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Monday, September 17, 2012

Bucks & Berks Budgerigar Association

Bucks and Berks Budgerigar Association

Talking points
Green series Texas Clearbody

We were the first to make it to the club meeting and while waiting outside for someone to show, I realized that wearing the jacket I left at home would have been a good idea. It was cool I thought for this time of year but then I was in England and maybe this was just normal for October.
The meeting hall is made of painted stone with old fashion windows and when you walk into the room you can see clear to the peak of the roof certainly a beautiful place to meet, however I wonder if you would commit a bird that got out of its cage. 

Checking on seed
Cage holder

As members began to appear I noticed that bags of seed had been placed at the front of the room for them to pick up. Setting on the stage were show cages with beautifully made covers, but they had something interesting I remembered from my trip to England last year. It was a strap which attached to all 4 cages. This way you could carry 4 of them at a time in one hand. More and more people were arriving and I helped set up some of the tables and chairs. I felt a bit uncomfortable being new, but a few gentlemen approached, introduced themselves giving me a warm welcome. 


Tea was served as we begun to congregate and chat. It wasn’t long before birds in show cages were set at the front of the room and we settled into our seats.
This meeting was like any other I had been to in the States. Parliamentary procedures took place as motions were made and voted on. 

While this was happening I was taking pictures as though I was part of the establishment. I have learned that people adjust in time as I move around the room but in such a way that I do not disturb anyone. I like to take a variety of pictures from different angles and viewpoints which make things more interesting, and I’m always looking for expressions that tell a story.
The Texas Clearbody was the subject of the day and our speaker was Alan Joyce. According to Wikipedia the Clearbody was first discovered in Texas, USA and so adapted the name for the mutation. It was discovered in the mid 1950s and appeared in an aviary using the colony breeding setup. In 1958 it was discovered that the mutation was in fact Sexlinked by Mrs Gay Terraneo and John Papin of California. 

Ghalib Al-Nassar

 The general appearance of this variety in green and blue is similar to normal but with the following differences. The flight feathers are pale grey instead of black; the body color is suffused and may vary in intensity from minimum through to almost 50% of normal body color depth and increase in intensity downwards and towards the rump area.

Using Opaline

7th Place All American 2011

In 2009 I started breeding the Texas Clearbody and by accident when one appeared in the nest of a split Lutino cock to a Clearbody hen. I was able to breed my first blue and green series cocks. The interesting thing is that I didn’t know that the cock was split as I brought it in from another breeder. In the same rounds I also had Lutino hens in this pairing. 

I later went on to win a show with my green series Clearbody in the Intermediate division in New Jersey and later in 2011, I placed 7th at the All American which competes in a rare division against all levels of competition. I was thrilled with the result and committed to breed the Texas Clearbody into the future.

Add caption
What is the best method of breeding this mutation? We covered this at the meeting. Using dark factor birds seem to eliminate the color sheen as the birds mature. However I talked to Rynier Burger of South Africa who has been doing research on the topic of suffusion. In his view he finds that his best results come from using grey, and greygreen birds in his Texas Clearbody pairings, or a split grey father and Albino mother pairing. This helps eliminate the sheen in the blue series dramatically. He noted when breeding the Clearbody to the sky blue you will get a blue sheen through the body.

In the green series Clearbody Rynier believes its best to breed with the grey green rather than the dark factor birds as mentioned above. He adds that when using grey, greygreen, Albino, and Lutino, it is more likely that they can give you the undesirable color sheen if the grandparents were light or dark factor birds.

Rynier prefers the opaline Clearbody over the normal. “I use opaline to improve the spots and considering the Clearbody is sex-linked it is easier to control the chicks as opaline is also sex-linked”. 

Controversial point

His preferred pairing is opaline hens to Texas Clearbody cocks to improve the percentage of getting male chicks that are split instead of females that don’t split. Considering the Texas Clearbody is sex-linked it is difficult to breed cocks if normals are not available. The best method of breeding cocks is by pairing Clearbody to Clearbody in which case you are likely to get 50% cocks. However often you will lose size considering the Clearbody is a recessive mutation.

