Archive for March 2013

Summer Lovin’   1 comment

A 'pigeon pair' icon of the 70's.

A ‘pigeon pair’ icon of the 70’s. Courtesy of Creative Commons.

Brian Batchelor of Elstead U.K. has emailed me recently telling me about what a wretched winter it has been over there in England. Oh well, the English cricket fans will be happy they drew the test series yesterday against our kiwi team here at Eden Park, Auckland. Brian tells me he won’t be racing until about mid May, a wise choice given the amount of snow they’ve had and difficulties getting the pigeons out enough, yet alone training them! Brian is an old fox at the pigeon game and knows that ‘thumping’ the pigeons at the start of the season doesn’t ‘bode well’ for a good season. He’s a very keen distance man and he’ll be patient.

While Brian’s lost several nests of eggs and little squabs to the cold, possibly due to foxes disturbing the sitting hens at night, it’s been a glorious breeding season for me over here. As mentioned in recent blogs I didn’t pair up until November, the last month of Spring here so that by Christmas I had only about 20 youngsters, all December hatch. We have had really dry conditions over here all of 2013 and it has been excellent for breeding, very nice warm weather.

I’m not racing any of the current Young Bird races here in Auckland. It’s nice to have a break. It makes me wonder why we don’t combine the Young and Old Bird seasons like Australia and have a later ring issue than the current 1st of August here in NZ. It’s often cold, rainy and windy here in July and August and I can remember many years ago when Young Bird racing meant much more to me pairing the pigeons up the last week of June! The first round hatching 7 to 10 days from the end of July never contained anywhere as many good pigeons as the next two rounds. Food for thought.

I’ll possibly race Young Birds again next year. My pick is that here in NZ there’ll be Young Bird racing from late February or early March for many more years to come unless the global warming situation continues to worsen at a quicker rate than expected. The causes of extremes of weather in Summer and Winter around the world is certainly something that we can all do a little something about but possibly the damage has already been done. Perhaps it will be all a little too late and is a bit like ‘closing the stable door after the horse has bolted’.

Next month might be the start of the regular wet Autumn weather for pigeon racing. If the Young Bird Futurity at the end of April is a wet and pretty windy one like last year’s I’d expect a similar story for returns on the day. Last year we’d had no stormy races the whole season and about 2/3rds of the entries made a meal of things and didn’t return home until the next day. Fortunately losses were kept to a minimum to the best of my knowledge e.g. I dropped 1 of 9, a bird although well bred which I should have culled in the nest as the flights stayed in the quills a long time. Anyway it had been given a chance.

I think in general if you want to do well in Young Birds here in NZ that the more late July to September hatches that you have in the team the better. It just gives them a chance to develop more and basically learn their geography and hone their orientation skills. I would say that if you are able to train your pigeons, that wherever you are in the world the more small group tossing and single ups that you can do on the line of flight the better. Early on in my pigeon racing career I did a lot of these short tosses and three ups and single ups. I don’t have the health to do this now. However, you the reader may be able to drive whenever you like, so get into it, in both Old Birds and Young Birds. A 10 to 20 miler once a week during racing certainly isn’t going to take too much out of the pigeons.

With respect to training under different weather conditions the pigeons need to harden up by being exposed to the variations of weather conditions such as rain and wind. So long as they have two or three kilometres of clear conditions they should be alright. I remember many years ago, actually it was in my first year back in the sport when Keith Holder used to drive my car pigeon tossing. We drove to Pirongia, about a 90 mile toss to where I lived then in Te Atatu North. It had been showery all the way down with some pretty dark, squally, heavy ones. I think it was the first time the pigeons were let go there. They were Young Birds. I didn’t know much about pigeons then. It would have been clear at liberation, perhaps I wouldn’t have let them go if I’d gone by myself. Anyway it was a steady fly and naturally there were birds home when I got home.

The same deal applies to fog. Of course if the fog is thick and at ground level it is stupid to let pigeons go. But if the fog is breaking up with a little blue sky visible and the birds can see any wires within several hundred metres and you know that the fog isn’t too thick then the pigeons will just fly up through the layers of fog, orientate and head home above the fog.

We have had fog here this week. If it comes up the valley from the river to cover the paddocks I tell my helper to keep the youngsters in. Yes, they would learn something, but there’s no point in the pigeons crashing into things be it power lines or trees. I had a group of 5 go missing one year when I didn’t pick that the fog down towards the river would roll up to cover my place after I’d let the pigeons out not long after day break. I remember I lost a couple and one homed back 3 weeks later a BCH. As a two year old I sent her to Timaru i.e. 560 miles. Fog had been forecast for that race in the morning in Timaru but I’m told the liberation was o.k. I never saw her again but her brother won that Fed race in 14 hour 6 mins flying 560 miles and homing in the twilight. You can view that race report in South Island Liberations in the Auckland Federation Racing 2011 Old Birds Archive category.

