DTI001 20_09_17

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Editor's blog September 20 2017

REMEMBER THE MYSTERY photo below? Alexandra Palace National Exhibition, mid-1960s. We’ve got canary judge W.A. (Bill) Knights centre frame, scrutinising – with his fellow judges – a Border staged by Alec Atkin, who’s there giving it his oh-get-a-griplads look on the right. But, I asked in the August 23 issue, who is the dapper little gentleman on the left? Lizard canary legend Fred Snelling was one guess, but that’s been authoritatively knocked back. Now I’ve got the answer – an interesting one.

Reader Tommy Lynch has been in touch to identify the third man: “It’s Andy Wilson,” declares Mr Lynch. “Not a regular bird fancier as such – though a very early member of the Budgerigar Society – but in those days proprietor of Edinburgh Zoo, and a noted aviculturist.” He was equally noted as a racy raconteur, says Mr Lynch, and as one of the last zoo collectors to bring back birds and animals from Africa by sea. Here he is serving on the panel of Supreme Award judges, and helping to disappoint Mr Atkin. Well now, Andy Wilson... as soon as Mr Lynch mentioned the name it sounded familiar, and then I twigged: I’d written about Andy Wilson only in last week’s issue, where he made a cameo appearance in our account of the 1960 National as a “forthright and exuberant” speaker at the official lunch.

What a coincidence – and, clearly, what a character. Any Andy Wilson anecdotes or reminiscences would be very welcome.

■ Back to the present-day show scene, and the exhibition fancier is spoiled for choice in the weeks ahead. But may I just alert readers to the Aldershot CBS show on October 14, which is this year titled the Eileen Tanner Memorial open show? If you can help to honour the memory of this terribly missed lady of the fancy, by supporting or simply attending the show – please do so. Details: page 18.

■ “It all seemed so poignant that we were just starting out on our journey, whereas for Gerald and his wife, Joyce, their time with budgerigars was coming to an end.” On page 8, Mid Essex BS stalwart Graham Paine recalls an inspirational encounter with the great Gerald Binks, which set him on his way in the budgerigar fancy. Poignant, yes, but a fine legacy for the veteran fancier in passing on the flame to a new generation.

Have a wonderful week with your birds.

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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