There are many strategies and theories to breeding Texas Clearbody’s and any budgie mutation for that matter. What would it look like to have a Spangle Clearbody, or Dominant Pied Clearbody or how about the Goldenface Clearbody? These are interesting questions. Do we ruin a mutation by breeding this way? Some combinations are beautiful in spite of the fact that they go against the standard of color we are working towards. Should we not encourage this? I have often heard breeders say, “budgie first” or “I’m color blind”. When we encourage the hobby I believe that we need to teach new breeders to breed what they like first, and then encourage them to show their birds. It’s the love of the bird that sustains us and keeps us around, but it’s the people who carry us.
Doing paperwork

After the meeting I had more conversation with members. It’s always fun to share with people the way things are done from your own home turf, and along the way you make a few extra friends. We couldn’t stay long as we had a long drive to an evening visit at Rick Watts bird room.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Nigel Darley

Sheila Darley checking on things

I have been friends with Nigel on Facebook for a few years but I never expected I would get the chance to visit him when I was in England. Nigel has been in the hobby off and on since the late 50s and when we met in person I didn't know what to expect. Don’t be fooled for 1 second about Nigels reserved demeanor. He has plenty to say but with wisdom of a seasoned breeder, Nigel is slow to speak yet strong in his desire and passion. Known for helping numerous beginners, he has strong words for those who have taken advantage of his good will. Nigel easily can take the lead by demonstrating leadership that demand experience. Although he has not shown a great deal in the recent years he expressed his utter frustration with some of the direction the hobby has turned, yet deep inside he continues to breed carrying the drive he has for the Exhibition Budgerigar.

Outside the bird room

He started at the age of 10, when a friend from school gave him 2 Albino hens and a light green cock bird, with a double breeder cage and 2 nest boxes. “My brother fitted them up on the wall of my dad’s shed, and I was hooked for life”. “Both hens killed each others chicks so I thought I would join our local club called Club Basingstoke & District CBS.

I looked into his backyard and it was like a beautiful garden that fit neatly into the landscape filled with different bird rooms. This reminded me of the old style of days past. The kind you see in magazines, pleasing to the eye and inviting.
Nigel made me feel right at home as we sat down for a cup of tea and some warm conversation. We spoke of the hobby its friends and foes, its future and the direction we wanted to go. I didn't know it but seeing that Nigel was close to my temporary home I was able to meet him a couple of times over the course of my visit to England.

Looking longways into the bird room
Inside the front door is a baby flight

Nigel's winnower


As you enter Nigel's bird room you pass a long window. Inside the door he has a medium size young bird flight, breeding cages cover the entire length of the room, and at the end there is a large walk in flight that also has access to an outside flight. Next to it there is another large window which bring in a tremendous amount of light helpful for breeding. I have to say that I was totally impressed with the ingenuity that Nigel has in his bird room. You can definitely see his construction background by the quality of cabinets that adorn the bird room. I don't know if this is old-school but Nigel has the ability to use simple ideas to make his bird room extremely efficient. I'm talking about the seed winnower he designed which is an efficient way of saving the cost of bird seed by recycling the chaff from the good seed. Another common problem in bird rooms today is the level of humidity that the birds need for proper egg incubating. It should be maintained between 50 and 70 percent. Once I saw Nigel's Ionized humidifier it totally made sense I had not seen anything like it in the bird rooms I visited to date. He pointed out that the cost for such an instrument was not expensive.

A simple humidifier/ionizer
Determining if a young bird will have good backskull
One of my goals in visiting the top bird rooms in England was to ask specific questions on certain topics of interest for the average breeder like myself. One of the things we discussed was whether you could determine in the nest if a bird was going to have good back skull or good width in the head. Nigel thought that you could tell if the bird had good back skull by the length and flatness at the top of the head. He held up two birds that were nest mates. It appeared that you could see a flatness in the head of the one bird.

