Brian Batchelor has told me recently, he is suffering with a bad pigeon fanciers lung problem and after 50 years in the sport, sadly has to pack up his pigeons at the end of this season. His pending retirement from the sport has spurred him on to have one big final fling with his birds and he has enjoyed a brilliant 2014 old bird season. The highlight of the season was sending three cocks to the NFC Tarbes Grand National and clocking all three on the winning day, recording, 15th, 31st, 40th section A, 90th, 233rd, 308th open. A brilliant performance in such a hard race! The first bird on the ETS from Tarbes was Brian’s good blue Cannon / Van Bremen widowhood cock, ‘The Tarbes Cock’, and he also won 36th section A, NFC Carentan (495 birds) this season. This handsome cock is a direct son of Brian’s foundation stock bird ‘The Old Cannon Cock’, when mated to his good racing hen, ‘Baby’, who was clocked on the winning day from Tarbes and Pau. Brian’s small racing team have won a list of prizes this season, the highlights being: 1st club Yelverton (254 birds), 3rd club, 4th Federation, 5th Amalgamation Bergerac (1,213 birds), 4th club, 11th Federation Messac (1,042 birds), 5th, 12th club, 19th, 37th Federation Nort sur Erdre (632 birds), 74th, 294th open BICC Poitiers (1,934 birds), 36th section A, NFC Carentan (495 birds), 15th, 31st, 40th section A, 90th, 233rd, 308th open NFC Tarbes (2769 birds).
The Tarbes Cock.
Brian Batchelor is a ‘hard-core’ long distance enthusiast and in recent seasons has been very successful in the National and Classic races from 550 miles. He races in the very strong Godalming club and the 2012 season has seen him win the longest old bird race from Bergerac (450 miles), and record 3rd SMT Combine. When I recently asked Brian about his family of pigeons he told me, ‘my main family of long distance racers are the late Eric Cannon of Wormley bloodlines, with the sire of the loft being ‘The Old Cannon Cock’, which must be described as a champion breeder having produced a long list of premier racers from 550 miles. This handsome blue cock was bred by Keith and Betty Mott in 2004 from their Number Three Eric Cannon stock pair and he is a grandson of Champion ‘Culmer Sam’ and Champion ‘Culmer Bess’, the NFC Pau Merit Award winner. ‘The Old Cannon Cock’ is a full brother to the Eric Cannon stock cock, ‘Foxwarren Fred’, who is the sire of many premier long distance champions including: 1st Federation Bourges (581 miles), 2nd Federation Bourges, 2nd Federation Bourges, 2nd Federation Bourges, 3rd Federation Bourges, 5th Federation Bourges, 8th Federation Bourges and is grand sire of 1st Amalgamation Bourges (581 miles) in the 2012 and 2013 seasons. He is the sire of the champion cock, ‘The Five Times Bourges Cock’, winner of 3rd, 5th, 8th Federation Bourges and sire of 1st Amalgamation Bourges (twice)’.
Brian owns the Post Office in the village of Elstead in Surrey and his very smart little loft is in the garden of the premises. He is only a small team man, about 50 pigeons in all, including old bird racers, young birds and his stock team. The old birds are raced most seasons on a celibate system and the racers only see their mates on race day or returning home from training tosses. Brian says his system is very similar to widowhood, but he races both the hens and cocks. The 2014 season has been raced on widowhood with a couple of spare hens also being raced. Working where his pigeons are kept he can keep to a tight routine, with the cocks getting out for one hour twice a day, the hens getting one to two hours in the middle of the day and young bird team have their fly in the evening. They are fed on Countrywide Super widowhood mix. They also get, G10 Pellets, minerals and Osmonds purifier is added to the drinking water once a week. Brian tells me no medication is used in the off season, but during the racing season he has a medication regime. The team is raced every week up to the second channel race then bi-weekly. In the week between races the birds get one or two training tosses from about 30 miles, if possible into the wind regardless of direction. His young birds receive ten tosses and then three or four races, before being stopped to finish their very important moult.
Prior to starting up with pigeons at Elstead in 2004 Brian had racing pigeon in New Zealand where he had lived most of his life before returning to England permanently, the country of his birth. In New Zealand he had pigeons off and on since he was eleven years old and tells me he had some good success at times. Two memorable races in New Zealand were in 1994 when he was 2nd, 3rd Young Birds National and 1st Section, 2nd overall Auckland Federation Timaru (560 miles), with the same pigeon recording 5th Section, 5th overall in the same race the following year, which was flown on the day in 13 hours 26 minutes. He also still holds the record in one club he belonged to, when his pigeon flew 453 miles in 8 hours 27 minutes. In the later years of his New Zealand pigeon racing he flew in partnership with Digby Reiman, under the flying name of Royal Oak Lofts and scored numerous positions including 3rd, 4th, 6th Auckland Futurity, 3rd Young Bird National on a hard day and 2nd section, 2nd Federation overall Timaru (560 miles).
