Saturday, April 22, 2006

Tho' nature, red in tooth and claw

Portions of small mammal skulls from a single owl pellet
Every few months we hear the call of the resident Barred Owls and a few times, I've caught glimpses of them flying across the beams of the truck headlights. This winter, a few Great Gray Owls were in the area and on Long Lake Road, only a few kilometres to the north of us, a cottager found an injured Boreal Owl under a window last month. Overall, I think our encounters with any of the resident species are rare.
Martha spotted an intact owl pellet lying beneath a Hemlock deep in the woods. When we teased it apart, we found the remains of at least three small mammals.

Two of the partial skulls and a single mandible are from shrews (family Soricidae) of the subfamily Soricinae, also known as the Red-toothed Shrews. The reddish colour is the result of iron deposited in the tooth enamel. Not represented here are members of the subfamily Crocidurinae, or White-toothed Shrews, a taxon comprised of species not found in the New World.

The first and third partial skulls are likely from Northern Short-tailed Shrew (Blarina brevicauda. The second (middle) skull is likely from a Meadow Vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus). These two widespread species are common in the area.


The title of the entry was borrowed from In Memorium A.H.H, by Alfred Lord Tennyson (1850).

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