DTI001 22_11_17

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Editor's blog November 22 2017

THERE ARE THREE softbill species that encapsulate, for many bird enthusiasts in grey old Britain, the sun and azure skies of the Mediterranean: the bee-eater, the roller and the hoopoe. Apart from the jay, with its pink and blue bits, none of our familiar British favourites gets close to the vivid colour scheme of that sunshine trio. And, just as the sight of your first hooded crow signals that you’re entering the real Highlands, the first bee-eaters on the roadside wires as you drive down for your holiday mean that you’re entering a new country: the true south, the land of oranges and olive groves.

Hoopoes are a bit different, since they happen to have colonised some of temperate Europe too, but that’s an outpost: essentially they belong to the hot-weather cultures, from Greece across the desert kingdoms and the parched plains of the Subcontinent. They love (it has to be said) a dunghill, and your working dunghill tends to flourish where there are working mules and camels. Their languid hup-hup-hup... hup-hup, often from more than one direction, blends nicely into the soundtrack to a siesta. Not that they are sleepy birds themselves: in spring and summer nearly all that you see are hurrying floppily along with a beakload of leggy protein for their well-hidden brood.

I’ve enjoyed the contrast between this happy-go-lucky sunlover and the cool, methodical expertise of leading German softbill man Thomas Wendt, who writes in depth on the species this week (page 14). There’s something deeply impressive about Thomas’s patient research before he made his first move to acquire a hoopoe – and if you want attention to detail, check out his softfood dry mix! What a fantastic breeding species to aspire to.

■ Coming to Kent? Sunday 26th is the day of our joint event with Maidstone & SECAS at the Lockmeadow Hall – and I’m delighted to confirm that talented bird photographer Luke Stephenson will be on official C&AB duty to portray the winning birds in his distinctive style. Come and be part of it – and don’t forget those incredible Skygold prices that you can read about on page 3.

Editor's Blog 23rd September 2015

I’VE JUST RETURNED from a long – and active – weekend in Bergen, Norway, where I spent five-and-a-half hours on a “Sognefjord in a nutshell” boat trip. Sognefjord, in Western Norway, is the country’s longest and deepest fjord and the area is said to be one of the most beautiful travel destinations in the world. This I can back up. I’d read trip reviews beforehand and many noted sightings of Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea): some nesting, some “bombing” past the boat.

I had hoped to catch a glimpse and looked pretty hard for any hint of a black cap along the cliff edge. But I was a week or so too late and their migration south had already commenced after breeding in late July and August. Back to Kent, and with only a few days to settle, I have to repack my case for another long weekend away.

This time it’s to Doncaster for the Budgerigar Society Club Show (September 26-27). I received an email from Grant Findlay, the society administrator, to say that entries this year total 2,112 – an increase of 245 on last year’s show. It’s the first time since 2011 that the entry has topped the 2,000 mark and could this be down to the earlier September date?

This will be my fourth year attending the Club Show and, as always, I look forward to seeing the many friends of this paper and new faces. I must add a big GOOD LUCK to our regular contributor, Sam Wildes, 27, who’ll be taking his judging test on Saturday morning.

Best of luck to anyone benching birds at shows this weekend.

Editor's Blog 16th September 2015

THANKS TO ALL those readers who have sent in their advice on how to combat mite (particularly red mite) in our birdrooms and aviaries. Three such letters feature on this page and I’ll include further contributions in the order in which I receive them. A number of letters and emails have referred directly to the appeal for advice from Margaret Illsley (Letters, September 2).

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Editor's Blog 9th September 2015

YARNING ABOUT OLD times, recently, a friend mentioned his long-gone days in the local Boy Scouts. Every year, his troop held a five-a-side football tournament. They’d done it for decades and it took loads of organising. It was expensive. It meant extra practice. The two parents in charge every year were bossy and unpopular, but everybody had to do what they said. My mate confessed he used to feign injury to get out of it.

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Editor's Blog 2nd September 2015

CONGRATULATIONS TO ROSEMARY Drew, the enterprising 22-year-old who has won this year’s Raymond Sawyer Scholarship, courtesy of the Avicultural Society (AS) and the Durrell Wildlife Park (DWP). (See page 4.)

Miss Drew should be attending the prize course at Jersey’s Durrell Conservation Academy later this month, and I hope she’ll share with us a bit about what she learns there. Significantly, Miss Drew had previously attended a different specialist course at Durrell, which enabled her to take up her current, highly skilled job as a hummingbird keeper (what a job that must be!): proof, if it were needed, that the Durrell courses can help to open doors in the competitive world of professional aviculture. Thanks to the AS and DWP, I served on the selection panel for this year’s Raymond Sawyer Scholarship.

It was a mixed experience. On the one hand, it was uplifting to read those applications, all strong, all credible.

In all cases without exception, the applicant’s commitment to the highest standard of avicultural expertise shone through. We, in the older generations, may often feel that when it comes to birdkeeping, we’re talking among ourselves. Here was evidence that “the message” does indeed get through in younger circles – in a different form, no doubt. I also felt that adjudicating on the panel was a heavy responsibility and did not relish the disappointment of 18 out of the 19 bright and capable applicants, some as young as 19 years old. I wish them all well.

None will get rich working in bird parks or conservation, but if they fulfil their potential they will have something that most rich people would envy.

■ I’m appreciating Rosemary Low’s series “Beautiful Parrots” and agree that the bronze-winged parrot (page 16) is a treasure trove of understated colour. To me, just as attractive as their colour is the marvellous feather texture of psittacines, including Pionus. I’ll never forget watching the leisurely interaction of two dusky parrots (P. fuscus) in Venezuela once. The books show this as a largely brown species, not at all eye-catching, but in reality, ceaselessly flexing their plumage and their contours, this pair was like a living sculpture by a master artist: elegant, awkward, sad, funny and spellbindingly beautiful, in endless variation.

I hope you enjoy the unique beauty of the birds in your care this week.

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