Thursday, 29 September 2016

Skinning Up

From time to time in the past, I've come across some dead specimens that would have been great to preserve. I have come across dead Chimney Swift and Yellow-billed Cuckoo on Corvo and in other places found dead raptors and even a Glaucous Gull once. I could never find a taxidermist to prepare a skin or a specimen so thought I would have a go at teaching myself. Here's my first efforts and some instructions if you fancy having a go too.

  Mounted skins (all specimens naturally killed) 

 You will need a good fresh specimen. Best to freeze specimens as soon as possible (also I presume it kills of any pathogens??). Defrost thoroughly before use.
First thing to do is break the humerus bone (the one between the shoulder and the arm of the wing) on both wings
 Blow the feathers apart on the breast and make an incision from top of breast to bottom of breast plate. If you accidentally go too far and cut into the perritoneal membrane all the guts will come out and could soil the skin. If you do this pull all the guts out and blot with tissue. Through the whole process keep washing your hands and keeping the surface clean so not to soil the skin. 
 Gently peel off the skin- like un-zipping a coat and flashing
 Next push the legs up beside the abdomen and cut the legs with some sturdy scissors at the knee joint. Basically your trying to keep the legs attached to skin but unattached from the musculature, skeleton and organs (the viscera). 
  Then using the scissors cut the spine at the base of synsacrum- the main bone on the back of the bird. As you can see from this image I've ballsed it up and cut through the peritoneal membrane so the guts have erupted. Do not panic- just scoop out the guts and blot the whole area to keep things dry and tidy. Be very careful when cutting the spine to not cut the tail off! 
 Now gently pull out the viscera- clipping any attachment from the wings and legs as necessary. It's just like taking a onesie off but cutting your legs and arms off and leaving them in the onesie and pulling out your torso but with your head still in the hood.
 Now its time to pull the whole thing over your head. Very careful with this part- its very easy to split the skin. Just pull the skin to the edge of the eye socket and then using a scalpel literally scalp it! Cut the skin away from the viscera- cutting through the skull- the purpose here is to leave the bill and front of the skull in place. 
 I haven't been careful enough here and the skin has split. However it was enough to be able to open up the skull and then blot out the brains and soft tissue with a cotton bud. Good to remove the eyes too and stick a bit of surgical wool or cotton bud tip in them. 
  If you've had a good day you should be left with something like this- basically a bird without it's coat on (and no arms and legs too) 
and on the other side of the table should be something like this. You can stuff these with cotton wool and stitch them up but I quite like this effect- and it's easier! 

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