By the time you read this page our Annual General Meeting will have come and gone, with hopefully a continuation of our policies and plans into the New Year, supported by our very able team of trustees and officers. Now to look forward to our last show of the year at Stafford Showground - the Help the Birdkeepers’ Show on 6th December, providing that last opportunity before Christmas to stock up on last minute needs or presents, and to exchange or sell surplus birds before next breeding season. When the idea for this show was first mooted in Council just a few years ago, initial thoughts were that it fell too close to Christmas and that no-one would attend. How right were Colin O’Hara and Les Rance to press forward with the idea, as this event has proved once again increasingly successful and eminently popular with our members and traders alike.
As always this show will be held in the smaller Argyle and Sandylands Centres, so we will not encounter the lighting problems we had in Bingley Hall in October, resulting from the roof renewal. Hopefully this work will now have been completed anyway, but just in case…..! Full details of this show and conditions were published in the November magazine.
Talking of the PS magazine, I have enjoyed reading the series of articles produced by Rosemary Low on her various visits to European Zoos. Usually linked with her international speaking at various symposia, Rosemary obviously focuses on the parrot and bird collections in her reports. It is fascinating to read about the alternative methods of housing and caring for these birds, as well as the different varieties of species held in other venues. Clearly the maintenance of captive avian species has vastly improved in recent years, and hopefully these articles will stimulate Parrot Society members to travel and visit these outstanding collections for themselves.
On 30th November I shall be representing The Parrot Society UK at a Companion Animal Sector Council meeting entitled ‘Responsible Supply of Pets in the Future’ at the invitation of Chris Newman. This meeting will address changes in the supply and acquisition of pets, associated with increased internet usage, free movement across Europe, and improved understanding of the needs of animals. Discussion has already taken place with canine and feline groups, but this meeting hopes to involve other groups, including birds and other exotic species. This should be an interesting event, with potentially far-reaching effects on the trade in parrots and our shows. I shall report back next month!
Although your January magazine will be posted out just before Christmas, I shall wish all Parrot Society members and their families a peaceful, stress-free and Happy Christmas now, just in case you are too busy to read the next issue so close to the holiday season!
Another successful National Exhibition at Stafford has come and gone. Well, I say successful, and on the whole it was, but there was a major issue with poor lighting. The million pound renewal of the whole roof of Bingley Hall had not progressed as quickly as we had hoped, with the result that most of the natural light via clear roof panels has gone, while the replacement LED lighting has not yet been installed. Unfortunately this meant that many tables and stands were left in semi-darkness – not the best display for your birds and therefore not conducive to potential sales! We apologise for the problems caused, and our secretary Les Rance has dealt with a handful of complaints about this matter, and certainly all should be resolved by next year.
Since the Parrot Society UK expanded its original Parrot Show concept to include exhibition birds of a variety of species, with tabling and judging, to become the new National Bird Show, this event continues to grow in stature. Pre-booking and early entry for PS members has considerably reduced the queue for entry tickets, but we still had a very good number of visitors and ticket sales on the day. Apart from the poor lighting, there were very few major problems, and table holders, traders, exhibitors and visitors alike appeared to have a successful and enjoyable day. We thank you for your co-operation in displaying your birds properly and completing your sale lists. Inevitably there was the odd escapee, even though many transfer aviaries are provided around the halls, but they did seem to be fewer than in previous years.
Volunteer Scouts did sterling work with fetching and carrying, while first aid, animal welfare, and security staff worked hard to ensure smooth running of the event and the safety of the birds. Council members, with friends and family, plus many volunteers from local groups also worked tirelessly in the setting up on Saturday and early Sunday morning, followed by the mammoth (but efficiently handled) clear up on Sunday afternoon. Once again we thank our regular sponsors Johnston & Jeff for their support and presence, as well as welcoming Cage & Aviary Birds to our show.
