Will Mac Armstrong and his birds remain Invercargill Kings this month?   3 comments

Well that’s the 63 million dollar question. 63 is my beloved wives Helen’s number of exaggeration.

And how good it was to have her take me over to the Pakuranga Clubs rooms for basketing last night. Pakuranga club rooms are small but it is very homely and for some reason my 2 kids liked the toilet for some strange reason which I must checkout next time). Maybe at srtike off which I have to go to whether I get birds or not to do the Tauris Clocks.

Looked at the weather an hour a go online at 5am and it’s still looking promising for a Saturday liberation which would only be a one day holdover. Pity Chris Wilkinson’s not racing again this week cos gee, didn’t she fly well last week, 51 minutes ahead on the slow by, her pigeon certainly blasted the field!

Re weather forecasts being what they say let’s just wait and see! Moderate southerlies or southwesters are forecast which I like. I have never won this race, usually get my arse kicked but Mac has won it 3 times, in fact the last 3 years in a row, so can someone knock him off his perch?? Getting birds home is the first milestone.

Next report I will have all the specific race entry details from the man on the ground working hard for pigeon racing Mr Don Campbell. If the birds are held over then us Invercargill fliers with the internet might need a bit of ‘something’ to read to pass the time of day. Last race of the long season by the way, yippee!!

I’ve known Mac Armstrong for most of the time that I’ve been back into pigeon racing i.e. 22 years. I also know his son David from Massey University days where I trained to be Veterinarian from 1979.

Mac is a hell of a nice guy, humble gentle and very kind man. In fact we have $1000 prize money donated by him for this race. Mac is in his early 80’s, a retired very successful businessman and lives in Auckland Central on a lovely property with his wife Mary. He has two sons. Mac and Mary have traveled the world a lot and of recent years that means that Mac has started the Old Bird Season late.

He normally starts the season with about 80 birds to race and keeps the cocks and hens separate and flies to the perch. His lofts have about half grill floor and he employs someone to clean all his lofts out everyday. Wouldn’t you mind that!! He doesn’t flock treat his birds apart from a treatment for worms 4 times a year. Twice 2 weeks apart with moxidectin 4 to 6 weeks prior to the main event then 6 months later the same, boom, boom to clean them right out. Trisul may be used for individual bird dosing so Mac’s keen on allowing birds to develop a strong solid immunity. I will add for foreign viewers that we do not have as many ‘nasties’ here. We are to a certain extent an isolated country with very good border control partly due to our agricultural and horticultural industries. We don’t have to treat by vaccination against paramyxo virus as it’s never been diagnosed here nor for Salmonella i.e. paratyphyoid although Salmonella is endemic in New Zealand in it’s many serotypes. Fliers I know also don’t vaccinate for pigeon pox.

Mac also uses 2 teaspoons of glucose powder/litre water on return from the race. He also uses an electrolyte which his son David’s company in Australia produces.

Mac gives his birds a lot of open lofts and loves to see his birds free flying particularly when they’re darting around the sky full of energy. Mac spends up to five hours in the pigeon loft a day mainly looking at the birds. He doesn’t handle them as a rule. He observes them very keenly. He keeps meticulous records of all their races and other details and looks through past years when he is planning his programme to ‘nail’ the Invercargill race again.

Mac has gone into this race not confident and I have had 4 or 5 discussions with him by phone in the last month or so in preparation to write a series of articles on his birds and their management. Regardless of whether Mac wins this time I will be doing at least one loft visit next year so we’ll have some photos and an in depth analysis of birds and loft management details next year.

My friend and ex Auckland flier Brian Batchelor has emailed me an old article written for a British pigeon magazine. Brian is a very good pigeon man and humble in fact ‘God fearing man’ like Mac. So below I use several lines of his article with his permission.

The Auckland Federation Invercargill race is from the bottom of the South Island to Auckland near the top of the North Island. To fly the Invercargill to Auckland race on the day the birds would have to take a fairly direct line of flight and this would take them across the Southern Alps which are snow peaked all year round rising to 3754 meters and run virtually the length of the South Island. Secondly they would need to make the Cook Straight sea crossing between the South and North Island’s.

