A Focus On Nature

Advent Calendar

Gifts From The Dead – Melanie Gould

Welcome to our 2015 Advent Calendar series (#AFONAdvent)! For each day in the lead-up to Christmas, we have a post from an A Focus On Nature member on this year’s Advent theme: “The Gift of Giving”. We hope that you enjoy the series and have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Merry (almost) Christmas everyone!!

Nature has (and still does) give SO much to me over the years. One of my most memorable experiences came when I was out skull hunting in the fields behind my house. From behind the crops, I could see two, orange tails shaking and moving. I crept slowly forwards, to find two young fox cubs playing outside, and a third digging a hole.

But also, as a skull collector, one of the greatest gifts that nature has given to me is discovering my first skulls a few years ago. I now have around 200 skulls, and they are all incredible. Every skull is unique, and gives an amazing insight into the lives of the animal it came from, and the species as a whole. To me, skulls are like amazing sculptures. I am really grateful for this insight into how they actually function, because it gives me a greater appreciation for how the animal moves, hunts and senses the world. Think of how a cheetah skeleton flexes as it runs at incredible speeds taking long strides. Think of how stags clash antlers, and how their skull copes with that. Deer skulls have amazing suture lines (the lines that join all the pieces together) which are incredibly detailed, which means that when their antlers clash into another set of antlers, their skull can flex, so it doesn’t shatter with the impact. If you think of that when you’re watching the stags rutting, it really adds another element to it.

Amazing sutures for flexibility on a fallow deer stag skull.

Another thing I collect is taxidermy and feathers. These are too an amazing gift. I have the wing of a tawny owl that was unfortunately killed by a car, and the wing is fascinating. It is quite large, but is so light. The feathers are gorgeous shades of brown, and they are so soft to the touch. You can clearly see the fringes on the feathers that allow them to fly silently, which allows them to be such fantastic hunters.

Tawny Owl wing from a road kill bird.

The reason I collect taxidermy is because, even as a skull collector, sometimes I find something in such amazing condition, that is so beautiful, that I would like to preserve it and have it in a pose to make it look alive. I have four taxidermy items: A Barn owl, a Song Thrush, a Red Grouse and a young Moorhen. I would really love a taxidermy Palawan Peacock Pheasant one day, their plumage is so so stunning! Collecting feathers and taxidermy is just another way I like to appreciate nature, in all its sublime glory.

My taxidermy Red Grouse.

Melanie Gould is a 14 year old animal skull collector, who also collects taxidermy and feathers. She loves animals and nature, and collecting is one of the ways she appreciates it.