Our next event will be the smaller Help Bird Keepers’ Show on 6th December, providing that last opportunity before Christmas to stock up on last minute needs or presents, and to exchange or sell surplus birds before the end of the year. Just prior to that is our AGM on 22nd November, to be held in Dunstable.
Preparations continue for our seminar at Chester Zoo to be held on 17/18 September 2016 to mark the 50th anniversary of The Parrot Society, with the investigation of various options of accommodation in the area around Chester Zoo. Hopefully I shall have more details to impart in next month’s magazine.
As I write these words we are well into the season of heat and humidity, with resulting thunderstorms. The evenings are noticeably drawing in, and by the time you read this magazine, that will be even more evident. For the vast majority of birds the breeding season is now well and truly over, so it is time to take down and clean out nest boxes. Take stock of what you have bred (or not!) and think about your plans for next year. Time to sort out which new birds you want to keep for future breeding, and which you would like to sell or exchange. Then decide what you may require in terms of new boxes, perches, rope swings, cage panels and other goodies, and then you will be all set to take part in the big National Bird Show at Stafford County Showground on 11th October. Come along to stock up on new equipment, sell or exchange your surplus birds for new individuals, and meet with like-minded enthusiasts at the biggest bird event in the UK! It will be interesting to see how work on the new roof at the showground is progressing. Our next magazine will be the last one before the October National, so make sure you have all your plans for tickets, tables, travel and accommodation worked out. Please remember that all members can enter the Show halls at 7.30 a.m. provided you have purchased an entry wrist band (coloured red) in advance via our website from the 'Shop' or by cheque from our office. They will NOT be available on the day.
Our Members’ Days Out at various bird parks around the country go from strength to strength, and two of these are the subject of a separate illustrated article elsewhere in this issue of the magazine.
It is of ongoing concern to Council members at our two-monthly planning meetings that few young people are coming into the hobby of parrot keeping. This has been the case now for many years, with the result that many of the well-known and respected ‘old-timers’ in the bird world are sadly leaving us, with no-one coming up through the ranks to replace them. Societies and clubs of all varieties face similar problems, and it is difficult to know how best to encourage youngsters away from their electronic gadgets and become involved in a physical and practical activity. We now have the on-line ‘Bird Scene’, and we are arranging facebook and twitter links, but if any of our members has some constructive ideas on how to attract new, young parrot enthusiasts, we will be only too pleased to hear them!
Once again we have a Friday 13th, but the weather is far better than it was last month, and in fact the day is going very well so far! The sparrows, starlings, dunnocks, robins, blackbirds, blue and great tits are all sorting out nest sites around the village, while red kites and buzzards are seen wheeling overhead now in pairs more often than singly.
Those of you with breeding aviary birds will also undoubtedly see clear signs of nesting and mating, and hopefully your nest boxes have all been cleaned, repaired, or re-made, and hung in safe, sheltered positions in the flights. Last month’s Spring Show at Stafford should have enabled you to stock up on essential supplies for the forthcoming breeding season. The Parrot Society had its usual stand at this show (although it is not organised by the PSUK – a common misconception), but good to chat to and meet with PS members past and present. A good practice run for our first show of the year at Stafford on 5th July!
One of the perennial problems in parrot keeping is the potential longevity of most species. The larger macaws, cockatoos, Amazons and the like may live for upwards of 40 or 50 years, and even as long as 70 or 80 years. This is something rarely considered when that cute hand-reared baby pet parrot is taken on, but as the years pass, what happens? The bird itself may become noisy, destructive, or aggressive with the onset of sexual maturity. This requires a lot of patience, understanding, and proper attention on the part of the human carer. The baby parrot that was once fine with all family members may take an active dislike to some – often the sexual opposite, or a new boyfriend/girlfriend joining the clan. Children who once doted on the bird grow up and turn to other interests; they leave home and go to college, join the armed forces, or start their own homes. On their occasional return they may be greeted as long-lost friends, or they may be ostracised by the parrot for its perceived abandonment.
