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28 April 2013

A history in bones

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Pellets and bones, Duhallow 27th April 2013 (Michael O'Clery).

Ww know of several sites where Barn Owls have been in residence for 20 or more years. Not the same birds of course, as wild Barn Owls will rarely live longer than five years, but rather, continuously occupied by Barn Owls.

The Barn Owl site visited yesterday, in a derelict cottage in Duhallow,  was only discovered by us three years ago. However, a close look at the floor below the nest entrance reveals an interesting story. As you can see, there are fresh pellets (the darker, blackish ones), showing the site is still occupied. Older pellets slowly turn grey, and over a few years, the pellets slowly crumble until only tiny bones remain. These can linger in dry sites for many years, and here the floor is completely covered in a thin layer of tiny bones and skulls from rats, mice, voles and shrews.

The years of accumulated pellet debris shows us that this site has been occupied for many years, at least five, and possibly much longer. There must be the remains of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of small mammals scattered on the ground.