DTI001 20_12_17 

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Editor's blog December 20 2017

OUR COVER BIRD this week is the guira cuckoo (Guira guira), a batty-looking softbill that might have stepped straight out of a Quentin Blake cartoon. This is a cheery, companionable cuckoo, not like our furtive loner, and it lives in happy-go-lucky gangs in South America, never failing to lift the spirits whenever encountered.    

But getting to know the guira any closer than, say, Uruguay is tricky, since it is sadly little known in aviculture. It was, however, one of two species that made their debut at this autumn’s Dutch Softbill Society show at Oirschot, in southern Holland. Regular exhibitor Rick van Groningen introduces this remarkable show on page 14, and his preview makes stimulating reading. For Oirschot is a show in a purer sense, perhaps, than ours: not a contest, more a celebration of the art of presenting exotic birds in beautiful settings. No winners or losers (feathered or otherwise), simply a club of enthusiasts working together – and how they work! – to create the finest possible showcase for all their birds; to help each other, and the world, enjoy those birds at their absolute best.

It sounds amazing, more carnival than tournament. Is it the kind of thing that would catch on in Britain? Well, Oirschot’s variety of species does reflect the richer choice in general available to the softbill fan on the Continent. But in any case I think it presents a shining example of how we can enjoy our birds together – our club-mates’ just as much as our own – even if they aren’t guira cuckoos. 

Oh my goodness, look at the date! By the time you open your next Cage & Aviary Birds, Christmas will be over. So here goes: all of us at Cage & Aviary Birds would like to wish a happy and peaceful Christmas to every single reader; to our loyal advertisers; to our splendid contributors; to our friends at the numerous clubs and societies; and to everyone who helps, in any way, to fly the flag for birdkeeping. We wish you great happiness “in the fancy”.

What will be your highlights of 2017? Mine will certainly include welcoming some new and enterprising contributors to this paper. That has been a great pleasure. And then there are the bird highlights, which is when it gets really interesting. Something to mull over during Christmas. 

See you next week – the last issue of 2017!

Editor's blog December 13 2017

A SOUR BACKGROUND NOTE for many in the fancy this year has been the awareness that some of our fellow birdkeepers have been engaged in legal struggles – not against thieves or law-breaking antis but, almost unbelievably, against one another.

A line has now been drawn under this wretched episode, which I’ll summarise as briefly as possible. Three court cases have been heard in quick succession: Raymond Fox v Simon Devaney; Simon Devaney v Raymond Fox; and The Exhibition Budgerigar Forum v Raymond Fox. The first two cases were inconclusive, and in the third the judge found in favour of the EBF, to the tune of £5,000.

In all three cases, the writs were issued over allegations of defamation – not concerning statements made in print, but in online discussion forums. How did it come to this, you may ask? It’s a sad story that I trust we’ve heard the last of, but as a result of it, ALL fanciers need to be aware that yes, you can be sued for defamation over comments made online, and yes, the penalties can be severe. And now there’s a precedent. So please: when online discussions get heated (as they do), stick to the moderators’ rules and the law of the land. Let’s not risk a repeat of this, ever. 

■ If, like me, you figure there’s still loads of time before you need to get round to your Christmas shopping – first, check your calendar, then check our late gifts-for-fanciers suggestions on page 17. But there’s more: our friends at the Exhibition Budgerigar Forum have reminded us that the 2018 EBF calendar will again be available. It will feature 12 winning birds from the 2017 BS Club Show. This calendar is a limited edition of 100, yet costs only £7.95 plus £1.50 p&p. Contact Mick Freakley (tel: 07718 855 207) to order.

■ IMPORTANT CLUB NEWS HEADS-UP: because of the Christmas production schedule, clubs are alerted that details of all meetings taking place between December 27, 2017 and January 10, 2018, inclusive must be sent to the office via post (full address at foot of this page) or by email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by December 15 at the latest for inclusion in the December 27 2017/January 3 2018, issue. This includes time-sensitive notices. Thank you, and have a great week.

Rob Innes

Editor's blog December 6 2017

THE SECOND-EVER LONDON & South East Bird Show & Sale at Maidstone has been and gone: a crisp November morning certainly didn’t put visitors off! A big THANK YOU to the stallholders, buyers, visitors, stewards, judges and exhibitors, who together enhanced the overall experience.

Event sponsors Copdock Mill once again made a memorable appearance with its company’s lorry, manned by the sales team      Hugh Chennell, Andy Morgan and David Bottazzi (who I am told are affectionately known by fellow staff members as the hair bear bunch!) These guys did a fantastic job of promoting Copdock Mill’s new SkyGold brand to both visitors and exhibitors. (See their photo in our Maidstone news story, page 2.)

