed the visit.
      Stay safe and well.

  6. Absolutely stunning pictures of Waxwings John. They are beautiful.

  7. Hello Bob,
    They are beautiful birds but we see them so infrequently ,have to make the best of them when you can.
    You stay safe.

  8. Hi John!!!... Very interesting images of Barn owl pellets (egagrópilas) in Spanish 😄...I love the Waxwings... Awesome images... Have a great week..

  9. Hi Ana,
    Glad you found the Barn Owl pellets of interest, Waxwings are beautiful subjects to photograph but unfortunately spasmodic in appearing.
    You stay safe and have a good week ahead,

  10. How wonderful to have David and Miriam visit you. Thanks you for the interesting finds you shared from Melissa’s blog and of yours too. Nature is truly amazing. I also found the barn owl science fascinating also. As always, stunning photos of your other birds. Good health to you both and all the best!

  11. Hello Denise,
    It was several years ago when we had the visit, but who van tell, we may yet have another visit, it was an easy way around using Melissa's information bless her for her hard work, nature never fails to amaze me, thank you for the visit.
    my best wishes, you stay safe, well and healthy

  12. Nunca había visto fotos del Bombycilla garrulus en vuelo, gran trabajo John enhorabuena. Me ha gustado mucho el reportaje, un abrazo desde el norte de España. Todo lo mejor!!!

  13. Hi John,
    I got confused about what you said about your visit from David and his wife Miriam. They live in Canada and you live in the UK! How can they come to visit you ???? Or was this still for corona?

    Doesn't matter because your photos of the plush owl balls are really great to see :-))))) Skulls and lots of bones. Here they let the children at primary school sift through these bulbs hahahaha ... Always a fun lesson.

    The photos of your waxwings are great. I haven't seen them in years.

    Greetings and stay safe.

  14. Hello John, great you took up the chalange David suggested for you. A good result in the end. Nice David and Miriam came to vissit you. I presume that was a few years back?
    The photos of the Waxwings coming for their meal are great.


About Me;

Titus White:
Hi I am Richard Peglers friend Titus White, and those who follow Richards posts will understand the name and reason for it. I have been birding with Richard for 3 years and a volunteer at Rutland Water on the Osprey Project for 2 years. My early images were taken on a Nikon D80 with a 70 - 200mm lens. I updated the lens to a 70 - 300mm VR lens but still was not happy with the results. Eventually when Nikon announced the D7100 I decided to change so upgraded the camera and also invested in a Sigma 50 - 500mm lens.
I first met Richard through Arthur Costello as I was having the occasional visit from Little Owls on our land. We eventually found the Little Owls through another contact about 100 metres away. Photo's will follow on future posts.
I have recently upgraded my camera to full frame, this is a challenge I am at the moment enjoying trying to get the best out of the beast.
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