Judging in Pakistan
The first exhibition of the Lovebird Society of Pakistan (L.S.P)

For all my friends in Pakistan, the wait is over! My article is finally finished! Again, I apologise for the delay but it’s a very busy time of the year for me with several visits to the UK and other commitments that I had to put first.

Early in 2017 the news came that a new society had affiliated with the BVA International, namely the Lovebird Society of Pakistan, or L.S.P for short. Upon hearing the news I made contact with Naveed Shiekh, the General Secretary, to obtain the logo of their society to update the BVA graphics across social media. We got chatting and the next thing I know they had invited me to judge their first show in April. I was very happy to hear about a new Lovebird society forming in Pakistan, because I know it will greatly benefit the Pakistani hobbyists, several of which I have got to know through my Facebook page and website. It was also a great honour for me to accept their invitation to judge their first ever show.

 

After working with Mobassir Sattar and Naveed I finally had my visa and papers in order ready for my journey. On Friday 31st March I found myself travelling up the A2 towards Schiphol to embark on my journey to Pakistan, via Dubai. I was very excited but anxious at the same time. When reading the travelling guides on the government websites it makes the entire country sound dangerous and daunting, but as usual I don’t believe much any government tells me, so I was determined to make my own opinion. I had also heard nothing but great things from Pakistani friends who were born and raised in Lahore. They were adamant I would have a great time, which certainly eased the tension and dimmed any concerns I might have had.

Day 1
A long first day!

After a long flight on the impressive Emirates Airbus A380 I arrived in Dubai where I got a connecting flight to Lahore. Lahore is the second most populated city in Pakistan and the capital city of the Punjab province. Enriched in history and attractions I was really looking forward to visiting this growing and rapidly developing city. It was also the location for the first exhibition of the Lovebird Society of Pakistan. I was also eager to experience the food too (yes, I like eating!) as originally coming from Birmingham I had spent a lot of time in the curry houses and had a love for spicy, cultural food.  I arrived in Lahore early on the Saturday morning. I had travelled through the night and intended to get some sleep, but that never happened at all, I think the excitement kept me awake! After passing through Lahore customs I made my way outside where I was greeted by several members of the LSP. We said a quick hello before heading off, but not before we had the first selfie, the first of MANY to come!

First impressions – nice guys! Down to earth and really friendly.

We headed off to a fancy joint which is a popular location for a good breakfast. The first thing I noticed was the traffic and driving. It’s nothing like what you see in Europe, there was little or no rules in place and at first I was petrified haha! A fiasco of near-misses, white-knuckle moments and beeping horns … yet throughout my trip I come to learn that it just simply works for them! Everyone is on the same page and there seemed to be some kind of method behind the madness!

At the breakfast location we were greeted by several other LSP members and sat down to eat. The food was absolutely delicious, although I wasn’t very hungry (which is rare for me!) due to the long flight and lack of sleep probably.

After breakfast we said goodbye to a lot of the guys and headed out to visit some of the attractions in Lahore. I was accompanied by Naveed, Zohaib and Farooq – 3 guys who spent an awful lot of time with me during my stay. They always made me feel welcome and really looked after me, I genuinely cannot thank them enough for that and I am proud to call them my friends. We visited the Lahore Zoo which was nice. They insisted I took a short ride on a camel – something I’ve never done before. Despite the fact that I don’t exactly have an athletic figure (haha) I decided to have a go. The poor camel had buckled legs after a short walk and strolled back to its quarter like John Wayne haha! After a pleasant time at the zoo we headed off to visit the Lahore Fort.

 

The fort is huge. Spreading over 20 hectares it is full of monuments and steeped in history. Dating back as early as the 11thcentury it is now classed and a World Heritage Site. The guys kindly arranged a guided tour, and even though it was blistering warm and I should have been exhausted, I really enjoyed it! I found it quite fascinating and some of the views were spectacular! It was here I had my first taste of the warm nature of the Pakistani people. Several complete strangers welcomed me to Pakistan with a smile, and this was wonderful to experience.

