South Island Liberations III   3 comments

Well it is good news that the Invercargill birds are not up today but it definitely looks great for tomorrow with that northern low and its rain moving off the North Island today and the rain today on the West Coast off the South Island forecast to dissipate. More settled weather is on its way, so fingers crossed for tomorrow!
Thought I might share some extracts of email correspondence with the U.k. with you.
“Yes Brian, I agree with the possibility of all those arguments. My 3 late 2nd day pigeons were definitely not in the North Island on Saturday. The thought of a lot of birds perishing at sea is not a pleasant one. I am very attached to my birds and all the yearlings had a heap of potential. How would you feel about me putting your email I’m replying to on my site (or extracts), is it too inflammatory, only thing we need to try to tell what we see might be the truth and you are a respected flier. The fact that my 2nd bird 274 came home covered in oil at 7.11am and Laurie Hill had one with oily feet covered in down feathers at 7.22am suggests they camped out to sea on an oil well off New Plymouth and kicked on late Saturday after a rest and were close on the day.

Pretty sure (though of course can't prove it) that this boy 274 landed on one of the Taranaki Oil and Gas field structures out to sea on Saturday 10th December while attempting to get home to his loft. He arrived around 7am Sunday. This photo taken Monday 9 days later still showing evidence of the oil, although his feet are now clean, his wings and back aren't and white dust adheres top head.

 Unfortunate that the pigeons had such a bad start and the night before I was very concerned about the next mornings liberation. Hopefully we will put protocol in place for the future as its total carnage to have so many good pigeons lost wherever they may be. I just had a thought. Could you ask Keith Mott to do a short article on factors determining a hold over in his experience of racing and conveying/liberating in the U.K. perhaps with a few photos supplied.Thanx for asking, have enjoyed chatting lately.fergie”
On Sat, Dec 17, 2011 at 9:00 AM, Brian Batchelor <> wrote:

“Hi Ferg,
Thanks for the results CHCH and Timaru, Peter normally sends them but nothing had come through for these races. It certainly seems the birds ran into trouble alright, my own theory is that the NE wind pushes them out to sea when they leave the western tip of the south island and many run out of daylight before they make landfall in the north island and consequently perish at sea. Those of us racing here in the southern part of England and Wales have this problem with the English channel as the pigeons arrive at the channel crossing late in the day and our NE wind pushes them toward the widest crossing point ie to Cornwall over 100 miles of sea to cross. Your pigeons would have to cross the Taranaki Bight and unless they hit the NI at say Wanganui or New Plymouth they are in trouble and getting tired may drift further out to sea. Some of the later pigeons that homed may have been behind earlier and not crossed Cook Straight until the next day. This is all supposition and difficult to prove, but racing pigeons are very much dictated to by the wind. In other words the preparation before the race may not have been the deciding factor and some otherwise good pigeons have probably been lost.

This email has been scanned by Westcoastcloud.

Same pigeon 274. Oil mark on white flights, head and grey/blue body.

Fergus Elley
Dec 18 (1 day ago)
to Brian
“That’s a very good observation Brian. Alright to post that one in an article perhaps on the Invercargill to add a bit of ‘ex patriot spice.’ Great, Brian, thanx fergie”
Fergus Elley
11:45 PM (9 hours ago)
to Brian
“Hi Brian, I’m off to bed soon, but may do another distance blog in the morning. You have said that it’s o.k. to use this email below on my blog, right? Also when you mean run out of daylight would you think more for our recent Timaru and further races like Invercargill given moderate nor-east or easterly winds rather than Christchurch as I would imagine the better birds got to the top of the South Island in about 5 hours last Saturday i.e. about 11.30am and even if it took 3 hours to get to Taranaki that’s 2.30pm. For the birds that tried to fly race point to loft over the 100 miles or so from around Golden Bay to somewhere around Taranaki or the Taranaki oil and gas fields to the south and west then unless they left the South Island late perhaps some of them just got too tired and dehydrated and drowned in the sea. We’ve all seen birds come home ‘tied up’ and there’s a very good chance this happened. However I’d agree with your comments in your last email that they could have been all over the place in the South Island due to the difficult nature of the race, but you’d think more of the last years National performance pigeons would have come home as they were the leading pigeons then i.e. I lost last years winner and 3rd place and other excellent pigeons.I think that apart from hitting wires e.t.c that they got stuck in the Alps or perished at sea. They were too good pigeons e.g. a sister of this years 14 hour 6 minute Timaru winner doing 1063m/min. My best cock in 2010 who came with the other top 3 winners in this race last year.Thanx, fergie.”
“hi Ferg,
OK to use what you like from my comments.
Regarding the Christchurch race, the level of losses would indicate that something very bad happened enroute, with the only weather info I have to go on being from your blog where you say there was a NE wind with low cloud and drizzle up the Kaikoura coast and likely that similar conditions prevailed inland along the line of flight.  Without seeing a weather map or knowing the strength of wind or how widespread the low cloud and drizzle was it is a big guess as to what might have happened to the the convoy. Clearly it was split up probably early in the race, so individuals and small groups would have been feeling their way up through the valleys of the rugged terrain of the inland Kaikouras or even further west depending on the strength of the wind and the extent of the drizzle in any case I surmise this would have been slow going and may have taken a lot longer than you suggest. Anyway my theory is that those that did push on exited the SI further west and later than would normally be the case and the wind continued to push them further west so that they missed the normal land fall south of Mt Taranaki and continued north bound by flying over the sea on the west side past the south and northern Taranaki Bights. Note that when flying over the sea there is no respite from the force of the wind so they would tend to get tired sooner than normal and would be taking a zig zag tacking line of flight to try and maintain the correct direction again all this means a much longer flying time. Exactly where they made land fall in the NI is hard to pin point but it may well have been up as far as Raglan. Going on the recorded flying times of the day birds 14+ hours and early 2nd day birds, my theory is that many of the birds would have stopped for the night as soon as they made landfall however some of birds may have drifted further west into the Tasman sea and did not make it to land before night fall. As their fate it is anyones guess a few may have struggled on and eventually made it to land but would be pretty well exhausted and taken some time to recover before they got moving on to home. Others may simply have gone down in the sea. With the late second day birds the indications are that they came across Cook Straight on the morning of the second day.  Our Grand National from Tarbes this year was a little bit similar although there was no low cloud or rain the NE wind was a bit stronger than expected and from the convoy of 3290 pigeons only 7 pigeons were timed on the day, 5 on the SW coast and two made it to the central area about 30 miles inland from the south coast. The actual race winner was timed early the 2nd day into the NW of England and obviously was in UK on the first day. I got my first pigeon just after midday on the second day and lost 3 from my entry of 7. One of these was my best cock named ERIC (pooled right through) who I had timed twice previously  right on darkness to take a top position. About a week after the race I had a phone call from a member of the public who had found him dead ie his remains on a beach in Cornwall on the SW peninsular. My guess he made to across the Channel and landed on beach very late on the first day and stopped there, but during the night a wave, possible a bow wave from a passing ship came up the beach and swamped him. Had this not happened he would have been an early second day bird well up in the result and in the money. The bird I did eventually time obviously did not cross the Channel until the second day, although only lightly pooled she still picked a 60 pounds in pool money which shows how scattered the returns were and again some otherwise good pigeons were lost including a half brother to ERIC who was just as good a pigeon in my opinion although less experienced than ERIC.
Best Regards

