Country Corner

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Owls are very obliging in the way they leave clues for the naturalist.

Swallowing mice, voles and other prey whole they later cough up all the undigestible bits in the form of a pellet.

Wherever a hawk, falcon or owl has its favourite night roost, a quick search of the ground below will reveal a few pellets.

Dry and crumbly, these are too tempting to resist and any naturalist worth the name is soon teasing apart the fur, feather and bones to see what the raptor has been catching.

Whole skulls of mice and voles are common in the pellets of barn owl (pictured left) and tawny owl, our two common owl species.

Kestrels, those familiar hovering falcons, produce more elongated pellets, often containing the remains of finch, lark and pipit skulls in addition to their usual small rodents. A buzzard’s nest I know is near a refuge tip.

Obviously the birds do a fair amount of scavenging, as their pellets are multi-coloured balls containing scraps of paper and plastic wrapping.

In this instance it is just as well the birds have a way of regurgitating our waste!

Heron, kingfishers, gulls, crows also produce pellets, so it is worth keeping your eyes open wherever your country travels take you.

More Country Corner in this week’s paper