The parents left at home in charge of the parrot may or may not be as interested as the children once were. Relationships break up and couples go their separate ways – who has custody of the bird? Babies come along and disrupt the smooth running of the household. Middle-aged owners become older and perhaps infirm, and physically incapable of looking after their birds. They may even die, and then do the surviving members of the family want to take on the responsibility of this noisy, messy, aggressive parrot? Very often, the answer is no.
All these situations will lead to a parrot being passed on – hopefully to a new home in which it will be loved and cared for, for the rest of its natural life, but more usually it gets moved on and on, and on… often ending up in a sanctuary or rescue centre. Such premises, starting with the best of intentions, become overwhelmed with unwanted parrots, quickly running out of space and money to continue with the fine ideas they started with. This is a subject to which I shall return again in the future…
Alan Jones Mar/April 2015
As I write this page it is Friday 13th February, but apart from the wind and rain nothing untoward has happened so far, and there is Valentine’s Day tomorrow and my granddaughter’s birthday on Sunday to look forward to!
The late afternoons and early mornings are getting lighter, and the birds are definitely showing clear signs of nesting behaviour. Those of you with aviary birds should by now have carried out essential winter maintenance – checking for damaged wood and wire, renewing perches, and removing any over-hanging branches or overgrown weeds and shrubs. Nest boxes should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, or replaced by new ones. Make sure you have fresh stocks of necessary supplements like calcium for the breeding season, and egg food or other sources of protein for the breeding parents and young chicks.
For those of you that pay UK income tax, and have signed your Gift Aid forms with your subscription applications, the money that we can get back from HMRC in the form of Gift Aid makes a valuable contribution to Parrot Society income. These claims are submitted retrospectively, and it was agreed at our last Council meeting at the end of January, that 50% of all Gift Aid payments received for 2012/13, 2013/14, and 2014/15 will be transferred to the Conservation Fund to support upcoming projects.
Two major conservation projects were passed by Council at the end of last year. First was our commitment reported in Nov 2014 issue of the PS magazine to support conservation of the Red-vented Cockatoo in the Philippines via the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). Second was the project to reimburse farmers for crop damage by the endangered Lear’s Macaws in Brazil, reported in the December 2014 magazine. Earlier support provided for the Tasman Parakeet (Red-fronted Kakariki) has also been featured in January 2015 magazine and the on-line ‘Birdscene’.
Payments from the Conservation Fund have already been agreed by Council so far this year to support two more worthwhile projects. The first is ongoing financial support for the Yellow-shouldered Amazon conservation in Bonaire, administered via Dr Sam Williams. Sam has been a long-term contributor to the PS magazine with his many articles and reports on conservation projects, the latest of which featured in September 2014 magazine.
Finally, Council trustee Garry Steptowe, with writer Rosemary Low, returned from last year’s Parrot Symposium at Loro Parque enthused by conversation held there with Fabio Nunes of the Aquasis project in Brazil, talking about their work on the critically endangered Grey-breasted Parakeet. Council has agreed funding to cover costs of a motorcycle to aid transport around the difficult areas of north-eastern Brazil in which the few remaining populations are found. This bird, the organization Aquasis, and its work, also featured in October 2014.
These and other recent articles in our magazine have reached a very high standard, and help to illustrate the important work going on around the world in parrot conservation and welfare, much of it supported by you and your society! Still, charity begins at home, so if there are any worthwhile projects requiring our support back here in the UK that you are aware of, then please do let us know.
Alan Jones Feb 2015
Chairman's February Message 2015
I wish you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year, and I hope that all goes well with your parrot-keeping in 2015. There is plenty for Parrot Society members to get involved in this coming year, including our regular shows at Stafford Showground in July, October, and December, as well as our ‘days out’ at Flamingo Land and Tropical Bird Gardens, Desford in May, Birdworld at Farnham in July, and Beale Park in August. Then there are non-Parrot Society events such the March Stafford Spring Show, shows at Newark in April and November, as well as ‘Think Parrots’ organized by Parrots magazine at Kempton Park in June!