I do like this Summer breeding, especially when you get conditions like we’ve had this year of real nice warm weather and only 4 days with significant rain so far 2013. You do have to watch out when the pigeons have 1/2 to 2 week old babies in the nest and the crop milk production is high. The trichomoniasis count elevates in some pigeons more than others during this time. The pigeons drink more water, they may get lazy and pump youngsters with a lot of water, as a consequence they lose more salts such as potassium and sodium chloride and that is why if you’re not supplying salt containing mineral blocks or piminix or something similar that you have to add a hunk of rock salt or table salt to the grit. They can get a bit woozy on it otherwise.

Of course not dosing with anti canker drugs might be seen as risky by some but if your genetic base is strong enough and you’re feeding a high protein and fat dietary mix then if it’s like my stock loft situation everything should be fine. At least you know which stock pigeons can hack the pace without a medication programme. In addition, just change the water as many times as possible, clean the drinker well often or have a dry, clean one ready and supply a source of salt throughout breeding. Perhaps the trich don’t like the salt.

I don’t bother about cider vinegar and crushed fresh garlic in the water but many others do, including Ad Schaerlaekens, the famous dutch pigeon writer, so who knows! I would tend to use a medicine in my racers or breeders if I really thought I had to. I would use an anticanker medicine in favour over the cider vinegar or fresh crushed garlic in the water. Either way, you are removing selection pressure, even if the cider vinegar and fresh crushed garlic are natural products. My desire is tougher, naturally disease resistant and disease tolerant pigeons at the end of the day, without losing the quality of the pigeons.

My personal belief is that if I continue my selective breeding programme that both the quality of the racers and the naturally disease resistant and disease tolerant attributes will both improve. I have a lot of pigeons to choose from when pairing and I only pair now if I think there is a good chance of producing good pigeons. The breeders are untreated apart from for worms and they have to appear to be in super health at pairing. Anything less is simply not paired and further down the track I hope I can let my breeders out prior to breeding to push the super health to even higher levels. I am lucky I have a great deal of space for my breeders i.e. a converted four sectioned concrete floor cow shed from yesteryear. The concrete floor is another reason I deworm the stock birds three or four times a year, as concrete is very absorbent and aids the risk of internal parasites and coccidiosis. However the old birds in general appear to have developed a resistance to coccidiosis which is to be expected.

The squeakers weaned off so far have in general been of a very high standard physically so hopefully there will be a few good ones amongst them for Old Birds and if I have a good run of health myself after the moult is finished the December and January hatch ones can have some training along with about 30 untrained yearlings. If it does happen they will just get 10 tosses to 30 miles, my wife will likely take them. Perhaps the weather will stay dry for most of April as it did last year until they hit a windy westerly, showery Young Bird Futurity race.

The good thing about not racing Young Birds is I didn’t have to breed really during racing. So there wasn’t the overlap of Old Bird racing and finding room for the first and second and maybe even third rounds of squeakers which most early breeders have to cope with. I haven’t pulled flights for years, but there’s definitely none of that. A few over here try the darkening method which many do around the world. I can understand why, those last three primary flights certainly can stuff things up around the time of the longer Young Birds Classics.

The other advantage is not having to medicate the squeakers apart from giving an internal parasite treatment i.e. deworming every now and then, as despite the drought, I don’t want roundworm or hairworms interfering with the growth of the squeakers. So this means any wet canker challenge or respiratory complex challenge of Chlamydia/Mycoplama e.t.c. can just be ignored. Yesterday I noticed a January hatch squeaker with a weepy eye, but I won’t treat it, it will return to normal in a week or so. I’ve never had one not. I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing that years ago. It’s good to let these loft endemic pathogens go through the squeakers; it helps harden them up in preparation for the immune challenges while racing as an Old Bird. So from last night the squeakers have Matrix hi mineral in the water until later on today.

The danger of course with flock dosing is that some pigeons don’t drink. I’ve given them a dose at the higher end of the spectrum but it should be fine. None of them have vomited, the levamisole in the anthelmintic can cause this and even if they did it would be o.k., but I might just leave it in the water 12 hours c.f. 24 hours if that happened. By the way, I’ve never seen any frets in the flights from using this drench which contains levamisole, oxfendazole i.e. a white drench and an avermectin i.e. abamectin. So it’s a triple action drench with the advantage of selenium and cobalt added. Both very important minerals and NZ soils tend to be deficient in both of them. So if a pigeon has this stock drench about 4 times a year then they’re getting some essential minerals too plus being free from worms most of the time. Over a whole year our climate in general here in NZ is usually a reasonably wet, humid one, especially here in the Auckland Federation and northwards. My pigeons peck around under the loft amongst pigeon droppings which fall through the grill floor of the loft and my stocking rate isn’t low. Usually when I deworm young birds I see some roundworms. I didn’t in December and I might not now because it’s been so dry all year. Of course because I’m not analysing the droppings there might be hairworms which are invisible to the naked eye.

So my conclusion. Roll on Summer breeding and the song Summer Lovin’ comes to mind. Maybe that’s what the pigeons have been having!

