Chairman's Blog

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CHAIRMAN
Alan Jones

Alan Jones

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Alan Jones

 

Chairman’s Page April 2021

Well, we are still not sure what the situation is with regard to coronavirus – at the time of writing, half of the UK adult population has been vaccinated, and infection and death rates are falling fast. But now there is the worry of an interruption in the supply of vaccines, if EU threats go ahead! Nevertheless, we still have to plan ahead, in the hope that shows and events will take place later this year. Watch this space!

Our recent Council meeting proceeded successfully, once again conducted on-line via email. The format and arrangements for potential shows later in the year were discussed, as well as ideas for conservation projects in the UK. These clearly will depend again upon the Covid situation, but the situation is being monitored closely. Hopefully we will be able to carry out our next meeting in May in a live, face-to-face manner. It will be good to have those direct discussions again.

On a brighter note, spring is definitely on its way. Plants are budding and sprouting. In the local Lesnes Abbey Woods where I now live, there are carpets of wild daffodils and wood anemones to brighten the dog walk. Daffodils are undoubtedly my favourite flower. In a month or so, the yellow and white will be replaced by a mass of native bluebells. The ubiquitous feral ring-necked parakeets are loudly proclaiming their presence in the trees above, while green and great-spotted woodpeckers may be heard – the distinctive laughing call of the former, and the staccato drumming of the latter. We have warm spring sunshine today, and in the garden as I write, a robin is singing loudly, and a pair of blue tits is inspecting the nest box on the summer house. Favourite plants transported from the old home seem to be settling in comfortably, and enjoying the south-facing garden - as am I and the dogs!

I hope that all your birds are doing just as well in these difficult times – whether they are pet indoor parrots or breeding aviary birds, they should now all be in peak condition at this time of year. Don’t forget to tell us about your experiences with your birds – even if you are not the world’s best writer, we are happy to edit your thoughts so that they can be shared with others, in our magazine or on the website. Hopefully I shall soon be able to get back to reviewing the site and adding some fresh articles to it, or revamping some good oldies from our archives. With clocks going forward this weekend, we have lighter evenings to look forward to - spring and summer are coming!

Stay well, and enjoy your parrots.

Alan K Jones March 23, 2021

 

Chairman’s Page March 2021

What a difference a year makes – this time in 2020 we were worried about coronavirus, but still looking forward to shows and events later in the year - then look what happened! But maybe there is not so much difference after all, in that – with my usual optimism – we can begin to look forward to shows and events taking place again later this year. Over 15 million Covid vaccinations have now been administered, so that case numbers, hospitalisations and deaths are all reducing to the point where lockdown restrictions may soon be eased. I imagine that a large proportion of our members (including me!) are amongst those who how now received at least their first dose of vaccine. Therefore, it should be possible to get back to some form of normality as far as our parrot-keeping social calendar is concerned. Many of the public collections of birds that we enjoy visiting so much have suffered severely with such prolonged closures. Let us hope that they can re-open and start attracting visitors again soon, before it is too late.

Instead of the storms of this time last year, we have had extreme cold and snow, but now a milder spell, with both wild birds and aviary parakeets nesting already. Snowdrops and crocuses have bloomed, and daffodils are well on their way, so let’s hope that winter doesn’t return with a vengeance!

On a personal note, we have spent the last several months dealing with the terminal illness and eventual death of an elderly relative, and now probate and estate winding-up and property clearance. On top of that is an ongoing home move, including four dogs and two parrots, and anyone who has been through such upheavals will know how time-consuming and exhausting it all is! Add to that the frustrating struggle to get decent broadband into the new property means that I have not been able to spend anything like the usual time on progressing the Parrot Wiki in the Members Only section of the website, but hopefully I can get back to it by the end of this month. It is amazing how dependent we have become on good access to the internet.

All-in-all, an eventful twelve months have passed, with much stress, frustration, worry, emotional upset and financial concerns for everyone, but hopefully there is now light at the end of what is a very long tunnel, and we can begin to rebuild our shattered lives. It will take a very long time for many things to settle down, and much of our old lifestyle will never return, but we know that it can be done, and we look forward once again to personal, face-to-face relationships with our friends and colleagues! 

