There was a smaller display of London Fancies than we have seen in recent years, but to quote the old cliché, the quality of the birds more than compensated for the quantity (or lack of it).
The reason for the decline in numbers is simple: Bernard Howlett, the founder of the London Fancy Canary Club, has not been well and was unable to attend with his birds. We wish him well. That left Andy Early and Martin Walker to put on a show.
Martin has developed his own strain of London Fancies; the birds on display had extensive clear feathering on the body with dark feathers on their wings and tail, but were let down by foul feathers. Andy’s stud is founded on the Dutch strain, and this was the second year he had shown them. The progress he has made is impressive. All the current year birds were spangle-backs with less clear feathering on their bodies than Martin’s birds but crucially 100% dark feathers in their wings and tail. Like all birds of the Dutch strain they had been dark selfs in nest feather, the light feathers only appeared during the moult.
Andy’s 2017 Best London Fancy, a mealy hen, was even better than last year, but it was his 2017 Best Jonque that stole the show. The body of this bird had been about 75% clear in 2017. Now it was almost totally clear; only a foul feather in its wing coverts spoiled the overall design. He went on to win Best London Fancy.
London Fancies have always lost melanin in successive moults. Some historical texts describe birds becoming almost totally clear as they aged, leaving just a light grizzle in the wings and tail as a memory of their former glory. All the contemporary reports confirm that the London Fancy was a one year show bird. Not any more, it isn’t.
One of the most interesting characteristics of the modern London Fancy is that while it looses melanin on the body with each moult, it is able to retain the melanin in the wings and tail. The degree to which the melanin is lost varies, and is unpredictable. Fortunately I had photographed Andy’s jonque cock in 2017 for my FSS show report. Compare him as a first year bird with his appearance a year later. The improvement is astonishing.
The other difference you can see is a loss of lipochrome (ground colour). In 2017 this bird had an incredibly intense colour; more gold than yellow. In 2018 he looks paler, much closer to a conventional canary yellow. Quite why these changes occur isn’t yet known; it may be the influence of the colour canary that Piet Renders used in his initial experiment; it may be an epigenetic factor, or a combination of the two. That is a subject for another day, but whatever the cause, the outcome is a significant improvement in the clarity of some second year birds.
The LFCC has been aware of this phenomenon, but this is the first occasion that we have photographic evidence. It is unlike the improvement in second year canaries of any other variety, which is normally little more than an increase in size. The extra clarity in the feathering of second year birds gives fanciers an extra incentive to keep this remarkable variety.
The birds were judged by Brian Hogg, an OMJ judge who has taken a special interest in the London Fancy.