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Brian’s Brit Blog March 2013   2 comments

It is quite some time since I last tapped the keyboard with my latest news and thoughts on our feathered friends. Well, here in the UK the winter is slowly releasing its grasp and the days are getting longer. Today was bright and sunny with a high of 13 degrees celsius which cheered everyone up that came into my Post Office. My birds are down on their first round of eggs. I have 14 pairs and only one mishap where it seems one of the cocks has got into one of the nests and caused a fight whereby both eggs were smashed. Not that this was a disaster, as this pair were only ever going to be feeders anyway, so I popped a pot egg under them and they have continued sitting without any further problems. I have also floated a good egg under them from one of the stock pairs. I will again be sending a team to the Somerset one loft race. Late last year when visiting my good friend Keith Mott I was looking over his new arrivals, two pair of Vandenabeeles from D&M Evans Myrtle Lofts which are direct from their best “Shadow and Lord of the rings” bloodlines. I happened to comment that I could do with one of these in my Somerset team next year and Keith immediately offered to breed me one. So I agreed with him that if it won any money in the race we would share it. These Vandenabeeles are not the most attractive pigeons to look at or handle but they have an awesome reputation at winning big races, so it will be interesting to see how this youngster goes.

Keiths Vandenabe.ele

Keith’s Vandenabeele squeaker we’re sharing in the Somerset One Loft Race.

Over the winter we had our usual shows and I was lucky enough to win best old hen with my BCh Pied Supercrack hen. I also picked up a couple of cards with my young birds which was nice. This week we do our clock testing which is a big job for me as only two of us know how to set some of the older conventional clocks and with around 60 clocks to do it takes a few hours and we have to run the clocks over three days to test them. If you are wondering why there are so many old clocks when the majority of members use electronic clocks, the reason is that those fanciers without ETS belong to anything up to six clubs when you take into account local club, FED, Classic, National, International and mid week clubs. Also each club requires its members to use a separate clock and with International races, every pigeon clocked must have two rubbers timed in a conventional clock within 5 minutes of being timed on an electronic clock.

Supercrack hen.

The ‘Supercrack hen’.

Moving on, there is growing controversy both here in UK and on the Continent about the dominance of the elite professional lofts with their big teams taking the lion’s share of the prizes on race days. Although they will say they fear the small loft that specialises on one or two major events such as the national or International races where winning performances have been put up by individual ace pigeons from small lofts e.g.  “Isla’s Rainy Day Boy” that won the PAU International against the odds in 2011.

This leads me to an old debate, ‘is it the pigeon or the Manager that wins the race’?. Over the years many have commented on this subject with varying degrees being attributed to the Pigeon or the Manager. A good many years ago when I was just a nipper, in an age when juniors kept their mouth shut and their ears open, this subject was being debated by the adults in the club I belonged to at the time and the words of the club Secretary a gentleman named Frank Dyer have stuck with me ever since. He said something along the lines that a good pigeon from a rough old loft where the shxxit was a foot high would still be able to win. In other words he supported the theory that it was the individual pigeon that was the most important factor. In many respects I believe he was right if you consider these days the feeding, training, health management etc is quite similar in most lofts so the birds are approximately even in terms of general management so that when the strings are cut it is every bird for itself. Admittedly the different motivational systems such as widowhood, natural or round-about can make a difference, however in every loft there are a few birds that are consistently better racers than the rest of the flock. What about the elite fanciers mentioned above who enter big teams in each race, are the odds stacked in their favour? In some cases they may dominate the drag but the point to remember with these fanciers is that no expense has been spared to purchase the best stock available so again their pigeons are of the very best genetic material available and therefore should on average provide a higher percentage of winners than the average fancier.

Getting back to my own loft I have always been interested to try the widowhood system. Even though my loft facilities are not ideal I have decided I will give it a go and will treat it as a learning curve this year with the view to re-developing my loft facilities to suit the system better in future. Accordingly I contacted an old friend in New Zealand for advice, namely Alister Cooper who has raced the widowhood system very successfully for many years. Alister kindly provided me several pages of information outlining his system with various tips on how to go about it, so I am looking forward to seeing how my cocks respond this year. The racing season starts here in early April but I will be holding my team back until mid May when the fickle British weather is a bit more settled. Alister warns me it will knock the widowers off form very quickly and ruin their race season if they hit a bad weather day early in the season.

Race birds widowhood boxes.

Brian’s race birds in their widowhood boxes.

All the best in the sport

Brian Batchelor

Posted March 7, 2013 by ferguselley in Brian's Brit Blog, U.k. news items

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My Timaru birds and Invercargill hen.   Leave a comment

Thought it might be good to share some shots of my pigeons again. They were taken at basketing at my loft prior to leaving for the Timaru Federation basketing on the evening of the 22nd of November 2012. In all I sent ten birds to Timaru (560 miles to my loft). Elley Family Loft had three on the day and five the next day by around lunchtime. I hadn’t flown the first Christchurch 500 mile race three weeks before, so this was a good opportunity to see if some of the pigeons would respond to a bit more distance. In the end, I just sent the one pigeon to Invercargill two weeks later and got her. In 2009 and 2010 I sent just the one pigeon to the Timaru, a BCH 563 and got her on the day both times. She was 6th the first year and 9th the next. She’s now in stock as she was born 2005.

