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What is THAT??

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I've been collecting photos of weird stuff I find on my runs and thought I'd share them here. Sometimes it's the mysteries that pull me down the road each morning. 

I suspect the people who drive the roads I run are accustomed to seeing me crouching on the road, studying and photographing something or other at my feet. If only they knew that I am often studying a mess of stomach contents... I wonder if they think I'm simple. I'm anything but simple. I'm curious. And don't give a frog pellet about what they think of me as they whizz by in their cars and pickups.

I have absolutely no idea what happened here on our county road one July night. Did a skunk throw up? It's an assemblage of bugparts, including roaches, tiny green hornets, and unidentified beetles (maybe big green June beetles? The other thing that occurred to me was that perhaps this was the stomach contents of a frog or toad, the rest of which got eaten by an owl. Or perhaps it's an ill-formed screech owl pellet. I just do not know. And it will drive me crazy for awhile. Maybe forever.

Hayrolls are an amazing feature of midsummer in Ohio. They're these huge architectural structures that suddenly appear in new-mown fields. And the animals take note. They love to sit on them, hunt from and around them.

Phoebe found a bolus atop a hayroll and brought it to me for identification. I studied it for a long, long time. There were green beetle wing cover bits, and many seeds, perhaps of blackberries or dewberries. So whatever made this bolus eats fruit and insects. And whatever made it is pretty darn big. See quarter for size comparison. The bolus is 1.5" long.

Because I had the advantage of using all my senses to explore this item, and you have only sight, I will tell you that it was fresh, hard-packed, still slightly moist, shiny on the outside and absolutely odorless. So that rules out poop.

I don't want to give away the myskery. I thought about it for about 45 minutes while I straightened the studio. And suddenly it hit me what it had to be. It was a Eureka! moment. I will reveal in the next post, after you've had time to guess. There's also the fascinating possibility that it's not what I think it is, and that one of you has the answer. So guess away!

There have been many other such boluses, most of them much smaller, but made up of much the same thing: insect parts and seeds. All deposited atop hayrolls. So think about it...

I'm guessing that this disorganized regurgitant came from a screech owl or red-shouldered hawk. Small mammalian vertebrae and fur...again, odorless. Not poop.

Sometimes I generate my own mysteries. I was so struck by these structures in some garden plants I was pulling out that I freed them of leaves and roots and laid them out on the sidewalk.

I put it out on Facebook and only one person guessed correctly what they were. Vickie's a great gardener. 
Clue: I told Chet not to chew them. He was thinking about it, too. 

On the porch of a recently abandoned cabin I found this:

Any child of the 70's will know this. It's a dead lava lamp. My friends and I decided that this is where wax lips go after you chew them up. Sad to see the majestic heady mystery of the lava lamp reduced to alcohol  (missing here, thanks to the cracked glass housing) and wax lips. 

What do you give a curious Science Chimp for her birfday? Ask Bill.

How about an anatomically correct broken heart (note Band-aids), and pendants cast from  real hummingbird and bat skulls? Yeah, I squealed too. 


Phoebe found them on Etsy and all hell broke loose. We love them. Corey gave her an anatomically correct heart for her birthday. Only no Band-aids. If you love them too, check out Blue Bayer Design.  Tell Billy Blue I sent you.

 This post was inspired by a moment this afternoon when I was munching on a Mojo Bar. Laid the rest of it on my sidetable, and jumped when I realized that, if I weren't paying attention, I might just ingest one of my many Mystery Boluses. Classic Zick moment.

One tastes like chocolate and coconut, and one likely doesn't.


Perhaps some enterprising bird has found a way to manufacture energy bars with everything birds like to eat: seeds, bugs, and maybe some berries when in season. Probably the work of a crow; they are beyond clever!

Looks like skunk scat to me.

Those metallic green insect bits are very intriguing! Made me think of tiger beetle elytra, but it is too late in the season for that species. Any chance you could take a closer picture? Or send me a sample?

It was your love of mysteries that first brought me to your posts. A friend forwarded a post in which you where being the self-appointed chief investigator at one of nature's "murder" mysteries --- trying to determine from the clues at hand who both the victim and the perpetrator might be, and how it all went down. :)
I was delighted to find someone else who was curious about poop and bones and tracks, strange incidents in the forest, and what morning clues might tell about the dark of night.. At last someone who would understand my curiosities !!
I have been enjoying you and Chet and your posts ever since.
I am not nearly as good at it as you are, but despite the fact that I am much older than you are, I always tell folks I want to grow up to me Julie Zickefoose.


Posted by Anonymous August 12, 2014 at 6:08 AM

I'm going to make a guess at your mystery bolus. You found it on top of a round hay bale. It is filled with seed bits. I wonder if a hawk made a meal of many mice that have been eating the grains. This is the casting. I would expect to see fur, which I don't. However, I know hawks love sitting on top of and hunting from round bales. Also, castings have a glistening sheen of mucus over them. That's my guess.

It obviously a hay "bale-us".

I always love these mysteries you post-- often I see things that make me wonder, but I don't have a means of getting the answers. You do, and I love that. Most people around me think I'm wierd to wonder, but I know I'm not alone. :-) Once, a dragon fly landed on my hand to rest as he devoured the remaining portion of something he had caught which had iridescent green wings. It was a thrill of my lifetime to watch.-- I still wonder about those wings.

#2 possum scat? They really process things well, so there is no odor.

Long Green Things. Please tell us when you find out what these are.

snake dung!!

Posted by Anonymous August 13, 2014 at 8:53 AM

Squirrel cud?

Mimi Manderly, I didn't want to give it away right off the bat but YOU ARE CORRECT!! That is the pellet of an American crow. DING DING DING DING DING!!!

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