My First Finch Show & Conference ~ WCZS & AFA

A CFW male being goofy as I sweet talk him. He is a GORGEOUS bird and just a sample of what you can find at the WCZS show! efinch.com/show for more details.

A CFW male being goofy as I sweet talk him. He is a GORGEOUS bird and just a sample of what you can find at the WCZS show! Visit efinch.com/show for more details.

As the Journal starts to make its way out to our NFSS members this week, I thought I’d share my experience which I touched on in my recent article. As I described in that issue, I was very opulent-eyed and excited just to be attending my first big bird events. I’ve been to tiny “fairs” or shows here and there on the East Coast that had NGs and CFWs for sale and no other mutations, but I worked EVERY single time the annual Baltimore Bird Fancier’s Fair came round. Literally every year I would ask off and every year I’d have to work that weekend! I started calling it the BBF curse.

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An OB CFW! Don’t they just make ya drool?? As seen at the WCZS show in Sacramento. (TWFA 2014)

I attended these events soon after visiting home if some of my followers may remember – where I spent way too much money on new dresses & shoes. So much so that I didn’t have any room for my clothes when it came time to leave!! All of my jeans and winter clothes stayed behind. I still haven’t gotten around to getting them back either. So what did I have to wear to these prestigious events? Yoga pants and a beach dress. Oh yeah, I did that. Luckily the amazing NFSS members who attended the events with me didn’t hold my lack of fashion choices against me. They were so kind! Where else would you get a hug as soon as you walk through the door than the “friendliest show in the West?” Nowhere! My “boss” John Wilson (NFSS VP) even took the time to allow me to chew his ear off, giving me my very own NFSS pin (probably to stop me from yapping!). I took that with me to the AFA and wore it every day on my lapel! He is definitely one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet.

First on my trip was the West Coast Zebra & Society Show in Sacramento, CA. I was supposed to fly down on the Friday night before, but I ended up working late and not getting out until Saturday morning. I used my paycheck for that week on some last minute tickets and spending money. I brought JUST enough to get there, get a couple of birds, and head home. It was definitely worth it!! And I plan on attending every year to come as well. I really did get a big hug from every NFSS member I met – mostly high ranking board members too! I tried to record each tidbit of knowledge the show’s judge and famous hobbyist Garrie Landry of zebrafinch.com would impart, and ended up capturing some useful information for some of today’s popular mutations. Needless to say I learned a lot just soaking up knowledge!

DSC_0237And the color mutations.. OH the color mutations, they were so beautiful it was painful to see! And by painful I mean it took a lot of personal strength not to take all of those cages and see how far I could get out the door before people stopped me! They were just that gorgeous. All of the colors of the finch mutation rainbow were there, and in exquisite form. There were also many finches for sale of a wide range of species. Of course Laura Watkins ~ The Finch Fanatic whom I bought most of my flock from was there as well, charging her typical $15 per finch and putting us all to shame.  I picked up a couple of finches myself, one Penguin male from Laura and a YH GB LB male from the very nice couple who owns Finches, Canaries & Beyond. As everyone could tell by my Facebook posts, I was elated with both additions!

Something I did not properly prepare or budget for – was the auction! I felt like a terrible member sitting there with all of my money spent on finches. I almost felt guilty enough to return my Gouldian male. Luckily again my fellow NFSS members made me feel incredibly welcomed by donating their winnings to me! I left with 3 new posters of species and mutations I keep in my flock which will be framed and put on my bird room walls. I also was lucky enough to be the hobbyist who came from the greatest distance, so I also received one of the coveted eFinch hats! I wore it all the way home and brought it with me to AFA also.

More Photos from WCZS!
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A WCZS Video – Includes the Whole Show Area

The American Federation of Aviculture Convention was yet another trip I had known about for months but left until days before to pay for and organize. Shame on me, I know! In a single paycheck again I had enough money for train tickets for the fiance and I at about $200, hotel costs which were about $600 total, and $400 or so left for food/travel money. I felt significantly less guilty at the AFA auction since so many other members set out to spend small fortunes as incredibly gracious as they are. And don’t forget – I wore yoga pants and a sweater for the week! I think my short answer excuse was “well, I don’t have very many clothes.” I didn’t want to explain how I went on a mini shopping spree and had to leave all of my serious clothes behind. I could have worn somewhat revealing dresses all week, but that’s just not me nor is it the vibe I want to bring to a relaxed finch-related atmosphere. I prefer old lady sweats and sweaters!