Yearling BBH 2nd Auckland Racing Pigeon FederationTimaru 560 miles 2012.

Yearling BBH, 2nd ARPF (Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation) Timaru 560 miles 2012.

I mentioned in a recent blog that there will be a blog on Theo van Lier whose two year old hen beat the opposition from Timaru to Auckland Federation lofts in 2012 by 63 minutes. Her flying time was 11 hours 21 minutes with a velocity of 1395m/min, distance 950km (590 miles). My first two birds which arrived together are pictured here in this blog. It was an incredible fly by Theo’s bird! Theo has been working on a very long list of questions which I sent him. No doubt we will have all the answers for you on this blog and the excellent elimarpigeons.com site which I supply articles for about New Zealand fanciers. I also plan a visit of Theo and Monique’s loft after the pigeons have finished their moult. So you should look forwards to plenty of photos of the van Lier family’s lovely loft and birds. We thank him for taking the time from his busy rose growing e.t.c. business schedule in West Auckland. Any questions for Theo, Mac or even myself please email me at ferguselley@gmail.com or post in the comments section, thank you.

Yearling BBH 2nd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 560 miles 2012.

Yearling BBH, 2nd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 560 miles 2012.

If you studied this blog site in full, then perhaps you’d recognise this hen pictured five times here, from a blog in April 2012 Young birds. You’ll find it in the index under Ferg’s birds category titled, Ferg’s Young Birds 2012 Update.

She pranged up just before the Bulls race last year in Young birds, scraping her back and rump quite badly, probably trying to get out of the way of the cock driving her and as a consequence hit the wires on the loft roof. Below next is a shot of the injury she sustained and of course she was rested till Old birds. She flew well last year in Old birds including this Timaru fly and was jumped from Ward near the top of the South Island which is around 330 miles. Placing second Timaru 560 miles is a very good effort for a yearling! In Young birds she had been 2nd Combine when her sister won the Combine from Mahoe, just a short race of 110 miles. They were both doing 1021 m/min and I thought at the time that it was a good indication of their value for the distance, as it was a steady overcast day with headwinds.

Ouch!! Wondered if her mate who was starting to drive her had caused her to go between the wires above the loft that keep the birds from landing on the loft roof.

Ouch!! Wondered if her mate who was starting to drive her had caused her to go between the wires above the loft that keep the birds from landing on the loft roof.

It just shows you that if you look after them well after injury and don’t rush them back into racing, that you can be rewarded further down the track, as this hen did. One thing that almost put me off sending her to Timaru were very dry feathers. I put that down to the stress of coming back from injury, as her feathers were silky in Young birds. I’m glad I took the punt and sent her, as I couldn’t fault her otherwise. The birds had just the one canker treatment two weeks before the Timaru race. That was it for the season and no antibiotics.

I was tempted to send her to the 750 mile Invercargill race two weeks later, as although initially for the first two days she was flown out, by the following Friday she and two other yearlings were looking a box of birds and she had her usual grumpy, fiery character back. In the end, none of the yearlings came up to scratch for the Invercargill. She in fact had a slightly mucousy nostril and the muscle tone was too hard i.e there was no spring in it. I’m glad that I didn’t send her, as there was a good chance that I’d have lost her or wrecked her for future racing.

Yearling BBH 2nd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 560 miles 2012.

Yearling BBH, 2nd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 560 miles 2012.

She’s currently mated to the three year old BBC featured below. The first round has just weaned itself off and she will lay again soon. I plan to farm out the eggs or the squabs some time after hatching. For those interested in her breeding, she is off a cracker son of 577 when mated to 572. 577 was a son of Greg Clarke’s best racer Houbie when Houbie was mated to his great grand-daughter 219, a half Houben, half Janssen hen. 219 won the West Section Yearling Champs and Flock Johnsonville in 2002 for me (a steady one), which was the last year that I raced in West Auckland. 577 was a super young bird cock in 2006. 572 is a straight Janssen hen off my best lines. She was my best yearling hen in 2006 and excelled herself racing, including 2nd Futurity Yearling Ward 330 miles and 2nd East Section Old Bird National Christchurch 450 miles, having come with 1st and 3rd to my loft. The dam of this hen featured here in photos five times (including pranged up shot) is a linebred vandie base hen and she is a grand-daughter of BB Vandie cock 423, the Open Old Bird National Christchurch winner in 1994 for me living at Waterview, before I married Helen.

Yearling BBH 2nd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 560 miles 2012.

Yearling BBH, 2nd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 560 miles 2012.