There you have it, a small team fanciers scoring big in the very hard 2014 NFC Tarbes Grand National. That’s our article for this week! I can be contacted with any pigeon ‘banter’ on telephone number: 01372 463480 or email: email@example.com
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com)
Wally in front of his loft.
Wally is one those successful fanciers that races his pigeons very well but hasn’t had the recognition he deserves, although reluctant at first he agreed to let me do this loft report. Wally started racing pigeons back in the 1960’s but like many had to give them up when the family came along and other more important commitments got in the way of pigeons. He restarted in the sport in 1997 when he had more time and his original pigeons were obtained from Dean Pallat being Van Reets and some of that blood still runs through his birds to this day. Although if you ask him what strain he races now he will tell you they are Van Cables, as he said you go over to Belgium and buy a pigeon it is always the strain of the fancier who sells it to you even though the top Belgium fanciers are always trading pigeons amongst themselves and the origins could be from anyone. Wally is a member of the Godalming and districts flying club with 30 flying members located in Surrey south England and it is affiliated to the South Coast FED. This club has a good number of successful flyers both in the local FED and Amalgamation, but also at National level. Wally is a very competitive fancier and tries to win every race he enters and does not take kindly to being an also ran and takes it hard on the rare occasions he has a bad day. Fortunately that is not very often as his results over the last two seasons have shown. In 2013 Wally was the top prize winner at Godalming by a long way, lifting half the club trophies including the Old Bird and Young Bird averages. Up until about three years ago he concentrated on the sprint and middle distance races winning more than his fair share of the prizes but as he said the glory goes more to the distance flyers so in recent years he has been introducing distance blood into his loft mainly from his two good friends and top distance flyers Darren McFadden and Mick Tuck.
Previously he only raced on the traditional widowhood system but for the past three years he has tried the round about system with some success and for the longest races the pigeons were sent natural to the nest with eggs or a small youngster. The loft set up is a basic Blakes pent roof loft with a central section for the hens and two identical sections for the cocks either side with 12 nest boxes in each. The lofts are closed in with lower and upper ventilation and an electric extractor fan is set in the front of the main loft with a timer that runs for one hour every second hour in other words on one hour off one hour. Wally is great believer in providing some special motivation for his birds and one of his favourite tricks is to put a cock in the opposite section which is identical but houses another cock in the same position as its own box so creating some fierce jealousy as the cock being raced thinks there is an intruder in his box. He times his pigeons on the Unicon ETS system which he says is the best thing since sliced bread, especially if the birds arrive home in the early part of the morning as he is out working doing a rural newspaper delivery round and would not be at home to time his birds if they were on rubbers. Young birds are raced on the darkness system which he finds works well for him, this year already he has won two races and the young birds look like yearlings and none of his team of 28 have been lost in the first four races in the series.
Feeding is Verserlager corn, Super widowhood for the old birds and young birds start off on the young bird mix but once racing is underway they also go onto the widowhood mix. The pigeons are well trained before racing starts but once the race season commences very little further training is done as the birds are raced regularly most weeks. When asked about the use of medication he said he treats the birds for worms, canker and coccidiosis before breeding and racing and half way through the season. He used to treat each drug individually but this year he used the 3 in 1 tablet and found it just as effective and easier to administer. They also get Aviform products, post race after each race and the stamina, respiratory treatment in the water twice a week. Fresh grit and minerals are before the birds at all times and orego stim is given once a week. The lofts are cleaned out when it suits him about twice a week on average.
When asked about the highlights of his success over the past couple of years he said winning the averages in the Godalming club was one, although Wally was honest enough to admit that since the club joined the South Coast with his loft position being the nearest to the coast had put him in a favourable position. However it must not be forgotten that in the past he has won the FED when the club was in the Surrey FED and his loft position was not so favourable. The second highlight was the great performances of his Blue Cheque cock named “JOE 90” named after the last two digits of his ring number which was bred by Darren McFadden. Wally said prior to racing this outstanding cock that he was losing a bit of interest but this one pigeon had really perked him up. This wonderful cock was 3rd section, 13th open National Flying club Tarbes National 550 miles against an entry of 2769 in a very testing race when only 393 birds were timed in race time. However Wally was sorry he let the pigeon down by not pooling him as he said prior to the race he would be a good one and he was going to pool him right through but chickened out at the last minute. Having put up this top performance Wally then sent him back again to the NFC Saintes National and again timed him to win 12th section and 252nd Open against 3187 pigeons, this time Wally didn’t chicken out and pooled him through doubling his money as a result. In his build up to Tarbes JOE 90 went to all the club channel races although he was 2 hours behind Wally’s first bird in his last start before TARBES which Wally said disappointed him but on reflection probably gave him the hours on the wing which set him up nicely for the Tarbes National. Another of Wally’s top performers is a Blue Gay pied yearling hen that has raced on round about this season and won him 3 races.