After visiting the attractions it was time to check in to the hotel and unwind a little bit. My first impressions were very good. I felt relaxed, the people were friendly and chilled out. We hung around at the hotel for a while before heading out to visit the show hall, where preparations had begun for the exhibition the following day. The guys at LSP had been very busy organising their first show. There was a lovely selection of prizes. Trophies and rosettes galore! I got to meet lots of other hobbyists here and had a really good chat. I also got to meet Emran Abid, who I have known via Facebook for some time.  Earlier in the day Zohaib had told Emran that I had no idea who he was – playing a bit of a ‘prank’ if you like, haha. Emran was certain I knew him, and spent the day trying to figure out why I wouldn’t, poor guy! I got to meet lots of other guys at the show hall and had a really good chat. Naturally, there’s was a lot of photos and selfies made!

Late in the evening we headed off for some dinner. It must have been gone midnight, so it was pretty late. I wasn’t tired though, which was quite strange! We arrived at a location and sat down at a big table ready to eat some traditional food! There was a lot of people there, I think around 25 people at least?! By now I had my appetite back and was in full swing! The food was amazing, really good! Following their cultural traditions the bird which was part of the main dish was killed, prepared and cooked while we waited, so you don’t get much fresher than that! It really was delicious, I enjoyed it and I also really enjoyed chatting with everyone late into the evening. It was one heck of a long day for me, but so far I was buzzing and having a great time. It was soon time to head back to the hotel because tomorrow was show day!

Day 2
Show time!

I was up early feeling fresh and ready for show day! I chilled out enjoying the clear skies and warm weather waiting to be collected. Naveed rolled up some time later and we headed off on another roller-coaster ride through Lahore towards the hall where the show would take place. On-route we stopped off at McDonalds for a cheeky bit of breakfast to make sure I was fueled and ready for the day ahead.

We arrived at the show hall and things were already busy. People were piling in with their birds and the LSP team were busy working hard to get them into the right classes and on the benches. Considering it was their first show, it was relatively well organised although most of these guys have been and still are in the Budgie scene so they are used to hosting exhibitions and events like this. The show manager was Aasim Mir and he did a sterling job. Even though he kept nagging me towards the end to hurry up with the judging haha. I can understand his anxiety though, there is a lot of pressure put on a show manager. He did a great job throughout the day.

The hall was spacious and the show cages were all provided giving a tidy and professional feel. There was a serious mass-array of prizes, rosettes and trophies everywhere! Some of the prizes were beautiful hand-drawn and framed pictures of a green personatus, which happened to be one of my birds! It was beautiful to see, a real privilege. I got to meet Mohsin Zubair, a guy I have spoken to a lot of Facebook. Another young breeder who is eager to learn and improve in the hobby. It is nice to finally meet face to face.

They had massive banners made promoting the event, and they even put my mug-shot on them which was quite funny for me to see, but also somewhat an honourable feeling. Once the first class was benched I was all primed to get started with the judging. There was quite a number of birds, I think just under 400 which for one judge is a comfortable task I guess? The majority of birds were imports and had closed rings from breeders in the Netherlands or Belgium. This may seem odd to European breeders, because over here it’s not a common practice to show birds bred by someone else. In fact, most shows simply don’t allow it. I think this is maybe a more common thing in Pakistan though, although we must take into consideration that the Lovebird hobby is new over there and just beginning to blossom. I believe the LSP are working towards fading out this open classification and having only own-bred birds in the shows in the near future. I certainly hope this becomes reality though, because it means breeders will focus harder on selection and improving their birds. This will up the overall quality of the birds within Pakistan and give a greater sense of achievement when they win with something they bred themselves. Having said that, several of the Best in Show birds were own-bred and not imported, so it seems the guys are comfortably on their way down the right path.

The overall quality of the birds was good and the judging was fun. I had a good crowd behind me, all eagerly watching on to see how I judge the birds. There was a lot of questions and photos and it was good to see how eager the hobbyists were to learn more.  There were even TV crews there covering the event for television! I did a couple of short interviews with the presenters which was quite surreal! There’s not much else I can say about the show, I had my nose in a show cage for most of the day so didn’t see much except birds!

