February 10, 2013

The lovely bones

My friend from Dorset has sent me a picture of mystery poo – in fact, owl pellets: compact masses of fur and bones that are disgorged at intervals and not excreted at all:

I remember finding one as a child, letting it dry out in the shed and taking it apart with tweezers to see the tiny bones and fur that told of the owl's diet: voles, mainly, and mice. It felt like being let in on a secret – and no, it didn't smell. A year or so ago a Twitter acquaintance sent me a similar picture, but the pellet was full of tiny, disarticulated beaks.

What do we teach our children when we react squeamishly to such interesting things, or tell them they're 'dirty'? Hygiene is important, of course, but so is curiosity, something children come pre-loaded with and which doesn't have to diminish with age. Nature isn't dangerous or frightening, and we're all stuffed if we raise a generation of kids who believe that it is.