What thoughts do you have on the overseas birds? Are the British birds preferable?
GSB: I have no doubts at all in my mind that there are specific birds in The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and South Africa that can beat the UK birds easily.
That is based on their top birds of course, but in all cases they have the depth of quality to be able to sell you top quality (at a price!) if you are willing to attack the hobby as you should. If you do not, then ask yourself, “Why am I in this hobby?”
If you want names then I think Jac Kuyten, from what I hear, has quality as well as Jo Mannes, Daniel Lütolf and Reinhard Molkentin in South Africa. Not only do they have the quality they are the right birds for the future.
In what way do you think they have influenced our UK stock so far?
GSB: There are a few of us who import and it is interesting that those who show have done well. Les Martin, Brian Sweeting, Roger Long and Phil Reaney are a few names as well as myself, where the quality has shot up since I ceased Budgerigar World ownership.
Demand is really heavy on an annual basis as it is known these breeders and myself have gone to the considerable expense and hassle to get such birds into the UK.
Have the overseas birds, with their style and type, spoilt the old British Show Birds in any way?
GSB: No, definitely not.
Just look at the young Skyblue cock shown by Les Martin at the Budgerigar Society Cup Show this year, which would, by popular acclaim had it not dropped a spot on the Thursday evening, have taken the top awards easily and which everyone was looking at throughout the show.
That bird has a Jo Mannes background as did a few other winning birds at Doncaster.
You have imported from Mannes, Molkentin and Lutolf. How have they influenced your birds?
GSB: I have partly answered this above, but there is no doubt that the fact that I crossed most of the imported birds bred in the second generation and their offspring into my own Moffat x Binks bloodline, has paid off handsomely.
My grey greens are really super and I have them in big numbers along with light greens and skyblues. Cinnamons have appeared and unlike a lot of breeders I welcome their appearance as they are so useful to retaining feather quality as well as the directional feather that is appearing all over the place.
How does a beginner, who has just bought an outstanding outcross, proceed to use it to best advantage?
GSB: Ideally he/she should try to buy two hens at the same time to run the cock to them. That is the shortcut to success and saving expense in the long run.
However few studs can afford to let you have more than one hen per cock. If the beginner has only the single cock to work with as his/her outcross then he/she should run it to the very best featured hens he/she has – and keep it going in different breeding cages for as long as it is looking 100% fit.
Remember that once you stop it breeding, it takes at least 3 months to recover full fitness – and in that time tragedy can strike. It does happen to the best birds!
Who had the most influence on you in your formative years?
GSB: Most fanciers will expect me to say Harry Bryan or Angela Moss and certainly they had wonderful birds, but when it comes to actual influence it has to be Ken Farmer, of Luton in Bedfordshire, who in his mind wanted budgerigar heads to be like Norwich Canary top ends.
Ken’s birds slowly began to acquire the frontal lift above the cere and I saw the first two magnificent light green cocks of his shown at the massive show at Southall in Middlesex. I still recall them and indeed exactly where they were placed in the hall – such was their impact.
If Ken were alive today, he would be delighted to see the directional feather and width that a relative few breeders have now put on their birds to create what I have termed as the “Buffalo Effect” line over the cere. Today the Farmer “Norwich Budgerigar” has been achieved.
You have been actively involved in the hobby in a countless number of ways in your 74 years of breeding since the age of 12. Can you describe the big forward leaps that changed our birds from pre-war pet standard to what is around today?
GSB: When I started in November 1945 there were few birds around except in the pet shops and I knew nothing at all about show points or anything really. I was raw in the extreme. There were no Beginner Classes – you started in Novice and then went straight to Champion.
Those birds were looked at by 1950 as having good heads in a few places and Harry Bryan held most of the aces. However, I have an Ideal Model produced by the Leamington Budgerigar Society dated 1958 which is in my display case at Tanglewood. You would laugh at it by comparison to standards today, but at the time it was “some budgie” that we could only marvel at.
