The All About Owls classes are coming up soon and I wanted to get reacquainted with the slightly gross owl pellet. As you probably know, owls are predators. They hunt and eat mice, voles, and other small mammals and small birds. The owl swallows the animal meal whole, then regurgitates the fur and bones as a pellet. On the hiking trail at the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge, there is one tree where you can often find pellets on the ground. It must be a popular dining spot.
The pellets I will be using in the upcoming class were bought from the Raptor Center. They are autoclaved (heated) to kill most germs and bacteria. We used gloves today just to be extra safe.
There is a surprising amount of fur that is compressed into the pellet. My student used her fingers to break apart the fur and came up with a few small bones.
In the All About Owls class, students will learn about the owls that are found in Minnesota and how they fly, hunt, and nest. Each student will dissect an owl pellet and can bring the bones home to examine and admire.
I was reminded of my cousin who many years ago used the bones from owl pellets to create small desert scenes by placing a mouse skull in the sand near a small cactus in a Georgia O'Keefe style.
All About Owls classes are offered in Bloomington and Shakopee.
Many people have a conifer tree in their homes right now as part of their Christmas decorations. It might be a pine, spruce, balsam, or fir. These evergreen trees are all conifers, meaning they have cones on them. The photo above shows a very large spruce loaded with cones. Big clusters of cones are located by the top of the tree. In Outdoor Nature Explorers class, we sometimes make discoveries on the ground under all the branches. We search for cones of different sizes and shapes.
There are many great guide books available to help you distinguish spruces from pines. Here is a very helpful website that can help you identify any tree:
As spruce trees get older, the bark gets more rough.
During Outdoor Nature Explorers class this week we made bagel bird feeders to hang up around the school. Caribou at France and Old Shakopee was kind enough to donate their left over bagels to me to use as bird feeders. Thank you Caribou!
I sliced the bagels in half and each student spread Crisco on the cut side and then dipped it into the birdseed.
We slid the messy bagel halves into wax paper bags to take them on our hike around the school.
The next Outdoor Nature Explorers class starts next week and we will have plenty of snow to examine and build into forts or snow people or whatever we want! In one of my past winter Nature Explorers class, the kids built a snow bowling alley on a hill. It was awesome!
Wilson Bentley spent years photographing snowflakes. His photos are online on the NOAA.gov website. These books are wonderful and are available at your local library or on Amazon.