Editor's letter (April 2 issue)

Sparkie with June Holmes, archivist at the Natural History Society of Northumbria. Photo courtesy of Tyne & Wear Museums.
Hands up if you remember Sparkie, the talking budgerigar from Newcastle, who became a national star in the 1950s. I bet there’s quite a few of you, right? For those who haven’t heard about this amazing bird, let me fill you in briefly. Sparkie had a staggering vocabulary of more than 500 words (and, I believe a nursery rhyme or two), recorded several LPs, fronted advertisements for Capern’s birdseed and went on to win the BBC International Cage World Contest for talking budgerigars in 1958. Now, almost 50 years after his death, Sparkie is set to become a star all over again thanks to an opera staged in Berlin that celebrates his remarkable life. The opera, Sparkie: Cage and Beyond, was written by British composer Michael Nyman, and premiered at the Berliner Festspiele music festival last weekend. To make matters all the more interesting, Sparkie, who was stuffed and mounted following his death in 1962, was in attendance, having been flown out under the care of an archivist from the Natural History Society of Northumbria especially for the event. Next month he will go on show at the newly redeveloped Great North Museum: Hancock in Newcastle. In the meantime, if you visit this post you will also be able to hear an original recording made by Sparkie. Fascinating stuff. On another subject entirely, we’ve got some great giveaways in this issue, so be sure to take advantage of them.
First up is a draw to win one of five beautiful bird books, each valued at £35 (see page 5 for details), courtesy of A&C Black Publishers. And second, is a pack of 10 vegetable and salad seeds, worth £19.30, that can be yours simply for the cost of £1.99 postage (see page 16 for details) – there’s one pack for every reader. Don’t miss out!