It was Harry Bryan that, along with Farmer, started to look very carefully for any heads that others had that had longer feathers and some of them had been bred from the long-flighted birds that had emerged at the time. These two hunted high and low for anything that improved the top ends and they were the driving forces that achieved their object and made them the major breeders who were ahead of the rest.
Joe Collyer in Surrey was another. Collyer suddenly came out with a nest of four birds – three grey greens and a grey – of outstanding quality in the late 1950’s. Harry Bryan was after one immediately but Collyer would not sell to him. Harry, never to be outdone, sent Will Addey (the Budgerigar Society Secretary) down to Joe and he bought the best one for £250 – a massive price at the time.
Maurice Finey then bought another for £225 and bred 39 chicks from it in the first year by “running” it to many hens. He then sent 8 chicks in the following season to the big London and Southern Counties Show (2600 entries) and won from 1st to 5th in the grey green class – and 7th too! Unfortunately the best one was not placed and the judge was slaughtered on the day. Harry Bryan’s purchase was shown at The National exhibition and won Best in Show, but it never bred a chick!
The next big influence and credit goes to Reinhard Molkentin when he lived in Germany. He used his top birds to the tiny group of spangles that had been bought by Rolf Christen from Australia. The results were staggering, but that is where all the spangles we have today began.
Since then the next dramatic move arrived with the realisation that we all woke up to directional feather structure – the rest you know.
Today we seem to have more type/typy, medium feathered birds on the benches. If we continue on this road do you think we will lose ground in head and shoulder substance quality in the near future?
GSB: No doubt about it at all. We will do just that.
As I see it not enough breeders attack their hobby as they should. Look at the successful breeders. They eat, drink and sleep budgies as I have done all my life and they are ahead of the crowd.
Also we have some judges that do not attempt to breed the up to date budgerigars and so not having bred them they struggle to know what to do when such quality birds appear in front of them. A classic case was at Swindon Budgerigar Show recently, where a newly qualified judge made a basic error and wrong classed a massive normal grey cock in the young bird classes bred from a bird I had sold the previous season.
He did so stating “the bird was an adult” but without checking the blue ring it had – and without consulting his fellow judges. The owner was not happy to say the least, especially as that bird went on to win at the Budgerigar Show at Doncaster.
In your opinion how do we move forward with the hobby by bringing in new fanciers?
GSB: Easy. Wake up the Budgerigar Society to publicise the hobby. There has never been any serious forward planning and outside marketing to the general public except when I tried to reform the hobby in the early 1980’s with Budgerigar World.
All that six influential members of the council could do at that time was to attack me and try and discredit me as they stated, “I was trying to institute a takeover of the Budgerigar Society”. I laughed at the time and unfortunately still do periodically, as no businessman in his right mind would ever want to “take over the Budgerigar Society”.
Those six have since vanished, but the legacy they left for the future hobby was profound as we have lost so many people and few young people are being told that we actually exist!! If you do not tell the public what a great hobby this is, we are dead in the water. Today all the council are, unlike the earlier six, very nice people, but strive as I might, nothing happens – probably because I rocked the establishment in the 1980’s.
To conclude, I must in balance give credit where it is due.
The Budgerigar Society World Championships are a credit to the many volunteers who, like Geoff Capes, work hard for the benefit of others.
The Budgerigar Society magazine is also first class and my November / December issue is superbly presented. Strangely few people notice any praise that is given, only focusing on any criticism that is stated constructively in my case.
What in your opinion is the best advice you could give all of us in the hobby?
GSB: In a few words it is “Attack it”.
You have to sell, even from the beginner stage, 10 birds and buy one. The weakest link is to put it in your pocket so that when it comes to buying a £50+ bird – it isn’t there and the expenditure seems very great.
I came from an ordinary background, but with perseverance I got there. Had I not messed around with writing so much, including Best in Show, The Challenge and founding Budgerigar World Magazine, and not tried to improve the hobby for itself in the 1980’s, but had focused on the birds themselves, I would have got to the stage I am now so much quicker. But there are only 24 hours in a day!