It is always great to see old friends and meet new members. I, like many other UK taxidermists, look forward to the Guild's annual taxidermy conference, meetings and competitions.
We were expecting the talented German taxidermist, Yvonne Fritzsche-Nehls, who was going to do a talk on polyethylene glycol. Unfortunately, she had family problems and could not attend. I am really hoping she can attend at another meeting.
So another speaker was needed and that fell on me with half a day's notice - arghhh!
I did a lecture on measurements and bird anatomy during the skinning of a Tawny Owl. I also had a former student, Jasmine Miles-Long, helping me. I spoke about the need to take good measurements and skinning techniques. Jasmine did an excellent job of keeping up and is showing great potential.
I also ran through my reference sheet that I use to keep accurate bird measurements. My new Bird Taxidermy Measurement Sheet is going to be part of my new bird book if I can eventually get it finished and stop adding to it.
Taxidermy 'Doctor's Surgery'
On the Sunday, I ran the 'Doctor's Surgery' again. This is the opportunity for taxidermists to get some help and constructive critique on their work. I had four items this year to critique with over 50 people attending the lecture. The specimens were good items to critique, and the students seemed happy with the comments and help given. It is good to see them eager to learn.
I had to take quite a few specimens to take down this year for customers, so I had a van full of work. The items I worked on for the competition were Gyrfalcon in snow, a flying Peregrine Falcon and a pair of Snowy Owls.
The Gyrfalcon lost the Bird Competition to a very nice Bittern by William Hales and this meant he broke my six year run, so well done to William. The Gyrfalcon did however manage to win the new Breakthrough Judges' Choice Best of Show.
The Peregrine Falcon was mounted in flight having just struck a Red Grouse. The support wire ran from the Peregrine's leg into the Grouse, then from the Grouse into a branch. Unfortunately, the Peregrine was not up to scratch and was excluded from the Bird Competition.
The Snowy Owls in a corner case were awarded Best Cased item and Best Groundwork.
You can never predict competitions and I never expected the Snowy Owls to win anything as I had put all my effort into the Peregrine Falcon and Gyrfalcon. The goal of competition is to make you try and improve, and over the years, I have seen some amazing improvements in fellow taxidermists' work. Watching other taxidermists looking at some of the better pieces of taxidermy, I feel you can hear them pondering on new ideas and what to try for next year's conference.
The Peregrine Falcon below was my demo attempt using a bird in moult. The other items I took to the conference were a Stoat, Tawny Owl and Osprey.