Above: Still picking up the rosettes: all-round canary breeder Paddy Dunne won best new colour canary at Guildford & District CBS open show last year

How do you know if you can trust a newcomer? DAVE BROWN considers this and other topical subjects he has encountered.

IT’S always reassuring to know someone has read your stuff, and this relates to my comments about the number of rosettes awarded at shows via either the patronage system or club tradition. I’m sure many seasoned fanciers will empathise with the comments Bob Baggs made in his letter (see May 31 issue) regarding the numbers of rosettes he has accumulated over the years.

I then received a letter in the post from canary man Paddy Dunne who has also amassed quite a collection in his front room cabinet – near on 300. It is only by retaining these that he can mark significant wins and trips abroad as a pioneer of the World Shows.

While Paddy now simply hands any rosettes he has won back at the end of a show, he also made a suggestion for recycling the surplus. Paddy used to remove the centres and replace them with first, second and third labels and donate them to the local school. As a result, they were put to good use on sports day.

I’ve seen this idea used by some local bird clubs with trophies they have sourced or been donated. But whether a trophy with a piece of laminated card with the award on it is as eye-catching as the original brass plaque is a matter of opinion.

The price of a bird and how to get people into the hobby are two more topics that frequently pop up. A new fancier, Gerwyn Vaughan, recently approached me for some zebra finches. While it was too early in the season to have any surplus to part with, Gerwyn (who lives locally) took up an invitation to come and just have a look at the birds. 

During the visit it was obvious he was genuine, had past experience of birdkeeping and has a day job managing farm livestock, so he was going to know what to do with the birds. So, eventually,
I found some birds I could let go. One pair were sold and the other pair were birds that I had not yet put together but was keen to use. So we struck a deal: Gerwyn would take this pair on breeding loan and try to breed a few youngsters from them. I’d eventually have the pair back and if he bred a reasonable number of youngsters, have a youngster back, too. 

It’s obviously a risk going with this sort of arrangement, but I strongly believe you get a feeling for who the genuine people are. Location is also a big factor: the birds were only a few miles up the road – and thanks to the Zebra Finch Society (ZFS) yearbook I know where people live! 

From a personal point of view, getting pictures sent through of the first “V132” ringed bird out of the nest probably gave me as much of a sense of satisfaction as it did Gerwyn! Hopefully this arrangement has given him the bug and we will eventually see some youngsters out on the show bench. 

On the subject of the price of birds, another conversation I was involved in recently regarding this involved a situation where a first-year novice was trying to sell his surplus stock. No problem with that, however the novice had made the assumption that his surplus was worth just as much as what he had paid for his starting stock. While I suppose a bird is always worth what you can get for it, perhaps it’s best to remember that even fanciers of long standing may sell 10 birds in order to afford one bird of the next step-up in quality. Just because a bird is from a certain line or its relative was a show-winner, doesn’t necessarily mean it holds the same value.

Dave Brown has kept a wide range of birds (including British hardbills, parrot-like and softbills) and other animals since childhood.

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