Reported by Ghalib & Janice Al-Nasser

IT is always an honour to be invited to judge a show and, where possible, to combine it with a holiday. So, when the invitation arrived to judge the National championship show of the Budgerigar Society of South Africa (BSSA) during August, we started planning what has become the holiday of a lifetime. Dave Hislop was the other British judge; he brought Marie, his wife, with him and the four of us had a most wonderful time. We were assisted in the planning of our itinerary by Ian Bleasdale the show manager. This included a 3-day trip to the famous Kruger National Park, a drive through the beautiful Garden Route and several days spent in Cape Town. The show was held in Johannesburg.

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Having booked all the necessary flights, car hire, the safari trip and accommodation all that was left was the wait. The 11-hour night flight was comfortable and our South African fellow judge Malcolm Taylor, a Geordie who emigrated to SA some 30 years ago, met us at the airport. Malcolm was responsible for our welfare while we were in the J/burg area. Dave and his wife Marie had arrived 2 days earlier and visited his cousin.

The Friday was spent visiting Gold Reef City (Mining Museum and Theme Park), checking into the hotel; having a few hours rest then being picked up again by Malcolm and his wife Barbara for a meal and then show talk.

Saturday morning we arrived at the show hall and were greeted by many fanciers who made us extremely welcome. The National of BSSA is the last show of the season and is usually rotated between 4 different regions of the country. It was the J/burg clubs’ turn to host the National this year. The show attracted an entry of 1873 from 96 exhibitors with a benched figure of 1669. A very strong show indeed. The show is run on a similar basis to our championship shows but they have 26 challenge certificates.

As we already knew that they had a strong Spangle club we took 4 SBBA coasters and Spangle Reviews for their Spangle club and members. There were 3 Spangle CCs in Green, Blue and Double Factor. Dave judged the spangles. There were a total of 253 spangles benched divided into the 3 colours by 94, 105 & 54.

We were all very impressed with the quality of the birds. The major and CC winners were capable of winning specials here at any of our major shows. Three very positive things that struck us at the show were: 1) All their show cages had the extended perch. 2) They staged by colour making it easy for the stewards to deal with the birds and 3) They operated the Two-Year Young Bird class system. If only we, in G.B., could sometimes see the sense in changing some of our very old habits and methods.

I judged the Light Greens, Dark Greens, all the Pieds and AOC and was very pleased that two of the major specials came from my colours. The Best in Show and best young bird was a Light Green cock staged to perfection by George Sutton who also won the best any age award with a wide headed Skyblue cock (judged by Janice). The best opposite sex in show was a lovely 2002 Clearbody Light Green hen bred by Pierre & Maya Swart of PALM Aviaries.

As we said earlier, Dave judged the Spangles and this is his report:

Green Series
The CC winner was a 2002 young Opaline Light Green cock owned by Nel Brothers Stud. This bird had a good top end with good width and frontal rise and clean Opaline markings. It was a showy bird with good deportment and length and always keen to show itself.

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Blue Series
The CC winner was a 2003 Suffused Opaline Blue cock bred by Pat & George de Beer. An interesting colour combination, but most interesting was the fact that it was a 2003 bird in a mixed age class of 2002 and 2003 birds because of the Two Year Young Bird classes. This was an excellent bird with plenty of power and coarse feathering; it had plenty of width across the face and shoulders with a good mask. Although it was short of two flight feathers all the other good qualities were sufficient to carry it to the top.

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Double Factor Spangles

Yes, they do have their own CC and the winner was another 2002 young Yellow cock bred by the Thistle Aviaries. This bird possessed good width of head and depth of mask; it was clean and staged in good condition. Its only fault was that there was a bit of green suffusion in the body.

Out of the 26 CCs, 14 were young birds, which we thought was a very high record indeed. The Saturday night was a social evening at an excellent restaurant. This was attended by many fanciers and their partners. On the Sunday morning we were invited to attend their annual judges meeting and asked to participate in the discussion. The society only has 12 or so active judges so they frequently engage overseas judges for their National as well as area shows. A nice buffet lunch was provided, and then the award presentation took place. The remainder of the day was spent with Malcolm and his family at their home and it gave us the chance to view his birds.

Monday morning we were collected from the hotel by Malcolm, who drove some two hours to our Vice President Reinhard Molkentin’s residence. Reinhard was not present in SA at the time as he was attending the Europa Championship show in Germany; but his wife Jutta, and son and partner Holger, looked after us. It is hard to describe their complex and the many acres of land that they have. You could say that they have their own small National Park. They breed macaws, African greys, miniature horses, ostriches as well as the budgies. Their aviaries are large, spacious and long, housing some wonderful birds. They won best Recessive Pied at the show. We were very impressed with everything that we saw. My only disappointment was not seeing Reinhard, as the last time we met was when we judged the Europa show together in 1994.

Tuesday we spent with Fred and Eileen Sherman. We were very pleased to see Fred well on the road to recovery after his illness last year. Fred lives in a beautiful part of J/burg, Santown, with a lovely house and garden. His birdroom was an L-shape with the first part being the breeding cages, then the flights either side ending with a preparation room. A very comfortable room indeed. There were some wonderful birds in the breeding cages. Fred was trying to catch up on lost time when he was ill so all his cages were occupied by some lovely pairs. We were very impressed indeed.

Well, if we remember something about South Africa for the rest of our life then it will be the next 3 days spent in Kruger National Park. The four of us had our own driver and guide by the name of Mike, originally from Northern Ireland who emigrated to SA. The fantastic safari we had would take pages to describe. We were extremely fortunate to see all of the big five at least once! Perhaps, if we were to single out a few of the most memorable incidents, we would have to choose being chased by a bull elephant; having to stop as a lioness was stretched out in the middle of the road stopping all the traffic; and seeing a leopard in a tree with her kill while 4 lionesses hung around at the bottom of the tree waiting for some scraps to be dropped! The only thing that we didn’t see was an adult male lion; although we saw 4 young ones (including one young male) at dawn sitting near a water hole waiting patiently for their breakfast!!!!

After one-hour flight from J/burg to Port Elizabeth on Saturday morning we picked up a rental car and started the Garden Route journey to Cape Town. Again this is a wonderful part of SA with some stunning scenery and views on the way. We spent 3 days en route and stopped at George Town to visit George Sutton. He picked up two CCs; Light Green and Lutino as well as BIS, Best Any Age and Young Bird. His establishment is small in comparison with Reinhard and Fred’s, although he had a small stud of birds the quality was evident. His Lutino winner was that deep buttercup yellow colour, so desirable in this variety.

We were met by Gerald and Pat de Beer and Francois Stroh just outside Cape Town. Dave & Marie were staying with the de Beers while we had a B&B with an English family living opposite Francois. Pat and Gerald have a stud of exceptionable quality birds. They did very well at the show, winning 4 CCs with a young Skyblue cock, Grey, Spangle Blue and Opaline Grey. They had an outstanding Grey Green cock in the stud which, had it been complete, would have been an extremely strong contender for BIS. Wherever you looked in their aviary and birdroom you were met with the most outstanding quality birds, both adults and youngsters; an excellent stud.

The next 5 days were spent touring CT, that most beautiful city in SA. Our sightseeing included a visit to Table Mountain, Robben Island (where Mandela spent much of his time in prison) and many other very interesting places. Another thrill of this holiday was seeing whales, some 30 metres away from us, so close to the shore at Hermanus. We were all treated exceptionally well and wined and dined in the very best places.

Yes, it was the holiday of a lifetime and all was made possible by this wonderful little bird called THE BUDGERIGAR.

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