Gay Pied YLG 500.
Well an enjoyable loft visit to a fancier whose pigeon have put in some top performances in the past two years.
I have longed to publish a blog for many months and indeed different people suggested that I do so as there was some interesting dialogue in the last 12 months of the ARPF calendar year.
Recently the ARPF held their AGM. I don’t have much information to give you as I am not in a healthy enough state to spend a day out in Auckland even if someone drove me in there. I can tell you though that the secretaries, treasurers and also the race secretaries’ positions weren’t filled. So those of you in the ARPF who either did not make the meeting or could do these jobs please make sure that you are at next week’s meeting.
I have requested the tapes of AGM’s and the in between meetings the last three years or so due to the state of my poor physical health and although I haven’t heard an answer to the request sent to the outgoing Secretary Fred van Lier prior to last weekend’s AGM, my requests have always previously been denied.
What do you think, should it be my human right as a man with a major health disability to have my human rights met in the form of tapes from meetings. It’s pretty easy to email such things nowadays; I can’t really see what the problem is. I suppose video conferencing would be another way to keep me and others in the loop that can’t make meetings for health reasons. Important stuff in my book and up there with pigeon welfare, which if you are new to this site you’ll find heaps of articles on this awesome topic and the current President endorses them.
I would say though that we need to give Fred a big thumbs up for his efforts to serve the Federation and keep the wheels turning over, not just as a past secretary but in other jobs for quite a few years now. People often don’t get the recognition they deserve, so Fred, high five bro!
Moving on to Fergus Elley aka ferguspigeonman affairs, if any of you wish to contact me my email addy is firstname.lastname@example.org perhaps you have some photos and news that you want to share to the pigeon world or you might know me from the past. Someone did contact me earlier in the year about doing studies on Mac Armstrong’s Invercargill winning pigeons. As I have not spoken to Mac since the Summer I don’t know what became of that. DNA testing I believe was the subject, perhaps to isolate the homing genes.
Also for those of you who don’t know I am on Facebook the last year or so as Fergus James Elley. If I can pick that you are genuine or you can ring me for me to check you out then you can friend request me or simply follow me. Even those that are from whatever circle of friendship/acquaintance throughout my life I won’t bar you no matter how bad you might have treated me because of course, Jesus wouldn’t, at least not during this earthly pilgrimage!
I’m not on Facebook every day. For instance in young birds I didn’t use it for 2 months as I got burnt out. I try and place some interesting news feed items for those that follow me or are friends and the odd humorous post. Initially my profile was public but in general now it is only for friends or followers, despite this I usually get a pretty picture of a young woman with a message to contact off site about once every 2 weeks! I don’t think it’s because I have a tidy, younger profile photo for as the saying goes ‘I can smell the testosterone behind the photo sent’. Not saying they are perverts or weirdo’s just scumbag parasitic scammers! If you are a scammer reading this you are simply wasting your time with me and usually I report you immediately and contact those friends you have already managed to infiltrate before me!
There are many animal and bird interest groups on Facebook and of course I have ‘liked’ both the SPCA and Bird Rescue here in nz which both do a marvelous job. The Ferguspigeonman Racing Pigeon blog is also linked to Facebook and you can like it on Facebook and that will be appreciated. You can also subscribe to follow the blog to get post notifications. Hey and don’t be shy with the comments on the blog it’ll get me more in the mood for writing if you pigeon aficionados comment. Also there is a chat room called Pigeon racers Chat Room, Auckland, rest of NZ and further. It is a closed group but you can request to join. It may take me a while to add you if I decide to, as I am well aware of the retards that make a living out of infiltrating Facebook and trying to infiltrate peoples pc’s and so on.
I may start a racing pigeon open group and you will have to be the judge whether you join it or not. Please make sure your Facebook account has the right security features set if you do and keep the interaction on site. You can’t trust anyone nowadays and my daughters bought a new word home from school for undesirables and irritating people i.e. FUCKTARDS and it seems fitting for scammers on the internet!! Really annoys my wife when they use it on each other!
Also I am looking for keen people to report on pigeon racing both in Auckland and the rest of New Zealand but anywhere further afield would be good too. Those of you who are familiar with the blog will have read the many good articles by Brian Batchelor about U.K. pigeon news. I have a bunch of articles both in my head and drafts in pc files which I hope to start getting out in the next month or so.
