Enjoy Your Judging


I think you must first and foremost like judging. This is especially true given that you are well aware that criticism comes with the territory. “You can only satisfy one person, yourself!” I’ve heard. I suppose you may satisfy two people, including the winner, but even then, you may be told, “My Light Green should have won, not the Blue!”

I showed up on crutches for my first trainee judging evaluation, so I must love it.

Training Scheme

The nine evaluations I took were the most beneficial to me. Maybe I got fortunate, but all nine judges who reviewed my work were helpful and fair. It provided me with the chance to officiate at Championship shows that I would not have had otherwise. I judged the Any Other Color courses four times and had more than my fair share of red-eye classes. Even today, I would not pretend to be an expert in either, but I learnt a lot about both types from the senior judges on the day. I had not bred these colors, so having the opportunity to judge most, if not all, of the eighteen certifications over the course of nine evaluations was really beneficial to me.

I was able to assess some of the top birds in the nation that I would not have seen otherwise. I was able to handle the paperwork required, but more on that later. I did not always chose the same bird as my examiners, but they were open to my explanations. “I still like my decision,” Derrick Bowley told me, “but at least you have a rationale for your choice.” I absolutely endorse the assessment approach and hope that it is kept in any future training systems.

Final Test

I can’t say the same for the final test at the BS Club Show. I loved assessing the unusual varieties, as well as the rest of the practical judging, which was pretty similar to what I had done over the three years of evaluations. I can’t say the same with the written test, which I failed the first time but passed the second time. I’ll be honest: failing this was the most embarrassing experience of my life. As a driving teacher, it offered me insight into how my failing pupils may feel. Being optimistic has made me more driven to see that they pass so that they never feel the way I did that day.

I once traveled to Exeter for an evaluation. For whatever reason, the BS office assumed I resided in Southampton rather than Stoke. They offered to switch the location, but I rejected. As I said at the outset, I adore judging and, thankfully, I also enjoy traveling. I saw distinctions in the birds I was accustomed to seeing in Lancashire and the Midlands by judging in other sections of the nation. Larger, coarser-feathered birds predominated in certain areas, whereas smaller, finer-feathered birds predominated in others.

Judging style

I must confess that I like to get right to work. My stewards must work hard since I despise waiting for the next class. I will give the birds plenty of time once they are on the judging table, but I want them to be ready and waiting for me. When I turn around to see an empty table, I am annoyed and my focus is disrupted. I’ll talk with my stewards and explain places of interest, but I believe I should choose when and how much dialogue goes place. Sorry, but stewards who start too much conversation might also disrupt your attention. Finally, I dislike it when people place the best bird on the left side. When this occurs, it is immediately apparent. Let the judge do his job and put them up as they arrive.

I must admit that I usually judge from left to right, as is customary. With smaller courses, the way the birds are on the bench sometimes lends itself to the other approach, if only to limit the amount of bird movement. It confuses others behind you who believe you’re creating a huge mess, but if it saves time and keeps them on their toes, it’s the greatest option! I’ve seen a judge put them where they were, but I’m not sure how that’s feasible.

What I look for

What is the significance of condition? The Budgerigar Society’s regulations clearly specify that it is required. This, like anything written down, is open to interpretation. I cannot accept that one feather is missing, for example, but a budgerigar in poor health should not win if all other factors are equal. An unsightly, out-of-shape bird should not be shown in that manner. I start by looking for a fit, healthy bird. It may or may not have the vivid blue or nut-brown cere. Nowadays, certain chickens, in particular, are quite fit despite the lack of a good brown cere. A missed flight or two does not disqualify a bird from winning a class, but it may hinder the bird from progressing farther in the show.

In terms of the mask, I dislike missing places that detract from a bird’s equilibrium. I also dislike excess spots, which detract from the beauty of the mask and signal that the exhibitor did not pay enough care to preparing the bird for the event. I like a broad, deep mask, which, in my experience, is difficult to breed into stock. My pet peeve, like many others, is the hinged tail. Nothing is more horrifying than staring at a bird.

