When we found out that the BKA (Bird Keepers Association) were having a bird sale on February 14th, we knew our Valentines Day plans were made. Luckily we both enjoy a good bird sale or this could have been awkward!
On the day we left at around 9.30. The sale was to start an hour later but, knowing that these things can be busy (and hard to find) we wanted to get there early.
This sale was held at a much larger venue than the last; The Mill Hall, Bellingham Lane, Rayleigh, Essex – so we were quite excited at the prospect of what we might find. We had decided between us that we really wanted a pair of goldfinches but would settle for a cock goldfinch and hen canary if needs be. (So we could still breed them.) We also decided on a budget.
Getting there was easy enough, and the bird sale itself was sign-posted well. When we got there a few people were milling around reception, also similarly eager to find a bargain – but it wasn’t what you’d call busy so after buying our wristbands, we decided to head to the cafe for hot chocolate and orange juice. Rookie mistake. By the time we’d actually got our drinks, a huge queue had formed through the reception and out of the door! We hurriedly joined it to shiver outside in the cold and chat to other attendees about birds (because, well, that’s what bird people do.)
When we finally entered it was manic. Previous to this sale we had attended two others and both had been really busy but this was something else. Everyone came prepared with boxes and cages and it seemed like everyone had something in mind. It was hard to get down each aisle because of how bustling it was but, on display were some beautiful birds.
One thing I did notice about this event, was a slight lack of British birds. Most seemed to be foreign and there was a great selection of parrot finches, gouldians, etc etc as well as zebra finches, budgies and even some quail. We came across just two goldfinches in the whole place – and before we could buy them, they were snapped up for a bargainous £65 each by someone else! This was a shame for us, however we still had a lot of fun peeking in at all of the other birds and becoming gooey-eyed at the tiny timor zebra finch.
One highlight of the event was a stall set up by a company called Owls R Us who have static bird displays. I, like the rest of the modern world, am obsessed with owls and it was nice to see so many of them perched there. I paid a small donation and even got to hold a gorgeous tawny owl which was very exciting for me! Prior to this I’d held and flown a few different owls/birds of prey but never a tawny. It had such a sweet little face and feathers as soft as a cloud, holding a beautiful bird is always a wonderful experience.
We didn’t stay for long after that. We picked up some british bird seed from the Essex bird centre stall (an essential if you find yourself at a BKA event.) And then headed off. It was a little too busy to just stand around.
Instead we decided to head out to some specialist shops in search of our wanted goldfinches. After a short search (and discovering beautiful European bullfinches) we did eventually come across two that had very natural colours. I know this is best for the bird as it means it hasn’t been fed dye, but to me they weren’t the most beautiful. These birds were also quite skittish which is something we’ve heard before.
After some consideration we decided to go for two redpolls instead! We already have redpolls and they are such lovely birds, so it was nice to get some more and extend the family. I really hope to breed these in the summer. We have named them Buttercup (hen) and Parsley (cock.) They are such friendly and interesting characters and Muffin and Chestnut our other redpolls are obsessed with them.
We will be looking out for the next BKA show – but hopefully we can show some restraint as I don’t know how many more birds we can house! I don’t think I will be looking for goldfinches in the future because I think they may be difficult to look after. Perhaps this is something to consider again when we have an outdoor aviary.