South Island Liberations   3 comments

Well we’ve had two South Island races to Auckland Federation lofts. One from Timaru and one from ChristChurch. Both resulted in many lost birds. So we’ll start with the Timaru.

These birds from Auckland Federation lofts, 88 to be exact were basketed on Tuesday the 29th of November and released on the 2nd of December. The birds were liberated at 6.30am. See site for further info. We thank those involved in the care of the birds including the transport supplied by the Palmerston North Racing Pigeon Club which took them down from Palmerston North and others who helped get them to Palmerston North.

Now for out of Auckland people Timaru to Auckland lofts is from about 560 to 640 miles depending on who is flying. So even on a good day with tail winds much of the way it is a good test of the birds character, intelligence, stamina and orientation abilities.

In the past I have found that for my loft about half the birds find their way home within a day or two from release. Although these returns are not perfect the problem for fliers is that we don’t know whether a bird is capable of flying that far on it’s first attempt. Also not all pigeons can navigate that far. Normally a bird has had a solid buildup to the event with preferably a 10 hour fly in the last 5 or so weeks, either 3, 4 or 5 weeks from the event and then steady flies up to around 3 hours after they recover from the 10 hour event i.e. 2 or 3  weeks later. Nowadays I simply use the Federations big truck and I thank Fred and Ron for their services there throughout the year. This year 3 of us had a National Park toss on the Friday seven days prior to the Timaru liberation. We are thankful that the truck waited around 45 minutes prior to release as it was drizzling at National Park. A good opportunity for Ron to have his lunch and eventually it cleared and the birds had a good steady 3 hour plus run which helped them immensely because Grant Annette and myself had the only two birds on the day from Timaru. I gave my 6 candidates (3 of which are photographed in a previous post) a 10km short toss on the Sunday then out for a few hours Monday morning, however the hens stayed out much longer and is possibly why none of them turned up from Timaru. However genetics could well be a greater factor but they probably needed more weight on them which is mandatory for most flies of that distance regardless of weather encountered en route. One of the cocks (the blue chequer) was a heavy cock and I’d sent him the week before to Raumati which was just over a 5 hour fly for him. I hummed and haa’d about sending him to Timaru and as usual the race turned out harder than anticipated and to date he hasn’t made it home. The Blue barr cock 421 did though in fact he flew 14 hours and 6 minutes and he was flying to about 14 day eggs. The Blue barr white flight cock 330 struggled home early monday i.e. the 4th day. Both these birds had a little weight on them. Because we have had a very hard race last Saturday from ChristChurch I think I will put 330 to stock as well as he was very consistent this year and had a top prize from Ward last year (about 330 miles). He probably wouldn’t race any good again anyway as he is still skinny and was flown out. The hen I got on the day from ChristChurch 10th December I will mate to 421. She was 4th East Section National (about 450 miles) but about an hour off the pace of Chris Wilkinson’s bird which ‘raced a race of it’s own’. Chris won the Overall on that race and it was indeed an incredible fly and she had 2 more birds on the day also so must have had her team in excellent order.

Getting back to the Timaru. Probably with the north-easterlies at liberation and the fact that if you draw a line from Timaru to Auckland the birds have to go over the Alps and find the right valleys. Probably most of the birds gave it a go but some probably couldn’t find their way through or spent a lot of time and energy trying. The top of the South Island had moderate north winds and the Cook Strait was gusting up to 60km with decent sized waves so a real test for the birds that had the guts, ability and a little bit of luck to have got through the Alps in good time with energy to spare to cross over the water. There may have been a little bit of a respite for those that crossed in the early afternoon north of Wellington but the head winds being a north-easterly which mainly picked up from around Taihape and from 3 pm onwards there were a lot of showers to go through from Taihape north of. I expect in between the showers the visibility would have been hazy with that low cloud you get especially on the volcanic plateau but also on any cool ground where a front is around.

It was nice to have my youngest daughter Cassie to keep me company in the hour prior to the birds arrival. She even brought my dinner down and I’d just started it when at 8.36pm with light fading, zoom over our heads ‘a bird’ what a thrill! He was tired and stayed on the inside ledge above the electronic pads for about 5 minutes before I let him in to his compartment. I think the low light and his fatigue made it hard to see clearly, but next morning he was back on his eggs which have now hatched.

