By Malcolm Ellis
First Published in The Avicultural Magazine Vol. 118 No. 1
Copyright © 2012 Avicultural Society, Published with Permission

Following the sad death of our President Raymond Sawyer on February 21st (see The End of an Era and Memories of Raymond, pp. 45-47), it was suggested to me that it might be a good idea to look back at his time at Chestnut Lodge and the wonderful garden parties, while the memories are still fresh in our minds.

In Vol.103, No.2, pp.49-66 (1997), Raymond wrote that the previous year 1996, had marked a quarter of a century during which he and Ruth Ezra (who later became his wife) had been keeping their wonderful collection at Chestnut Lodge. During those first 25 years many birds were bred there. These included 16 species which it was believed had never before been bred in the UK and several others which had been bred for only the second time in this country. There were also numerous other notable successes. Of the many birds which had been bred there, it was with the wading birds that they had been most successful. Several species bred successfully over many years.

Raymond's notes aimed to provide as much information as possible, although, as he pointed out, in the case of some of the smaller species it was difficult to write a great deal about the breedings, as the nests were sometimes difficult to observe or it was thought best to leave the birds alone and not disturb them.

The aviaries at Cobham were many shapes and sizes and various heights. They were generally beautifully landscaped and planted to blend in with the various trees and plants, etc. A problem had been that the growth was at times very vigorous and the vegetation had to be pruned back, otherwise it would have been difficult to see the birds. Subtle alterations had been made to some of the flights but otherwise they had remained unaltered since they had been constructed. The lay-out had taken about 20 years to complete. At all times the birds came first and were all encouraged to breed.

Correct feeding is a vital part of breeding birds, wrote Raymond. Living in mixed aviaries with a wide variety of foods available, meant that many of the birds had a wider variety of foods to choose from than might otherwise have been the case. Most aviaries had a supply of nectar and in some aviaries there was a choice of more than one type of nectar. There were now many nectar preparations available, all claiming to be the best and containing their own particular combination of ingredients. At Cobham they preferred to mix their own and provided it in open dishes, except in the case of the more delicate nectar-feeders such as hummingbirds, sunbirds and honey creepers, for which they used hanging or clip-on plastic feeding tubes. Over the years nectar had changed as research had improved. How appropriate it was, wrote Raymond, that Ruth's father Alfred Ezra, was the first to develop a nectar mixture - which included Nestles Condensed Milk, Mellin's Food and sugar - on which nectar-feeders thrived. Some of the hummingbirds fed on it lived for up to eight years in his collection.

Raymond was often asked for his opinion on the best softbill and insectivorous mixtures. He had used a mixture of Haith's Prosecto Insectivorous Food and Bogena, but at the time was using a Witte Molen product and high protein chick starter crumbs. The variety of foods available was increasing all the time and there were even specially formulated diets for certain specific groups oflarger softbills. Raymond was a great believer in mixing the softbill food with hard-boiled egg, including the shell, which was apparently done in a food processor. This was then sprinkled with the vitamin/mineral supplement Vionate and fed to the birds daily. There were very few birds which did not take some of this, he wrote. Raymond was also a great believer in using ox heart which was mixed with the insectivorous food. Any food left over the following day was given to the cranes. The art, he wrote, was to provide just enough food so that there was just a little left over the next morning. All too often he felt you saw dishes so full of food that you knew the birds had been given enough to last all week. When a new keeper arrived, one of the first tasks was to teach him or her how to judge the correct amount of food to give to the birds.

A wide variety of fruits were fed to the birds. Most were cut-up but some others were chopped-up in the food processor. Certain fruits such as grapes, apples and pears were used all year round but others were used only seasonally. Oranges were never used for feeding the birds and, whereas a lot of bird keepers put fruit on spikes, this was something Raymond never did. Any uneaten fruit was removed the next day. Again the art was to have just a little left over the next morning.

Once live food had consisted of only maggots and mealworms, but maggots were no longer used following problems with botulism in the 1970s. Raymond used as great a variety of I ivefood as he could obtain, although of course, there was not as wide a variety as we have available today. What a difference mini-mealworms made to successfully rearing young birds, wrote Raymond, especially during the first few days. Ants' eggs were no longer commercially available, and had not been for a long time.

