WHAT WOULD YOU have like to have done more of during 2018? Easy one for me: I wish I’d been able to spend more time looking at exhibition birds. “Just looking” may sound like the least active, perhaps the least important, bit of birdkeeping, yet in a sense it is the point of it: all that trouble is taken over pedigree studs in order that others can look at them.

For me there’s no sight more characteristic of the fancy than two good mates working their way along a row of show cages after an event has opened to the public, dipping in to the catalogue, pointing, comparing, not talking much but nodding their agreement. That’s what I’d like to have done more of. I didn’t get much chance, but at our South-East Classic in Maidstone the other weekend I had a golden 45 minutes with the British entry. Part of the time I was trying to get my thoughts straight about exhibition greenfinches, then I’d get distracted. Cirl buntings! I’d never seen one on the show bench. (It took me yonks to work out the identity of a lovely hen bird.) Yellow mutation bullfinches! Why had nobody told me that they existed? Beautiful! Twite – the finch that’s dipped its face in honey. Deep intense colours and vivid unfamiliar patterns in the cross-bred classes. Thanks to the section organisers for that treat; in 2019 I’m going to treat myself more often.

For those who enjoy avian art, there’s a cracking show on in London that sadly we’ve just been told finishes on January 4… Wings and Feathers, a collection of new paintings by Elizabeth Butterworth, is at the Redfern Gallery, near Piccadilly Circus. An appraisal by Rosemary Low appears next week. Details at: www.redfern-gallery.com

And, almost incredibly, that’s it for another year. We’re about to take our annual one-week break, after 51 issues of the paper during 2018, so your next Cage & Aviary Birds will be out in two weeks’ time, on January 2.

None of those issues would have appeared without the magnificent supporters of this paper: my colleagues; our vital and committed contributors; our loyal advertisers; and of course our many thousands of readers who are united in fancy.

Whatever your fortunes this past year, I wish you a peaceful, happy and bird-filled Christmas – then let’s kick off 2019 as we mean to go on, with a renewed commitment to this wonderful hobby.