Please note that this cock 423 is the great-grandfather of Mac Armstrong’s 2009 and 2011 Invercargill winners, since they were both off BBH 243. 243 was a granddaughter of Vandie cock 423 and Mac obtained her from me and unfortunately she was accidentally killed in the loft when Mac opened a door a bit hard by mistake. The sire of Macs 2009 winner was a Janssen cock from me of vos lines and a son of this vos cock (also from me) bred his 2011 winner i.e. both winners off BBH 243. The Invercargill 2011 race event was the hardest in the last four years, as the bird arrived around 6pm on the second day after an early morning liberation the previous day. There was no wind assistance. So a real gutsy pigeon! Mac had another two pigeons one hour 36 minutes later to take the first three and Colin Webster had one not far behind for 4th. Just the six pigeons back in the results after four days from the entries of all fanciers, which was 61 birds.  You can view that winner by selecting the Annual Invercargill Race to Auckland Racing Pigeon Club Lofts category in the index. He’s in a couple of those blogs, so go have a read or pop it open in another window on your PC!

3 year old BBC 3rd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012.

3 year old BBC, 3rd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012.

This guy above is the mate of the hen featured above and they make a great pair, so I can only hope the offspring will deliver the goods next year, as they are fairly late bred and the second round will be even later! However since the hen is eggy, they are definitely worth taking and she will stay in the race loft this year where she is breeding currently. In my mind, they are a typical matched pair. She has the hardluck hen 7875 from Des Sippets Australian Riverview stud as great great grand dam cock side and another step back hen side giving linebreeding to 9% 7875. She is a real smorgasbord of bloodlines viz, Houben, different Janssen lines and of course my base vandie birds and a touch of Jim Howarth birds. The hardluck hen is in most of my pigeons and she was a grand-daughter of the gun U.K. race cock Hardluck. 7875 was half planet brothers with the Bange of 77 and the Raket hen featured on the dam side. So top stuff and her descendents have done really well for me throughout the years, now up to as far as 750 miles Invercargill.

3 year old BBC 3rd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012.

3 year old BBC, 3rd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012.

This same 3 year old cock whose mate I’ve just outlined the pedigree of is a Houben/Janssen hybrid mix i.e. 1/2 Houben 1/2 Janssen cock mated to a 1/2 Houben 1/2 Janssen hen. I didn’t really test him until 2012. He is a full brother of my Timaru winner from 2011 who was one of two day birds in the ARPF flying 14 hours and 6 minutes, arriving on dusk and winning by 13 minutes. A pretty hard race. There’s a blog in the index category Auckland Federation Racing 2011 Old Birds the South Island liberations one posted on the 13th December 2011. I have had a lot of success with other brothers and sisters including the gun Blue hen in 2009 Young Birds which won 1st Open Futurity Levin around 230 miles, 1st Eastern Union Otaki around 240 miles and 4th Jack Longville Race Raumati around 250 miles. This three year old cock is a quiet cock like his brother which won Timaru in 2011 and also came with 1st and 3rd to score second the year before in a fast Open Old Bird National from Christchurch, 450 miles to me. I hadn’t done much with him until he was three, just kept him in the North Island races. He was a latebred, so was only lightly raced in 2010. He is a cock who is a bit prone to a runny nose. It’s probably a susceptibility to Chlamydia/Mycoplasma and perhaps dust or mould spores. I hadn’t sent him to the South Island as a two year old for this reason, even though the loft had dosing a number of times after the 8th race. As I said earlier, I gave a canker treatment 2 weeks out from the Timaru 2012. I also gave him Clements tonic, the green one i.e. a couple of times individually and it helped to dry the nasal catarrh up. Like his current mate above he had flown the Ward (330 miles) five weeks before. He was on eggs for the Timaru to a different hen which was one more closely related. I got two nice squeakers off that pair so it’ll be interesting to see how they go as it was an uncle niece mating and he’s already 68% linebred to key Janssens and Houbens.

I also considered him for the Invercargill race. By that stage he had two five day old squabs. Of course he was very keen. On handling him five minutes after arriving home from the Timaru he was even bigger and heavier than at basketing, not that he wasn’t in premo condition then! I felt at the time that the guys to the south of the Auckland Federation who took them on the journey south from Hamilton after Don Campbell had delivered them must have done a terrific job caring for them and on behalf of the fliers I thank them for that. I’m pretty sure that if I’d sent him to Invercargill that I would not have clocked him ahead of the single entry of the BCH I sent and clocked. In fact I think that I’d have dorked him. He had catarrh again and that was one of the factors that ruled him out. I’ve learnt over the years for 750 miles when not to send them. There’s always next year if he has the right form and health, perhaps first nest of the year. Having four squeakers off him already and his second hen about to lay again means that I’ll have a bit of his progeny to try out in the future.

2 year old BCH 8th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated.

2 year old BCH, 8th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated.