The following night we had strike off and this year I had decided not to tell if I had birds so no one knew. Others had already had a go at working out the positions prior to strike off, can you relate to that if you are from overseas or out of Auckland!! I honestly didn’t expect to win as I thought that there’d be more day birds as my birds were up against some stiff competition including Colin Webster of Rata lofts who had won it 3 years out of the last 4, an incredible record. He finished up 4th bird clocking 10am second day. Grant Annette’s Grizzle hen which had been raced lightly was the other day bird and must have been with mine up until somewhere in the Waikato i.e. 50 to 100 miles out but 421 made 13 minutes on it. However hats off to Grants bird which arrived in the dark at 8.47pm. Incidentally  Colin Webster bred that bird and it is off two Timaru winners including his grizzle hen which won a very hard Timaru.

Finally there has been some speculation amongst fliers as to whether or not the feeding and watering was adequate for the birds. Firstly there were only 8 birds per standard wax box so there was plenty of room. Also given the fact that each box had secured containers in each corner  so that 2 food containers were at one end and 2 water containers at the other end and they were changed at least daily I think all is good. I will point out that the Waikato and other North Island Clubs that use the Palmerston North Transporter have also 4 secured containers, one in each corner but one food and one water is at each end and the same at the opposite end. I doubt this difference could be that significant. From the conversation I had with one of the 2 drivers that did the trip together I can definitely say that our birds had excellent care! There was definitely plenty of water.

Also apparently a pump is used to remove the old water and fresh pumped in. Pigeons are intelligent and I think it is more the distance of the race and the hurdles of the Alps and it’s 2000 metre heights and probably misty valleys, the Cook Strait’s strong head winds and not much respite from a difficult fly for most of the North Island with showers and headwinds. A bird had to be really right with perhaps a little bit of luck at not getting trapped up some blind valley in the mountains to get through on the day or even the second day. At strike off at 7pm on the second day there were only 8 birds clocked from 88 so a very difficult race. So far I have heard of only 15 home including the odd reported one in Whanganui and Palmerston North. All credit to Dave Bunker at Pointview lofts who had 3 home at strike off out of his 12 and his first bird was third clocking at 8.18 am the second day. Rata lofts, Theo Van Lier and Don Campbell also got a bird. Joe Edwards bird was late the second day and was given a clock reading the next basketing night, he only sent 2 so good fly Joe. Pointview lofts also had a late one second day.

The winning velocity was 1063 m/min. Here’s his photo again

This pretty Blue Barr Cock is a son of the mother of 577 to a different sire. He was 2nd Old Bird National ChristChurch 2010 coming with 1st and 3rd to my loft. I have had alot of success with brothers and sisters including the gun Blue hen in 2009 Young Birds which won 1st Open Futurity, 1st Eastern Union and 4th Jack Longville Race.

Posted December 13, 2011 by ferguselley in Auckland Federation Racing 2011 Old Birds

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3 responses to “South Island Liberations

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  2. Thanks Alan. I must ring you sometime and catchup but at least I know you are still alive and ticking)).

  3. As a footnote to this blog someone who only gave their name as Mike queried amongst other things if my electronic pads are within the loft. Yes they are completely, the said bird 421 was on the ledge inside the loft but I had to open another door to his section and light was fading and he was very tired as you’d expect after over 14 hours on the wing flying into headwind nor-easterlies. He had timed in and I have a drinker on the ledge inside the loft which he’d drunk from and he was just gathering his thoughts, but thanks for asking. Glad to hear that you like nor-easterlies for racing. The Southern Alps are perilous mountain ranges with many valleys to get lost in. Have a good look on Google maps. Farmers and shepherds see flocks of rung pigeons up there and they fly up and down the valleys for days trying to find a way out. The sheep dogs have been known to catch them and kill them when they get flown out…. It can be very cold up there. Long distance racing in New Zealand can be extreme even from 450 to 500 miles and it is very important for bird welfare reasons to get it right as much as possible, however we all make mistakes, the hard thing I think can be admitting to them).

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