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Monday, January 31, 2011

AWBBudgies Travels : The Norwood Stud

The Heywoodss were kind to allow us to view their aviary after a last minuet cancellation in our aviary tour. Some of our visits had been confirmed up to 2 years in advance so visiting this aviary was truly out of the ordinary. When I think of what it takes to be a champion I think of Tony and Sandra Haywood. They have been breeding budgies for a very long time. I was so impressed to see the excitement and enthusiasm of the Haywoods.

 You can't help but think of the many hours full of successes and failures and the hard work was now being revealed in their excitement. When we arrived we were warmly invited into their lovely home where we sat down and were served lunch with tea. Sandra began showing us her photo albums filled with pictures of their high points in the hobby. It was such a joy to share in the successes of their journey. I hope I'm correct but I believe in 2010 they had 8 best in show awards quite an accomplishment and may be a record. They also had the best young bird at the Budgerigar Society World show.

After lunch we walked out to a wonderful aviary which fit naturally into the surroundings of their gardens. There is a long outside flight of which I'd say is 40 or more feet long. I've never seen anything like it before. I could only dream of a flight of this magnitude in my back yard.

We entered between the 2 outside flights and stepped into double doors and right into a bright aviary. I noticed these bright red balls and Sandra explained that they are night fright lights but I believe they stay on all of the time. Pictures hung on the wall of and numerous ribbon awards. One such feature we saw was a judging stick which had a budgie carved into the end and neatly painted, a cute idea and something a friend had made.

I was very impressed with the layout of the aviary. It was long with 2 separate rooms. The flights filled the outside of the rooms from floor to ceiling. I noticed that branches adorned the flights which is a natural chewing element that you don't often see in aviarys. The rooms were painted white which enhanced the brightness. All of the breeding cages were on the opposite side of the room and were box type breeding cages.

I'm very impressed with the consistency of the quality in their stud. As we began to pull birds from flights and put them into the show cages it was apparent of the buff feather quality we all so eagerly strive for. I have been focusing on feather direction and under-feather so as I view birds this is something I have been focusing on.

 Tony took a great deal of time to explain his breeding tactics and we also discussed some of the ideas we have been mulling through on our tour. Its wise to pick up experienced advice from those who have advanced to the next level. We discussed Tonys soft food mix and practices in that area.

Soft food soaked and strained
Tony and Sandra are very humble hosts and really made us feel welcome, as we gathered to leave we were able to get a group shot as a lasting memory of our visit.

Soft food served

Thursday, January 27, 2011

AWBBudgies Travels: Brian Sweeting

I noticed that Brian has a keen interest in photography and, since my goal of this trip was Brian Sweeting is probably my favorite breeder that we traveled to on our England Aviary tour. He made me feel welcome and I felt as though I connected with him in a small way. The quality of Brians birds are outstanding. I had the pleasure of sitting at the same table as Brian at the Budgerigar Society banquet in Doncaster and got a feel for his personality. It was a long drive down to the Sweeting aviary. As we walked in the front door I noticed the pictures on the walls. All of his successes were posted there. Then walking through his dining room through to the back door I saw his trophy case. It was filled with many trophies a sign of his success; needless to say I was impressed. to document as much as I could using my photography skills I was eager to capture as much as possible.
Sweeting Son with Mannas Fat
Brian took the time to show me his new camera and the website he maintains. 

As we walked into his 1st birdroom and he began to put birds into show cages it was apparent that these birds were in another class. My first thought was the length was consistent across the stud but equally as good was the head quality. I've never seen anything like it. Brian put spangles into the show cages and I began to snap away. Then I walked into the back room of the 1st aviary looking into the breeding cages. The birds were just amazing to see.

When I got over the shock of seeing this quality I was able to put things into perspective. Consistently balanced birds yet well matched. For example size, width, length and mask, and spots. I have a picture here of a flecked hen which under normal circumstances would be a fault, however Brian uses the flecking to help with spot size, but notice that he pairs the flecking to a clean headed bird and notes in the records for future pairing. There was a time where breeders didn't want anything to do with flecking but it has been noted that flecking can actually help you in your breeding program.

As I was taking pictures Brian asked me if I would like to take pictures using his photo cage. It was a simple rectangular cage with a perch along the length of the cage but not too close to the background. Then a hole was in the side that you could open where you could shoot your pictures. This way the bird is relaxed and will only run from side to side. If you raise your hand to the one side your bird will run over to the center where you can get a clear shot. It was a simple idea and as I thought about it made sense. So when I got home I decided to design a similar cage that I now use to document all of my birds.  

As we walked into the 2n part of Brian's aviary I noticed pieds and yellows amongst the normals. Brian has been known for his outstanding quality pieds. Again he started showing us birds by putting them into show cages for us to talk about. Brian a good friend of Joe Mannas has been working with a Mannas Spangle to carry that particular feather into his birds. The interesting point here is that Joe Mannas has managed to get more feather per square inch into his birds. The feather is more compact and it even appeared softer. I remember reading how Joe tries to put a different type of feather on different areas of his birds. Clearly Joe is thinking beyond the box and I would say ahead of his time. Brian demonstrated how he used the spangle to carry that feather. See the picture.  

