Yesterday at Avon Heath Country Park they held an Owl Forensics session in their education centre which is something I have wanted to take the kids to for some time.
“Their mission should they choose to accept it was to uncover what the owl has been eating.”
Not being scared of a challenge they were keen to get stuck in, albeit with gloves on at first which soon got ditched as they made work quite tricky.
With the aid of a magnifying glass and with a ranger at hand to help, they had to work out what the Owl had eaten from the undigested remains of their meal – an owl pellet.
Pellets are small, sausage-shaped objects, containing the undigested parts of the birds food which are ejected through the mouth. Pellets do not pass through the intestine of birds and are quite different from droppings and thankfully don’t smell, and are not unpleasant to work with. They consist of things like the bones of birds, mammals and fish, teeth, claws and beaks, insect head parts and wing cases, seed husks etc. These are usually enclosed by softer material like fur, feathers and vegetable fibre.
Using a toothpick the kids got work and the initial “urgh” moment was soon replaced by excitement as they found bones, vertebrae, claws and teeth. The more they took the pellet apart the more they found and Isaac was rewarded by a skull from a Shrew which was still remarkably intact – in fact it was so good that the whole class got to look at it under the microscope.
It was fascinating finding out all about the animals such as mice, voles and birds that the Owls feast on and Isaac would have stayed all day if he had the chance, but it was time to head outside for some fresh air as Sebastian was getting bored.
The great thing about Avon Heath is that they have so much to do for the kids. We managed to spot a sand lizard sunning itself on the grass before heading off into the forest to do some exploring, taking a different path to the one we normally take and stumbling across a brilliant wooden barn like structure.
We met up with the Charliemoo’s gang and set off exploring. Charlie had a brilliant back pack with him with pots to collect insects in and a book to identify them. Between the boys they managed to capture a water nymph, a bullet ant and even a damselfly.
According to my phone we walked at least four miles and Sebby managed it all by himself, although I did carry him over a couple of very muddy patches. We were all a little surprised when we realised we had been out on the heath for over 3 hours.
How they still had energy to play in the park when we got back to the visitor centre I will never know!
Avon Heath run various workshops throughout the year so it is worth keeping an eye on their facebook page for dates and times. We had so much fun we will certainly be joining in with some more as they come up.