Owl Pellet Finds
I received Cathe’s book for the collaboration yesterday and my brain has been trying to figure out what I’ll be contributing to her mix. Her book theme is “Collections”, something we can all relate to. As an artist I’m drawn to picking up bits and pieces that inspire my tactile and visual senses. I bring home shells and rocks from the beach, pick up interesting branches along trails, plant seedpods, and bones. The bone collections started when I was a child. My first bone collected was a cow vertebrae during a camping/fishing trip in the Steens Mountains (south eastern Oregon) from when I was about 5 years old. Since then, I’ve dissected owl pellets, collected deer legs bones hunters left behind (eastern Oregon), received antlers from co-workers, and a variety of things over the years.
I bet you can start to guess what Cathe’s page will contain after the above discussion! Bones have to be a part of my collection page. I’ve decided to play a bit today and try my hand at a skull. First I need to retrieve a new skull! Below are owl pellets (no, not a box of ugly truffles or poo). Owls hunt and consume rodents whole (if it fits, they gulp it right down!). In their stomach, the body sorts out the undigestible parts (fur and bones) packs them together and they regurgitate them as a pellet.
These pellets have been sitting out in the garage and are from the barn owls that live at my friend Carol Chapel’s place. I’ve been meaning to see what treasures they hold. Bugs (maggots) have started to decompose the pellets revealing a little skull. What will I find once the fur is removed?
To break apart the pellet, I utilize a container of water to soak the lump. This will gently free the fur from the bones.
Fortunately, it really doesn’t stink. After soaking for an hour I swirled things around and drain. Looks like a good haul!
After considerable picking and extra washing I came out with this lot-
Three vole/mouse skulls, lots of leg bones, hips, scapula, vertebrae, ribs and assorted bits. Not a bad grouping of parts. After lunch I pulled out the A5 sketchbook from Maui and set to work on the skull drawing. Very challenging and I’ll have to continue sketching practice with the new bones.
Materials used: one owl pellet, A5 sketchbook with watercolor paper, graphite, watercolors.