My friend and neighor LeAnne & I have awesome morning walks together most weekdays after the kids get on the bus. We get to discuss all sorts of things and not only do the dogs look forward to this time, but also... I crave it. It's really helped our friendship to grow and neighborhood friends are such a rare and special gift these days I feel! One day she asked me to come check out the bark of one of her Larch trees because she said, someone, someTHING seemed to be very interested in it. That's another benefit to walking around the same great neighborhood so often, you notice when things look different. So I went over to take a look. I'm always up for a nature challenge, though I don't claim to be an expert on anything...save frosting. Larch trees are wicked tall and are not the most common tree seen, though there are a few more in our neighborhood and on the main road we live close to. They are a very interesting tree in that they are large deciduous trees that look like an evergreen conifer, for part of the year. they drop their inch long needles every year and sprout tiny pink flowers that become their little cones. They do look out of place & probably do most anywhere due to their life cycle and growing characteristics.
So - I was checking out the bark and wondering who, what beastie might chew off & peel off the bark of the tree and why. I really couldn't figure it out. I believe we're in the living range for North American Porcupines, which was the only creature I could think of that could do this type of damage to this tree and at this height - about 8-10feet off the ground on the truck. I suppose Grey Squirrels could certainly do the same. It was just such a large area of the tree that the bark was pulled off... Hmmm...
Larch tree with bark pulled off trunk (lower third of the photo)
As I got closer to the tree... I was surprised and ecstatic to find an OWL PELLET!!! If you've never heard of an owl pellet, it's a tightly bound mass of indigestible material (claws, feathers, skulls, teeth) that is collected in the owl's gizzard, and is later regurgitated up. I know GROSS, IN THE BEST OF WAYS! I've never found one in the wild and here was one right in LeAnne's side yard! WAY COOL!!!
Owl pellet at the base of the Larch Tree
Of course, in true scientist mode, I grabbed two sticks and started to dissect the pellet. There bones and what looked like plenty of grey fur, (squirrel? mouse?) the bones looked to be Grey Squirrel sized.
Partially dissected owl pellet - grey fur & bones
We have been hearing a Great Horned Owl some nights, a comfort to any bird lover who happens to be up late at night or even in the middle of the night. The opposite of comfort to their prey! Great Horned Owls are one of the most feared & skillful predators in North America. How lucky are we that we have one living near our welcoming neighborhood in Yarmouth, MA? I am not sure that the pellet we discovered was from a Great Horned Owl or not, but I tend to think so since we've heard them and it was a decent sized pellet. The remains it was made up of was from decent sized critters too.
So - I never really could answer the barked being ripped off of the tree question, but when we went looking, we got a great natural gift in finding that pellet. (double click photos to enlarge)
Top of LeAnne's Larch Tree with an American Crow happily perching atop!
I LOVE this sight & sound (the crow)... LeAnne feels very differently!