Comparison is the Key

When everything is said and done, as a judge, you are looking for the best balanced bird in each class. You want to acquire the most evident quality bird to the left of the table, then locate those around it, leaving the weaker displays on the right side of the table. I prefer to take a step back, which generally entails standing on top of an exhibitor who is breathing down your neck! What I really want to see is a big face and a budgerigar with strong shoulders. Because I like a little of elegance, I find certain birds, even those who win, to be unappealing. A strong back line is essential. It is critical to examine each bird in the class. It may seem apparent, yet one that is overlooked will certainly sit like a champion in the afternoon.

Of course, the diversity must also be considered while making your pick. Long before the BS revised the color standard, I detested ticking in Recessive Pieds. Similarly, I may put more emphasis on accurate wing markings than other judges. Similarly, while performing Clearwings and so on, contrast must be given its due.

Major Awards

Depending on the technique, this may be a very different affair. It is simple if, as at most large exhibitions, you just pick your bird and inform the show management. Otherwise, a disagreement amongst judges about the merits or otherwise of their separate selections might be unpleasant. The in-between situation is when you consider the candidates and chat with them, but eventually make your decision and inform the broadcast. Ideally, all judges should be certain of their decision and stay uninfluenced, but this is not the case. Anything that lessens the impact of the “loud” judge is a good thing. The personality of the judges should not be used to choose best in show.

The “well-known bird” is another source of stress at this moment. Everything is kept silent, but you all know when you have a bird up that sweeps the boards week in and week out. Again, the hesitant judge may be tempted to “play safe,” but I would argue that doing anything less than putting up the greatest bird of the day is anything but safe. I honestly strive not to be influenced by prior outcomes. Derrick Bowley’s words have stuck with me yet again. “Be your own guy and put up your bird,” he said. When judging what I thought was a particular Yellowface of some renown, I once felt under pressure. As I placed it second after much deliberation, I could almost feel the crowd behind me gasp. In reality, everything was in my head, and the bird I had put first, which ultimately won the CC, was the renowned one. If I had caved to peer pressure and put the second bird first, I would have committed the precise error I thought I would be accused of.

All Things being Equal

What determines the winner if it’s close? It’s not the cage, after all. I feel that cages should be cleaned and painted, but the bird is what is most essential. If a bird has not been correctly identified, it should not be put in front other birds of comparable worth. Similarly, a flecked bird should not be placed last because of its flecking, but rather where it belongs given the rest of the class.

Finally, let me touch on a few small things. If I misclassify a bird, I always make a note of it in my calendar. It might take the sting off of eventual disputes with an exhibitor. When confronted with an upset exhibitor, it is easy to get confused and unable to explain. A definite way to make things worse. Coming back gently and explaining that sure, it is a Blue, but it is an adult in a young bird class immediately diffuses the issue. Of course, consult if in question, and if in doubt again, leave well alone.

Smaller shows may be challenging since you have to judge the birds in parts and then manage to bring them all back to judge for all sorts of strange and amazing specialities. I appreciate the conventional BS categories and hope that more smaller groups would use them.

Paperwork

While we’re on the topic of standard classification, everyone is aware that today, particularly at championship shows, there is a pile of paperwork to be filled. One form that I believe is unnecessary is the judge’s documentation of all benched entries. What a shame we can’t rely on our show authorities to finish this. I don’t mind ringing up CC winners, but the forms often seem to duplicate information previously entered elsewhere. Procedure can undoubtedly be taught. That inherent eye for a good budgerigar, however, cannot be taught.

As a trainee, I’ve judged at Budgerigar World and a few Championship Shows. In terms of future judging, my main desire is that I continue to be invited. If the show authorities liked my company and the exhibitors were pleased with my performance, I intend to keep judging.

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