A New Hobby by Elliot Montieth

Before I started my life as the birder I am today, I had been fixated by dinosaurs and prehistoric life before mankind. I ever child was I was amazed at how such beasts once roamed the earth. My book shelves were and still are filled to brink of Dinosaur books as well as documentaries about the latest discoveries and research is being carried out to enhance our knowledge about life on earth. I can still remember to this day the evening when I was 6 years old and went to the Liverpool Echo Arena to go and see Walking in Dinosaur “Live”. But then birding took control and whilst I started to exceed in that my once passion for dinosaurs and bones faded away.

 But a couple a months ago I came into contact with another young wildlife fanatic called Melanie (@MelanieGbones), after talking to her about her love for bones and about her stunning collection consisting of Black-browed Albatross, Curlew, Southern Giant Petrel, Harlequin Duck and Avocet to name a few. It was after having many conversations with her about bones and processes of how she got into bone collecting and studying them (Osteology) that those days of trailing through my dinosaur books, being left stunned by some of the monsters that once dominated my childhood all started rushing back, so it only felt as if it was yesterday that I was flicking through the pages of my Book “PrehistoricLIFE” looking at the pretty awesome skull of the apex predator Dimetrodon.

It was then that I thought to myself, why not bring back the joys of my childhood via skull collecting? Melanie had kindly explained to me how to go about the process of getting rid of the flesh from a dead bird by burying it for a couple of months (remembering I put it!) and using certain substances to make the skulls much whiter. As you can imagine it took a little bit convincing to get mum on side, but after a talk about the importance of it and showing her Melanie’s collection I then mum finally opened up to the idea. But to date she stills wishes that I could have indulged in a slightly more “lively” hobby. So I’d found a new hobby, I’d convinced mum to allow me to peruse it, but there was just one problem, getting Skulls.

For this I needed to find a dead bird, so for the next few days when the tides were right I walked out to Hilbre Island as on previous visits I’d discovered a number of decaying birds. With two “body bags” in my rucksack I headed over to the Island were after bumping into local birder Phil Woollen I stumbled across not 1….but 2 bird corpses on the island. What was even better was the fact they were two species that I’d only dream of getting: Cormorant and Shag! The Shag was in mint condition but the Cormorant…I was forced to clean the car with bleach afterwards.

Since then my collection has kept on growing and growing to the point where I might as well start a UK Bird Skull Life List: Carrion Crow, Blue Tit, Herring Gull, Shag, Robin, Cormorant, Pied Wagtail, Back-headed Gull and Great Crested Grebe; All collected within the space of 4 months. As you can imagine I do have some dream skull that someday I’d like to come across on my own accord: Great Northern & White-billed Diver, Purple Sandpiper, Curlew, Leach’s Storm Petrel, Greenshank, Pomarine Skua, Great Grey Shrike and Marsh Harrier.With this new knowledge embedded in me, in the future I’d like to go on some solo projects with the skulls and complete skeletons of sub species such as carbo and sinensis Cormorants, argenteus and argentatus Herring Gulls and perhaps with Stonechats (Siberian and Caspian) and expand the knowledge of the birding community.


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