Visitors flock to Our Birds

Kath Woodley at the Methven Museum is holding a replica moa egg, wearing an ostrich-feather hat, under a life-size model of a Haasts eagle.
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An exhibition featuring about 50 different kinds of birds’ eggs at the Methven Museum has attracted hundreds since it opened in February.

Most of the eggs were collected by the late Neil Fowke as he grew up in Methven in the 1970s.

Fowke would spend many happy hours of his childhood bird watching around Methven and sometimes further afield. The eggs are from a wide range of habitats including braided rivers, wetlands, forests and urban areas.

Neil stored the eggs in a cabinet he made especially for the task. He carefully labelled the eggs with the time, date and place of collecting. He gifted them and the cabinet to the museum’s owner, Methven Historical Society, in 1984.

This is the first time the museum has displayed them.

Museum volunteer Kath Woodley said the museum’s former building had been too small to display the eggs. They had been in storage after the historical society lost the building following the Canterbury Earthquakes and reopened in its new building. It had since taken some time and effort to present the eggs as part of a larger display.

Neil Fowke in Methven’s main street in the 1970s.

‘‘It’s a stunning collection,’’ Woodley said. She has added three eggs to Fowkes’ collection for the purposes of the exhibition – those of a kiwi, emu and ostrich – sourced these from private collections in Mid Canterbury. She has also added a replica moa egg, which she made from papierm-che, using a construction helmet as a mould. The display includes a mai mai recreation, birds nests, feathers and feathered hats, alongside painted life-size two-dimensional models of the extinct New Zealand species of a moa and Haast’s eagle. The moa was made by Woodley and the eagle by fellow museum volunteer Jeanette McLennan. ‘‘People are blown away, really amazed,’’ she said of the reactions from visitors to Our Birds. She added she was pleased Fowke had learned about plans for the exhibition before his death. Fowke lived in Hamilton. He retired last year, then died later that year aged 63 as the result of a cycling accident. ‘‘I’m so glad he knew we were actually doing it, and he was really excited,’’ Woodley said.

* Methven Museum exhibition Our Birds runs to May 17. The museum is open 2pm to 4pm Tuesday and Friday. Anyone wanting to visit outside these times can phone 0273372259.