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Take the plunge: checkout Iluka’s beautiful birds’ eggs

Bert Stephenson points to one of the rarer eggs in the collection he donated to the Iluka History Group. Image: Contributed.
Chris Richards The significance of the beautiful birds’ egg collection housed in the Iluka Museum can be gauged from the fact that several of the eggs are more than 100 years old. One, belonging to the Moorhen, is of particular interest and is part of the valuable collection recently donated to the Museum by Bert Stephenson whose father began his hobby in the 1920’s. Visitors to the 2017 Plunge exhibition at the Iluka Museum will be able to see the entire collection in the Iluka History Group’s display which has as its theme “Feathers, Flowers, Fauna and Fish”. The egg collection will be complemented by prints of several exquisite bird paintings by the late Gladys O’Grady. There will also be botanical artworks plus paintings and photographs of Iluka’s flora and fauna by district residents. The Plunge display will be open at the Iluka Museum from Saturday April 15 to Sunday April 23 between 9am and 3pm. The Museum will also feature in the Museum/Gallery Arts Trail which will visit on April 8 and 9. The Arts Trail display will feature demonstrations of the art of botanical painting by local exponent Janet Hauser. Because of the threat to endangered species, the collection of birds’ eggs has been illegal since the late 1950s and this fact alone adds considerable value to this collection. Bert Stephenson’s father passed on his interest in birds’ egg collecting to his son and, as Bert jnr says, “It was just something we continued to do – we just did it.” “When you look closely at the eggs you can see why we did it. They are quite beautiful with many colours and tones, plus a range of patterns. “And there was the challenge of the hunt, the competition between yourself and your mates to see who could collect a particular egg first. “The boy who got the first one then had the bragging rights, something pretty important to young boys,” said Bert with a grin from ear to ear. As children do now, the young egg collectors would meet to discuss their finds and to arrange swaps. When Bert’s father died, he left his collection in the safe keeping of a cousin, Kevin Simpson, who in turn passed it on to Bert. “We never even knew the word ornithologist,” said Bert. “To find the nest of some bird you’d never seen before was extremely exciting. “When the Gould League of Bird Lovers recommended that egg collection should be made illegal, we turned our attention to bird watching, something I still do actively.” Bert moved to Iluka 12 years ago and decided to donate the collection to the Iluka Museum after seeing a friend’s collection in the museum at Urunga. The challenge for Iluka History Group members is to now identify which egg belongs to which bird species.