This little, slender BCH is off the hen I mentioned earlier 563 which I sent to Timaru in 2009 and 2010 viz just the one entry and got her. 563 was off a vandie cock and a straight Janssen hen. The hen above and below’s sire is a race cock of mainly Janssen bloodlines with a touch of vandie. They were a love pair in 2010. This hen had never been to the South Island before and was on eggs to another hen. Lightly raced as a latebred. She looked good and had been coming well prior to the Timaru. I considered her for the Invercargill, but again like the yearling BBH above, she had a slightly mucousy nostril and the muscle tone was too hard i.e there was no spring. I’m also glad that I didn’t send her, as there was a good chance that I’d have lost her or wrecked her for future racing. Perhaps if it had been a harder race she would have beaten the first two home. She might have done better in a headwind. However, the pigeons did well from Timaru as they had no tossing the whole season until the Monday the week of the Invercargill, our last race. Also they were prepared from a Ward race of 330 miles five weeks before and it wasn’t a hard race and about 7.5 hours for most of my Timaru entries. However, this hen didn’t have that race, so she really had seven weeks off from a steady workout race i.e. Plimmerton 260 miles.

2 year old BCH 8th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated.

2 year old BCH, 8th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated.

The last pigeon photographed here (last four shots seen below) is a two year old BCH which also was only raced lightly as a latebred in 2011 like the hen above. She flew both Timaru and Invercargill last year. So a really good effort. In the Timaru she homed early on the second day at 6.53am and I could see her coming back a long way from town i.e. she’d overflown with another fancier’s second day pigeon I’d expect. However, she looked really fresh and she never shows any sign of respiratory problems even in the slightest. She was the one when you think about it, that I might get from 750 miles. Might, of course, you always have to say!

She is a very quiet hen. In the race loft she was one of those hens which were mated up to me. She was quite rank after the Timau race and quite keen to get into the cocks (I mainly race sexes separated). It was a big ask to turn her around to the Invers and I gave all my candidates peanuts in preparation for it as the main thing was to get one in race time. I hadn’t fed peanuts for the Timaru. I started the peanuts about 10 days before the Invercargill basketing. I also mixed sunflower oil into the grain mix from about that time. That’s why it was so easy to get a heavy, big body on this hen. Given that management, she probably needed a 50 miler on the Monday prior to the Wednesday basketing. However, I didn’t want to ‘cook her’ i.e. overdo her, given her 560 mile race just recently. The main goal was getting her back.

Mac Armstrong actually gave his pigeons 50 mile single ups on the Monday and the Tuesday the week of Invercargill basketing 2012. They’d had a 480 mile Christchurch five weeks before the Invercargill and a stiff Raumati (280 miles) two weeks before the race. In 2010 Mac’s pigeons had two 480 mile races leading up to the main event of Invercargill. One of these 480 mile races was a tough one, the first one.

2 year old BCH 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

2 year old BCH, 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

I sent her away to Invercargill with plenty of condition on her and moderate weight, but not leady. She is a decent sized hen and a bit wedgy. She was absolutely shining and there was no point sending any of the others, they just weren’t right! It’s always a risk just sending one pigeon to such an extreme event but the reward is certainly there if it features well in the prize money ahead of some of the big teams. Perhaps if I’d given her more work than the one short toss then she may have gotten a few places higher than 6th.

She has a real smorgasbord of bloodlines in her, Janssen, Houben, the old dutch lines and the old vandie lines. A true crossbred one might say with some linebreeding to the vandies a little bit, just in the breeding of the dam. Some real cracker vandies in the dams breeding i.e. performance pigeons from Christchurch and Timaru. Pity I lost the dam in 2011 from Invercargill and this illustrates what a graveyard this Invercargill racepoint can be. It also highlights to me the importance of preparing your pigeons right with a 500 or 600 mile race within five weeks of the ultra marathon event. If you don’t do the minimum of that then its unlikely that you’ll succeed. Read all the blogs on this site under the index category of ‘Annual Invercargill Race to Auckland Racing Pigeon Club Lofts’. It’s all there. Please feel free to comment or email me at ferguselley @gmail.com if you have any questions for Mac as I’m in the process of doing another Elimar article i.e. elimarpigeons.com an excellent site which I highly recommend.

2 year old BCH 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

2 year old BCH, 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

It will be interesting to see how she races next year. If we can get Stewart Island on the ARPF race programme perhaps I will send her there, as I have by no means burnt her out. She is on her second round down in the stock loft. She only laid one egg the first round which was probably because she was still getting over her marathon race, even though you wouldn’t think so handling her and looking at her back around Christmas last year. It’s a very nice squeaker. I will either only let her rear one more youngster and for just 2 weeks until feathered up and then let the cock finish it off. If both eggs hatch I will farm one of them out. The stock birds are starting the body moult as the days get shorter and the nights longer. We are in a real drought here, however, the days have been a bit cooler than January and February when the hot sun-baked the ground.

2 year old BCH 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

2 year old BCH, 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

Well, what else can I add in this marathon blog. Invercargill and hopefully Stewart Island are the main two races for me to aim for from now on. That’s my commitment. I’m learning under the ‘master’ i.e. Mac himself. Writing these articles really presses home how he actually does it and although I am limited in capabilities to give the pigeons road work due to my poor health, I will have to sort out that area and have others, like my good wife Helen toss the candidates for me later in the year. I won’t have a hope of beating Mac otherwise! Lucky I’ve got a loft cleaner, Kim.