Being a person with a difficult disability to understand i.e. I have a chronic form of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which can make life interesting, especially people’s perception of mainly how ‘not that bad’ they perceive my health to be. So to state it afresh ‘ignorant comments are like a broken record to me’ and ‘I have about 10% of the PHYSICAL HEALTH of a man my age’. That means that if I was 100% healthy and could work as a Veterinarian or whatever that then maybe I would be on my feet 100 to 120 hours a week (maybe 80 hours of which was work and believe me I was a workaholic in my younger years). So for me, I can only be on my feet about 10 to 20% of the time a healthy male of my age can be, so you do the math!
This is not something that one can exercise their way out of either. I tried that when I was in my late twenties and it in time had the opposite effect. The fact that I can only be on my feet for so little time may surprise some of you here in Auckland. Dr Rosamund Vallings of Howick published another book last year on CFS and it is a very good one and available through libraries etc. Most people recover from acute chronic fatigue syndrome but my problem was it went undiagnosed from the age of 16 when I had a very bad bout of glandular fever. Being a high achiever from a family of high achievers didn’t help either and in addition being a workaholic.
I have been off the NSAID’s for 20 months now and of course my liver is much healthier as I was on them at high doses for over two decades and looking back I wish I hadn’t been! Seems to be what the doctors do with their patients for quite some years now for many chronic illnesses and what’s the saying, ‘doctors just treat the symptoms’. Many CFS patients are on opiates also, so they are basically drug addicts in a sense. I think doctors in part do it to reduce the number of sufferers who top themselves. It can be a lot harder without pain killers/anti inflammatories but the good days are better and one gains a sense of more control. Green tea helps a bit but it is probably more palliative but giving up tea, coffee and sugar at the same time as the NSAID’s was a very good move.
Back now to Facebook, you have to use it occasionally for me to keep you as a friend or be in a group. Some of you shouldn’t be so scared of putting it out there, you never know, you might enjoy the interaction!
Lately I have been thinking that it might be a good idea to ask through the blog if anyone is available to help on my lifestyle block with various things such as cleaning out the pigeons, fixing some leaks in the cow shed loft, it’s just too much for me nowadays. Payment could be in the form of birds or sheep meat and you could help process it maybe.
Apparently the Ozzie Bird Vet, Colin Walker has put out another book since ‘The Flying Vet’s Pigeon Health and Management’ was published in 2000, its called ‘The Pigeon-Its veterinary care, management and cultural history’. The new book is a massive 650 pages and is illustrated with over 1,250 magnificent full-colour images. I’m thinking of contacting him to see if he will gift me a copy in lieu of me reviewing it. Perhaps some of you have bought the book and might consider loaning it to me after you have read it as he may not ‘jump’ at the idea, preferring practicing pigeon vet reviews who are more sold into the flock treatments of racing pigeons for results rather than genetically improving the vitality of racing pigeons like a racing pigeon ‘farmer’ should aim for first and foremost!
I’ve also been thinking of starting a religious blog for some time now. Religion like politics isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I believe that just as there is ‘a day of reckoning’ in most fancier’s pigeon lofts where the inferior birds are not kept any longer, that the same parallel happens for human beings. I might be jointly posting any I write this year on this blog to help kick off the new blog. So if that sort of thing isn’t your cup of tea just skip it, there’s no offense intended.
My brother in Australia Don has his own blog too. If you like Japanese full body tats (he has them and doesn’t mind showing them off!), interesting articles about wayward pastors e.g. the late Frank Houston, father of Brian Houston who founded Hillsong, Sydney, politics and anything that takes his fancy then check it out. There is a link to his blog in my index but you can catch him at donaldelley.wordpress.com
Don is a property developer having made his millions in Sydney with his own construction company and then sold up and bought both a farm in Bellingen and another big block he is developing for houses/life style blocks. He has suffered from CFS in the last six years, he’s four years my senior. It was likely brought on by chronic pneumonia and high stress. I’m of the opinion there is a genetic risk to it in our family and he is fortunate that he became financially secure before he had his bouts of CFS, no such luck for me, but at least we have a beautiful lifestyle block with panoramic views and pristine, mature, nz native bush.
If you want to come and see me for a chat, message me on Facebook or email me at email@example.com
I don’t drive much so you will have to come and see me. If you are a pigeon flier and want to come and see the birds you are welcome but I’d appreciate some time helping with a few loft chores.
As I recorded in my last article we had suffered the wettest winter on record, the sun has now finally put in an appearance but we are still getting plenty of rain showers in between the periods of sunshine. I started to write this in the spring but as I come to finish the article it is now officially the start of summer.
