Bath-Highland Bird Club Gets a Makeover


Patty Reum is the president of the newly renamed and refocused Highlands Bird Club. She stopped by the studio recently to explain the purpose behind the name change.  Patty, you recently renamed your club.  Can you tell me what it used to be called what it’s called now and the reason for the change?

It used to be and was founded as the Bath-Highland Bird Club. It was started by a few key people, mainly people here, Sandy Bratton, and also a woman named Yulee Larner, who was a very well-known birder, did a newspaper column for the Staunton newspaper. And these folks used to come out here and that’s what prompted the founding of our club. The name change came about just to create a new image. We’re now the Highlands Bird Club, and that is sort of like you change your name, you know, you change goals a little bit.

So what are your goals now?

Our goals are to get more people involved. We’re trying to Increase our membership. We want to get people interested in birds because, number one, they’re fun. They’re all around us. We live in an area that is so special for birds that people come from everywhere. I’ve had people come from other countries to bird Highland County. So why is there not more interest here?  As people get older, you know, maybe they don’t want to go on field trips, but they still enjoy watching the programs that we present. But I think there may be some young people here that might be interested because, you know, your members die off, you’ve got to bring in a new bunch of people.

And it’s my understanding that we have birds here in Highland County that are hard to spot in other areas that are even nearby.

We are a high elevation, very special environment for birds. Because of the high elevation, there are certain numbers of species that actually breed here, especially like in the Laurel Fork region, where you would not find them breeding say in the Piedmont or even in the Shenandoah Valley. These are some of our warblers. Perhaps some of our fly-catchers. They are attracted to the boreal forest environment, which includes different species of trees, different species of insects, different species of birds.

You were talking earlier about changing the focus of the club.  You’re actually broadening the focus and you’re trying to introduce other aspects of nature to try to increase enthusiasm and participation. Can you give me some examples of what the club is doing in that regard?

We’re trying to bring in a broader range of topics for our meetings. For instance, we have monarch butterflies as our topic tonight. Another time, we had the stage geologist who talked about geology that drew and many people: cavers, people interested in the whole topography around here. I hope to bring in biologists speaking on black bear, maybe some person speaking about coyotes. We’ve had people coming from William and Mary speaking on our bald eagle populations.  Let’s say somebody went to Costa Rica.  They bring in a whole new view of birds and many people around here never get to see.

Where do people come from when they come to Highland County to look at birds?

Traditionally, this has been a mecca or all sorts of birders. We get a lot of people from Richmond, people from the northern Virginia bird clubs, Rockingham, Rockbridge County, the eastern shore, a lot of people who, say, live in an area where they don’t see these birds.

Patty has more to say about the ecological importance of birds which we’ll share in part two of this story. This is Mickey Frank Thomas for Allegheny Mountain Radio.

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Mickey Frank Thomas

Mickey Frank began his radio career in October 2017 when he was offered the impossible-to-fill 9:00 p.m. to midnight slot on Saturdays, where his coordinated mix of pop, soft rock and R&B from the 60s through the 80s met with little acclaim. Deciding that he needed a more awake audience, he added the 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. afternoon drive slot to his workload when it became available in December 2018. Originally from Morton, Illinois, good, old Mickey Frank has lived in more places than he can count on his fingers and toes, but now resides in Highland County.  Email Mickey Frank at

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