Finally I ‘d like to add that although I call our Invercargill race the ‘New Zealand Barcelona’ there are a couple of differences that come to mind. Firstly, we use a breaking point which adds about 5% extra miles than airline to the distance. We do this for all our South Island races. It is from Foxton, which is about 50 miles up the coast from the bottom of the North Island, and we probably have it mainly because of the prevailing westerly winds. Secondly, we don’t have the huge numbers of the Barcelona International. Last year there were 130 birds which was our best muster in recent years. Manaia birds from up near Whangarei go up with the Auckland Federation liberation. Thirdly, we usually have a liberation between 6 and 7am or the pigeons are held over. This is essential and gives the pigeons the maximum chance of returning home either on the day or during the next morning. The latter is great for the public image of pigeon racing and will become more and more important in the future as the tide of animal welfare activism slowly rises.

If we can all obtain good enough stock to have a chance of getting the returns which Mac Armstrong normally gets and adopt his methods which he is sharing with all in sundry, then that will be great for the public image, too.

There is an article directly below this one, featuring an Invercargill to Auckland race report which gives more details. Please take the time to rate these articles (press the star to the right of the five stars if you think its awesome!) as when people do rate them it gives me great pleasure. All these articles take a fair bit of effort so any comments and emails are well received.  After all, as the saying goes ‘iron sharpens iron’ and I still consider myself a novice at these ultra long distance events in which when you prepare a bird right and perhaps have just an ‘ounce’ of luck can be immensely rewarding. The main reward being the ‘trophy’ of the pigeon returning in race time and then you can admire it and breed some latebreds off it. I’m sure plenty of you would like a squeaker off this hen who’s mated to an East Section Old Bird National Christchurch winner 2009 (450 miles) velocity 1182 m/min and is a real tough cock.

2 year old BCH 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

2 year old BCH 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

Do you think latebreds are worth breeding and what education in the training and racing department would you give them their first year? Please share your ideas with all of us in the comments section below. I will just check your comment and then enable it for the site.

MAC DOES IT YET AGAIN!!   Leave a comment

Mac and Dimitri.

Mac and Dimitri.

Hi there all readers from sunny and warm Auckland, New Zealand, we wish you all the best for 2013!

We had a great race from Invercargill to Auckland Federation lofts late last year. I speak to my friend Mac Armstrong often and I can tell you that before the race he was even less confident than the year before. He was certain someone would finally manage to beat his birds from our longest race. There were a few gunning for him!

The Invercargill result was posted on the Elimar site in December last year and we congratulate Mac Armstrong and his loft of birds for the fantastic effort of winning this race 5 years straight!

Mac loves promoting our longest distance event and is always enthusiastic when people talk about sending birds to our annual Invercargill race. He has been sponsoring this race for a number of years and at the trophy presentation he promised to up the 2013 sponsorship to a minimum of $3000 nz dollars which we thank him for.

The 2012 race had 23 fanciers competing with a total of 130 birds entered which is a pretty good muster and bodes well for the 2013 Invercargill race which we all look forwards to with anticipation. There were 9 cash prizes from $600 for first down to $70 for 9th. All these birds were clocked during the morning of the second day. Not surprisingly Mac secured 4 of these 9 cash prizes and had 11 home from 21 birds sent by the second days end and one more the next day. This is pretty amazing when you consider that of the 130 birds released; just 26 were on the result sheet worked out the evening of the 4th day. Mac was only a couple out a few weeks after the race and as usual many other fliers had more birds return home outside race time.

Tic bean hopper. The Tic beans are withdrawn 3 to 4 weeks before the main event i.e. Invers. The pigeons go on a richer mix at this time, with oils on the grain, particularly in the week of basketing.

Tic bean hopper. The Tic beans are withdrawn 3 to 4 weeks before the main event i.e. Invers. The pigeons go on a richer mix at this time, with oils on the grain, particularly in the week of basketing.

This year his 2 year old Janssen BCH won with a velocity of 1329.61 m/min. Her flying time was 15.50.12 (7.10am lib). She was 1.21.50 ahead of the 2nd prize winning bird on ‘time needed’ which was also Macs, a 3 year old BCH, also a Janssen. The next bird was David Moors 2 year old BCPH (one from one sent) which was 1.44.22 behind Macs winner. 4th prize was Joe Edwards (another octogenarian like Mac) whose name is on the main trophy for this race twice. Mac was also 5th and 7th. Elley Family 6th (one from one sent), Theo van Lier 8th and Ron Reed 9th prize with Grant Annette and Pointview lofts clocking the last morning birds.

We use the airlines to transport our birds to this racepoint. Invercargill is at the bottom of the South Island and towards the middle of its base, a little inland. Stewart Island which we may start flying from as well in the future is below this and only about 30 miles further in flying distance. When racing from Stewart Island our nz pigeons need to cross the Foveaux Strait, the stretch of water where the famous New Zealand Bluff Oysters are found.