 

Towards the end of the day I had to select the best in show birds. In the fischeri class the green birds were below standard, the heads were too red at the back, or simply too yellow. The stand-out birds was a beautiful opaline green Agapornis fischeri, which was and own-bred bird belonging to Fahad Butt the president of the LSP. It was a stunning bird, perfect condition, great colours and lines and such a proud, beaming stance it just instantly caught the eye. There were very few Agapornis roseicollis on the show, but those that were there were of a nice quality for sure. Khan Assad took Best in Show with an A.roseicollis green that was in beautiful condition. Waqas Mahmood had made a very long journey to attend the show and had several prizes with his roseicollis which were all own-bred. His beautiful aqua roseicollis was a contender for Best in Show but was let down purely by the slight lack of condition. That’s a really big achievement in my opinion though, so credit to him also. The Best in Show Agapornis personatus was an intense one. I have never judged with a crowd behind me before and they were all eagerly awaiting the result. I narrowed it down to a green personatus from Rizwan Anwar in partnership with Khan Assad and a few other guys I believe? (There’s a lot of partnerships in Pakistani breeding and to be honest I’ve lost track of who is in with who!). It was nice to finally meet Rizwan in person. He deals with the import and export of a lot of birds and is a really nice guy. His green bird went against a blue series from Muhammad Awais. It was quite intense and a really tough decision. The lines were nicer on the green bird but the blue series had a better format and posture and the condition of the bird was slightly better. I was side-to-side with the rosette whilst trying to make my decision, and with each swing of the arm came cheers and groans from the crowd behind me! It was quite funny to be honest but ultimately my decision went for the blue series bird. I think this surprised a few people because they know I am highly fond of green birds … but the best bird must win, whether it’s my personal favourite or not!

After the judging had finished it was straight into the prize ceremony. There were so many awards and prizes it went on for quite some time! Now I see why Aasim was rushing me haha! Endless numbers of photos and prizes given out to the winners and also the contributors who worked so hard on this special day. I was pretty frazzled by now! My eyes were playing tricks on me, downside to staring at birds intensely all day! The photos kept coming though! Pakistani people are without a shadow of doubt THE selfie-kings of the world! Haha! One thing I would like to point out – the atmosphere was incredible. Cheering, applauding and smiles everywhere! This is something we, as European breeders, can learn from. Everyone was happy for one another and it was great to see. It would be nice to see a sprinkle of this atmosphere back in our shows at home, it generally makes for sure an awesome finale to a show. I would like to thank everyone who made their way to the show and congratulate all the winners on their achievements.

It was soon time to leave. I think the guys could tell I was knackered by now! Everytime I tried to peel away, someone else wanted a photo with me! It was no problem for me though, it was generally a pleasure to talk to the people and have the photos taken. I made it back to the hotel where I relaxed for a few hours and reflected back on a successful day. Later in the evening we went out to a western themed restaurant for a steak dinner. The dinner was a treat from Nadeem Khan, the president of the BSP (Budgerigar Society of Pakistan). Once again, delicious food!

It was soon time to leave. I think the guys could tell I was knackered by now! Everytime I tried to peel away, someone else wanted a photo with me! It was no problem for me though, it was generally a pleasure to talk to the people and have the photos taken. I made it back to the hotel where I relaxed for a few hours and reflected back on a successful day. Later in the evening we went out to a western themed restaurant for a steak dinner. The dinner was a treat from Nadeem Khan, the president of the BSP (Budgerigar Society of Pakistan). Once again, delicious food!

Nadeem was also with me throughout my stay and would like to thank him for his generosity and hospitality. I highly appreciate it and certainly won’t forget it! Before bed we headed off for ice cream at a snazzy joint over-looking Lahore. This was literally a restaurant on top of a multi-story car park? We had a massive bowl of ice cream to share, courtesy of the ever-generous Fahad Butt and we dug-in whilst enjoying the fresh breeze and taking in the beautiful view across Lahore. Fahad decided to try my vape (electronic cigarette) which was funny. He seemed to enjoy it, I couldn’t get it back off him, haha! If I ever go back, maybe I will take him his own vape haha!

Day 3
Visiting breeders!