In the show section, an entry on par with last year’s open show was achieved by Maidstone & SECAS, and the sight of a professional photography tent and set-up sparked excitement among exhibitors. London photographer Luke Stephenson had plenty of quality exhibits placed before him, and many of these photographs may appear in his next photography book, which is currently a work in progress. Keep an eye out for more of Luke’s photographs in this paper. For those interested in Luke’s work, you can read our review of his sold-out 2015 book An Incomplete Dictionary of Show Birds in the June 15, 2016 issue, or visit: www.lukestephenson.com

■ Here at Cage Birds towers, we’ve quick-stepped into the Christmas spirit and have swung your way an extra book giveaway this month – Winter Birds by Lars Jonsson. Be quick, though, as you only have a week to get your entries in before the closing date of December 13. See page 5 for entry details.

■ A Mrs Gould recently contacted the team in regards to Graham Wellstead’s article “The misty roots of rollers” (November 15 issue). Unfortunately, we don’t have a telephone number for you, so please get in touch. Rob will be back next week.

Laura Welch

Editor's blog November 29 2017

THIS WEEK I chatted to Desi Milpacher at the World Parrot Trust (WPT) to follow up on its relief-fund appeal for wild Puerto Rican Amazons (Amazona vittata). In the October 25 issue, we reported on the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and the serious threat it posed to the recovery of this Critically Endangered species. The tropical storm in September is the 10th most intense Atlantic hurricane on record. With sustained winds of 155mph (249kmh), the hurricane left behind utter tragedy, not forgetting the major destruction it caused to the island’s wildlife and ecosystems.

The WPT supports the island’s Rio Abajo Aviaries, which is central to the Puerto Rican Amazon’s revival in the wild. Funds are needed to rebuild what has been lost of the aviaries and to save the species’ small wild population. The WPT stepped in, and its ongoing appeal has so far raised close to $30,000 USD (approx £22,530).

Before the disaster there were five Puerto Rican Amazon populations in three forests. Now, Tanya Martínez, a conservation biologist on site at Rio Abajo, says the wild flock in El Yunque has gone missing and the Rio Abajo wild population stands at 92. The wild birds are still being supplementally fed until the surrounding vegetation returns. Substantial work remains and additional donations are welcome. Please donate if you can at: www.razoo.com and search “Puerto Rican Amazon Relief Fund”.

■ Interest is growing in the National Exhibition (NE) two-day debate (see News, page 2). Certainly there will be those who will benefit from an expanded show, but also those people who see no need to change its current format (see Mr Doust’s letter, left). Whether the pros and cons can be ironed out and agreed for 2018 could depend on the commitment of the participating clubs, which would need to put in extra work. The Parrot Society asks for interested persons to send all comments in writing to The Parrot Society, Hardy House, Northbridge Road, Berkhamsted HP4 1EF or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

■ Thank you to two associations for their recent hospitality: CCBA (All-Colour show, November 11-12) and South Bucks Canary Breeders Association (members’ and open show, November 18). It was satisfying to see both familiar and new faces at each show, and some quality old and rare canary exhibits at South Bucks. Special mention goes to 18-year-old James Martin from Evesham, who exhibited for the first time at the CCBA show with the only bird he has bred this year. Enjoy the hobby, James. Both show reports will appear in a forthcoming issue. Rob will be back in two weeks.

Laura Welch

Editor's blog November 22 2017

THERE ARE THREE softbill species that encapsulate, for many bird enthusiasts in grey old Britain, the sun and azure skies of the Mediterranean: the bee-eater, the roller and the hoopoe. Apart from the jay, with its pink and blue bits, none of our familiar British favourites gets close to the vivid colour scheme of that sunshine trio. And, just as the sight of your first hooded crow signals that you’re entering the real Highlands, the first bee-eaters on the roadside wires as you drive down for your holiday mean that you’re entering a new country: the true south, the land of oranges and olive groves.

Hoopoes are a bit different, since they happen to have colonised some of temperate Europe too, but that’s an outpost: essentially they belong to the hot-weather cultures, from Greece across the desert kingdoms and the parched plains of the Subcontinent. They love (it has to be said) a dunghill, and your working dunghill tends to flourish where there are working mules and camels. Their languid hup-hup-hup... hup-hup, often from more than one direction, blends nicely into the soundtrack to a siesta. Not that they are sleepy birds themselves: in spring and summer nearly all that you see are hurrying floppily along with a beakload of leggy protein for their well-hidden brood.

I’ve enjoyed the contrast between this happy-go-lucky sunlover and the cool, methodical expertise of leading German softbill man Thomas Wendt, who writes in depth on the species this week (page 14). There’s something deeply impressive about Thomas’s patient research before he made his first move to acquire a hoopoe – and if you want attention to detail, check out his softfood dry mix! What a fantastic breeding species to aspire to.

■ Coming to Kent? Sunday 26th is the day of our joint event with Maidstone & SECAS at the Lockmeadow Hall – and I’m delighted to confirm that talented bird photographer Luke Stephenson will be on official C&AB duty to portray the winning birds in his distinctive style. Come and be part of it – and don’t forget those incredible Skygold prices that you can read about on page 3.

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