Nigel began to put some of his better birds into show cages for me to view and take pictures of. You could see consistency in his birds and I especially liked his Clearbody’s and Lutino’s that he is working on. I thought the Lutino’s were impressive with good length and color. I truly feel like Nigel had all the pieces for a top shelf bird. He placed a stock hen into the cage with super spots and depth of mask. I saw birds that had incredible feather direction and length of feather in the head. Nigel pointed out that he had not shown in a while and we were trying to convince him that he really needs to, with the quality we were seeing. After a while someone noted a bird that had a feather cyst which Nigel had missed. This is a common problem in the modern bird today. With the amount feather we are putting on these birds it's no wonder that you have the amount of problems from time to time.

Checking nest box

Nigel squeezes out the impacted substance

Here Nigel removes the impacted feather

How big are your spots?
Nigel uses a simple LED light to read band numbers

This gave me an opportunity to see how Nigel handles the problem. He took hold of the bird to take a closer look at it. The cyst was not large but it needed attention. Opening the end of the cyst he carefully squeezed out the substance from the inside of the cyst. At this point he carefully used a tweezers to pull the affected feather which was compacted inside the cyst. After discussing feather cyst problems on Facebook forums someone posted an antiseptic spray with a nozzle, available on the market that is used with a great deal of success with feather cyst problems. Using the nozzle you spray inside of the affected area which will help in the healing process and dry it out.

We stepped outside for a break and I began to get more pictures. Nigel has beautiful pigeons and society finches, but I was especially interested in his very large Turkeys. We sat down for some sandwiches and more banter on a perfect day. I felt like I made a friend.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Steve Holland 2011

My Mentor and my friend Steve Holland

I have always had the ability to interact well with people. It may have something to do with growing up around others who were different then me. When I was 7, I moved to a boarding house and lived with 30 children I barely knew. Back in the 60s I didn’t have these same skills. Soon enough I started to find things out about myself and this is where my confidence came from. I lived in Africa. I remember traveling deep into the bush with my family. There we no roads at least from my young perspective. We approached a village of mud huts, and were met by the leaders. I remember the children staring at us. They had never seen a white person before. I can still remember feeling surprised how in a world so large something like this could be. They were amazed and wanted to touch our hair. 

Kids from the boarding school 1973.

As I grew up, I began to recognize that I, yes even I can have an impact on people, and now that I have a family I impact my children. So why would I want to influence the people around me? I feel that each of us has an ability to make a difference in this world, and if you can recognize that you will be motivated to do it.

When I started back into this hobby after being away for 14 years I remember the joy I got from breeding and raising budgies. It stemmed from my childhood in the boarding house where I grew up and later when my brother kept them.  My wife wasn’t keen on having birds again but I had been bitten with the bug, and I found a way. I joined a club and later the national organization but at the time I hadn’t considered showing my birds. Stuart Sacks one of the top breeders in the country who happened to be a member in our club ask me if I was showing my birds and I responded that I didn’t know.

I started a basic website called and some members saw it and thought I would be a good one to manage the Maryland Budgerigar Society website. I didn’t have any idea how to do that but I was motivated and appreciated by the members of the club and I began to look for quality articles and pictures.
Sally O’Dwyer invited me to join a forum which was by invitation. Considering that I was so new in the hobby I felt honored to be a part of the group. Everyone it seemed had an immense amount of experience and although I felt a bit intimidated I went ahead and asked if anyone would be willing to write or donate any articles. Steve Holland responded and we began a correspondence that continues to this day.

