Learn About Feathers & History at the Highlands Bird & Nature Club Meeting

The next meeting of the Highlands Bird and Nature Club is Monday, August 1st.  At this meeting two speakers will address the topic of bird feathers.

John Spahr will do a presentation.  He is a member of a number of bird clubs and is active in the Virginia Society of Ornithology.   He will speak about the form, function and structural aspects of feathers.

“I think everybody is fully aware of birds and just about everybody really enjoys and appreciates birds and they know that they are clothed in feathers,” says Spahr.   “And many people may know much more about feathers. The different types, some are for warmth like the down feathers, others are more for the wings and the tails to facilitate flight and also about the different colors.   That’s very interesting, the coloration of so many birds, they’re quite decorative at times and the different colors have origins from different sources.  For example, blue is not a pigment in birds.  The blue color is derived from the structural aspects of the feathers.  So those are some of the more interesting and fascinating aspects of feathers.”

Carolyn Pohowsky, a member of the Bird Club, will also speak at the meeting.

“Several years ago, when we were cataloging the contents of the Jones-McCoy House one of the things we came across, one of the many things we came across, was a collection of hats,” says Pohowsky.    “Hats that probably date back to the late 19th century, certainly 20th century hats, and amongst those hats were several that were completely covered in bird feathers.  At the time I was looking at them I remember thinking, ‘This is how the Audubon Society got started’.  You know, back in Victorian times, it was very popular to have hats embellished with exotic color feathers.  I will be talking about how the Audubon Society got started as a result of the use of bird feathers.  They were slaughtering exotic birds to use their feathers.  In Europe and particularly in England, in Victorian times, it was quite popular they would combine taxidermy with hats.   I’ve got pictures of an entire owl sitting on top of a hat.  I just thought it was interesting that we came across these hats here in Highland County and it made me realize that there was a time when, you know, if you were a person of a certain amount of status this might be a hat that you would wear to church or some social function, not thinking about what was involved in making that hat.”

The Highlands Bird and Nature Club meets Monday, August 1, at the Highland Center in Monterey at 7:00 pm.  The public is invited to attend.

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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