Photo: Gary Bralsford. Gary’s breeding season has gone from strength to strength, particularly with his royal starlings. So far, the parents have been good feeders 

As late summer approaches, Gary Bralsford and his fellow softbill enthusiasts are starting to feel it’s a successful season, despite some wild variations in weather to cope with.

Summer is skipping along with varied weather at times. Very high temperatures at the beginning of June soon gave way to monsoon rains for a week for the majority of the country.

My birdroom temperatures were high and difficult at times to cool down. One birdroom was more than 32°C (90°F), while the other reached a barmy 37°C (100°F).

I had the doors open and fans on for most of the daylight hours, but what really helped was having two removable door frames with fine fruit mesh attached. This gives a constant airflow and keeps the local cats out. I have found it is always easier to heat a birdroom than try to cool one down.

My breeding season has improved and I have three royal starling (Lamprotornis regius) chicks at 17 days old at the time of writing. The youngsters should fledge at 21-22 days old. The parents have been brilliant feeders up to now.

My Moussier’s redstarts (Phoenicurus moussieri) have also gone back to nest and laid a clutch of three eggs. It is going to be a challenge to rear these if they hatch.

My friend Bob has two more western bluebirds (Sialia mexicana) in the nest from a different pair – I think that makes nine chicks to date from this species.

His white-rumped shamas (Copsychus malabaricus) are due to hatch in a few days (again, at the time of writing), which would be another great breeding. Bob’s Cape robin-chats (Cossypha caffra) also have more chicks in the nest, and his Virginia cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) are back on eggs.

Another friend in the South East has some plumbeous water redstarts (P. fuliginosa) on eggs for the second time. The first clutch failed, so fingers crossed on this clutch.

Yet another well-known softbill keeper and breeder has red-tailed minlas (Minla ignotincta) on a second nest of chicks. He has already had two youngsters on the perch. This is a great breeding result because these birds are quite rare in aviculture at the moment. He also has rufous-bellied niltavas (Niltava sundara) in the nest – another great achievement.

My friend Colin’s crowned hornbills (Lophoceros alboterminatus) have young and are well sealed up in their nest-box. Unfortunately, Colin was left disappointed with his von der Decken’s (Tockus deckeni) and grey hornbills because their eggs did not hatch.

His lilac-breasted rollers (Coracias caudatus) laid but the eggs disappeared from the nest-box, which is a mystery – still, it can happen from time to time. There is a surplus of cock lilac-breasted rollers around and a real shortage of hen birds. This is something breeders want to turn around.

My friend Tony has white-crowned robin-chats (Cossypha albicapillus) on eggs that are due to hatch any time soon. These are highly secretive nesting birds – a lot like the very similar snowy-crowned robin-chat (C. niveicapilla).

At this time of year, the outside planted flights are in full growth, so I need to keep an eye on the aviary wire to make sure it does not get damaged. A prune back of rampant growth is a must to prevent potential escapes.

Gary Bralsford has bred softbills for almost 30 years, and has had UK first breedings with the chestnut-backed thrush, white-cheeked bulbul, green wood-hoopoe and lesser kiskadee. 

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