With a fresh day upon us it was time to visit some breeders! I started the day with a massive breakfast in the hotel before Naveed and his buddy Yousef came to pick me up. Had I of known everyone was going to put on a feast, I probably would have skipped breakfast! I was so full-up after the first visit and still had the whole day ahead of me. I mean, I can eat and I can eat good, but man I was stuffed!

We headed out to visit Naveed’s place. Naveed is a head of department lecturer at a school, and his birds are on site.  His spacious bird room is clean and fresh, with big aviaries for the birds to fly in. We sat down, enjoyed some food and drink and admired his beautiful collection. Naveed is genuinely a top man! He works very hard, not just for the LSP but for the hobby in general. He’s very active on social media and dedicated to producing tutorial videos for hobbyists to learn from. His pushes hard for new members and endorsements for the LSP and oozes the passion and dedication that makes the hobby great. This open approach makes him such a beneficial figure within the Lovebird world of Pakistan and he deserves credit for that. He also uses his bird collection to teach the children at the school. Introducing them to the ways of the bird keeper is not only a wonderful source of education but will lay down the foundation for future generations of Lovebird fanatics. He looked after me so well during my stay. He went out of his way to ensure every part of my trip was comfortable and was with me every day. I can’t thank him enough for his friendship and I certainly hope the LSP and the Lovebird hobbyists of Pakistan know what an asset they have with Naveed. He’s a diamond for sure!

We also visited several prominent Budgerigar breeders. They also keep a small number of Agapornis but they have made a stamp in the Budgerigar world of Pakistan. Ch. Irham is a well breeder of the hagoromo budgie and had some beautiful specimens in his bird room.  He put on a wonderful spread of food and the hospitality himself and his family showed me was incredible. Next on the list was Ali Sahi, a champion Budgerigar breeder in Pakistan. I really enjoyed this visit. His bird room was clean, efficient and well organised and we talked a lot about the foods and techniques he applies to his hobby. His has an impressive list of achievements in the Budgie world and it was quite fascinating for me, even though my main focus is Agapornis.

Faisal Saleem and Hanzala were also on the visiting list. Again, really impressive setups and a beautiful collection of birds. The majority of the birds were Agapornis and there were lots of great examples. For sure they will be breeding some incredible birds. Hanzala has a wonderful collection of Agapornis personatus, and naturally I found these quite appealing. I don't have any photos of my visit to Faisal and Hanzala, so if you guys do, please send them to me! During the day we also visited some bird/animal shops and a local guy who has various birds and animals. It was quite interesting seeing how things are done in a different culture. The guy in the shop was a really nice man, made me feel very welcome!

In the evening we headed off for some coffee at a local coffee shop and we were joined by several other LSP guys, including Mobassir Sattar. After enjoying a coffee we headed off to the Eifel Tower of Lahore! Mian Farooq treated us and it was quite a spectacle! It’s literally a full-blown replica of the Eifel Tower in the middle of Lahore. Mind blowing! The view was amazing, looking across the bustling streets of Lahore! Followed up by another wonderful meal before it was back on the road for the final visit.

Before we headed off for the last visit we stopped to indulge in a local delicacy. “Paan”. This is quite an old cultural tradition and as far as I am aware it’s a betel leaf wrapped around a “filling” that you slowly chew, kind of like chewing tobacco I guess? I don’t have a clue what went inside, but there was a lot of different ingredients! Not one to turn down something new, I gave it a try. I was a little reluctant, probably because I didn’t have a clue what it was or what to do with it. First impressions were not amazing, but it got better and after what seemed like hours of chewing, it wasn’t too bad at all haha.

 

Late in the evening was a visit I had been looking forward to. It was time to visit the home of Asim, also known as Mak Birds. I have spoken with Asim for some time through my Facebook page and it was great to be able to visit his place. A really eager, dedicated breeder who has the intention and determination that makes for a great breeder. Truly devoted to his hobby and his collection of birds and a genuine nice guy. The same goes for the entire YNB group. They are very passionate breeders, likeable guys and I am sure we will see a lot more success from them all in the future. YNB is a group who works together in the hobby. It stands for ‘Yaraan nal baharaan’ which apparently translates to something like “There is always spring with friends”. The YNB group consists of Asim (Mak birds), Emran, Zohaib, Faizy, Salman, Rizwan and Zeeshan Khan. If I missed anybody out … sorry! This group aspect is something we don’t see much in Europe, so it’s another interesting factor of our hobby that I got to learn more about. I checked out Asim’s birds and chilled out for a bit with the YNB guys. I had such a nice time. Chilled out, relaxed and fun people! Of course, there was more food and even though by this stage I was near the point of bursting open, I indulged in yet more traditional Pakistani foods!

