THIS WEEK WE’VE prominently featured an article from the RSPB about the swift – just about the most non-cage-bird you can imagine. Why? Because I reckon fanciers will appreciate these charismatic birds and are in a special position to help them in their plight (acute shortage of nest sites). Far too many among the general public hate the idea of birds nesting on their house: just think, they might make a racket early in the morning or even leave a MESS! Birdkeepers won’t be fazed by such terrible prospects, but are very interested in, and good at, helping birds to nest successfully. The business of positioning a swift box or brick, and maybe even using sound recordings to “pull in” a pair, are just the sort of skills that will appeal to those in the fancy. (And in reality, as the article points out, swifts are neither noisy nor messy; in fact the main drawback is that you’ll want to see and hear more of them!) So how about it? By including the article in a February issue, we’ve left plenty of time for readers to get a nest site prepared. In particular, if you’re having an extension built, or any external brickwork repaired – could you slip in a swift brick or two?

■ I can’t write this column without expressing sympathy and solidarity with the Bowkers (News, page 2). They have undergone almost the worst thing that could happen to any fancier – the one mitigation being that some stock was housed separately and hence mercifully went untouched by the fire.If you have had anything to do with the Bowkers, you will know that their practice and their stud are all about quality. Now’s the time for the exhibition budgerigar fancy to show its quality, and do all it can to help the partnership back to the eminence it deserves.

■ On a happier note, and speaking of quality partnerships making a return: Middlemiss & Thompson are back! Read all about the latest developments in Austin Middlemiss’s column (and note the makeover) on page 10. The twists and turns in the careers of individual birdkeepers are always fascinating to me, and this week we also hear from British birdman Don Turner as he starts, on page 9, to describe the new direction he’s taken in his own lifelong journey with birds

■ And finally… how wonderful to read on page 4 of a student of bird song named Samantha Carouso-Peck. Who needs fantasy when reality is this good?