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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.


GaryArmstrong said...

Well written Alan.

leeia fox said...

a fantastic writing Alan don't look back and keep that confidence you talk of finding it seems to be doing you more than a favor :)
again a writing ill be more than able to enjoy each and every time i come back to view it ....well done keep them coming

Anonymous said...

Wonderfully written Alan. I really enjoyed every word of it. Its also very informative.

Thankyou Alan Bundy

Bader Nouman

Maddy said...

Alan nice wordings. You are budgie breeding techniques are fantastic.

Dewayne said...

Thanks, Alan. Excellent comments. I, too, am a Steve Holland fan.