A 3rd shot in the series of 274 taken Monday 9 days later.

“Brian, yes I agree with that possibility too and we are merely speculating. It was likely that many birds had a hell of a time in the South Island and the strange thing is that our pigeons have been treated much better in the North Island liberations. (editors  note- we have to acknowledge the fact as we all know in the Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation that our liberations are always performed with best intentions and it is not an easy job).

However it is very good to have Terry and your viewpoints, it is very much appreciated. I guess the bottom line is the birds must come first! We need to look at ways/protocols to reduce the risk or the sport will get itself in trouble with the public e.t.c. before too long.

I’ll give you one line of Terry’s email from last week On Fri, Dec 16, 2011 at 10:11 PM, Terry Williams <> wrote:

Another from the same series of 274 but a little closer. When he actually returned his cere (above beak) was covered in oil.

“Good Day Fergie,
Hope you are well , we are sorting some photo`s out for you and we will send them on, i have attached the forms we are using this year, for your people to have a look at if you want, it explains all we hope will happen !!!  Keep up the good work, do you know anyone in Aussie that might send over 4 rings to put on our charity birds, it would be nice to have some from NZ & Aus, we have them from Spain , France, Portugal and Canada, we are hoping for a lot more !

until later , Oh I have read your article very good, and very true, the problem being is fanciers don`t like being told different that they do now! most will sit down and say its right and the hard nuts will stir it up , every fancier knows the birds come first

It’s all too true, without judging anyone in particular anywhere in the world)).

Sorry to hear about Eric, I think I recall you telling me about his loss. I guess the only safe place for them is in the loft unless you have a ferret problem like when you lived here in the 90’s at Redoubt Road, at least you knew then what had caused their fate.

Kind Regards, fergie.”

Back to the blog now. I was looking online at the Taranaki gas and oil fields and if you look at this site  then you will see a schematic of the operations in the Taranaki Seas.

I have also emailed the company’s site to advise their workers to report stray racing pigeons.

Food for thought but I’m convinced that some of my experienced birds went down in the sea when they ‘tied up’ and ran ‘out of gas’ last Saturday. If you are a member of the public reading this you can take note that I and others are working at changing release protocols for racing pigeons in New Zealand.

Evidence of this is currently seen in the care that is being taken to get good weather for our Invercargill race which had been scheduled for release last Friday and the birds are still being cared for in Invercargill awaiting liberation. Perhaps tomorrow weather permitting. There have been examples of brilliant races overseas when the birds have been held over for 12 days. Indeed the last couple of years this race wasn’t released until the Tuesday i.e. 4 days after the scheduled release day and the Auckland fliers praised the people involved in organising the races liberation.

Final thought for the day is that I really liked Terry from the somerset1loftrace comments about the ‘hard nuts’. Ladies don’t read on for a minute, but I thought that something else was supposed to get hard!! However, perhaps people around the world sometimes are ‘poles apart’ on pigeon welfare, pun intended!!)). Perhaps those around the world who know they are ‘hard nuts’ can ‘stick it’, again, pun intended!!

As Terry says ‘every fancier knows the birds come first’

Final close up shot of 274. Bit blurry but that's oil on the back and top of head.

Posted December 19, 2011 by ferguselley in Auckland Federation Racing 2011 Old Birds

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3 responses to “South Island Liberations III

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  1. I think when I come and visit you, I’ll take some photos of your birds for you as I have a camera which can get fantastic close-up photos (I only got the camera for bird photography).

    • Sweet, I have plenty still!! I think the digital one I use could take better pictures, its me who’s the amateur)).

      • Well, maybe I can teach you how to use it!
        If you let your pigeons fly around while I’m there, I can also take photos of them in air – would also be good training for me 🙂
        When I got the camera in 2010, I went into the shop and said: “I need a camera with which I can take good photos of fast moving beings.” I ended up with a camera that can give me great close-ups and also can get non-blurry photos of birds in flight.

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