In recent years the Invercargill race has been flown on the day on three occasions although this is the exception and the 2010 race was a very different affair to the previous year when there were day birds. Long distance Ace Mac Armstrong who had three on the day in 2009 showed that this was no fluke by winning in the 2010 event 1st, 2nd, 4th,5th,6th and 7th.  The pigeons were liberated at 06.15 on the 14th of December 2010 into a light tail wind however as they moved up the south island there was a shift in the wind direction into a head wind. Needless to say there were no day birds on this occasion and the first two pigeons were timed by Mac at 11.35 and 11.38am on the second day with a flying time of 21 hours and 21 hours 3 minutes respectively. These were two blue Chequer hens one being a 4 year old  and a 2 year old. I will say here that Macs favourite birds for the Invercargill event are 4 and 5 year old hens to the perch. For security reasons I have not published the specific ring identities of these birds. Mac has very good security, but a long time ago had birds stolen by some scumbag. However in general I will not publish ring details in any of my articles.

Mac is a great advocate for long distance racing and has encouraged many others to have a go at the Invercargill race. Macs family of pigeons originated from some imports from John Hansen’s Blenhaven stud (Australia) in the mid 1990’s and were Janssens and Buschaerts, however these have been worked hard and through strict selection been moulded into Macs own world class family of distance pigeons that would take some beating anywhere.

The imports have adapted to their new environment and by careful selection the range of the supposedly sprint/middle distance families has been extended to fly longer distances without compromising their speed and orientation abilities. Janssens for example are winning at up to 550 miles.

So how does Mac do it considering he’s an Octagenarian?? He only races certain parts of the year and does incredibly well to get the birds going so very well from the long distance. Talking to Mac I begin to realize what previously I had assumed in that he’s extremely meticulous. He often looks at his lists of what his birds have done the previous years to help work out the plan for that bird. He is much keener to win the Invercargill than the ChristChurch i.e. Old Bird National.

The last few years he’s finding that the birds are really reproducing a lot of good ones and the sort he likes. The better birds are often recognizable in the loft of being so by showing character and intelligence. Mac may bred off his breeders from late Spring but he also breeds off his successful Invercargill birds in January and will breed up to April. Even these April hatch ones have to show their metal and there is no ‘molly coddling’ and each has to earn it’s perch and at least show it’s potential. Most of these late breds have to fly the ChristChurch 480 mile race in their year of birth i.e. as young as seven months of age. So this is very harsh selection but will progressively reap benefits as he ‘crafts’ the early maturing ability and stamina into his lines of birds. There are some exceptions though, as I know his April born late bred this year which flew ‘damn well’ as Mac would say was spared from flying further so it was let off with only having to do around 360 miles from Ward with a flying time of 9 hour 38 and only 8 minutes behind on the slow by. I’ll have to ask Mac if he’s going to breed off that hen this season. I’d expect he may say ‘too damn right’!! or ‘hell yes’!!

Mac does race his birds hard but he does give them chances. Sometimes he finds that getting lost and reported gives the bird a bit of a shock and he had a bird like that some years ago that turned out a brilliant racer after such an escapade.

When Mac did move to Auckland after being a very successful flier in Hamilton he thought that he would ‘show those Aucklander’s how to race pigeons,’ but he admits that it was not as easy as he expected!

Mac doesn’t live in a position that is favourable for the prevailing westerly winds we have in Auckland but I see his name on the Young Bird Open Futurity Cup and the Old Bird National ChristChurch trophy.

Mac certainly lives for the long distance and he finds like many fanciers the world around that being with the pigeons is very therapeutic. Watching them bath, watching a couple of cocks fight for a while, observing the social interactions just fulls him with a sense of calm and well being and I’d expect that you the reader if a pigeon person can relate to that. He says he comes out of the loft reenergised, so pigeons are Mac’s ‘natural high.’

Well part 2 seems beckoning as I’ve written long. So much more to write about this delightful man whom I wish there were more of his type and quality around in the sport not to forget the keen competition that Mac gives. In part 2 we’ll look at a summary of previous Invercargill results and Mac’s race preparation details and feeding throughout the year. If you the reader want to submit a question for Mac simply do it through the comments section. Thanks for reading).

3 responses to “Will Mac Armstrong and his birds remain Invercargill Kings this month?

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  1. Well if its not Mac it could be Kerry Frazer. Come on guys have a pick!!

  2. Mac Armstrong and his birds do remain the Invercargill Kings this month!!

    Here’s the result from last night. Mac Armstrong birds 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th.

    Colin Webster bird of Rata Lofts 4th.

  3. Good Read and info, well done, Ray

    Ray Van Der Riet

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