Old bird racing got underway here in late April and apart from the 3rd race which was also our first channel race the racing has mainly been very fast with tail winds and velocities up to 2200 ypm. The channel race from Falaise was a different story with a very strong almost head wind, only a small number of game pigeons homed on the day and a number of missing pigeons have been reported in Belgium and Holland. Anticipating a difficult race I only sent two experienced cocks and one spare nine year old hen. The two cocks made it home on the day, the first finishing in 10th place and the old hen being wiser or more cunning homed early on the third morning when the wind had at last abated.
Again this year I am racing a dozen widowhood cocks and both the cocks and myself having learned a thing or two last year, this year I’ve seen the pigeons come very well picking up prizes each week including one red card so far. On the negative side my first training toss with eight late breds turned out badly as a peregrine got into them, I eventually got six back, two with tail and wing damage. The first pigeon home from this toss was then taken around the loft by a goshawk about a week later, another was also lost leaving only four survivors and one of these has not been raced being the mate to one of my widowhood cocks. One of these four I lost for 10 days. He was racing from Kingsdown inland but they arrived here at the same time as our National birds from Carentan (France) and with the very strong tail wind I suspect he got caught up with the National birds (there were 9300 entered in the National) and was probably carried on up north and being inexperienced must have ended up many miles from home. He is out of my best Cannon pair which have that survivability factor I mentioned in the last article and has turned up dirty and skinny having been living rough but I am happy to have him back as he will have learned from the experience. This is typical of the struggle of racing late breds in this country as I mentioned in my previous article, even the yearlings find it tough going especially early in the season and many have fallen by the wayside already including one of mine.
I have been asked to give my ideas on training pigeons and while others have written on the subject before me I have compiled my thoughts and ideas as follows which I hope may be of some use to readers. One well known scribe from the past wrote that you cannot teach a pigeon geography anymore than you can teach it mathematics and the only purpose in training pigeons is to get them fit and get them into the habit of flying a straight course home rather than meandering around in circles as they do when loft flying. There is a lot of merit in what he wrote, however on the other hand another equally acclaimed author wrote of experiments conducted during World War II that showed pigeons were indeed able to pick out locations and land marks. In one test pigeons were trained from three different locations and observers posted at the first and second training points recorded that when released from the third point, the pigeons flew to the 2nd spot then the 1st one before heading home. They followed this round about route for about a week before heading directly home from the third release point. Similarly how often have we heard about a stray pigeon that when liberated near to where it originates from only to have it return back to the loft that it strayed into. Another example that I have mentioned in previous reports is that of the Welsh stray that dropped into my loft again on the same weekend exactly one year later when he was raced from the same race point in France. The point is that pigeons do have an uncanny ability to pinpoint a location and scientists studying the homing ability of the humble pigeon have confirmed this in controlled experiments using tracking devices attached to the back of the pigeon.
How does this help us in setting up a training regime? Well the conventional wisdom is that pigeons should be trained along the line of flight that they will be raced along with the toss distances starting close to home and gradually increasing out to virtually the first race point. Some fanciers will start at about two miles working out to about 40 or 50 miles with multiple tosses being given from the point where they want their pigeons to break out from the drag. This type of training I believe is very suitable for what is known as corridor racing whereby the pigeons are racing up a relatively narrow band width into a compact area when to win you need a pigeon to break near the home area and trap like lightning. In this sort of racing, breaking out and training to trap quickly are the most important factors. A pigeon that does a victory lap around the home loft or one that deviates slightly off line following the drag over the final part of the journey will drop 20 or more placings on the result sheet in a matter of 30 seconds or so.
If on the other hand where we are looking at training for National and International racing or your loft is located outside the area of the main drag then a different approach is called for. Take for example my own Federation the South Coast Fed in southern England in which the premier racing is channel from the continent and many members also belong to the specialist clubs that fly the nationals and internationals. Let’s consider first those fanciers that live along the south coast, no way can they train a line of flight programme across the channel so what they do is train from the west, east and north and when the pigeons are eventually raced from France they are racing at roughly speaking either directly opposite from where they were trained (north) or approximately 90 degrees from the west or easterly training line. Where I am located about 30 miles inland it is not so extreme as we can train down the south coast in a V shape giving the birds coverage over the range of the coastline where they will most likely cross over the channel into the UK depending on the wind direction. However all our early racing is from the west country so that when they go over to France the line of flight is still about 70 degrees away from where they have been previously raced from. When it comes to the Nationals the pigeons are racing across a very wide front to many different parts of Britain and the successful pigeons are those that break out very early close to the race point and head for home on their own.
I have read in Australia that some clubs alternate the race points and line of flight each year so the pigeons would need to learn a new route each successive season, which is perhaps a little like our national programme in that such racing calls for a pigeon that can think for itself and adapt to a new line of flight. In this situation a different training approach is required.