I think Steve is trying to raise the roof

One of my 1st emails from Steve:

  • First off lets make thing clear, this is a hobby for me and no money will pass hand. I would rather help anyone in the world who is interested in Budgerigars rather than scare them off the hobby. I will be time rich in a few months so writing a few articles is no problem. Politics is something I would steer clear of. If you want to do a question and answer article fine, but one I would like to do is one on show preparation. Having judged in Belgium and Denmark and my brother judged in Brazil the one thing we have found is the difference in how birds are presented to judges. In the UK the opening instruction to judges is "condition is paramount" and in all of our over seas visits the exhibitors seem unable to do a good job. It may have something to do with the club set up we have in the UK, where the max. you would have to travel is about 50 miles and we have meetings every month. I guess you have to travel much further and the meetings are less frequent. At our clubs members are shown how to prepare birds. So I think with a few photos and good descriptions, it could have a 10 to 15 point article on any bird at a show. To be honest I am completely open to do what you want.
Longflight Albino, with extra flights

Steve was soon to retire from “Cadbury Chocolate Co” and writing is something that he intended to do. We connected at the right time. Right away he excepted me, he listened and made me feel open to ask any question I could imagine and I was full of them.
The website began to get some recognition, and not long after, an opening came up for editor of the American Budgerigar Association. I was approached about becoming the editor. Things were happening fast and after talking over my strengths and weaknesses with my wife we concluded that I’m not very good with deadlines and declined.

While I was steadily building our website, Steve was following along with my progress and was motivated to help me along the way in my breeding program. So I created a website for he and his brother Michael to asses my birds. That’s right I took pictures of almost all of my birds so that the brothers could print them and study the features. I’m not sure how they did it but I give them a majority of my success as breeder of the year for the USA as a Novice in 2009. Steve was so impressed that he wanted to write an article about traveling to shows for the Budgerigar Society magazine in England. There I was, on the 2nd and 3rd page. I was “over the Moon” as they say in England.

Steves article about traveling to shows and me

Some articles written for me by Steve Holland

·         Breeding rares in a normal stud
·         Color Identification
·         Feeding Tips
·         French Molt
·         Fostering
·         Nest Feather Shows
·         Pre Potent
·         Show Preparation
·          Living a Dream

Steve demonstrates family traits

An impressive amount of information, and a heck of a lot of credibility for us. I since lost the entire website due to an unscrupulous internet provider. Overwhelmed I decided to create a blog filled with articles at Maryland Budgies and to date only have 1 article available. Keep posted and feel free to offer any articles we can use to promote our hobby.

Steve is a true mentor to me. I wanted to get the definition of a mentor and it says that:

  • A mentor is a coach, guide, tutor, facilitator, councelor and trusted advisor. A mentor is someone willing to spend his or her time and expertise to guide the development of another person.

This is how I think of Steve. A passionate teacher.

During the my visit to the Budgerigar Society World show this past October 2011, I was studying the major winning birds in the center of the hall, and as I looked at Les Martins winning bird I noticed that its tail was touching the ground by at least 2 inches. I was astounded at how long this bird was. I didn’t observe this initially, and so I asked a gentleman standing there what he thought. The big question was in regard to whether this bird was actually a Longflighted bird. As I knew Steve Holland was in the show hall I began to search for him and found him over in the Grey green section. Since he has been around when Longflights were more prevalent I wanted to get his observation. Once I brought the subject up, he immediately noted that it was not infact a Longflight and began to explain what one is. Longflights generally have wings which droop down due to an extra flight feather in its wings but the obvious way to tell one is by looking at the length of the wings in regard to the bottom of the rump. Longflighted wings streatch beyond the rump. When I visited The Holland Stud, Steve pulled out an Albino he has that is a Longflight which was very plain to see.

