DTI001 19_07_17

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Editor's blog July 19 2017

"WHAT IS THIS life, if, full of care/We have no time to stand and stare?” Hardly anyone remembers anything else by the tramp-poet W.H. Davies; nearly everyone remembers his most famous lines, because he was right: if we’re always too busy to pause and just look (at a bird or a prospect or a face), then life is worthless. Personally, I could improve on Davies’s sentiment only by ditching the word “stand” and substituting “pull up a comfy chair to some shady vantage point in the garden”. Bum down, feet up, jug of iced lemonade, and then let the staring commence – possibly with the aid of a lightweight pair of high-quality binoculars.

For the lover of birds, whether captive or wild, these are pleasures that you couldn’t put a price on, and this week they are well described (of course) by Bob Baggs in his article on page 10 about the avian delights of May in his garden. Quiet inspiration! Not long ago, I experienced something similar when Lizard canary champion Huw Evans emailed me some photographs of his birds. (The four that illustrate Huw’s article on page 14.)

The first thing I did was print them out, tape them to the partition by my desk, and study them quietly for some time. I love Lizard canaries (in my uninformed way) yet I don’t do enough of this: just let the eye dwell unhurriedly on the shape, colour and pattern that live in a well-bred Lizard canary and nowhere else. With a proper show variety like this, you don’t need to be an expert to keep noticing more... and more... and more detail to enjoy. (And COM wants to dumb this variety down!) Real Lizard fanciers may disagree for all I know, but I’ll happily go on record that the clear cap silver cock in Figure 3 is one of the most beautiful cage birds I’ve ever seen.

■ Russell Kingston. Just before C&AB went to press, we learned of the sudden and unexpected death, on July 12, of the great Australian aviculturist Russell Kingston. Sincere commiserations to the numerous friends of this legendary and popular birdman. I hope we can offer a proper tribute in due course; as a brief reminder of his character and achievements, may I refer readers to Rosemary Low’s article, describing a visit to Mr Kingston’s aviaries, in the March 15 issue.

Enjoy your birds this week.

Editor's Blog 23rd September 2015

I’VE JUST RETURNED from a long – and active – weekend in Bergen, Norway, where I spent five-and-a-half hours on a “Sognefjord in a nutshell” boat trip. Sognefjord, in Western Norway, is the country’s longest and deepest fjord and the area is said to be one of the most beautiful travel destinations in the world. This I can back up. I’d read trip reviews beforehand and many noted sightings of Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea): some nesting, some “bombing” past the boat.

I had hoped to catch a glimpse and looked pretty hard for any hint of a black cap along the cliff edge. But I was a week or so too late and their migration south had already commenced after breeding in late July and August. Back to Kent, and with only a few days to settle, I have to repack my case for another long weekend away.

This time it’s to Doncaster for the Budgerigar Society Club Show (September 26-27). I received an email from Grant Findlay, the society administrator, to say that entries this year total 2,112 – an increase of 245 on last year’s show. It’s the first time since 2011 that the entry has topped the 2,000 mark and could this be down to the earlier September date?

This will be my fourth year attending the Club Show and, as always, I look forward to seeing the many friends of this paper and new faces. I must add a big GOOD LUCK to our regular contributor, Sam Wildes, 27, who’ll be taking his judging test on Saturday morning.

Best of luck to anyone benching birds at shows this weekend.

Editor's Blog 16th September 2015

THANKS TO ALL those readers who have sent in their advice on how to combat mite (particularly red mite) in our birdrooms and aviaries. Three such letters feature on this page and I’ll include further contributions in the order in which I receive them. A number of letters and emails have referred directly to the appeal for advice from Margaret Illsley (Letters, September 2).


Editor's Blog 9th September 2015

YARNING ABOUT OLD times, recently, a friend mentioned his long-gone days in the local Boy Scouts. Every year, his troop held a five-a-side football tournament. They’d done it for decades and it took loads of organising. It was expensive. It meant extra practice. The two parents in charge every year were bossy and unpopular, but everybody had to do what they said. My mate confessed he used to feign injury to get out of it.


Editor's Blog 2nd September 2015

CONGRATULATIONS TO ROSEMARY Drew, the enterprising 22-year-old who has won this year’s Raymond Sawyer Scholarship, courtesy of the Avicultural Society (AS) and the Durrell Wildlife Park (DWP). (See page 4.)

Miss Drew should be attending the prize course at Jersey’s Durrell Conservation Academy later this month, and I hope she’ll share with us a bit about what she learns there. Significantly, Miss Drew had previously attended a different specialist course at Durrell, which enabled her to take up her current, highly skilled job as a hummingbird keeper (what a job that must be!): proof, if it were needed, that the Durrell courses can help to open doors in the competitive world of professional aviculture. Thanks to the AS and DWP, I served on the selection panel for this year’s Raymond Sawyer Scholarship.

It was a mixed experience. On the one hand, it was uplifting to read those applications, all strong, all credible.

In all cases without exception, the applicant’s commitment to the highest standard of avicultural expertise shone through. We, in the older generations, may often feel that when it comes to birdkeeping, we’re talking among ourselves. Here was evidence that “the message” does indeed get through in younger circles – in a different form, no doubt. I also felt that adjudicating on the panel was a heavy responsibility and did not relish the disappointment of 18 out of the 19 bright and capable applicants, some as young as 19 years old. I wish them all well.

None will get rich working in bird parks or conservation, but if they fulfil their potential they will have something that most rich people would envy.

■ I’m appreciating Rosemary Low’s series “Beautiful Parrots” and agree that the bronze-winged parrot (page 16) is a treasure trove of understated colour. To me, just as attractive as their colour is the marvellous feather texture of psittacines, including Pionus. I’ll never forget watching the leisurely interaction of two dusky parrots (P. fuscus) in Venezuela once. The books show this as a largely brown species, not at all eye-catching, but in reality, ceaselessly flexing their plumage and their contours, this pair was like a living sculpture by a master artist: elegant, awkward, sad, funny and spellbindingly beautiful, in endless variation.

I hope you enjoy the unique beauty of the birds in your care this week.

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