What the majority of successful fanciers in my area do is initially train their pigeons down to the coast and also on the westerly line out to about 40 miles. Once the birds are coming well they then toss them in small groups, two up at a time being very popular and also single up. The idea is to get the pigeons confident to fly on their own, I also give mine the odd toss in the opposite direction ie north and north-east, as in the early shorter races on a fast day and being one of the front markers mine get carried over and this training gives them some experience in working back. The idea here is simply to give each pigeon a chance to build up its confidence in flying alone and navigating on its own instead of just following the drag flock home.
How far to take the youngsters on their first toss is another consideration, one of the most successful fanciers in my patch takes his youngsters at least 25 miles and sometimes up to 40 miles for their first toss and he loses very few. However most of us are not game to go to this extreme and like myself will start at around eight miles. One of the big problems we have are the all too frequent raptor attacks, particularly with young inexperienced birds as they will scatter in all directions resulting in many being lost. There are plenty of reports of fanciers losing half or more of their young bird team in a bad early toss when they have been hit by a bird of prey. There doesn’t seem to be any way of overcoming this and it is a case of the pigeons having to be trained so let’s hope for the best.
Another training system used by a successful fancier in my local club has been developed as a result of his loft being plagued by goshawks, instead of loft flying his pigeons they go for a short toss virtually every day five to ten miles, often being singled up and on arrival at home they go straight inside. I also read recently of a an unusual system practiced by a successful father and son partnership who race on the north road, as neither of them drive they give their pigeons repeated tosses from a park across the road from their loft. Apparently the pigeons go up over their house and trap straight into the loft and going by this loft’s excellent race results their pigeons must do the same thing on race day, out of the race panniers, straight home and into the trap.
Regarding the fitness aspect, there are those fanciers that toss down the road frequently and other equally successful fanciers who keep their pigeons fit by working them around the loft by flagging them and other similar means. The Belgium champion Michael Van Lint uses helium balloons on strings to keep his team in the air around the loft. The risk with flagging is that the pigeons will land on nearby roofs when they have had enough, personally I find that once they have warmed up after ten minutes or so they will keep flying quite well on their own without the necessity to flag them. The widowhood cocks tend to land and take off frequently which takes a lot more energy than simply circling around the loft which keeps them fit with a one hour session twice a day. One also has to consider how often the birds are being raced and if they are raced virtually every week then they do not need much flying in between races and rest is just as if not more important so that the pigeons recover their reserves as quickly as possible. To conclude it is really a matter for the individual fancier to decide what system will work best depending on the type of racing they intend to do and their individual circumstances.
Finally, another subject that has hit the pigeon fancy press recently is the question of drug testing. Late last year it was reported that tests run on Belgium pigeons were carried out in another country and one in four, yes you read that correctly, 25% tested positive for banned substances. Here in the UK there has been a tightening up on testing and the RPRA provide drug testing kits to encourage all clubs and organisations to stamp out this illegal practice.
Till next time, good racing to all.
Brian Batchelor Elstead UK
Catching a wave!
Most of us will have enjoyed riding the surf at the beach somewhere in the world whether it be on a surfboard, bodyboard or simply straight out body surfing. Over here in the ‘Land of the long white cloud’ i.e. Aotearoa aka New Zealand we have such awesome beaches for surfing. I can remember one of the best body surfing days I’ve experienced and it was at a West Auckland beach just south of the famous Piha beach with its Lion Rock, namely Karekare Beach.
Karekare beach, West Auckland.
I was in my late twenties and more in shape to handle the pounding of the rough breakers than nowadays and gee could they dump you! I’m sure some people get knocked out when their head is thumped into the sand below and their ears are ringing, but when you are young, there’s certainly nothing like the adrenaline rushes and thrills that nature provides for free!
Like surfing where a really good ideal wave will come along if one waits patiently enough, so too in the sport of pigeon racing is the art of timing the peak of the ‘wave of form’ with the key race(s) we desire to win with our pigeons. Those that are familiar with this blog or who simply know the Auckland pigeon racing scene won’t have too much trouble guessing which fancier I would rate highly at being a master of timing the lofts wave of form to strike when they basket for our annual Invercargill to Auckland race. Yes, that’s right; Mr Mac Armstrong is that man!
Mac and Dimitri.
How then does he manage annually for seven straight years to accomplish this extraordinary feat? Remember, that’s if you follow my blog, that Mac uses no forms of flock medication treatments for his pigeons apart from internal parasite treatment. There is no canker treatments, no antibiotics to treat or prevent respiratory pathogens such as Chlamydia, Mycoplasmosis or enteric gut syndromes caused by pathogenic species of Salmonella or Escherichia coli. No coccidiosis medicines, not even a drop of the very popular cider vinegar, nor garlic or iodine or other antiseptics in the drinking water. No vitamins are used either as the grain has ample says Mac.