I look forward to our first Council Meeting on January 25th, to welcome our three new trustees, and to discuss our plans for The Society for the next year. Having visited Brazil with Rosemary Low, organized by Steve Brookes of Wild Parrots Up Close, and seen three excellent conservation projects in action, then conservation projects around the world are important in my mind. Also, having seen over my years as an avian veterinarian so many birds damaged or in chronic ill health as the result of ignorance, neglect, poor diet or mismanagement, then ongoing education on parrot care is essential.
Thus the main thrusts of my tenure as Chairman will be:
1 Continued prosperity of the Parrot Society and service to its members;
2 Conservation of parrots around the world, thereby promoting the PSUK and its work, as well as generating interesting articles for our magazine and website;
3 Education in all aspects of parrot care and breeding.
A relative tipped us off last year about a programme called ‘Parrot Confidential’ on a little-known TV channel called ‘Pick’ (Freeview channel 11). It was an excellent programme (although made by Americans!) about the problems that can occur with captive parrots, and the way that so many are passed on and re-homed, eventually ending their days in sanctuaries. The sanctuaries themselves, which start off with the best intentions, then become overwhelmed with birds and struggle to cope. The programme also dealt with some of the conservation projects in the wild, and the release of captive-bred parrots back into safe natural habitat.
It is an excellent programme, well worth watching, and one deserving of a much wider audience. Fortunately it was repeated a couple of weeks later, so it may well come on again. Catch it if you can!!
Chairman's January Message 2015
You will notice a new face at the head of this page, since David Coombes retired as Chairman of our Society after his three-year term, at the AGM last month. David has not disappeared completely, as he remains a serving Council member, and we extend our heartfelt thanks for his long service as one of the founder members of The Parrot Society UK, followed by Council Member, many years as Secretary, magazine editor, and show organizer, and finally Chairman. We wish him and his wife Jackie all the very best in their new home, and hope he enjoys his smart new aviaries!
I am no stranger to the position of PSUK Chairman, having served in the early years of the 21st century. I resigned owing to pressure of work, but since my retirement from general avian veterinary practice at the end of June 2013, I now have just a little more spare time! I also live now comparatively close to the society’s office in Berkhamsted, so it is an easier matter to visit and liaise with the office staff than it was when I lived in Surrey.
The AGM also saw the appointment of three new trustees to Council, bringing us back up to a full complement of nine. Pictures and short biographical notes will shortly appear on the website - see council page - and I shall welcome them formally at our first Council meeting in January 2015, but they are Dave Dickason, Jane Hainge and Maria Marsden.
I am pleased to be taking up the reins again with the PSUK in such a strong position. We have an enthusiastic and close-working team on Council, plus an excellent secretary in Les Rance, with efficient supporting office staff. Our shows at Stafford go from strength to strength, and the big October event, which has now become The National Show is highly successful, bringing together keepers of a huge variety of bird species under one roof.
Conservation projects around the world continue to be well supported. Thanks to some generous legacies in recent years, notably that from founder member and long-serving trustee John Mollindinia, the society is able to provide funds for may useful projects. Proposals are debated at length in Council before they are approved, to ensure that funds are not wasted, and in most cases we get excellent feedback in the form of regular articles and reports for the magazine and website.
Talking of the latter, whilst the printed magazine, regularly posted out on time to every member, continues to be the lifeblood of the Society, these days electronic communication and the internet provide many alternative forms of access to birdie topics. If you have not done so already, then you should visit the PSUK website www.theparrotsociety.org, and take a look at the excellent on-line magazine ‘Birdscene’ produced by secretary Les Rance.
Finally it remains for me to wish all members and your families a Happy and stress-free Christmas, and we all wish for a healthy, prosperous, and peaceful New Year. The last wish is perhaps a vain hope, given the state of the world at present, but we can try hard, and start by loving those close to us, and treating family and friends with respect, consideration and compassion. You never know, if enough of us do it, the idea may catch on!