Let me start by declaring an interest. I have known Marko for twenty years; we are good friends and visit each other every year. Marko and his family are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. In short, I am biased.
Marko lives in Winterswijk, near the Dutch/German border. He built himself a new brick bird house a few years ago. It is like a bird emporium. There are cages stacked up to the ceiling. Their occupants are all posture (type) canaries, almost all of them of British origin.
The varieties that Marko keeps change from time to time, but three of them are permanent features of his stud: Lancashires, Yorkshires and Lizards. In recent years, Marko has taken on a fourth variety that has joined his list of favourites: London Fancies.
The great danger of such an eclectic mix is that the breeder becomes a ‘jack of all trades and master of none’. Marko’s show record suggests that he can rise above that. He is a regular gold medal winner with his Lizards at the NBvV show (the Dutch National) at Apeldoorn, and gained a silver medal with one of his Lancashires at the World Show in Rosmalen 2015. A big win eludes him with his Yorkshires, but it is with the London Fancies that Marko is perhaps making the most impact.
He started with a trio from Piet Renders in 2014. In 2016 he produced the best new London Fancy I have seen outside Piet’s stud. It was a jonque spangle back with minimal flecking, and that bird looked even better in 2017, confirming the tendency of the Dutch strain to improve as an over-year bird.
Marko has made a significant contribution to the development of the new London Fancy in Great Britain. He gave me a jonque cock in the autumn of 2015. As London Fancies go, he was a poor specimen, but I kept him for observation and he rewarded me with a wonderful display of the fugitive black gene in 2016. I passed him on to Andy Early and he fathered the Best Jonque and Best Mealy London Fancy at the 2017 National Exhibition of birds. None of these birds can compete with Piet’s best birds yet, but there is no doubt that the potential exists to get to the same level.
Marko’s Lizards have one great disadvantage: lack of cage space. They have to take their chance in a couple of large flight cages, and inevitably many good specimens are rendered unfit for the shows because of feather plucking. He is one of the few continental Lizard breeders to colour-feed some of his Lizards. Marko’s method is simple: he selects a few birds from the second round and keeps them in a flight cage with his Yorkshire canaries, where they eat the same colour food. Paradoxically, many of Marko’s best show birds are his colour-fed birds because they suffer less from feather plucking. Yorkies may be much bigger than Lizards, but they seem to be much less mischievous.
In such a crowded bird house, it would be easy for things to get out of hand, but Marko has come up with some clever ideas to make the most out the space and keep his daily routine simple.
You may see a long black tube hanging from the ceiling in some of the photos. They are vacuum pipes, which enable him to clean out his cages without having to carry a vacuum cleaner around. Another simple idea is the way he hangs wire training cages on the back of the door so that the birds get the benefit of the sun when the door is fixed back in the open position. An electric ‘insectocutor’ hangs from the ceiling to kill flying insects, particularly mosquitoes that can transmit canary pox. Notice, too, the wire mesh floors in the flight cages, which prevent the birds picking up stale food. I always learn something new when I visit him.
Nobody seems to want to get involved in club duties these days, but Marko does more than his fair share. He is on the committee of the Lizarddag, the Dutch Yorkshire and Lancashire Club, and his local bird club. His usual role is penningmeester which means treasurer, but I prefer the literal translation: ‘money master’. Marko is one of those rare people who puts far more into the bird hobby than he takes out.
I may be biased about Marko, but I think it is for good reason.