Brian’s Brit Blog October 2012   1 comment

Well another season has come and gone, the pigeons are heavily in the moult and resting up from their recent racing activities. It is the time for reflection on what went right or went wrong with the hope of building on the good results and making improvements to those things that did not work out so well.

On the National scene Mark Gilbert from Windsor again had a sensational season both Nationally and Internationally with too many results to list in this report but one that stood out was his 1st BICC Marseille International. Mark is often criticised for being a mob flyer with a large entry in every race. However in the Marseille he silenced his critics by entering just one pigeon which won the race, such is the quality of this fancier and his pigeons! Another good result was the winner of the NFC Grand National Tarbes race by Mark Bulled again with a widowhood cock bred down from generations of old English stock that have stood the test of time. No fancy flavour of the month strain here just good honest working pigeons managed by a top fancier from a modest garden loft set up.

In my own loft generally I was pleased with the way things went. The highlights were winning the Bergerac race 440 miles in my local club and finishing 3rd FED and 3rd Combine, also in the young birds winning the breeder buyer futurity with a pigeon bred by Tony Baughen who does well in the Nationals up to middle distances and pocketing a few hundred pounds in the process. Disappointments were losing a couple of promising yearlings through my own stupidity by sending them when I knew only too well that they weren’t right and they should have been left on the perch for another day. Also losing a good hen from the Bergerac which was my nominated pigeon when I clocked in my Blue cock which won that race. When my good hen had not shown up within half an hour I began to worry and when all the rest of my entry had homed I knew that something bad must have happened to her as she had been my first or second pigeon in every race she had ever been to. Fortunately I had three daughters out of her before she was lost, I also have three brothers and four sisters to her and they are shaping up well so all is not lost.

This year I kept the numbers down a bit so there was no overcrowding and with improved hygiene in the loft I managed to avoid the dreaded Young Bird sickness which was rife again and stopped a lot of lofts from racing. However raptors continued to be a worry with at least 25 per cent of my team returning home from races or tosses with peregrine falcon injuries and these were the ones that made it home. I lost my best two year old cock on the first training toss of the season from 15 miles.

I just read in the BHW this week that fellow scribe John Harwood has decided to call it a day and stop racing pigeons due to the ever increasing attacks by Peregrines every time he lets his pigeons out for exercise. This is a common occurrence almost everywhere and the losses of racing pigeons this season even made the national press. One area in the north was referred to as the Bermuda Triangle due to the excessive losses on perfect racing days. I am sure falcon attacks have a lot to do with these losses.

In previous articles I mentioned I had entered a team of young birds in the Somerset one loft race flown from Ypres in Belgium to Somerset in SW England a distance of 265 miles. It turned out to be what we call a ‘funny race’ on the day. I am afraid my birds were rubbish really, but why I say the race was funny is the way the birds returned. From the final entry of 459 pigeons only 33 made it home on the day and they came in singly from every direction, eventually over the next two or three days 290 birds made it home including just two of mine from the five that went to the race. The weather was not too bad but with the wind slightly against them and it got stronger as the day went on.

As one might expect a number of birds strayed into lofts along the east coast of England in the quarter that the wind would have pushed them, but what was very strange was that a number of pigeons were reported in Wales which is quite some distance further on to the west than their own loft and also that some were reported in the NW of England. So somewhere along the line of flight the birds were completely split up. What caused this is subject to speculation but my own thinking is they may’ve clashed with UK pigeons flying from the south east coast up to the north of England and also some flying into Wales as I heard that some organisations had been held over from the previous day. These may well have crossed the path of the Somerset birds on that day. There is also a good possibility of peregrine attacks as these raptors are well established along the south coast.

Only the first three birds home made good time on the day, the winner was owned by Lindum Lofts a mother and daughter partnership. Apparently the mother has cancer so the winnings will come in handy for them. The pigeon that was 2nd to arrive and eventually 3rd over the ETS was bred by Duncan Kittow of Somerset who also had 2 more home on the day and eventually got 6 from 7 home so the adverse situation did not affect his pigeons too much. On giving the race further thought I am inclined to think this type of racing does suit certain families of pigeons and not others. For a start the management is one size fits all, so the type of pigeon that does well is one that adapts quickly to the one loft environment and is fast maturing with strong orientation abilities that develop early in life which can cope with the mass standard management regime. They just have to get on with it on their own.