DSC_0823We started the week of AFA with the behind the scenes tour at the Portland Zoo. They have a great avian-specific program for rehabilitation and raising birds by hand. They even use pellets and things that we as hobbyists use. I was very impressed with their food storage setup, keeping meats and veggies separated with different preparation supplies for each. You can definitely tell that their hand friendly birds love their caretakers as well. They even had a Macaw! I would definitely recommend a visit just for the copious amount of beautiful animals they keep in the zoo as a whole. In many cases the animal enthusiast in me typically hates zoos and any kind of entity like it, but at the Portland Zoo their enclosures and zoo keeper interactions are top notch in comparison. They’ve replicated their natural environments much like any hobbyist would do with the birds we keep, with lots of space to roam and play. People do the same thing every day with tigers and large exotic animals of other variations. I have been to some dingy zoos in my life time where I wanted to open all of the cages and set the animals free on their caretakers, but this is definitely not one of them!

Throughout the week it was very difficult to pick which speaker to attend. There were two options at any given time and none were repeated. So if you wanted to attend say the falconry presentation with a live bird of prey, then you might miss something incredibly important like Kateri Davis’ talk on Mousebirds. Yes, this happened to me and YES I was pissed about it! But that’s all the more reason to buy the convention DVD to catch anything you may have missed. Although I did miss out by not getting to cuddle a Mousebird.. I made up for it later during the NFSS show which I will show you with a video below.

loryAmong the incredible guest speakers with vast wealths of knowledge were multiple NFSS members. Nancy Ingram spoke about her detailed methods for Strawberry keeping & breeding – which really blew my mind! You think you’re doing a lot for your finches? You should see Nancy’s set up. She not only has all of the odds and ends we have to spoil our flocks, she also has a compost for foraging which contains sprouted seeds on a constant basis as well as the bugs it attracts. She has containers full of hatching fruit flies, too. And not to mention her hand made nest boxes that would only fit in an aviary. I learned a lot through her presentation!

Another wonderful speaker was our Sally Huntington, who talked at length about hand raising softbills and answered a question about runts I’ve been pondering for years. It’s amazing to hear how many species she and others have raised! I think anyone who has decades of experience with everything from wild birds to our little finches is impressive to say the least. That takes a lot of talent and know how! I can’t even imagine taking that on and I’m constantly raising babies by hand for the fun of it. Scott Golden also spoke about Parrot Finches with much of the same information we published recently in his Journal article, it was like a crash course in the species and very informative. That’s been a species I felt I knew nothing about but after hearing him talk and seeing the various colors throughout the subspecies.. I almost want to clear out half of my cages and trade in some Zebras for Parrot Finches! He makes it look so easy! Roland Cristo also spoke about softbill song birds, it’s mind blowing how many different species there are out there and I haven’t seen a single one in person. I don’t ever hear hobbyists talk about them either any more! But it’s experts like Roland who are relaying invaluable details about their processes and keeping the species alive. Kateri Davis’ presentation on Turacos definitely made me want to keep the gorgeous birds also – did you know they get along with finches??

DSC_0787Two topics that came up again and again at the conference (and for good reason!) were: 1. Aviculture is in trouble if we cannot get more people to join the hobby and participate in clubs/organizations. 2. Aviculture is in trouble if we cannot stand up against animal rights activists who continually affect legislation. The fact of the matter is that we have a small fraction of hobbyists in our organizations than we did 5 or 10 years ago. The NFSS used to have over 1,000 members (I think close to 2K at one point?) and now we have less than 400. The reason everyone assumes is that not many new people are entering the world of aviculture, but I don’t think that’s true. What I do think is that people are not joining because they feel too inexperienced or they feel like they need to reach a certain goal just to enter. (For example, “When I finish building my bird room then I’ll join a club” and so on.) I’ve heard many people say they PLAN to join in the future. I can’t blame them, since I thought exactly the same way. But no more! If we don’t join these groups then eventually they will cease to exist.