Alan K Jones February 15, 2021

 

Chairman’s Page February 2021

We have a New Year stretching out before us, and I think everyone will agree and hope that it has to be better than 2020. But – to quote the first few lines of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Tale of two Cities’ – and with acknowledgments to The Mail on Sunday - "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…” 2020 was the year of Coronavirus and Covid 19, of lockdowns and social distancing, of vacillating political decisions, of disrupted schooling and family life, and – closer to home – the cancellation of most of the year’s avian events and the return of Avian ‘Flu. But through all the doom and gloom, there were positives: we applauded the tireless efforts of our amazing NHS and other key workers; an effective vaccine was produced in record time; many people had more time to enjoy hobbies and families; a Brexit deal was finally achieved at the 59th minute of the 23rd hour; and nature and our atmosphere had a brief recovery from human onslaught.

One of the most interesting Christmas presents I received last year was Sir David Attenborough’s latest book ‘A Life on Our Planet’. It makes a very interesting and thought-provoking read, and his current TV series ‘A Perfect Planet’ equally makes one think. Unfortunately, neither the book nor the TV series will be seen by those who need to take notice of their contents. They should be essential reading and watching for everyone on this planet. This is no David Icke rambling, but a cogently presented story by a well-respected naturalist, who has seen major changes in our world in his own lifetime, and his conclusions are well supported by scores of quoted scientific research. He puts forward some very strong and useful ideas for preventing the eventual destruction of Earth and its inhabitants by changing our behaviour and outlook, as well as providing examples of the worst that can happen if we don’t. One example of immediate relevance to parrot enthusiasts is the fact that ‘the Amazon rainforest is on course to be reduced by 75% of its original extent by the 2030s’ – if nothing is done to prevent it. This is just a decade away, and at that point, the rainforest would probably be irrecoverable. Sobering thoughts!

However, it is not in my nature to preach doom and gloom. Being a glass half full person, I feel that we can look forward now to a far better year, with a stabilising economy and international trade; the coronavirus vaccine roll-out that will enable a return to a more normal life by the end of the spring; and primarily a return of our open shows and events. Once again, we will be able to socialise and gather to view and talk about parrots! As I wrote last month, it will undoubtedly take several years to recover from both coronavirus and the impact of Brexit, and the next couple of generations will be paying heavily. But we have done it before and we can do it again – this is the beginning of a new era, as long as we learn lessons from last year, and implement the right strategies to avoid similar occurrences in future, and direct our attention to caring for others and the world we live in.

Alan K Jones January 18, 2021

 

Chairman’s Page December 2020/January 2021

At this time last year, I was writing about “A Brexit decision finally being made” and “The Royal Family being in hiatus”. Nothing much has changed, then! But of course, it has, and dramatically so. Who would have thought a year ago that 2020 would have brought such major upheaval to our lives? The coronavirus pandemic affected all of us, with lockdowns, social distancing, hand-washing, on-line shopping, and the inability to visit loved ones. Anyone who actually contracted Covid-19, or who lost family or friends to the disease, were more severely affected personally and emotionally. Within the parrot-keeping world, it clearly affected the ‘live’ aspect, with virtually all shows and events cancelled this year. This has led to major difficulties in people trying to buy, sell or exchange surplus breeding birds. Then in recent months was another outbreak of Avian ‘flu around the country, further restricting movement of birds. However, on a positive note, our editor and secretary Les Rance, with designer Neil Randle, continued to produce a monthly magazine, while the website received regular updates, and our Facebook page saw a lot of activity. Trustees continued to hold Council Meetings – albeit virtually – to continue the business of the Society. Thank goodness for internet technology! My thanks to all involved.

Christmas celebrations this year will undoubtedly be very different from past years. Perhaps a reduction in over-indulgence in food and drink will not be a bad thing, and there may be fewer family arguments, but undoubtedly there will be many who will miss seeing their loved ones at this special time. The same will apply to the New Year celebrations, although by then there may be a feeling of cautious optimism. We should have more to look forward to, as the vaccination programme rolls out, and life gradually returns to normal. There is no doubt that it will take several years to recover from both coronavirus and the impact of Brexit, and the next couple of generations will be paying heavily. But those of us old enough to remember will know that we did it after the Second World War, and we can do it again. The main plus side is that hopefully we will be able to return to holding our shows and events in 2021.

