Thursday, 28 June 2012

One for the scatologists

Walking up our drive today I noticed a lot of white objects under a Pinus radiata.
 Peering more closely I discovered that they were scats, all of a similar size and nearly all topped with a layer of white.
I placed one on a sheet of paper to get a better look at it and the structure appeared to be a thin coil with the white layer deposited on top.   This sample which was about average size (and they were pretty consistent) was 18mm across the whole disc.   This probably makes the individual coils about 3mm thick.
 It appeared that they were coming down from the tree above them.  This idea was supported by finding a bunch of the discs about 1.5m above the ground trapped in some needles.
I scrutinised the trees in the vicinity quite thoroughly but couldn't see any wildlife that might have done this dirty deed.  Any suggestions as to what it might be will be most welcome.

My initial thoughts were along the following lines:

  • Birds tend to splat more than this;
  • Mammals don't tend to have white deposits on their scats;
  • Fish and amphibians don't tend to live up trees;
  • If this is an invertebrate, I don't want to meet something that does an 18mm diameter scat; which leaves us with
  • a reptile (and I recall in Dar es Salaam the geckos used to leave white tips of uric acid on their scat.  This enabled them to be distinguished from rat scat.)

This tree is quite close to Whiskers Creek where Water Dragons of fair size are spotted in Summer, but I have never seen them up pine trees.

Advice from Steve and Ian (expert naturalist friends) suggests largish birds.  Reptile's piles are more cylindrical and the consistency of bird guano is determined by diet.  Thus Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos (YTBC) munching pine cones are a strong suspect.  I followed up with a parrot expert but he wasn't familiar with scats: he thought YTBC were a possibility, but they'd have to be caught in the act!

This afternoon (30 June) our small set of Pinus radiata was visited, and somewhat trashed, by about 30 YTBC.  Although I didn't catch any of them in flagrante delicto (translates as "in blazing offence") WRT taking a dump it did seem there were more circular scats under the trees afterwards than before.  Thus I reckon circumstantial evidence is enough to convict! 

As I have written this I was musing on scat being a nice polite word and my alternative - turd - being somehow impolite.  I wonder why?  Just asking!

1 comment:

Denis Wilson said...

I have never observed such Poos, myself.
Scats are more preferred by technical people (for reasons I have never quite understood).
I was thinking about reptiles, for reasons you mentioned, too.
Black Cocky Poo (now, that at least fits with the bird's name) does make some sense, being found under Pine Trees.
Chook poo is often curled around, somewhat like your (mysterious) specimens.