The lofts faces east to get the morning sun but behind the lofts are huge trees which shade the loft and are an added bonus since the loft doesn't overheat and is a November/December 'in form' loft viz at season's end when Mac wants the form.

The lofts faces east to get the morning sun but behind the lofts are huge trees which shade the loft and are an added bonus since the loft doesn’t overheat and is a November/December ‘in form’ loft viz at season’s end when Mac wants the form.

There was plenty of buzz and excitement at the Onehunga bowling club where the birds were basketed on Wednesday night December 5th, 2012. Liberation was anticipated very early Friday morning weather permitting. Indeed the earlier the better to give the leading birds a chance of getting home on the day. I will note that our Federation Secretary Fred van Lier (brother of Theo above), who works tirelessly for pigeon racing here in Auckland, informs us that although Mac Armstrong’s flying distance is around 783 miles i.e. 1263km (through a Foxton trig lower North Island breaking point) that if it was measured directly i.e. race point to loft, that it would be around 48 miles i.e. 77km less. Notwithstanding, it is a widely held view that racing pigeons fly in arcs. In addition, there is also the climbing to altitude and generally up and down hedge hopping action that the birds often undertake during their journey home from these marathon racepoints. So the birds will always fly more than an airline measurement in any race.

What actually happens in reality like many things in pigeon racing is subject to speculation, however, it is thought that the winning birds usually traverse the Southern Alps, yes, you’ve all seen The Lord of the Rings movies, those ones, similar to the thought that Barcelona to England birds need to have a go at traversing the Pyrenees rather than going with the huge European drag of racing pigeons through Europe’s Rhine Valley.

In this particular race I’m very glad for the birds’ sake that they were not liberated until the Saturday and this was delayed until the light conditions improved at 7.10am allowing the birds to be liberated in a strong SSW tail wind, perfect!! Bill and Jennifer Beattie of Invercargill reported that all birds went high and cleared very, very well.

Pigeons on the house roof. This shot illustrates how the big trees shade the backyard in the heat of the day.

Pigeons on the house roof. This shot illustrates how the big trees shade the backyard in the heat of the day.

There had been some wretched, wet and extremely windy weather over the whole country on the Thursday and Friday with tornados on the north side of Auckland resulting in the deaths of 3 construction workers. In this modern age we can’t be too careful with our pigeon liberations both for the birds’ sake and secondary to this,  the public image of the sport. Therefore we congratulate the Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation and Bill Beattie our liberator in Invercargill for looking after the birds and waiting for good conditions that gave all the 130 candidates the best chance of negotiating the distance.

I had studied the weather very carefully and anticipated that some of the birds released might pick up the 50kmph south-west winds forecast for that morning at 2000m in the Southern Alps. We don’t know where they cross them or how long they stay around the mountain areas at altitude but it is reasonable to say that some birds traversed them and received assistance at altitude for some time before heading more towards the west coast of the South Island. Off the mountains the winds were much lighter, variations of west in origin on the west coast and variations of east in origin on the east coast. At the top of the South Island the winds were mainly variations of north in origin and building as the birds crossed the Cook Strait and onwards i.e. moderate headwinds. I would think that all of the birds clocked during the morning of the second day had made it to the North Island during the Saturday evening on the liberation day. Some birds despite the NW or W wind, may have taken a more direct line towards Taranaki in the west while crossing and managed to hold their line better and hit on further north towards home than others. One never really knows, however, it is enjoyable speculating!

I rang Mac the next morning at 6.45am (I’d been up since 5am). When I informed Mac that I had checked the loft at 10.30pm and then gone to bed, he said, “you don’t want to know what time I went to bed”, and he laughed, so perhaps it was around 1am, or later! I have found out since it was around 3am, such is the faith of the man and his dedication to his pigeons!!

Those big trees really do shade the loft in the heat of the Summer, even the aviary had some shade!!

Those big trees really do shade the loft in the heat of the Summer, even the aviary had some shade!!

Mac rang me back at 7.45 am to tell me that he had clocked at 7.22am. Since I give him about 30 miles overfly I knew he had ‘got me’ and I waited another hour, then wandered down the farm for a while and my bird (which had flown Timaru, 560 miles 2 weeks before) clocked herself in, none too worse for wear, appearing only slightly tired and having dropped only half her body. It was a nice surprise to see her; I had her pretty big and heavy. I had been told that she’d struggle keeping up with a tailwind start, however I think she proved otherwise. It is also interesting that Mac had not favoured his winning hen at all. He said to me while chatting by phone that she was quite small and very heavy. This just shows you how much ‘gas’ and body reserve they really need to do these distances in good racing times if they are fit enough. It also shows you that it can be very difficult to know which one you will get first.

I will save further details about Macs birds for the next article as I believe that there is still plenty more to learn from the man. I for one do enjoy very much ‘picking his brain’ to glean those little bits of ‘tasty morsels’ of advice. Please keep the questions coming for Mac and email them to me at ferguselley@gmail.com and if they arrive by early March 2013 they should appear in Mac III later this year.