My annual report to the Society’s AGM in November is reproduced elsewhere in this issue, giving a further summation of this strange year. I also reminded everyone at this time last year to renew their annual subscriptions. This was mentioned in my page last month, but just to repeat that, although the membership subscription for 2021 will be increased from £24 to £26, trustees agreed that some form of financial recompense should be offered to members, in recognition of the loss of benefits in 2020. We will offer 18 months subscription for the price of 12. Logistically, the easiest way to offer this without changing due dates, etc. is to say that, provided you sign up and pay for 2021, you will then be able to buy membership for 2022 at half-price – i.e. £13. This will effectively give you membership until the end of 2022 for the cost of just six months in that year, or equivalent to 18 months at the cost of 12. The easiest way to manage this is for members to sign up to a Direct Debit scheme. Don’t forget to let us know if you change bank accounts from year to year, though, and please also do not forget to sign up for Gift Aid if you are a UK tax payer.

Otherwise, all I can add is that I hope you have as enjoyable Christmas as you possibly can, stay well, stay safe, and let us all hope for a far better year in 2021!

Alan K Jones December 13, 2020

 

Chairman’s Page December 2020

As if we do not have enough to contend with over coronavirus, Avian ‘flu has reared its head again in this country. Following a low-grade outbreak in Deal, Kent earlier this month, more virulent infections have now been identified in Herefordshire and Cheshire. Poultry keepers will have to introduce increased biosecurity, and bird movements and gatherings are banned in England, Wales and Scotland. ‘Poultry’ includes chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, partridge, quail, guinea fowl, pheasants, and pigeons raised for meat. Any parrot-keepers living near to such collections should also be cautious, and may be affected by movement restrictions. For current updates see the Government website https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu#history.

On Sunday 15th November, trustees and officers of the Parrot Society held another Council meeting via e-mail. On the same day, we held our 53rd AGM by the same format. At the latter meeting Annual Accounts for the Society were presented and approved, and will be available for view via the Parrot Society office on request, or on the Charity Commission website in due course.

During the Council Meeting, wide-ranging discussions took place on a variety of topics, including conservation, finances, future plans, and membership. It was noted that, because of prolonged coronavirus lockdown, we have been unable to stage any shows this year, and that members’ benefits have been severely curtailed. At the same time, you will have noticed in last magazine, that a subscription renewal form was enclosed, and that the membership subscription for 2021 will be increased from £24 to £26. This increase was proposed and agreed early this year, well before coronavirus hit, and it is too late to reverse it now, as members have already started to renew.

However, trustees agreed that some form of financial recompense should be offered to members, in recognition of the loss of benefits in 2020. Therefore, it was agreed that we offer 18 months subscription for the price of 12. Logistically, the easiest way to offer this without changing due dates, etc is to say that, provided you sign up and pay for 2021, you will then be able to buy membership for 2022 at half-price – i.e. £13. This will effectively give you membership until the end of 2022 for the cost of just six months in that year, or equivalent to 18 months at the cost of 12. The easiest way to manage this is for members to sign up to a Direct Debit scheme. Don’t forget to let us know if you change bank accounts from year to year, though, and please also do not forget to sign up for Gift Aid if you are a UK tax payer.

Another subject discussed in Council (and for those who worry about such things, although Minutes have not yet been drawn up and approved by Council, it is not giving away sensitive information by mentioning this now) was the perennial problem of late receipt of magazines. The office regularly receives complaints that magazines are ‘late arriving’, and that by the time some members receive theirs, all the ‘choice birds’ featured in adverts have gone. This mostly affects members living in rural areas or peripheral parts of the country. Print and publishing costs increase continually, as do postal charges, so in order to save as much as we can, we use second-class postage rates. As long as we do that, then unfortunately delivery will be affected by this level of service. If we were to start using first-class post, then I am afraid that annual subscriptions would have to increase by even more than they just have! One suggestion is to post all the monthly adverts live on our website, within the Members Only page. This would give an equal opportunity to everyone who uses the internet, and has been able to sign up to the page, but we are fully aware that not all of our members wish to use this method of communication, thereby denying this group of easy access. In the longer term, on-line publication will be the method of the future, and posting adverts is something we are investigating, but for the moment, whichever method we choose, I am afraid that a small number will always be disappointed.

