Photo: Also bred in Scotland… Donald with his best Giboso at Stafford, an unflighted cock

 

What a positive season it has been for breeders of old and rare variety canaries – none more so than the Scots fancy, which is fast gaining new admirers. Donald Skinner-Reid reports

 

I HAVE written with affection and enthusiasm about the Gouden Ring show in Belgium, but recently my focus has been on the UK’s National Exhibition. It is certainly the more important of the two shows to me. In my own head, I tend to think of it as the great cage bird migration, with birds going home all over the country after the event.

In view of the stunning success for the Scots fancy this year, I hope readers will forgive me for focusing entirely on that variety. I had attended the last Scottish National, which had taken place in 2009, but was unaware of the National Exhibition until 2012, when my friend Dave White offered to take my four Scots to Stafford. I had then neither the time nor ability to do so myself. An early-morning drive to meet the bus taking Dave and others to the National followed, as did a late-night drive to collect the birds the next day – and I had won best Scots! (In those days, I think I was about the only exhibitor of Scots fancies at the National.)

How things have changed for me and my variety. Over the succeeding years, I have exhibited my Scots and, more recently, Belgian and Giboso Espanol. The National has assumed a large part of my life and is a major focus for my work in the hobby. Last year’s National saw 35 Scots exhibited by five exhibitors. This year, it was 74 from 12 exhibitors.

Overwhelming, for me, was that out of an old varieties entry of 297 birds (benched 274) at this year’s National, 74 were Scots fancies – that’s 25 per cent of the show – from 12 exhibitors. One class had 22 Scots! When did anyone last see that? It’s quite an advance for the Scots fancy.

John Marshall won best novice – the man has only been breeding birds for a season and he had competition, too. It was his second-ever bird show. Lauren Wight won best junior and her father, Gordon Alexander, won best Scots with a lovely white. This is the second successive year Gordon has won best Scots at the National.

I exhibited only unflighted birds, so that I could have my ideas of their respective worth assessed by expert judges. The results always inform my subsequent exhibition entries, and especially those to the European shows later in the season. I won two classes: first and second out of a class of eight; first, third and fourth out of a class of 10; third, fifth and seventh from a class of 22 (which contained the winner); and second and fifth out of a class of 11.

Equally important is the sale of birds by breeders. I spend a great deal of time selecting pairs for pre-ordered birds for delivery at the National. It is a labour of love and I really enjoy delivering birds to folks who are enthused to try a new variety. This year, along with that work on “orders”, I decided to include on my sales table a few pairs of Belgian fancies and unflighted cock Scots. I deliberately didn’t want to pre-sell these, because I wanted new folks to have the opportunity to buy. Out of 16 birds I’d taken on spec, I only came home with four.

My preparation for the exhibition and sale takes me the whole week leading up to the event. My class win in the Belgian fancy, plus two seconds and a fifth, and winning best Giboso Espanol (though I felt guilty beating my friend Bo Pawlyszyn) was very sweet.

Donald Skinner-Reid is the treasurer of the Scots Fancy Canary Specialist Club.

 

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