During the 19th Century there was a bit of a fad among gentlemen (who had loads of time on their hands) to have a table, or even a room of natural ‘curios’ that they had collected or bought while abroad or in Britain. They would often have some very exotic and unusual objects on display; it was not difficult to procure dead creatures or skulls back then because of the widespread and everyday use of guns. The nature table has since been an idea taken on by most young boys in the 20th century and even schools; except most of the objects collected were already dead or inanimate rather than shot. As most of you will be aware the nature table has disappeared from classrooms in recent decades and it is rare to find a child who has their own at home.

As for myself, I have collected many small things from walks and numerous holidays over the years and despite not having them all on one table I nonetheless consider these objects as part of a nature ‘table’. As part of a new series of posts on my blog (which will last as long as I have objects to share) I will be showing you a selection of my personally collected items; there will be a general theme for each post. For a bit of fun I will include a mystery item at the end and you – my lovely readers – will have to guess what it is, please give me your suggestions in the comments section (there won’t be any prizes for getting it right except a pat on the back).

Without further ado here are pictures of various feathers I have found:

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My most prized possession are these Magpie wings; I found a very freshly dead bird near my house without any serious injuries, so not wanting to waste this opportunity I snipped off all the wing feathers and re-arranged them onto some card then glued them in place. I also took the tail feathers and managed to get the Magpie’s skull as well by decomposing the body under a flowerpot – I will show that in a later post. The wings are quite beautiful; you can see how the snow-white wing patch is formed from smaller patches on each feather in descending size. Each feather also shows that distinctive and mesmerizing metallic sheen (blue on the wings and green on the tail) that changes constantly in the light – this is not caused by pigment but micro-structures on the feather surface that reflect and refract light.

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Here also are two wonderful Jay feathers from that small patch on each wing made up of a gorgeous blue and black chequer pattern. These are like precious jewels and you rarely come across them; several years separate the finding of each of these feathers.

DSCF3228This is a random assortment; the central two are carrion crow primaries which on very close inspection show a subtle purple sheen that is more obvious in the living bird. The top feather has a small amount of purple sheen but is also brownish in colour – I suspect it is from a species of crow (perhaps a Jay) but I’m not certain. The bottom one is a primary from a gull – probably a Herring.

DSCF3229This final feather is your mystery one; I know what it is – but do you? No clues, the answer will be in my next nature table post, all guesses in the comments section please.

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