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Bengalese Finches
British Birds
Budgerigars
Canaries
Cockatiels
Game Birds
Love Birds
Parrots
Parakeets
Poultry
Raptors and Owls
Waterfowl
Other

Editor's blog June 21 2017

JUNE HAS MAINLY been a joy so far, but a cloud appeared last week when news arrived in the office of the passing of the great colour canary fancier Wallace Dean (News in Brief, page 2.) For many years Wallace was the Cage & Aviary Birds expert on colour canaries, though that was the least of his accomplishments. Here was a fancier who had pursued his hobby for more than 80 years: a phenomenal record. His writing was always clear and hugely authoritative, and though the fingers holding the pen may have grown old, the mind that formed the words never seemed to. He was 93 when he died. Rest in peace, Wallace, and thank you.

This week’s Cage & Aviary Birds ranges widely across the spectrum of birdkeeping, and here are a few tasters. On page 6, Dot Schwarz tells the story of how her parrot aviary grew – not always according to plan. Dot’s commitment to a mixed community of psittacines is one I’ve always thought courageous, and she’s great at honestly conveying the risks and sorrows, as well as the benefits and pleasures of her approach.

Over in the budgerigar world, on page 7 Fred Wright addresses the challenge of how to progress in quality after making a decent start with a stud, and considers the advice he himself received from his mentor Jim Hutton (who sounds an admirable man).

We also hear from two outstanding birdmen who look back over their decades of priceless experience in the hobby. On page 8, zebra finch giant Jim Addison brings to life some of the wonderful characters he has met through his long involvement on the local cage bird society scene. Later, on page 11, Graham Wellstead (area of expertise raptors, owls, roller canaries, ferrets... you name it!) recalls a phase of his youth when he gained some rapid expertise in the keeping of poultry and peacocks.

Larry Mann, writing on page 12, tackles the unpopular but necessary topic of multiple deaths in our finch collections – and offers advice on how to forestall disasters. And on page 14, Lizard canary champion Huw Evans sets out to define his favoured breed as an essentially Georgian phenomenon, despite its 17th-century reputation!

Plenty to enjoy, I hope. Have a great week with your birds.

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).

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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.

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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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