Large parrots such as macaws and Keas Nestor notabilis were given plenty of fresh fruit and nuts, plus small quantities of sunflower seed. The Scarlet Ibis Eudocimus ruber had carophyll added to their food during the moult in order to maintain their brilliant colour. The flamingos received a proprietary diet. The waterfowl had their own food, consisting of wheat, pellets, bread and sea duck food, which they seemed to thrive on, as did the wild ducks, which all seemed to know when it was feeding time.

Raymond saw Emerald Starlings Lamprotornis iris for the first time in 1954 and thought they were quite the most spectacular and breathtakingly beautiful birds, with their wonderful iridescent plumage. They were the first to ever be imported. Twenty-six were brought back by the joint London Zoo/BBC Zoo Quest Expedition to Sierra Leone, West Africa. Brought back (along with the first White-necked Picathartes Picathartes gymnocephalus) by David Attenborough, Jack Lester and my first Head Keeper, 'Timber' Woods, they were mostly in immature plumage. One pair went to Jean Delacour and another pair to Alfred Ezra, but none to Raymond, something for which he never quite forgave the zoo (I think he blamed the Director Harrison Matthews). Years later David Attenborough told Raymond that if he had known that he had wanted a pair, he would have given a pair to him. Raymond eventually managed to obtain one which Ray Shingler, who had been a keeper in the Bird House at London Zoo, brought back from Sierra Leone in the early 1960s. This bird lived in Raymond's collection for many years.

In 1979, a dealer rang Raymond to say that he had some interesting starlings, including the Emerald. Raymond wrote, that he almost had a fit, and immediately went and bought four or six of these birds, which were all that were available. These were housed in a large aviary and the following year (1980) two young were reared. It was the first time the Emerald Starling had ever been bred in the UK. Emerald Starlings are, wrote Raymond, a flock or colony bird and it is possible to keep several together in a large aviary. A breeding pair will become dominant but provided there is plenty of space and cover, the others will be safe. Raymond noted that Emerald Starlings often carry green leaves in their bills, but remained uncertain whether this was for display or nesting purposes. I think the answer is possibly for both display/pair-bonding and nesting purposes. Emerald Starlings went on to breed at Cobham several more times though not on a regular basis. They generally preferred a sloping-type nest box, with a flat bottom and with wire mesh on the inside to assist the birds to get in and out. The eggs were typical starling eggs, that is mainly light blue with brown/red blotching.

Emerald Starlings are, observed Raymond, highly nervous when first received. They did not make good show birds as they spent their time on the floor of the cage and their plumage became soiled. The same thing happened in quarantine and at dealers' premises and this could result in them picking up infections. The first birds Raymond obtained were not perfect, but nothing was seriously wrong with them. They bathed a lot at first, as lots of birds do when newly arrived. He recommended that the water should be changed each time after they had bathed and considered bathing to be a sign of a good healthy bird. His continued to bathe regularly in almost all types of weather.

Raymond's original pair of Splendid Starlings L. splendidus came from my friends Tim and Jane Barnley, near Kitale, in Western Kenya, which is at the eastern limited of the range of this principally West African species. Raymond considered this starling to be most appropriately named. It is one of the few starlings which is easily sexable, the male being more brightly coloured and larger than the female. The original pair first bred at Cobham in 1976, which was the first time this species had been bred in the UK. However, Jean Delacour had bred the Splendid Starling two years earlier at Cleres, which was probably the first ever captive breeding. Over the first few years the Cobham pair regularly produced young, but was then stolen and was never recovered. Raymond was able to obtain some more Splendid Starlings and had occasional successes, including in 1992, when one was hand-reared. Patrick Taplin, a keeper at the time, put a good deal of time and effort into raising it. Raymond wrote, that whereas the Superb Starlings L. superbus readily went to nest, albeit not always rearing the young, the later Splendid Starlings carried green leaves around the aviary and perhaps even built an incomplete nest, but seldom seemed to lay fertile eggs. This was in marked contrast to the original pair which hatched every egg that was laid and reared all the young. There were still six Splendid Starlings living at Cobham in 1996 and Raymond knew of a few others in bird gardens and private collections and hoped these would form the nucleus of a breeding programme. Raymond failed to mention that the Splendid Starling is a most wonderful mimic, far better than any parrot or hill mynah Gracula spp.