Demonstrating color and markings

When I look through the flights of The Holland Stud I can really see pieces to the puzzle of the perfect bird I want to breed. To create that bird is probably impossible, but this trip I was impacted by what I observed. When I walked around the club show with Steve, he pointed out what is a modern birds. Many birds look as though the front has been shaved off which is almost flat from the feet up. I since have noted that there are other birds that seem to have a large chest. What then would be considered the modern bird? We have to make our own decisions on what we consider to be modern. Steve pointed out that in many ways we have removed a lot of the fat off of the birds, all of the protein is going towards feeding the feather growth. I recall last year during my visit to Chris Snell how amazed I was that the bird I was holding was like a cushin. It seemed to have all feather and underfeather and less bulk. Is this what we should be breeding? I felt as though this was the case but when bringing the subject up here in the US many didn’t think so. It makes sense to me that a bird which carries much feather is more likely to fly. With that in mind then would my goal be focused on protein? 
Longflight Albino showing wings below the rump area

Steve brought up bird after bird for me to photograph. I was interested is seeing the quality at the young stage. Big shoulders, mask, lift in the head and capping. When he brought over a bird he stated that they are trying to change over to what he called a more modern look. It had feather direction shoulder and size, the head was exceptional. I could see with my own eyes like the light went on what he was talking about. Michael and Steve spent a great deal of time pointing out features and how they put them into their birds. Michael is a genius when it comes to the background knowledge of the families in their stud. He knows which hens produce shoulder and which cocks produce head features. They have the knowledge and are now working on bringing it all together. These things stick to me as I begin to realize through observation. It takes time and a mentor often is very patient as they bring up bird after bird trying to impress on us what is important. Until I can grasp what that is I will never progress. This is the art of breeding and what a mentor like Steve can do. Experience is everything, and paitence is the key.

So what do you think is a mentor? Do you have any mentors in your life, and how have they impacted your life? I posed this question to a group of Budgerigar breeders on Face book and got some responses I’d like to share with you.

Tracy Haskell
            Noarlunga, South Australia

  • I didn't have expectations as such as I didn't know what to expect. I have a few "peripheral" mentors, but one main person I go to for advice and support. The best thing my mentor has done for me is sell me some quality young birds at a very cheap price and give me some of her older birds that were of good quality but she wanted to move on. Another invaluable thing she did for me was to come at short notice on a Friday night to teach me to crop feed a young bird that wasn't thriving out of the nest. Being able to crop feed babies is vital to me. My mentors goals, I believe, are to just enjoy the hobby and to help others along the way. She enjoys winning, but loves the other side of the hobby. Always a mentor - always offering to help others.

Sky blue of Chris Snell

Rodney Harris
            Cornwall, England

  • My first mentor was my father, he had exhibition leghorn poultry.  Dad used to work on the land, and when he finished as a herdsman on a very progressive farm, the owner set about developing a top heard of Frisian cows. My dad had books to read to understand the breeding methods that were employed by the livestock breeders of top quality cattle. He then applied those methods to his poultry. I started helping my father when I was seven years old looking after the broody hen and chicks. I was taught how to candle eggs, I was also taught how to recognize by listening to the egg if the chick was stuck in the shell. My dad gave up keeping his poultry in 1967 and began to take an interest in the budgies. He sat down with me one evening and explained how I should go about improving the quality of the birds. My dad had gone to some of the bird shows in previous years and unknown to me he had been studying form. He had a blue print in his mind and explained what to do, with the knowledge his father and the farmers that he had worked for where he picked up a wealth of knowledge. In 1968 I meet Mr Harry Bryan for the first time. What a bird man. To this day I have yet to meet anyone who could assess a budgie as quickly as he could, and as for breeding potential of a bird he was quite uncanny; unbelievable. I had the pleasure of spending hundreds of hours with the great man. The things I learned from him while I was making the models of the BS ideal, I don't think I could have learned from any other person. My dad died in 1979 to him I owe so so much I kept up using his methods of stockmanship until I gave up the birds this year. I don't know if its a record but I/we won at least one BS CC for 39 years consecutively. These were my mentors and inspiration.

