HOW REFRESHING TO read, in this week’s Letter of the Week, about a newcomer to the budgerigar fancy who has so swiftly embraced both models, so to speak. Admirers of the “traditional” budgerigar can be swingeingly critical about the modern exhibition bird, and that is their right. Yet I can’t help thinking that those who admire both types are not at all having their cake and eating it; they’re having two cakes that they can eat whenever they please.
Remember Ian Wright, whom we profiled three weeks ago: a champion Gloster canary man who’s now started to excel with crested canaries as a sideline? Budgie and canary fanciers must both excuse me for the comparison, but surely Ian is likewise enjoying the best of two worlds: the correct properties of type and plumage in both the small and the larger breed. And, keeping and appreciating both, I’ll bet he is the less tempted to blur the boundaries: by breeding ever-larger Glosters, for example.
I don’t want to push the comparison, I’m just making a familiar point in another way: that birdkeepers’ minds are and ought to be large enough to embrace more than one type of excellence. Yes, I insist that pet-type budgies can be described as excellent. And even the most obsessive exhibition breeder should bear in mind that the basic excellence resides in the living budgerigar, rather than in the exhibition standard that we have invented ourselves.
■ Ed’s Quote of the Week: “The website has seen some high levels of views from Russia in the last few months.” So we learn in the AGM report of the SW&SC ZFC on page 22. Well, that’s good... I think. Mind you, the Kremlin’s said to have some online form with Western matters recently. US elections one year, the UK’s nest-feather show calendar the next? Oi, Putin – no!
■ Last week’s issue went to press before the Easter break, and my mind’s still on my own bird highlights from those four blissful days off: a flock of Arctic terns dancing over glittering water; the year’s first swift beating through ahead of a cold front; piping gangs of mallard babies hidden in the riverside grass. And, via text and email, news filtering from friends as canary hatchings doubled, then doubled again.
Whether it’s your first spring with birds or your eighty-first: enjoy them this week!
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.
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).Read more...
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.Read more...
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.