Superb Starlings bred at Cobham in 1996. The Golden-breasted Starling Cosmopsarus regius though had yet to be completely successful. This beautiful starling had reared young which were about to leave the nest but had then died. Golden-breasted Starlings are very prone to getting gapeworms and precautions needed to be taken when they were newly imported, wrote Raymond. However, once established they did well, even in our damp autumns. Amethyst or Violet-backed Starlings Cinnyricinclus leucogaster had also got young to the stage of almost being about to fledge. Here again, this species is easily sexable, although mistakes can occur because young males take up to three years to lose their female-like immature plumage.

The Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus (the American species) was bred at Cobham in 1992 and was another UK first breeding. The pair was housed in a large aviary and fed on an insectivorous mix and minced ox heart and, when they could be obtained, sand eels. The male stilt developed a pink flush on the breast (which may not be noticeable in the wild), which was a sign that he was coming into breeding condition. The display was quite spectacular with the birds reminding Raymond of two ballet dancers. The male danced around the female and then suddenly he mated with her. The pair bred during only its second year at Cobham. The pair went on to breed each year, producing a clutch of four eggs, all of which hatched and all of the chicks were reared. It was a great success - with only one drawback - when the pair had young all the other waders had to be removed from the aviary and the stilts would even fly up and attack birds sitting on the perches. They were wonderful parents who doted on their chicks and they became one of Raymond's favourite waders. A single clutch of eggs was laid each year, which had a speckled dull green background colour and mottled brown markings. The pair had nested in the same place each year for the past five years.

The aviary had a stream running through it and was the same aviary in which the Black-winged Stilts H. himantopus nested so successfully. These first bred in 1979, which was another UK first breeding. Raymond believed that the Black-necked species is the prettier and more attractive ofthe two. The Black-winged received the same diet, but some of them developed a gout-like condition which could lead to lameness. Both species were very hardy and would roost standing in running water during the winter. In the summer they roosted on the ground.

To Raymond's surprise and delight, a pair hatched the previous year, reared chicks successfully in its first year. Raymond was surprised that the birds had matured so quickly. He greatly disliked paperwork and, because of this, later disposed of the Black-winged Stilts and kept only the Black­-necked species, as these did not require paperwork and could be disposed of without permission.

Raymond was of the opinion that stilts require an aviary measuring not less than 6m x 3m (approx. 20ft x 10ft), with a constant trickle of running water. Stilts carry their food into the water to wash it and, if the water is not moving, an oily film quickly develops on the surface of the water and this gets onto their plumage. This had occurred with some Cobham-bred birds which had gone to other aviculturists, but as soon as running water was introduced the problem disappeared. Sexing stilts is not difficult as the male has a more intense black on the back, with a sheen to the feathers, whereas the female's back has a brownish tinge. The young pair that bred in 1996 could be sexed fairly early on, but generally it takes a year before you can be certain of their sex, wrote Raymond.

Avocets Recurvirostra avocetta bred regularly at Cobham almost up until the time of Raymond's death. He found it most gratifying when first time visitors admired this instantly recognisable species which was once rare in the UK, but is now once again breeding here in considerable numbers. (Wild Avocets have nested at the WWT London Wetland Centre at Barnes, close to Central London.) Back then before the widespread availability of DNA sexing, Raymond found that Avocets needed to be surgically sexed in order to find a true pair - and even this method was not always accurate. He once had a supposed pair sexed again, only to discover that both birds were the same sex. As with the stilts, Raymond found that when Avocets have young they will dominate the other birds in the flight and, therefore, the entire family was moved into a side aviary on its own. He added, that many members who visited Cobham had noticed (and no doubt commented upon the fact) that the grass in the aviaries was always mown around where the waders nested. Once they get used to the mower, they appeared to have no fear of it, he wrote. Much the same happened with the cranes which lived at liberty in the garden, where it was possible to go right up to them with the mower without frightening them.

The 1994 breeding of the Wattled Jayana Jacana jacana was thought to be another UK first breeding. If jacanas are provided with the right conditions they will thrive, wrote Raymond, but if they are kept in poor conditions foot problems are inevitable. The pair at Cobham bred in an aviary which housed birds up to the size of the Purple-throated Fruitcrow Querula purpurata. This jacana is, wrote Raymond, much tougher than the African Jacana Actophilornis africanus though, of course, in a bad winter it ought to be shut inside at night. At Cobham they were usually able to walk them in at night or sometimes they went in on their own accord. Raymond was fascinated to observe that the male did almost all the work. He built the nest with only partial assistance from the female and incubated the eggs. Raymond never saw the female on the nest. When the chicks hatched the male carried them in his breast feathers. The female remained in the background, but if a Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus appeared on or above the aviary, she would come forward and attempt to defend the chicks. Apart from this, she took very little part in the proceedings and the male almost seemed to resent her coming too close to defend the chicks or interfere with them in any way. In the centre of the pond there were rocks and also lilies and blanket weed and it was there that the nest was built. The eggs were a beautiful shiny bronze colour. This species can easily be sexed by the fact that the female is larger than the male. The young can also be sexed by their size. They attained full colour after about 18 months.

