As we can go for only one walk a day – and many of us do not have access to the countryside in which to do this – I thought I would bring a bit of the countryside to you.

Last week when I was out walking in the woods near my house, I found these.

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I expect you’re looking at the photo and thinking, “Ugh! Why would you want to pick THAT up?”

Don’t worry, it’s not poo. They are owl pellets. And I picked them up using a small plastic bag that I had in my pocket. I also washed my hands after examining them back at the house.

The reason owl pellets are such an exciting find is that once you have carefully picked them apart (using tweezers, ideally) you’ll find all sorts of treasures inside. Like these:

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I have put a one pence piece next to these tiny skeletons so that you can see just how small they are. They are the skulls, jaw- and leg-bones of tiny mammals such as shrews and voles and mice. Judging from the information on the excellent Barn Owl Trust website, I think there are some field mice and field voles here. Not sure about the round skull – maybe it is a small bird? If anyone knows, please let me know! I think I might ask on Twitter and I’ll update this post if I find out!

Here is a selection of bones and skulls that my son has found from dissecting owl pellets over the years:

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Owls are out and about now in the early evenings and mornings, hunting for food. They don’t just hunt in the countryside, so maybe now that there is less traffic about, you will be able to hear an owl through an open window if you live in a town or city.

Below is an illustration of a tawny owl, drawn by Elly who is the illustrator of Nature Month-by-Month. Tawny owls call to one another: the female calls out “too-whit!” and the male answers: “too-whoo!”

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Once you are able to get out and about and explore again, tread carefully as you go through the woods, lanes and scrubland. You might be lucky enough to find your own owl pellets. They are easily recognisable as they are fluffy and grey. The fluff is all the undigested parts of the animals the owl has eaten. This is because owls swallow their prey and then regurgitate (or bring back up) the fur and feathers and bones which they don’t need or can’t easily absorb. As explained on the Barn Owl Trust website, these pellets are not droppings and they don’t smell at all. You can learn a lot about owls from dissecting the pellets to see what they have eaten!

If you would like to find out more about owls and other creatures who are getting busy now that spring is here, ask an adult to follow @foxcubstudio on Instagram – Elly is giving away copies of Nature Month-by-Month today!

Also you could ask an adult to follow Chris Packham over on Twitter at @ChrisGPackham. He is streaming a nature quiz most days to stop us from all going crazy while we are stuck indoors.

Whatever you do today, after you have taken a little bit of exercise with your family, remember to stay inside and keep safe and well.


Nature Month-by-Month – a children’s almanac by Anna Wilson, illustrated by Elly Jahnz is published by Nosy Crow and The National Trust and is available to order online.

Your independent bookshop can take orders over the phone and post books out to you, too. Give them a call!

NB The author of this blog accepts no responsibility for the content from links added to this page. Please supervise your child’s use of the internet.


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