Above: Winning exhibits at the 2015 Morpeth CBS open show. Austin nearly didn’t make it to last year’s after some softbill cages he’d ordered took longer to arrive than expected

WELL I managed to get a show team out at the Morpeth CBS open show (see January 10 issue) but it was touch and go. The desk-type softbill cages I had ordered took longer to arrive than anticipated, due to an unfortunate accident suffered by the proprietor of the cage-making company I had chosen.

Together with two cages we had retained from way back when my son had his black-breasted thrushes (Turdus dissimilis), I was able to show seven birds: three in the British section and four in the foreign section. The three British birds were those covered by the special licence (see November 8, 2017, issue). In the foreign section I showed the adult and current-year bred (CYB) orange-headed thrush (Geokichla citrina) with the chestnut-backed (G. dohertyi) and Siberian thrushes (G. sibirica), both mentioned in the last bulletin. My entry form included the two-page special licence for the song thrushes and four pages (proof of captive breeding papers) for the Siberian! Tony, who was taking the entries, joked that my entry form made up half the pile of papers. Cheek!

Experience over condition

It was a difficult decision to put some of them out. I was in two minds about the satinette hen, being anything but happy about her tail. The two orange-headed thrushes came out of the flight and were pretty much feather-perfect. The chestnut-backed was through the moult but lacked that “polished-off” look, and the Siberian had some tail issues with the odd frayed end to his feathers. In the end I thought that the show-bench experience, which no amount of show training can replicate, would be the priority.

In truth there was no competition because they were the only softbills in either section. Still, I was delighted to find the young satinette hen won third best British overall in a section of 50-plus. Better still, I suppose, I was also second best with my silver mealy redpoll cock – both birds pipped by an excellent greenfinch cock from a specialist greenfinch stud. I say “I suppose” because the satinette hen gave me the greater satisfaction after being the only mutation I’d bred out of six in total, and having gone through the licence application ritual. All in all, it was a pleasing result.

Thrushes on the rise!

I have made some further arrangements for the various breeding programmes, which I am more than happy with. I did say in the last bulletin that I had made the difficult decision that the pair of orange-headed thrushes would have to go to make way for the extra song thrush pair.
I am delighted to say that a local pal of mine, Davey Drysdale, has taken them, so they have not gone far and hopefully they will continue to be reliable breeders.

Another pal, Colin, has acquired a satinette song thrush hen from the Continent and taken one of the young double split cocks to make up a pair. That left only one of the double split cocks and Colin has taken it on loan with the intention of obtaining a good normal or cinnamon hen to make up a second pair. Finally, at the Morpeth show, during a discussion with another mate, Tom, I found out he had a proven chestnut-backed thrush hen but no cock. So, I have also loaned out my DNA-sexed cock to make yet another pair. I am extremely pleased with the local thrush-breeding impetus.

Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed Bill Naylor’s articles on the ring ouzel (Turdus torquatus) (November 1, 2017) and blue whistling thrush (Myophonus caeruleus) (October 4, 2017). Bill ended his article on the latter by stating: “This bird is rare or non-existent in European aviaries.” So imagine my surprise, and envy, when Tom dropped into conversation at Morpeth that he had a cock of this species. I wish him all the luck in sourcing a hen for it.

Speaking of rarities, I’ve still had no luck on the various sales sites with a Siberian thrush hen but have seen loads of other species listed, some rare. Among the relatively common I found adverts for Swainson’s thrush (Catharus ustulatus) and two species of solitaire: a DNA-sexed hen brown-backed solitaire (Myadestes occidentalis) and a slate-coloured solitaire (M. unicolor). Among the mutation colours, the standout was the blackbird offered in brown, grey, blue, silver, white, grizzle and satinette. 

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