Although jacanas are not as aggressive as stilts and avocets, the breeding pair did drive off the old jacanas that Raymond had in the aviary and the latter had to be removed. Four young were reared in 1994 and three in 1995. Raymond tried the tiny chicks with mini-mealworms, but was uncertain what they ate at first. Within a few days, however, the mini-mealworms were being taken. Getting the young jacanas onto an artificial diet was not too difficult. They had to mix livefood in with the softbill food and then be patient. The main problem was that it was expensive to supply unlimited livefood in a large mixed aviary.

Red-and-white Crakes Laterallus leucophyrrhus could, Raymond found, be very aggressive and at times difficult to keep together. He imported a few to go with the existing group at Cobham, but by the next morning the new birds had been killed. In a large planted aviary with plenty of cover in which to hide they can live happily, but every so often one or more will get picked on. They climbed all over the place, wrote Raymond, one minute they were on the ground and the next they were at the top of a bush. They bred several times at Cobham and chose extraordinary nesting places, such as high in the bushes or in half-open-fronted nest boxes. Raymond found them to be good parents and the chicks enchanting. These crakes had, wrote Raymond, been accused of being egg-eaters, but he had not found this to be the case. At the time of writing, he was down to his last two crakes. They were no longer breeding and were no longer available. He feared that this species would not be seen again in our aviaries. He concluded by noting that it ate softbill food and fruit, etc., as well as seed, including various millets.

The Crested Wood Partridge Rollulus rouloul, called then the Roulroul or Roulroul Partridge, appeared to breed well for a short time, say about three years, in Raymond's experience, but then seemed to stop breeding. Back in 1956, when he was living in London, Raymond had recorded what was then only the second UK breeding of this popular species. (It was first bred in the UK in 1927 by W. Whitley - presumably, Herbert Whitley's brother William.) Raymond's young were parent-reared and the following year a silky hen brooded and reared the young. At that year's National Exhibition of Cage Birds, held at Olympia, in London, Raymond won the award for the Best Foreign exhibit with the male and one of his daugthers. It was the first time that a UK-bred foreign bird had won this award at what was then the UK's premier exhibition of foreign birds. To the best of Raymond's knowledge this also included the Crystal Palace shows going all the way back into the previous century. Over the years Raymond had several pairs which had bred at Cobham. His latest pair laid but refused to incubate the eggs. He believed there was a strong possibility that the pair was not parent-reared and, in his opinion, this led to problems with both infertility and the rearing of the young.

Raymond knew of several aviculturists who had achieved fleeting success with a pair or two, after which nothing further happened. Most successes appeared to be as a result of taking the eggs away to be hatched and then artificially rearing the chicks. We seemed to have ended up with an egg layer which did not know how to sit and incubate her own eggs, wrote Raymond. His original pair was wild-caught and took nesting very seriously. Whereas his latest pair was captive-bred and played about with the nesting material and never made a proper domed nest. In 1996, the eggs were taken away and placed in an incubator and five chicks hatched and were hand-reared. They were raised under a lamp along with another chick for company. Raymond found that the Crested Wood Partridge does not like cold weather and can get frostbitten toes. He felt that in the UK climate it definitely needs some form of shelter, such as a glass-covered, rather than an open aviary, in which he had experienced problems with this species. He added, however, that it is okay outside from April-October.

The UK first breeding of the Violet Turaco Musophaga violacea was achieved at Cobham in 1984, after which the pair went on to breed for several more years. Raymond commented on the fact that the young seem to leave the nest awfully early and climb about on the branches of bushes. He had not found this turaco aggressive until recently when the female, who was not frightened of anyone, developed an absolute hatred of women and would attack the female keeper.

