The operating table…

… Well… Not quite. Just my desk in my room with kitchen roll all over it and a straightened out paper clip instead of a scalpel.

In my previous post I mentioned the pellets that I picked up on my walk. My main intention was to disect them to see what the bird (not necessarily an owl) was eating, just out of interest.


I found a PDF online on the RSPB site which gave me a guide as to how to do it. So I gathered everything I needed and started to follow the instructions. 


  • 1 glove
  • Kitchen roll/newspaper
  • Small tub with water and a couple drops of disinfectant in it
  • Cocktail stick/straightened paper clip/small tweezers
  • Something to disect on (e.g. shallow dish, tray)
  • Pellet(s)


So the first instruction was to leave the pellets in the water for half an hour. Hm, should’ve read the instructions before starting. This half hour gave me time to upload some pictures to Flickr though.

I came back after 45mins and took the pellets out and put them on kitchen roll to dry for a bit. The instructions on the PDF said next to carefully pull apart the pellets. 

 A pulled-apart pellet. Looks lovely doesn’t it? Here’s some more… 


The main thing making up the pellet (the “matrix”) depended on what bird the pellet was from, or what it had eaten. My first pellet was all fur; grey and maybe a bit brown too. It could have been made up of feathers if it was a Sparrowhawk’s pellet, in which case I think it becomes sort of dust. And if it was mainly insects that the bird had eaten… I’ve forgotten what the pellets are like, but I’ll put a link to the PDF at the bottom of this post. I used my paper clip in my left hand to pull apart the pellet while my gloved right hand held it still. 

In this pellet I ended up finding…

  • Lots of fur
  • A small bone
  • Small fragments of bone
  • A claw
  • Some insect parts, such as beetle wing cases
  • More fur 

  I’ll label it all and mount it on a piece of paper once I work out where all the things are from. Pellet number two gave me:

  • Fur
  • Insect parts
  • 1 fragment of bone
  • More fur

  Not much in that one but it was quite a small pellet.

Part 1 of pellet 3 (it was quite big and I didn’t finish disecting it tonight) gave me…:

  • Fur (of course)
  • Some large insect parts and other unidentified things
  • Relatively large fragments of bone
  • More, smaller insect parts and unidentified things
  • And, would you believe it, more fur!


I really enjoyed this wee activity and might try getting more pellets from my John Muir Award area in Holyrood Park. Mum on the other hand… She wasn’t best pleased that I was “poking bird vomit” as my sister so nicely put it, but the looks on their faces when they found out were priceless.

 It was getting quite late and I was hungry so I finished taping my findings to the wee bits of card as cries of “Ebola” and “rabies” echoed around the house, washed my hands for the 18 billionth time and went to watch Life of Mammals while eating some toast. Good ending to a good day. 


And here’s the PDF that I forgot to link, incase you want to try it yourself. I would recommend, as long as there’s no one in your house who’s going to go ballistic at you for doing so:

The operating table…

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