Show Stop­per

Julie Moore and hun­dreds of oth­ers with a keen in­ter­est in birds headed to the north-east of Girona re­cently, where they found the fas­ci­nat­ing and fa­mous two-day Ex­posi­ció In­ter­na­cional d’Aus in Ca­mallera, Spain

Your Chickens - - Contents -

Ca­mallera’s great bird ex­hi­bi­tion, by Julie Moore

For one week­end of the year, a small, sleepy vil­lage boast­ing typ­i­cal Cata­lan stone houses with medieval stone arched por­tals awak­ens to the rau­cous sounds of roost­ers crow­ing and geese honk­ing. This is Ca­mallera in Alt Em­pordà. Its pop­u­la­tion grows ex­po­nen­tially as ex­hibitors from all over Cat­alo­nia and other re­gions of Spain, France and Europe con­verge to take part in the an­nual In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val of Birds.

It is or­gan­ised by the ap­pro­pri­ately named l’As­so­ciació Amics de les Aus aka Giroca, or As­so­ci­a­tion of Friends of Birds, a 50-strong non-profit mem­ber as­so­ci­a­tion formed by breed­ers and en­thu­si­asts with the aim of re­pop­u­lat­ing the many en­dan­gered indige­nous species of Cata­lan birds and to make those breeds known abroad as part of Cat­alo­nia’s her­itage.

This an­nual fes­ti­val is a ‘shop win­dow’ for the pro­mo­tion of their na­tive birds, and mem­bers bring their own charges to show along­side those of other breed­ers from across Spain and other Europen coun­tries.

Of spe­cial in­ter­est to me and many of the lo­cal Cata­lans is the num­ber of breed­ers who spe­cialise in pro­duc­ing the na­tive ban­tam, Flor d’Ametler

(trans­lates to Al­mond Blos­som), the stan­dard Em­por­danesa hen, the dis­tinct white Em­por­danesa goose, which in by­gone days was used as a guard in­stead of dogs at Cata­lan farm­houses, plus the Cata­lan pi­geon. The breed­ers bring their best spec­i­mens to pro­mote and in­crease aware­ness of these en­dan­gered crea­tures.

BEAUTY MORE THAN SKIN DEEP

At any show, the ex­hib­ited birds come un­der the scru­tiny of of­fi­cial judges and this fes­ti­val is no dif­fer­ent. Here the birds earn scores based on the mor­phol­ogy of each species.

Even at first glance it is clear to see that some birds on show are not in prime con­di­tion. This proves that the judges are fo­cused on seeking out the best ge­net­ics, not merely find­ing the most beau­ti­ful bird on this one day of the year. One bird se­lected as a Best of Breed was in the mid­dle of a moult.

Many breed­ers take ad­van­tage of the Fes­ti­val to sell or ex­change their birds. There are some real bar­gains to be had, but also pur­chases for those with deep pock­ets. Some of the more ex­otic birds were val­ued at be­tween €800-900 each.

With an en­try in ex­cess of 2,000 birds, in­clud­ing chick­ens, ducks, geese, quail, par­tridges, pi­geons, swans, pea­cocks and a large dis­play of some at­trac­tive and very ap­peal­ing pheas­ants from around the world, there is plenty to catch the eye and to ap­peal to all ages — young and old.

Doors open at 10am and a buzz of ex­cited chat­ter in a mix of Cata­lan, Span­ish and French soon fills the ex­hi­bi­tion hall. Visi­tors stand ad­mir­ingly in front of cages, point­ing and dis­cussing the traits of the birds, while oth­ers fran­ti­cally ob­serve the feath­ered crea­ture in front of them, re­view the judges’ notes and make their own scrib­blings on a pad be­fore swiftly dis­ap­pear­ing to the in­for­ma­tion point to re­serve their cho­sen bird ahead of any other com­pe­ti­tion. In­deed, by lunchtime on the first day, the ma­jor­ity of the ex­hibits have already been re­served by breed­ers and mem­bers of the pub­lic.

Plenty of at­ten­tion is given to the Serama Club of Spain stand as visi­tors are given the op­por­tu­nity to touch and hold the tiny birds. They re­sem­ble models on a fash­ion show cat­walk and stand to at­ten­tion with their char­ac­ter­is­tic pose on a green car­pet with­out any re­straints to pre­vent them from es­cap­ing. Mem­bers of the club en­thu­si­as­ti­cally share the virtues of the Malaysian breed that was in­tro­duced into Spain from North Amer­ica in 2007.

Any­one look­ing to pur­chase high qual­ity ge­net­ics to sup­port

a spe­cific pure breed or want­ing to give their new flock the best pos­si­ble start, could do a lot worse than visit the ap­pro­pri­ate fes­ti­val for their favourite(s). Not only will they find a great se­lec­tion of birds to­gether, there will also be the best eyes in the in­dus­try for their cho­sen breed scru­ti­n­is­ing the stock. Look for gen­uine and hon­est breed­ers — a breeder’s pas­sion should be ev­i­dent in their con­ser­va­tion about the bird they love and not for the chances of boost­ing their bank bal­ance. Lis­ten pa­tiently as they are nor­mally en­thu­si­as­tic about shar­ing their knowl­edge and should ac­knowl­edge any flaws, mi­nor or im­por­tant, in the ge­net­ics of the birds they are try­ing to sell.

Although the fes­ti­val was a re­sound­ing suc­cess, show­cas­ing some of the best ex­am­ples of en­dan­gered Cata­lan breeds, the fu­ture of these birds is in the hands of just a few bird lovers, who, at the end of the day, raise and mul­ti­ply the indige­nous pop­u­la­tions as a hobby. The hope is that oth­ers are in­spired to also take up the cause to en­sure that the light is not ex­tin­guished for­ever in this cor­ner of Spain.

TOP: A Serama hen ABOVE: A poster for the fes­ti­val TOP RIGHT & BOT­TOM RIGHT: Visi­tors were given the op­por­tu­nity to touch and hold the tiny Sera­mas

TOP: There was a large en­try of Old English Game ABOVE: There was a large dis­play of some par­tic­u­larly at­trac­tive and very ap­peal­ing pheas­ants from around the world BE­LOW LEFT: Some of the Cata­lan stone houses in the vil­lage of Ca­mallera

There was a healthy con­tin­gent of ducks from around the world

Best Stan­dard Chicken — the Padunua.

There was a large dis­play of dif­fer­ent breeds of fancy pi­geons from around the world

ABOVE MID­DLE: In by­gone days, dis­tinct white Em­por­danesa geese were used as guards in­stead of dogs at Cata­lan farms ABOVE: Size isn’t ev­ery­thing!

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