Ross's Turaco M. rossae was also bred at Cobham, although it was not the first breeding, that honour having gone to Raymond's friend Newton Steele, who bred it in 1972. His pair was extremely aggressive and the male had taken out one of the female's eyes. Turacos can be very aggressive towards each other when kept in a small flight, wrote Raymond. He added, that they need to be watched when they are breeding, as the males sometimes persecute the females. The Red-crested Turaco Tauraco erythrolophus bred at Cobham most years and Livingstone's T. livingstonii had been bred there and also Schalow's T. schalowi, as well as Fischer's T. fischeri which, at the time, had only previously been bred once before in the UK (at Leeds Castle Aviary). Raymond considered surgical sexing to be the best way of sexing turacos (at that time) - the altemative being to let them choose their own partner.

The Blue Whistling Thrush Myiophoneus caeruleus bred at Cobham in 1992 and was yet another UK first breeding. The pair, which built a typical thrush-type nest, albeit a very large one in view of the size of the species, went on to breed several more times, with the young leaving leaving the nest looking like paler versions of their parents. The Blue Whisling Thrush can at times be a killer and is not to be trusted with birds smaller than itself, or even some birds of its own size, that is about 33cm (13in) in length. It is definitely a species to keep a close eye on, even if there is just a pair on its own in a spacious flight. When she was nesting, the female at Cobham would attack the keepers and eventually killed the male. Raymond had noticed that yellow-billed birds were no longer being imported, but those with black bills continued to be imported occasionally.

There was a pair of Island Thrushes Turdus poliocephalus in the collection at Cobham, then some more were obtained and eventually a male and two females were living in the same aviary. One of the females nested and successfully raised young and then, to Raymond's amazement, the second female did the same - obviously the male had mated with both females. They nested in half-open-fronted nest boxes, which was unusual for thrushes. It was another UK first breeding.

Over the years the Laughing Kookaburra Dacelo novaeguineae often bred at Cobham. Members who visited the collection may remember that they bred first in a small enclosure by the garages. Mice and day old chicks formed the bulk of their diet.

Another species which bred at Cobham on several occasions in recent years was the Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyana. In the past Raymond had kept them in a flock and thought this may have galvanised them into breeding. However, he had cut back the number in 1996 and, at the time of writing, had only two pairs, one of which had reared five young. They are, he observed, quite small birds when they moult their tail feathers.

The Red-tailed Minla Minla ignotincta was bred at Cobham in 1989 in one of the range of six smaller aviaries. The pair was thought to be sitting, then livefood was seen being taken into the nest and eventually two young were seen in the flight. Of the other two species, the Blue-winged M. cyanouroptera is a rather highly strung bird, whereas the Chestnut-tailed M. strigula is a very confiding species. The Red-tailed is the only one of the three where there is a slight difference between the plumage of the male and female. Apparently, it was the first time for many years that this species had been seen in the UK and Raymond knew of several others who had succeeded in breeding it - no doubt helped by the fact that it could be sexed relatively easily. In the Foreign Bird Club's magazine, Bird Notes March 1915, there is a coloured plate of it painted by Goodchild. This was painted from life from a male owned by Ruth's father, Alfred Ezra. He described the bird as the most fascinating softbill he had kept - it was full of curiosity and not at all frightened by anything. This was an observation which was confirmed by Raymond.

The breeding of the Southern Tit-Warbler Parisoma subcaeruleum was another small softbill about which Raymond was able to provide very few details. They too were housed in one ofthe six smaller flights, where in 1989 they built a small compact nest and reared two young. The sexes look alike and the young when they left the nest were merely duller versions of their parents. The latter were sold to Raymond as tit-babblers and this species is now known as the Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler or Rufous-vented Warbler.

Plumbeous Redstarts Rhyacornis fuliginosus bred successfully twice in 1988, rearing three young on each occasion. They too bred in one of the six smaller flights, where they nested in a thick currant bush. Raymond was unaware that they were nesting until the male went for Alan Lewis, who was their keeper at the time. Others were later successful with this species which is found from the Himalayas to northern Thailand and western China. The male is basically a dark bluish-slate colour, with a bright chestnut tail. The female is greyish-brown, with a white and brown tail. Often pictured in or near water, the Plumbeous Redstart enjoys access to a stream or pool.

The Masked Crimson Tanager Ramphocelus nigrogularis bred successfully in 1992, once again in one of the six smaller flights. The pair nested in a half-open-fronted finch-type nest box and was tolerant of the other occupants of the aviary. The pair took a lot of livefood while nesting. Raymond found that this tanager did not like our damp autumn weather and, although the six aviaries had heated shelters, it could not tolerate our cold winters.