Finally, a plea on behalf of our secretary and editor, Les Rance. One side-effect of our lack of shows this year is that we have no reports and photographs to put in this magazine. We also have a vast pool of knowledge and experience of parrot-keeping amongst our members, and it is worthwhile sharing that information. So – why not submit an article for our magazine? Les says -

"I am sure that you all have noticed something interesting either about your pet parrot or a breeding pair of your birds. It might not be enough to write an article about, but equally it was interesting to you and it might just be of help to a fellow member, so why not share your experience with everyone through the pages of our members’ magazine?

It seems a long time ago, but in 2009 we introduced an incentive for members to receive payment for their contributions to the magazine. This system is still operative and if you would like to receive £10 for each page you contribute, we would be very happy to receive your text and any images. Now that digital photography is common, most cameras are quite capable of taking a picture of 1Mb in size. This would be required for reasonable reproduction in print. If you feel that you are not a natural writer, we are very happy to ‘tidy up’ your efforts. It is the information that is important.

Without the help of members ‘putting pen to paper’ or ‘finger to keyboard’, our magazine would not have the broad appeal that it possesses. Equally it is always satisfying to see one’s efforts recorded for posterity, I certainly obtain real pleasure seeing my thoughts and experiences recorded in the magazine.

You can either post your item to me at the office or send it by email to les.rance@theparrotsocietyuk.org Please remember that this is your club and without your help we would not be able to produce such an interesting magazine as we do. Many thanks."

Alan K Jones November 16, 2020

 

Chairman's page Nov 2020

I have never seen such an abundant acorn harvest as we have this year. The woodland pigs, deer and squirrels will have a veritable feast! Not to mention birds like the nuthatch.

As always, Covid-19 is an ongoing problem, and the hoped-for live AGM on 15th November in Dunstable will definitely not now go ahead. Instead, we shall have a brief Council meeting via e-mail, and then the AGM will also be conducted on-line, with reports sent out to participants, and comments invited by email over the course of Sunday 15th November. Anyone who is interested in being involved, please submit your current e-mail address, with ‘AGM’ in the subject box, either to our secretary or myself, at -

les.rance@theparrotsocietyuk.org or chairman@theparrotsocietyuk.org.

Last month I mentioned the plan by the Scottish Animal Welfare Council (SAWC) to draw up a list of permitted ‘exotic species’ that may be kept in captivity. The idea is being pushed by the animal welfare lobby, and to be fair is perhaps more concerned with the trade in reptiles, fish and small exotic mammals, which are still imported from the wild. However, parrots and other exotic birds were included under the umbrella, and SAWC had requested that all interested organisations involved in the keeping of such animals should submit evidence in support of their hobby by the end of October.
PSUK trustees, with the aid of Scottish members, have put together a comprehensive document to promote the importance of parrot-keeping. This includes facts like the majority of parrots now in captivity in western Europe are in fact captive-bred rather than wild-caught, and some species to several generations. Importations to Scotland must be considered with the UK as a whole, as there are currently no border controls, and that any species kept in Scotland would be freely available elsewhere in the UK and Ireland, (and currently, throughout the EU). There have been no importations of wild-caught parrots into the EU (and therefore Scotland) since the EU-wide ban in 2005. (Except for a very few under special licence and at great expense.) We emphasised the role of The Parrot Society UK and its members in the successful breeding of endangered species, and the considerable database of specialist knowledge that has been built up in this way. We flagged up the role of The Society in the conservation of endangered parrot species, by captive-breeding and exchange, as well as the support of worldwide projects. We wrote about the importance of parrot-keeping as a constructive hobby, providing a valuable, responsible outlet for people in these difficult times, and much more besides.
Hopefully, such a ‘permitted list’ (which would be very restrictive) will never come to fruition, but be assured that the PSUK will continue to act on your behalf to support the importance of keeping parrots. One major outcome is the comprehensive list of parrot species kept and bred in the UK, compiled primarily by Trustee Adam Mogg, to whom we are deeply indebted. Apart from its current function, this document will undoubtedly have continued value for years to come, in answering a variety of queries from many sources, about parrot-keeping in western Europe.

