HUDSON — Caiden Beal, wearing plastic gloves and wielding a pair of tweezers, felt like he was hitting pay dirt as he gingerly pulled another hidden treasure from the greenish-brown, musty-smelling owl pellet he was dissecting.
"So far, I have three skulls and a bunch of teeth, and I'm only halfway through it," he said as he dipped his latest find into a shallow bowl of water to wash away the debris. "See, it still has a lot of muck on it, but you can tell it's another skull."
Awesome or disgusting, depending whether you're into digging through owl puke to find the remains of what kind of creature had been served up for supper.
Unlike snakes that also swallow their prey whole, owls cannot digest fur, bones and feathers. So after an owl has eaten, a pellet is formed out of the leftovers, so to speak, and then regurgitated 16 to 20 hours later.
"I think it's pretty gross," said Emma Hudgins, 11 as she pulled her owl pellet apart at a nearby table. "But it's also pretty interesting."
Whether the circle of life scenario is up your alley or not, the owl pellet dissection activity is a way to practice hands-on science while learning something about the diet and digestive system of birds of prey.
That was the thought when Hudson youth librarian Wendy Rutherford put in an order for some sterilized owl pellets and added the dissecting activity to the library's summer youth program.
"We do craft programs and story times, but this is the first time we've done something like this," Rutherford said, adding, "I'm trying to get the guys in with the gross scientific factor."
School is out, and kids like Caiden and Emma have been making the trek to their local libraries to log the books they've been reading while partaking in some fun and educational activities.
"I try to come to every activity, and I get books most of the time," Caiden said, adding that he is an avid history buff. (He said the Revolutionary War is his favorite thing to read about.)
"But this is good. It's fun, you know. You get to find stuff, and you get excited when you find something like a skull or a rib."
Contact Michele Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6251. Follow @mimichele525.