Not many woodpeckers were imported and few have been bred in captivity here in the UK, but one which was bred successfully at Cobham is the Black-cheeked Woodpecker Melanerpes pucherani from Central and northern South America. The male and female look similar to each other, except that the male's cap is a stronger shade of red. This species was first bred there in 1992. The pair nested in the trunk of a Silver Birch Betula pendula, cut into three sections for ease of handling and moveability. Once the pair had excavated the nest hole, there was nothing further to do but wait and hope until they saw lots offood being taken into the nest and then knew the pair had young. Eventually four emerged. Raymond believed they remained in the nest for about three weeks. The pair went on to breed successfully on numerous other occasions, including in 1996. Over the years Raymond found that woodpeckers enjoy nectar and always ensured that it was available for them. He added, that as well as nectar, the Black-cheeked Woodpeckers liked softbill food, fruit and livefood. At the time, the pair shared the flight with a Scarlet-chested Sunbird Nectarinia senegalensis and Raymond got pleasure from watching the sunbird and woodpeckers drinking from the same dish of nectar. He found it is not a particularly aggressive species. When the pair first bred, it was sharing the flight with a pair of Black-naped Fruit Doves Ptilinopus melanospila.

In 1960, Chat and Lindsay exhibited a pair of Blue-faced Honeyeaters Entomyzon cyanotis harteri, from southern New Guinea and northern Queensland, at the National Exhibition of Cage & Aviary Birds at Olympia, in London, where the pair won the award for the Best Large Foreign Softbill. The pair obviously caught Raymond's eye, but it was not until 1991 that he managed to obtain six of these honeyeaters. These were housed in an aviary with a shelter which was heated during the winter. Two pairs nested though only one pair did so successfully. They nested in a wire basket and the young were not difficult to rear and were left with their parents. The small colony was progressing well until Raymond attempted to introduce some new birds into it. These new birds were resented and were attacked and had to be removed. There were problems with egg-eating in 1994 and 1995, so in 1996 when a single honeyeater egg was found, it was taken away and hatched in an incubator and the chick was hand-reared by Sheila Becker. When it was newly-hatched, it was impossible to tell which species it belonged to, but when the blue began to break through on the face, it could be seen at once that it was a Blue-faced Honeyeater chick. The chick was fed on a turaco diet, with papaya and added vitamins, together with the squeezed out contents of mealworms and small grubs. The chick soon learnt to pick up food for itself and all went well. Raymond preferred chicks to be parent-reared, but in this case he had no choice.

Raymond obtained four Green Wood Hoopoes Phoeniculus purpureus, which he housed in a large mixed aviary next to the waterfowl avairy and very quickly it became obvious that a pair was nesting in a box hung at an angle. When they were rearing their young an enormous amount of livefood was put into the aviary, until Raymond hit on the idea if putting 1/2in (12mm) wire netting over the top of a large hook-on feeding pot and letting the wood hoopoes use their long bills to reach in for the food, which remained out of reach of the other birds. Raymond found them to be very good parents, which made a great fuss of their young. He also noted that the other two wood hoopoes helped the parents feed the chicks. On the downside, he found that they did not like new birds being introduced into their aviary and could be murderous to their own kind, if he attempted to introduce new wood hoopoes into the group. In the case of other species, it was not that they killed them, but that they pursued them around the aviary and interfered with nest boxes and generally made the new birds feel insecure. At night the wood hoopoes roosted in the nest box. He did not mention their very distinctive musty smell.

Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula nested successfully at Cobham for several years. Raymond kept the pairs separate and wrote that his last pair were excellent parents. The pair nested against the wire of the main aviary, where the dogs walked up and down outside during the day. When the dogs did this the plovers would fly against the wire and try to drive them away. The plovers were great characters and were no problem to keep and were very protective of their young. Unlike the stilts, they were not aggressive towards other birds.

In 1992, Raymond had another first breeding, this time with the Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles. He had and extraordinarily prolific pair, which had three nests a year with a 100% success rate. He even had them sitting and successfully rearing young when there was snow on the ground. Naturally he would have preferred them to have nested later in the year, as the winter days are so short and not usually conducive to good breeding. The nest was a scrape in the ground lined with a few twigs.

A great disappointment to Raymond was the fact that he had failed to breed pygmy geese. His original pair of African Pygmy Geese Nettapus auritus displayed but went no further. It is, he wrote, the prettiest of the pygmy geese but it is not a free breeder. He thought his pair might be the oldest pair in captivity, for the pair was over 10 years old and this was beginning to show. He had recently acquired two new pairs which were housed in the waterfall aviary and shut into the shelter at night if it was at all cold.