Alan K Jones October 19, 2020

And here are posts from July - October -

Chairman's page Oct 2020

Each month when I write this page, I hope for some good news and positivity, and be able to not write about Covid-19! Sadly, not a lot has changed, and there is still a lot of worry and uncertainty in the country. Mixed messages and confusing rules, restrictions in some areas and not others, and even differences between England, Scotland and Wales, make planning and organising very difficult. The recent upsurge in the number of cases, and threats of more containment, suggest that we shall not now be able to hold a live AGM on 15th November in Dunstable. Also, our show on December 6th, at Stafford, has further been cast into doubt by these events and the ongoing cancellations of other major shows and exhibitions. We shall have to take a final decision on this by the end of October at the latest.
Our ‘Members’ Day Out’ at Tropical Bird Gardens, Desford, Leicestershire on 20th September went ahead, with pre-booking of tickets only. Sadly, I was unable to attend this time, owing to family illness, but our secretary Les Rance reports that when he arrived, he gave his mobile phone number for staff to pass on to any P.S. members arriving. Several did meet up subsequently, and enjoyed the day. The weather was good and the arrangements that the owners had made to comply with Covid-19 precautions were working well. Two very large, well-made, new aviaries have been built since last year, one for the existing stock of African Grey and Timneh parrots, and a second for a new Flamingo exhibit. There is a further new aviary base under construction, time will tell what birds will go in there! The tame birds as always made a striking communal display and really enjoy the public interaction. There were two very well feathered young Hyacinthine macaws in the breeding room, and they appeared to be very good specimens. Let us hope that next year we will be able to visit more freely.    
There are two political events of potential concern to parrot-keepers (apart from coronavirus!). The first is the movement of CITES-listed species between the UK and EU after 31st December 2020. Requirements are detailed in the new leaflet, reproduced on pages 20-23 of this magazine. The second is a plan by the Scottish Animal Welfare Council (SAWC) to draw up a list of permitted ‘exotic species’ (which will include parrots) that may be kept in captivity. PSUK trustees are actively involved in submitting evidence to SAWC (together with representatives from other species groups) to promote the importance of parrot-keeping. We will keep you informed.
Currently, we still have some warm weather, at least in the south-east, and there is an abundant harvest of natural foods in our hedgerows and woodlands to give to our birds. Rose hips, blackberries, berries from hawthorn, rowan, elder and pyracantha, as well as sweet chestnuts and hazel nuts are all relished by various species, while gardens and allotments can offer the last of the peas and beans, plus sweetcorn, carrots and peppers. So there is some good news for parrot enthusiasts! 

Alan K Jones September 21, 2020

Chairman's page Sept 2020

The bracken in the woods, and leaves of Horse Chestnut trees are already turning brown, and we have started to switch on lights in the evening. Extreme heat has now been replaced by torrential rain and storms. British summers! Sadly, such uncertainty from one week to the next still exists with regard to coronavirus, making our decisions difficult. Our next Council meeting, scheduled for Sunday 23rd August, will again be conducted by e-mail on-line, but it does seem for the moment that we will be able to hold our AGM on 15th November at the current regular venue of Old Palace Lodge, in Dunstable.
Our ‘Members’ Day Out’ event at Beale Wildlife Park on 9th August was a successful day, and hopefully the similar event at Tropical Bird Gardens, Desford, Leicestershire on 20th September will be equally successful. We are still hopeful of being able to hold our ‘Help the Bird-keepers’ show on December 6th, at Stafford, but this has been cast into some doubt by the cancellation of two major poultry shows due at Stafford and Telford in the same month. We can only hope that cases of Covid-19 continue to reduce, and be advised by the powers that be over the next few weeks. Watch this space! Your monthly magazine is still being produced and posted out in timely fashion, so obviously an update will appear next month, but more regular news is available on our website under ‘latest news’.
On the website www.theparrotsocietyuk.org, the Members Page now seems to be working as it should. If you have not yet signed up, then go to ‘Members Only’, and “If you are already signed up please click here” (assuming that you are a PSUK member!) and click on the blue word ‘here’. Then enter your PS membership number and create a password, and click ‘Login’. You should then become registered and be allowed access in the future, using your number and password. There you will see a number of useful articles; breeding returns and advert request forms; an open forum for discussion on various topics; special interest groups; and the developing Parrot Wiki. This will be an encyclopaedic record of every parrot species, but you can help build it with details of your own special interest species. Please submit notes of their description, size, weight, breeding details, diet and any photographs you may have, and we will add them to the site, thereby creating a unique Parrot Society record!
Otherwise I can only assure you that all employees and trustees of the Parrot Society continue to work hard on your behalf. We hope you stay fit and well, and that your birds are keeping you sane in these difficult times.

Alan Jones 17th August 2020