Mac uses very little supplements, just grit, some pick stones and an electrolyte solution which aids recovery in particular. So how does Mac do it? We have covered previously that Mac’s sole aim above all else is to race the annual Invercargill and win it. This is what thrills him and that is all he aims for!
I’ve heard Auckland fanciers inquire if Mac races widowhood i.e. either cocks or hens? No, it’s not that, he races separated sexes to the perch i.e. celibacy. Lesbian hens are removed to a different section to deter this. The only incentive the pigeons have is their love for the loft and its environment, that’s it!
I have mentioned in a recent article that last year Mac was the least confident of all the past seven years in which he has won this race. Nothing like a man with humility and Mac was even saying things like I hope you win it to me and how great that would be! He really felt that with the information now on this blog that someone was bound to be really difficult to beat other than his loft.
Mac also seemed to be behind the eight ball as far as getting his pigeons going last year, it can’t be easy when you are 83! There were delays in getting everything sorted with his electronic clocking system which meant he had to use rubbers on the pigeons in the build up races. This was a big hassle and doubled the stress.
I remember talking by phone with Mac last year and at the time I would have thought that he would have started training his pigeons including the latebreds, but he hadn’t. It was almost a third of the way into the season! The first Fed race was the following week. The weather had been fickle as it often is over here and so Mac hadn’t started training. However, when Mac told me that the pigeons when out were picking up nesting material and darting to and fro I knew that he was definitely still on track for a win! Hens out one day, cocks the next, the pigeons fly themselves fit and can be jumped almost to the first race as its only 180 miles or so. When hens also are picking up bits of twigs and so on when it is their day out then I think this is a very good sign indeed.
I guess it could be also said that perhaps Mac also times it so he peaks himself and hasn’t worn himself out both physically and mentally too far before the main event. As I always say, it ain’t easy as an octogenarian and a lot of the time I feel the same myself, if not worse and I’m only early 50’s!
It surely is an art preparing a team of pigeons for these long distance events, with Mac, ‘no stone goes unturned’, everything is calculated with extreme diligence to win from 730 miles or so, it has to be! However, I think the boys up here will be keener than ever to try to ‘knock Mac and his team of very good pigeons off their perch’ later on at year’s end. However, like any form of wave surfing, watch out for the ‘wipeouts’!
Any questions for Mac either in the comments section below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Order of Importance of factors affecting racing outcomes of pairing two racing pigeons for the first time (middle and long distance).
1) Two pigeons from good family backgrounds, close to the tree.
2) The pigeon was reared right and loft conditions for racing were reasonable.
3) The pigeon had inherited a good constitution.
4) Luck-the genetics came together for that bird.
5) Luck-the pigeon didn’t get predated by raptors from squeaker to season’s end.
6) Luck-the pigeon got in the right group which cleared quickly in the big race.
7) You went on a hunch with the pairing and it paid off.
8) How much you paid.
9) The pigeon handles perfectly.
10) The system the pigeon was raced on viz celibacy, semi-widowhood, cocks or hens widowhood, natural eggs or babies.
11) Other-what do you think? What order would you put these factors in?
Dad in holiday mode!
Everyone has a journey in pigeons and this is the start of mine and I welcome you to read it. I had my first five years in Tawa, Wellington, New Zealand. As a little boy I loved chickens, we raised and cared for them, even using an old concrete water tank to do so at one stage. Dad, a Presbyterian Church Minister and a country boy from Hunua, Auckland, worked at the Porirua Mental Hospital down there, that’s what they called them in those days. He also did work for the Arohata Women’s Borstal down there around that time.
Like most little boys it was always a thrill when Dad arrived home from work and he’d attend to his chickens and garden and we’d help him. Dad’s pancreas had a bad viral infection not that long after I was born and he became an insulin dependent diabetic making his life a challenge for him and especially for our Mum! But he still ‘flew his kyte high’, naturally with a good woman behind him!
Not long after I’d started school at Tawa Primary, Dad got the invitation to be the Presbyterian Minister at the Khandallah Presbyterian Church up in the hills below Mt Kaukau overlooking Wellington harbour. It was one of the posher areas of Wellington. Dad had pastored in a previous parish in Wanganui before I was born and had done very well there.
Khandallah Presbyterian Church, I’d like sneaking up and ringing the bells for a laugh!