Doves had been quite successful at Cobham. The Black-naped Fruit Dove had bred there for the past six years. The Beautiful Fruit Dove P. pulchellus had so far produced only male chicks. He had also been successful with the Jambu P. jambu and the Superb Fruit Dove P. superbus. A pair of Beautiful Fruit Doves had attempted to build its nest on a leaf and, although they stitched a small basket to the leaf, this attempt was doomed to failure. Raymond stressed that fruit for these doves needs to be cut-up very small, otherwise it gets stuck all around their beak and face. Whereas if it is cut­ up small its goes straight down and the birds do not get sores on the sides of their mouth. They will, he wrote, also take livefood such as mealworms and drink nectar.

The Cinnamon Ground Dove or Golden-heart Gallicolumba rufigula and both the Luzon G. luzonica and Mindanao Bleeding-heart G. criniger had over the years been bred at Cobham. His present pair of Mindanao Bleeding-hearts had reared six young. His birds liked seed, peanuts and insectivorous food, plus livefood. It was perhaps unnecessary to add that doves are not very energetic birds and will sit in the same place for long periods and, if they are panicked, will crash about and do untold damage, especially when other birds are nesting. He added, that in our climate here in the UK, heated accommodation is advisable during the winter and it is also advisable to house only one pair of doves in a flight, unless it is particularly spacious. This is especially tme when they are nesting.

Raymond imported a pair of Black-billed Weavers Ploceus melanogaster direct from Kenya and achieved the UK first breeding with this species in 1976. These weavers built a typical hanging nest and when they were breeding were totally insectivorous and never appeared to eat seed. Many years had passed since he had last seen this species. The Madagascar Fody Foudia madagascariensis, which Raymond found did well when kept in a small colony, had always been a favourite and had bred several times at Cobham in the 1980s.

Raymond was not, as he himself wrote, well-known for breeding parrots, but had over the years enjoyed a number of successes with these birds. Keas, which he thought are perhaps the most interesting of all the parrots, had bred there most years, always early in the year. The ancestry of a lot of the Keas in the UK could, he wrote, be traced back to his original pair. The female came from what was then Jersey Zoo and the male from New Zealand. The pair had produced up to four young in a nest, but on the last occasion there were only two. The male remained keen on mating, but they were probably over 30 years old and by then too old to breed any more.

The nest box was constructed of breeze blocks, with paving slabs on the top. When nesting the female gives out a scream if anyone approaches, but otherwise Keas are secretive when nesting with, wrote Raymond, the female being 'sort of' guarded by the male. They enjoyed a varied diet which included nuts, fruit, lettuce and mealworms. Raymond wrote, that his good friend the late Sydney Porter, who was first to breed the Kea in 1946, visited New Zealand and could find no evidence that these very inquisitive and highly active birds kill sheep. His Keas played all the time and especially enjoyed playing with a cup. He had them in an aviary with running water which they liked to run through.

Keas seem to enjoy calling at night, wrote Raymond, and Sydney Porter got lots of complaints about this from his neighbours. He always said he would dispose of them, but still had them 20 years after the complaints started. He left them to Raymond when he died.

When Raymond bred Stella's Lorikeet Charmosyna papou stellae, he was the first person to breed it since E. J. Brook bred it before the First World War. The pair used a typical upright nest box in a small aviary. These lorikeets love to bathe, wrote Raymond, and enjoy rubbing their plumage on wet leaves after it has rained. He was also successful breeding the Red-flanked Lorikeet C. placentis, but quickly sold the parents after he caught them attacking and eventually killing a Crested Jay Platylophus galericulatus and a Blue-breasted Kingfisher Halcyon malimbica. Most aviculturists had no trouble with them, wrote Raymond, and others he had later proved to be trouble-free. It shows how careful and observant you need to be, he added. Philippine Hanging Parrots Loriculus philippensis bred at Cobham on numerous occasions. He had a small colony until some of them disappeared in 1995. He never did find out what happened to them, but had his suspicions. Early in 1996, the parents deserted a single chick on two occasions, but just when he was considering hand-rearing the chicks, if the parents nested again, they surprised him by rearing three young.

