“There’s no place like it in the world,” says Lynn Grabowski, program director for the C.E. Blevins Avian Learning Center in Cohutta. Looking around the place, Grabowski might be right.
The center (www.avianlearningcenter.com) hosts the world’s largest bird egg replica collection with more than 1,200 samples exact in size and color, said Grabowski. After closing its doors last year for a time, the center has reopened for the public under Grabowski’s direction.
“A lot of people hear egg museum and think, ‘Why would I want to go look at a bunch of white chicken eggs?’” said Grabowski. “They don’t realize that these replicas are very beautiful. There is so much variation from egg to egg. This is a side of ornithology (the study of birds) no one ever gets to see. It’s a very unique opportunity for bird lovers.”
The man for whom the center is named was as unique as the center, said Grabowski. The late C.E. Blevins was a missionary, art teacher and radioman who lost his hearing in World War II and was driven to recreate eggs his whole life, said his son Joel Blevins.
“He already had an interest in making eggs out of clay so they wouldn’t break like normal eggs,” said Blevins. “He prayed and asked God to show him how to make them because he couldn’t get it right. In the dream, God spoke to him in his bad ear and told him how to make the shape. He thought it would be a great teaching tool since it’s illegal to touch real eggs.”
Blevins said his father talked with a mechanic who built a lathe — a rotating workplace — for making the perfect egg shape.
“It took a long time to come up with the device,” said Blevins. “A lot of study went into getting the eggs right. The egg is balanced and perfect in shape and form. It’s hard to make.”
C.E. Blevins spent 20 years making 20,000-30,000 eggs which he called “jewels,” said Joel Blevins.
“It was odd and new and it took me a long time to appreciate what he was doing,” said Blevins. “He was spending a lot of time on them and wasn’t making any money. He said he didn’t care. He just wanted people to see how beautiful bird eggs are. The altruism of that idea hit me one day. He just wanted people to see the beauty of God’s creation.”
Joel Blevins said he was repairing a building for resale when he offered it to his dad as a center for his collection. Grabowski said the center was doing well until C.E. Blevins died on Nov. 14, 2011.
“After he passed away the center lost its drive for awhile because the force behind it was gone,” said Grabowski. “Joel was left in charge ... I came in and started doing tours. Eventually, we started talking together and we knew we could grow this center.”
Grabowski is setting up several outdoor walking tours that will focus on migratory birds over three habitats.
“We’ll take a 30-minute hike over a grassland, woodland and wetland habitat behind the center,” she said. “Bird watchers will love the variety.”
Grabowski said tours are set up by appointment and can be tailored to Cub Scouts, home schoolers or any educational group.
“The tours are fit to the Georgia state school standards,” said Grabowski. “We want to build to a schedule and make this more than a once a month location.”
The center is also offering a “special night walk” on Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m.
“We are certain we have owls here,” Grabowski said. “On that night I will give a brief presentation and take people out to learn owl calls. Even the worst example of an owl call usually works. Owls are very receptive and they have fantastic hearing. If it’s a clear night, we will look at constellations, too.”
Joel Blevins said he encourages people to come to the center despite its “narrow interest.”
“Most people think our center is odd or out of the way,” Blevins said. “However, once they come and see it for themselves it becomes very fascinating.”
The center is open to the public by appointment. Call Joel Blevins at (423) 667-0927 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.