My mother Val was trained as a ‘deaconess,’ the female equivalent of a woman minister back in those days. They had met while training at Knox College down in Dunedin i.e. a ministers training place. Mum was from a prim and proper churchie home background (lawyers) and Dad from a more dysfunctional background, his father Jim having lost his health sometime during or after the First World War whilst serving as a naval officer. It’s possible he had an over active immune system like me and burnt himself out (I have debilitating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). Either way, the old codger lived to 94 and he had settled onto 20 acres in Hunua, Auckland which the government had given him after the War with his wife Georgina, the mainstay of the family and they raised four children, Dad being the eldest.
Dad’s parents grave. I led the old codger, grandpa Jim Elley to the Lord three months before he died at 94. I look forwards to seeing him in heaven further down the track!
At Khandallah I had my own bantams in their own shed and Dad had layers in battery cages which would get out for a scratch around in the garden on his day off, Mondays. It took quite a while to convince my parents that I could have pigeons.
Back in those days there were no laws to stop kids travelling around by themselves and we wouldn’t even know what a child molester was and from a very young age I’d travel into Wellington by myself or with a friend by train. Most of the time we’d sneak on for free.
I remember trying to catch pigeons as a little boy down at Wellington railway station with a cardboard box and a bit of string and grain, but naturally they were too quick for me. I also remember family visits to Pigeon Park in Wellington from a very young age. Obviously something fascinated me about them. Another time I found out some old ladies near Khandallah shops had a problem with pigeons sitting and crapping on their roof. I tried several times to catch them on the roof at night having climbed up a big ladder. Again to no avail, I just scared them off.
Pigeon Park Wellington 1930, a bit before my time. One of my childhood loves.
After that I think my Mother convinced Dad to build me a little pigeon loft. It was on stilts on the concrete play area that the manse had (Presbyterian minister’s free accommodation). It was only about a metre wide and the rest of it even smaller. We got some pigeons off a guy in Miramar near the Airport, a bit of a drive from where we lived. He was an Asian guy. He said “don’t let them out”. Probably the first big storm that came along the little loft got blown over and wrecked and of course we didn’t see those pigeons again!
The next loft I had was a small shed; Dad probably had chickens in it beforehand. One of the places I got pigeons from was up behind Onslow College somewhere. Some boys were going out of pigeons, racers and of course this was very exciting for me. I remember bringing them back by train with my mate Timothy Prescott including a big squab in an open cardboard box much to the awe of a few of the passengers. Those were pigeons I really liked the look of and the bug had really bitten!
I had plenty of success breeding babies off these pigeons and sold a whole lot when we moved up to Auckland where Dad had changed jobs to be a Bible College lecturer in Auckland at Henderson. Naturally having a father as a minister was embarrassing at times and Dad had already embarrassed me in Wellington by turning up with another church man from another brand at Raroa Intermediate School Assembly wearing the full ‘preacher gear’ including the white ‘dog collar’. My teacher, a lovely Mr Langridge at the time said to me from the side aisle, ‘Fergus aren’t you going to stand up for your father?’ Which of course made it worse for me!
Dad obviously enjoyed being in the ministers suit with the dog collar on his wedding day!
I only took two pairs to Auckland, a pair of racers and a pair of whites. I was 12 by that stage. I attended Henderson Intermediate and when the teacher Ollie Green found out that I had pigeons he suggested we build a cage and keep them in the class high up near the ceiling. We thought it was quite cool as we could let them out in the class. There’d be the odd crap during that time and we also bred them there, that was 1974.
We bought our first house later that year in Te Atatu North and I started out at Rutherford High School in 75. I was a pretty bright boy and the school ran an advanced class which meant that you skipped the fifth form. I joined the Henderson pigeon club and Graham Abercrombie often used to take me there. The following year I got my driver’s licence. Les Gale a friend of Dad’s from the Church circles provided birds and I also got a good hen off my Uncle Jim, Vaughan Jones bloodlines and I had success pairing it to a Mealy Cock from Les.
So there’s the start of my humble pigeon life. I hope to add more episodes of my racing pigeon experiences in the near future.
Dad passed away about 18 months ago at the ripe old age of 87. Many people have commented either to my face or behind my back that I was the way I am because I am a ministers son. What a load of garbage. I was a rebel in my teenage years and kicked over the traces big time. I even vowed to never become a born again Christian and yet that is what I have been for almost three and a half decades and loved every minute of it despite poor health for the bulk of that time.
Dad didn’t deserve the abuse he got, as he met hardly anyone in pigeon racing here in Auckland and I just put it down to people’s ignorance, narrow mindedness and rejection of God’s free gift of his Son, Jesus Christ. I’m a fool for Jesus, who’s fool are you??
Here’s some shots of Dad the funny man. The sweetest man I’ve ever known with a great sense of humour and a very funny speaker (people told me so).
Always up for a laugh!
Good one Dad!
A distant relative?!
Rest in peace Dad, till the last trumpet sounds and the graves are opened!