This bird belongs to Brian Sweeting which appears shaved in front

Rob Black

  • I thank God for the man who I consider to be my mentor, because he has only been in the hobby for 40 or 50 years and is a Budgerigar Society judge. What he doesn't know is not worth knowing, because he never lost sight of budgerigars being a hobby and never chased the gold at the end of the rainbow with these big money balls of feather. The number of free birds he has given me over the years I will always remember and he has gone out of his way so many times for me.

Barrie Shutt
            United Kingdom

  • As a mentor I just offer the hand of friendship, answer each email, make time for that plea for help, and be prepared to stand for an hour on the phone offering words of encouragement. I mentor the world over and its not uncommon to receive 50/100 emails a day asking for help and advice. I encourage beginners to spend a day with many, learning from hands on experience. Share everything you know. There are no dark corners in my birdroom.

The modern bird, showing shape, size and deportment

Rick Watts
            United Kingdom

  • Alan, much like Barrie all we can offer is what we know, and this is by trial and error, and a few years in hobby. It’s so easy now for people starting up, there is more to read with computers and websites etc. I find it hard listening to those who are in the hobby for 5 minuets. They know it all and go as fast as they started.  Then there are those that ask you for help and don't enjoy what you tell them. My feeling now is, "if you want my help or advice so be it, if you don't want the truth , then don't ask me ", and I’m happy to help anyone ...... happy days Alan , happy days

Paul Cunningham

The passionate observer
  • My dad was my mentor also. When I was born he had pet budgies in a spare bedroom and was just breeding in an aviary on the colony system. They used to carry me in to see the birds. Later he discovered the Eire Budgerigar Society and he got really interested in the show birds. I used to go everywhere with him and on aviary visits etc. I knew from very early on what he was trying to achieve and we used to talk about the birds constantly. I used to tend to them every day which he was at work and when he would come home he would ask me for the progress report. When I was 14 he told me that I could pick one pair for my own and he would pay my club membership and get me 10 rings with my very own code number on them. For my pair I selected an Opaline grey cock x Opaline light green hen. They next bred 6 youngsters. Among them was an opaline greygreen hen that was by far the best bird that we bred that year. This was in 1971. Because he was a champion breeder I had to begin by showing in the champion section. Since this young hen already had everything else well beaten I entered just this one bird at the Eire budgerigar societies open show. At that time if you fancied a bird to win best in show you could pool it to win. If it won you got the pool money but if a bird that was not pooled won the pool money went to the club. So I pooled her to win. She won best in show, best breeder in show, best champion bird, best champ breeder and best opaline in show. She also won the pool money. This was my introduction to the exhibition scene. After that he took me seriously as a fancier in my own right and had me pairing up the lot every year after. Next we went into partnership and we showed and judged all over Ireland both north and south for over 30 years. This continued right up until 2002. Unfortunately by 2002 my dad was terminally ill in hospital and I showed for the last time in Ireland again at the open show of the Eire budgerigar society. I won best in show with an owner bred opaline grey hen. This was my best ever win because a wealthy Irish intermediate breeder had just purchased the entire B&C Heale stud intact and no one in Ireland was expected to stand a chance. He entered a cracking team of Heale birds along with their outstanding Budgerigar Society Club show winning Grey green cock. Don Havanhand and Phil Reaney were the judges. So this was the icing on the cake for me. I had also bred this hen from a Grey cock that I had bought in a Dublin pet shop for €10. Her mother was a grey hen bred by me that had also been bred from two pet shop birds that had cost me €10 each. I brought the cup for the hospital to show him. He was well pleased. He died 5 months later in Feb 2003. It was not the same for me after that and I sold all of my birds in 2004.

This hobby is for everyone. If we become pro active, using our skills we really can make a difference. Reading these posts give great insight as to what it takes to make a difference and the impact we can have on those around us just by sharing what we love. Steve Holland has done that for me. He has connected me, taught me, shown me and made me feel proud by the things he has done. My goal is to emulate the things I have been taught so that I too can make a difference in this wonderful hobby.