Final day
Goodbye Pakistan!

The final day quickly came around and it would soon be time to leave. We began with lunch and were joined by lots of the LSP crew and Lovebird fanciers from around Pakistan. Once again, a great atmosphere and delicious food! We then made our way to the house of LSP President Fahad Butt. His setup was very nice too, and his Agapornis were beautiful, especially his opaline fischeri. Fahad won Best in Show fischeri with a beautiful opaline green and I am sure we will see more champions coming from his bird room in the future. His house was massive, really spectacular! I would like to thank Fahad for his incredible hospitality and for been so kind to me during my visit - thanks man! Around 20 of us had gathered and I gave a presentation about Agapornis, focussing mainly on selection for breeding and show birds. Only a few people fell asleep, so that was a record for me! Haha! Here is a little video made by Naveed, showcasing Fahad and his birds. Check it out!

After the presentation we chilled out, ate even more food, took even more selfies and relaxed a bit. Soon it was time to say good bye as we headed off to the airport, but not before stopping off at the Emporium Mall in Lahore! This is a huge, modern shopping mall that caters for everything and everyone. It very impressive. The guys spoilt me rotten! More food, ice cream and shopping for gifts!  I had been showered with gifts throughout my visit from the likes of the YNB lads and Rizwan Anwar. It had reached a point where I no longer had room in my bags! Pakistani people don’t take no for an answer though, so I ended up checking in at the airport with several extra bags! All the gifts I received throughout my stay were totally unexpected but I am absolutely grateful for them. Thanks to each and every one of you for your generosity, it means a lot to me and it will forever stay in my memory.

As I departed I reflected back on my visit. I left Amsterdam with uncertainties but I returned with nothing but admiration for the Pakistani people. Their hospitality is second to none and I will never forget how well they treated me. Lahore is clearly a growing city, with the likes of the Emporium Mall and the Eifel Tower you can see the modernisation and development. The people are friendly, the food is amazing and what else can I say? I really enjoyed my visit.

Regarding the Agapornis side of things, the future is certainly looking promising for the Pakistan hobby. Most of the guys involved with LSP already have a lot of experience from the BSP (Budgerigar Society of Pakistan) so if they use part of this experience and express it via LSP then it’s a recipe for success. Although it is important to remember that it is different to the BSP, it’s a different aspect to the aviculture hobby and should have its own expression and direction too. I hope in future shows open class becomes a thing of the past and all the birds are own-bred. This will mean the breeders have excelled in learning the process of selection, good pairings and are understanding the fundamentals of genetics and mutations. I also hope to see more wild type birds in all species of the Agapornis genus. I hope more breeders understand the absolute importance in the wild type bird, not only for its natural beauty but the role it plays in improving the quality and strength of mutations.

I cannot thank the guys from LSP enough for how they looked after me during my visit. It was an honour to visit your country and judge your show, and a memory that will stay with me forever. I would especially like to thank Zohaib and my main-man Naveed Shiekh who gave up their time to be alongside me all day, every day, ever step of the way. Guys, thank you all very much.

I wish every one of you the very best with the future of your hobby and I hope to see you all again one day.

Sam Gibbs
July 2017

sharing is caring! ...
Share on Facebook
Facebook
0Share on Google+
Google+
0Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Pin on Pinterest
Pinterest
0
Posted in Judging.

2 Comments

  1. Sam, i am overwhelmed with the beautifully detailed article written by you. It was our pleasure having you over in Pakistan and it was a surprise indeed on how you contacted me regarding the logo and all of a sudden you were elected to Judge our first show.
    I am thankful towards you for the kind compliments written about me.
    Hope to meet you again in the future
    Lots of Love,
    Naveed Sheikh

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *