At the time of Alex Forrest’s death there were the appropriate obituaries in the cage birds etc. I thought it would be appropriate to re-publish an article from the summer 2005 edition of the LCA Newsletter.
Alex Forrest – A lifetime in Lizards
In January 2005 Alex Forrest’s Lizard canary took the premier award for Best In Show at the Scottish National Exhibition – the first time a Lizard canary has achieved this. For Alex and his Lizard canaries, it all began in the 1970’s, with four eggs in a matchbox.
Apprentice jockey, ball valve assembler and bird club administrator, now President, are some of the occupations that have divided Alex’s time over the years, but it is the Lizard canary that he concentrates his energy on. Alex’s father was a well-known British-Bird man and his uncle bred Borders, so, unsurprisingly, his interest was stirred early on. On leaving school Alex became an apprentice jockey, attached to the North Yorkshire stables of Captain Elsey in Malton. When he returned to Scotland Alex worked as an assembler/tester for the Lothian based American company, Cameron’s. Now retired, Alex lives with his wife, Margaret, in a small village near Edinburgh.
Influenced by his father, Alex first kept British Birds, then later began breeding Cinnamon Norwich canaries. His connection with Lizard canaries came about purely by chance. An American colleague asked Alex if he could help him get a pair if Lizards and Alex managed to obtain a pair from Geordie Carroll. Four Months later the same American colleague contacted Alex to say he would be moving to work in the Netherlands and will be taking the adult pair of Lizards with him, so would Alex like the four eggs currently in the nest?!! The eggs arrived in a matchbox and Alex set them under one of his Norwich hens. Of the four eggs three hatched out. One of the three was a small broken cap gold hen, dark and showing good spangles. She was lovely, and Alex was hooked. Alex’s first show for his Lizards was the Scottish National Exhibition and his favourite hen won Best In Class and was a strong competitor to the Best Lizards there.
The following year Alex procured further breeding stock from Tommy Murdoch, who had obtained original stock from Len Wood (well known as one of the founders of the Lizard Canary Association). In those long ago days Alex bought in further outcrosses from Harold Sanderson, Stan Bolton and Keith Knighton. Through his own skill, Alex has built up a stock of top quality Lizard canaries and his stud has proven itself on the show bench and, since the early 1970’s, his many successes include Best Lizard canary at the Scottish National and the club show of the Scottish Lizard Canary Association, Several firsts in classes at the National Exhibition in Birmingham including Best Overyear at the National. At Alex’s first National Exhibition he took four Lizards and was awarded 2nd Best Lizard in Show.
Alex was for many years been President of the Scottish Lizard Canary Association, The President of Livingston CBS, a patron member of the Scottish National CBS and the Lizard Canary Association of Great Britain. Mainly dedicated to Lizard canaries, with a couple of pairs of Norwich for old times’ sake , Alex’s birdroom is constructed of wood measuring approximately 12’x8’. Alex has a second garden shed which has some stock cages for adult birds to moult out when space is at a premium for younger potential show stock in the main birdroom. The birds are always kept in immaculate condition. The pine sawdust on the cage floors is changed regularly and the generous sized cages are well maintained Alex’s Lizards are bursting with health and vigour, as he spends many hours in his birdroom ensuring every need is addressed for his stock. Baths are given at every opportunity and this helps the birds stay clean and healthy, especially at moulting time. The cages contain cuttlefish bone, mineralised grits and water. The staple diet for Alex’s birds is a standard mixture for canaries with canary seed, red and black rape, linseed and hempseed. Alex firmly believes in variety in their diet and regularly offers many different extra’s, but only in small amounts at a time; condition seed, carrot, turnip dandelion (only from the garden – roadside dandelion contains lethal deposits from passing traffic), and queen of the meadow. The eggfood is a mixture of hard-boiled egg, butcher’s sausage rusk and Cede. Alex mixes in soaked seed with sprouted mung beans, the latter being a firm favourite with all his birds.
In the breeding season Alex uses only pairs of Lizards, nether trios, and he only parts birds if the cock proves troublesome, which is very rare. He normally puts down 12-15 pairs and they can produce up to 70 chicks. Alex’s birds only do two rounds as he feels it is putting too much stress on the hens for a third round when they will be asked to produce healthy chicks the following year. Alex pairs his birds best to best and tries to balance compatible features. Consistency is a word which frequently pops up when discussing canaries with Alex; he looks for consistency in quality in his stock and he seeks consistency on the show bench – Alex would rather achieve ten placed in the first three than one bird that wins best in section and nine also ran’s.
Alex is very lucky to have such a wonderful wife in Margaret as she supports his hobby and travels everywhere around the country with Alex and his Lizards to shows and club meetings. Margaret is the auditor for the Scottish Lizard Canary Association, and also gives her time and efforts to help out at the Scottish LCA all Lizard show. One of Alex’s greatest pleasures in birdkeeping is being able to help a novice get underway and watching their progress through the ranks, and is always making himself available with help and advice. Alex thoroughly enjoys his retirement simply because it gives him much more time with his birds. Birdkeeping is like any other hobby, Alex says, “the more you put in, the more you take out”. And Alex certainly puts plenty in. It is truly fitting that at its Council meeting in May 2005 the LCA Council of Management awarded ‘LCA Life Membership’ to Alex in recognition of his dedication to promoting Lizard canaries north of the border.
Photograph’s reproduced by kind permission of Joe Coakley and Cage & Aviary Birds