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 The Tic beans are withdrawn 3 to 4 weeks before the main event i.e. Invers.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 The Tic beans are withdrawn 3 to 4 weeks before the main event i.e. Invers.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.

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