Raymond had no luck keeping Salvadori's Fig Parrot Psittaculirostris salvadorii, Edwards's P. edwardsii and the Double-eyed Fig Parrot Cyclopsitta diophthalma. He found they came into breeding condition and looked beautiful, but then suddenly dropped dead and the post mortem failed to reveal the cause of death. Vitamin K had recently been found to be beneficial. London Zoo had no such trouble and had kept a female Double-eyed Fig Parrot in a small cage in the Bird House for about 15 years.

I looked after this fascinating bird and can confirm that it ate millet, canary seed, sunflower, hemp and peanuts, the same nectar as that given to the hummingbirds, fruit, insectivorous/softbill food and mealworrns, which it chewed to extract the innards and then discarded the skin. At the time it was the only fig parrot most people had ever seen. It was one of two females and a male Plicated Hornbill Rhyticeros plicatus brought back from New Guinea by David Attenborough, along with a consignment of birds-of-paradise which Sir Edward Hallstrom presented to the zoo.

Raymond was not successful with Scarlet Ibis until 1996, when a chick was hand-reared. The flamingos had always looked lovely but up until that time only one had been bred. Vulturine Guineafowl Acryllium vulturinum were allowed to wander free and had laid eggs and some of these hatched. He recalled his old friend Donald Risdon telling him that all you had to do was to catch the young along with their parents and put them in an aviary until the young were big enough to release. However, Raymond found this was not as easy as it sounded and after a time gave up and left the birds to their own devices. Some aviculturists found these birds susceptible to foot problems, wrote Raymond, which may have been related to their diet. It was something he remembered Reg Partridge telling him about.

They had kept various species of cranes at Cobham and got immense pleasure watching these stately birds wandering free in the garden. They always seemed to be in peak condition, wrote Raymond, and loved to display on the lawns. Sexing them was, of course, a problem and Raymond usually relied on surgical sexing. Stanley or Blue Cranes Anthropoides paradisea had always done well at Cobham and at the time they had a pet crane named Emma, who members may remember. Demoiselle Cranes A. virgo were also bred there, but sadly, neither the Black Crowned Crane Balearica pavonina nor the Grey Crowned Crane B. regulorum had bred at Cobham. In all the years they had been there, try as he may, Raymond had never even seen them mate.

Amongst the more unusual members of the pheasant family bred at Cobham were the Palawan Peacock-Pheasant Polyplectron emphanum and the Congo Peafowl Afropavo congensis. Raymond believed he was only the second person in the UK to succeed in breeding the Congo Peafowl, which were housed in a secluded aviary which they shared with the Red-billed Choughs Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax. The Cobham birds had come from Antwerp Zoo, where they had been kept in sandy pens in a dry environment to help prevent disease. At Cobham they were offered a varied diet and their plumage began to improve and the shine returned to their feathers, which had begun to curl-up. Raymond's main problem was that both males suffered a burst main artery and died. Following the death of the second male, the female was sent to London Zoo.

Raymond concluded his lengthy notes by referring to his pair of Andean Cock-of-the-Rock Rupicola peruviana, which in August/September 1980 hatched two chicks which, sadly, lived for only a few days. If the greater variety of livefood we have available today had been available then, he wondered, whether there might have been a more successful outcome. The male died soon after mating but the female, which came from Len Hill at Birdland, Bourton-on-the-Water, lived at Cobham for several more years. Raymond had another male which lived at Cobham for 16 years.

Species bred for the first time in the UK during Raymond's first 25 years at Cobham.

  • Wattled Jarcana Jacana jacana (1994)
  • Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus (1992)
  • Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus (1979)
  • Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles (1992)
  • Violet Turaco Musophaga violacea (1984)
  • Black-cheeked Woodpecker Melanerpes pucherani (1992)
  • Plumbeous Redstart Rhyacornis fuliginosus (1988)
  • Blue Whistling Thrush Myiophoneus caeruleus (1992)
  • Island Thrush Turdus poliocephalus (?)
  • Red-tailed Minla Minla ignotincta (1989)
  • Chestnut-tailed Tit-Babbler Parisoma subcaeruleum (1989) (Listed in the original article as the Southern Tit-Warbler)
  • Blue-faced Honeyeater Entomyzon cyanotis harteri (1992)
  • Masked Crimson Tanager Ramphocelus nigrogularis (1992)
  • Splendid Starling Lamprotornis splendidus (1976)
  • Emerald Starling Lamprotornis iris (1980)
  • Black-billed Weaver Ploceus melanogaster (1976)