I noted looking at the aviary that Brian uses a wheel type perching for his birds yet another feature I have not seen but a good use of space. After our visit we went outside for a group shot and looked at the Koi fish that Brian has. We had an outstanding experience




Tuesday, January 25, 2011

AWBBudgies Travels : The Holland Stud

Steve and Michael Holland and their father are part of the "Holland Stud" they have been breeding Budgerigars since the mid 1950s. Steve is a personal friend of mine and a mentor to me. We often converse through email sometimes as much as 3 times a week. I give Steve and his brother a lot of credit for my success in the hobby. I created a website where I could show Steve all of my birds.
Grand Son

He would print the promising birds and go over the traits with Michael. Then he suggested the pairings for me. Some of the birds I paired didn't breed but some did and I got great success from their help. Michael has a photographic mind when it comes to the background of the birds. He can tell you everything about a bird and its parents for several generations. Michael is a great one for discussing feather structure and feather direction. He taught me to pull feathers from the flank area in order to assess the quality passed on to the next generation. We talked at great length about how to take traits from one bird and put them together. He actually demonstrated how they did this by bringing out birds and presenting them in show cages. Steve is the computer guy and writer. I met Steve through a forum that I was invited to. When I  posted a question looking for someone to help write articles Steve offered. As the Maryland Website administrator it was wonderful to have quality in depth articles that gave a legitimacy to the site. Steve took pictures at the World show in 2009 and baby shows and actually showed me a picture of a halfsider budgies which has 2 mutations in one bird, a very rare thing. I was talking about how I travel vast distances to bird shows including 800 miles one way so he asked me if he could write an article about traveling to shows using me as an example for those in England that find it hard to go 50 miles to a club show. He then submitted this article to the Budgerigar Society magazine and I had the privileged of being on the first page. Steve also presented the Cage and Aviary magazine with some of my pictures from our group aviary tour which then were used in a small article in that magazine. I could never have imagined that little old me would have such an opportunity for which I am truly grateful. Steve and Michael are very respected in the budgie community in England. They are all BS Panel judges.

The Holland Stud consist of approximately 500 birds. The aviary is perfectly maintained by Michael but Steve also brings birds over to an aviary at his home and then returns them through the season. I'm not sure about Michael but I do know Steve will do talks at clubs and they are active judges.

The aviary is a continuation of rooms that were built through the past 4 decades. Some of the breeding cabinets are very old. It was really interesting to see.  The Hollands have been a wonderful example to me of what true gentlemen in the hobby should be like and they have the heart of a teacher. I intend to help them in the future with their personal website.

AWBBudgies Travels : Devey - Wright Aviary

Good friends

We visited the Colin Devey and Colin Wright aviary October 6th 2010. It was a beautiful partly cloudy day when we visited and was looking forward to meeting Colin Devey because Dave Collier the judge in our group spoke many times about how he was mentored by him. Colin a true gentleman is tall with a gentle spirit and you could tell instantly very knowledgeable. We first visited the Devey Aviary and later went over to the Wright Aviary. These men have been partners in the hobby for many years. Similar in personality from my point of view you could see the results of their partnership. I saw some outstanding birds. Mr Devey described many things including how he soaks his seed for the soft food he feeds to the birds. I asked him to demonstrate how he uses a crop needle to feed directly to the crop. This is a tricky thing to do in order to not harm a sick bird yet he made it look simple. It was good for me to see it demonstrated having read about it. We talked about how the partnership treats different type of diseases and the medicines they use. Some of which we can get here in America and some which we can't. Its amazing how our countries security issues effect what is available. 

Our trip continued then over at Colin Wrights aviary.

When you enter their home you go through a nice iron gate of which you don't see much here in America. Next to the entrance to the aviary Colin has a beautiful very large Iron Budgerigar made and hung on the wall. It was very desirable and I've never seen anything like it. We continued to look at birds in show cages and there was a particular nice pair of cobalt father and son Spangle birds. It was here where Colin Wright introduced me to the clip they use to hang show cages up on the wire. They were kind enough to let me have one. For some reason you don't see those here in America so I had 100 of them made to sell. We again asked similar questions about breeding techniques using young hens and well bred hens. Its interesting to note that across the aviary visits we made to date many used the same techniques. Complimenting features while working to improve the weaker features. Every breeder we met uses line breeding to carry out the desirable traits.

We sat around the table and ate a typical English lunch of sandwiches and Tea. The decor was just beautiful with Budgie mementos and awards.  Our conversation was about how many have paid for their Budgie World magazine yet not received it. We talked about the state of the hobby including the controversial rules taking effect in the coming year. These rules regarding the rare birds as well as birds judged against

others but being held back because of 1 major fault. I'm not familiar with all of these issues but it was evident that the rulings had set forth tension amongst hobbyist.

Seed for soaking
All in all it was a wonderful experience at the Devey - Wright Aviaries, we left feeling refreshed and satisfied that our visit had answered many of the questions we had.

Colin describes specific features

 Group shot at Colin Wrights Aviary