Did you know that it’s currently ILLEGAL to sell Java Finches across state lines? They’re banned from CA altogether also. This is due to animal rights activists who regularly lobby to prevent people from keeping animals as pets. That includes PETA, HSUS, and all of the other organizations who are well known for their violent & wackadoo tendencies. Animal RIGHTS activists are entirely different between animal WELFARE activists. The difference is that AR activists believe no one should keep an animal in a cage. Not dogs, cats, birds, ferrets, mice, rabbits, reptiles, tigers, lions OR bears. AW activists believe that everyone should have the right to keep and breed pets within the set guidelines established by hobbyists and breeders for decades.

aracari3How do we fight to be able to keep our exotic finches and other pets? By JOINING our local and national organizations. They will direct members to participate in legislative events and formulating policy/regulations. Get to know the people in your community who actually make these laws. City planning, senators, anyone who will listen about the benefits of aviculture. If some sort of legislature comes up they are more likely to think of you or other hobbyists in a positive light. Tell them about the thousands if not hundreds of thousands of children who participate in aviculture, and how that affects them as people in the future. Mention the amount of jobs and economic advantages that come with aviculture. Talk about your local club or national organization. Tell them anything you can to open their minds to the practice of breeding and keeping birds – aviculture as a whole. And pay attention to alerts and upcoming meetings!

Once the conference was nearly over, the official shows began. For my second show, I don’t think there could have been a more memorable experience. Clarence Culwell expertly and swiftly navigated through the various mutations and markings, dispensing invaluable knowledge as our NFSS judges do. There were so many species I hadn’t seen before, including the gorgeous Turacos from Kateri Davis’ presentation. During the show the birds were showcasing their various personalities, as a female Turaco began “caw caw cawing” while our Janet Edmonds sweet talked her – loud enough for everyone around to stop and laugh! Another of Kateri’s birds was glued to the sides of her cage cocking her head to reveal a jawbone in need of some scritches. I was in the process of photographing some of the contestants but I had to stop and pet her. She sang her adorable little Mousebird song and even let me rub her belly! As soon as she sang and that little crest came up like a Cockatiel, I was in love. Mousebirds WILL be one of those softbill species I get into in the future. Parrot Finches, Softbill Song Birds, Turacos – they’re all gorgeous “maybe one day” types, but that little Mousebird stole my heart away!! As my fiance tries to remind me “Baby ANYTHINGS are always cute!” The same is true for all hand tame birds.

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Clarence Culwell, NFSS Judge, picking out his overall winners for the show held during the AFA convention. (TWFA 2014)

One thing I definitely wish I had money for – vendors. There were SO many bird-related items from really beautiful jewelry with your favorite finch to shirts and even bird toys. When I saw a Zebra Finch necklace I definitely considered eating ham and cheese sandwiches all week and foregoing the restaurant food. After eating their beer battered fried Cod I can’t say I regret my decision. The hotel food was local and delicious. When we made it out to the famous food trucks of Portland (in a little food truck park – no lie that exists) all I had saved room for was a Chocolate shake, but MAN was it delicious. Little bits of chocolate and home made ice cream blended together.. yes please!

DSC_0132The last couple days of the convention were the most fun, including the show, banquet and Portland Rose Garden trip. The banquet was a delicious spread filled with wonderful company from your fellow hobbyists.  I was lucky enough to be sitting at the table completely full of NFSS members who had tolerated me throughout the whole journey. They had even saved me a seat! Throughout the entire dinner we were uproariously laughing and having a blast. As someone who came by said, “Everyone in the room wants to be at this table right now, you guys are having too much fun!” That pretty much sums up how it feels to be around that group of awesome people. I probably gushed WAY too much in front of them (“Without Laura I would have nothing!!” etc. etc.) but they at least tolerated me and were kind. I hope I didn’t annoy them too much with my bubbly over enthusiastic self.. you know how I get excited about finches in the nerdiest fangirl sort of way! I can’t help it!

The Rose Garden field trip was like a getaway in itself with thousands of blooming roses in fields. They were growing in intricate trellis designs as well as arbors, even some fountains and statues here and there. All the while a talented musician played her harp and sang for all to hear around the garden. I half expected to see some pixies, fairies and yellow brick roads. It was THAT beautiful. Truly the perfect way to end the entire week – getting lost among the blossoms. I don’t think I have to tell you I’m now committing to every AFA and WCZS annual event in the future! What a blast it was. It’s incredibly freeing and exciting to be around so many hobbyists just talking finches. Sure, I see people like that on a regular basis. But dozens of them in the same room is so much different. They know your name, your back story, what you keep in your flock, your experience.. and they still welcome you with open arms whereas friends and family may just not “get it.” It’s more like a family than just a hobby, and like a family they’re there to welcome you in with open arms as well as sound advice.

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More Photos from AFA!
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Sun Conures Taking Donations @ AFA!

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