On the other hand my main family of pigeons are generally slow maturing, not doing much until they are two year olds and are only raced lightly as young birds and yearlings. Also mine race in a FED/Combine situation whereby they get carried off line right from their very first race and have to work back on their own. I find it can take several races before they learn to break out from the drag and head straight home, but as these early races are not too far they have the chance to work back and as I have reported previously I make sure they are basketed with food in their crop so they have a reserve tank to enable them to get home. However in the one loft racing the pigeons are homing each time in big bunches and do not get the opportunity to think for themselves. This is borne out by my two pigeons that did home from the final race as both of these had been late from an earlier race and had learnt to find their way back on their own.

Food for thought for next year as I intend to enter some again but will need something a bit different. The question is ‘do I have anything in the loft that will suit these conditions?’ Well perhaps yes, one cock from my main family is breeding a percentage of youngsters that come well right from the start, none of his were sent to Somerset this year. Secondly I recently purchased another Supercrack late bred hen from a fancier in Marlborough, Chris Lester which is distantly related to the sire of my Bergerac winner. She had moulted one flight and cast the 2nd so would have been about 10 weeks old when I got her. I kept her in for 3 weeks and had her up in a viewing cage most days then let her find her way out with my young birds at around 3.30 pm one Saturday afternoon. When my young birds returned without her and I assumed she had set down somewhere in the neighbourhood and would come in the next morning. Imagine my surprise when Chris phoned the next morning to say he found her on his loft roof at 5 pm Saturday afternoon! This very young hen had travelled a good 70 miles single up in less than one and half hours without having ever seen the inside of a training basket. Incidentally that Saturday there were large numbers of young birds reported lost up and down the country. What also gives me a lot of confidence about this young hen’s line as early developers is the fact that her dam also won a very difficult open young bird race from Guernsey in the Channel Islands by half an hour when very few birds made it home and some big name fanciers failed to time in at all. She must have left the island on her own and flown single up just as her daughter has now done.

Moving on to another entirely different subject, I guess many of us have experienced the problem of our pigeons being attacked by a cat. I had just this problem a month ago when I witnessed a cat get hold of one of my young birds and although it escaped and had hardly a mark on it I knew from past experience that it would have been infected by cat scratch fever from the Bartonella bacteria. I have had two similar attacks in recent years and the first time it happened the pigeon was dead within 48 hours. This time I decided to try and save the pigeon with an antibiotic treatment but unfortunately did not have any in the loft and it was not until the next day that I managed to get hold of a supply of Baytril. By then the pigeon was poorly and not eating or drinking, looking very sorry for itself. I proceeded with the Baytril treatment by syringing the dose down its throat twice daily and force feeding the bird with soaked peas and beans. However after two and a half weeks it was making no progress and in fact continued to get weaker and weaker so I eventually decided the best thing was to put it out of its misery. On the other occasion when this happened I had antibiotics on hand and was able to treat the pigeon within minutes of being attacked. That time the bird recovered OK.

Well a bit of pot pouri of a report this time as we in the northern hemisphere slip into autumn with winter just around the corner and the pigeons going into semi hibernation until next year. However we do have the show season, trophy presentation nights and the festive season to look forward to through the winter months.

Till next time good racing to all.


Posted October 16, 2012 by ferguselley in Brian's Brit Blog, U.k. news items

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One response to “Brian’s Brit Blog October 2012

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  1. Hey thanx Brian for another very interesting report of U.k. happenings.

    Yes it always looks good when a flier wins big with just the one entry and when its the super marathons, well that’s really stand out and shows the fliers skill at preparing and picking the right bird for the job.

    Looking at google maps Marseilles to England looks a similar distance to Barcelona to England, maybe a tad shorter depending on loft location.

    Would be interested if any of those reading worldwide have snippets on raptor attacks in their localities anywhere in the world. You can email me at

    I would like to blog more on raptors in due course and any of you readers are welcome to help me.

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