Neville wins again!!   Leave a comment

Newsflash! Neville Rhodes’ BBH has won the Jack Longville memorial Young Bird race last weekend from Raumati, a distance of around 406km or 250 miles to his loft. Velocity of 1042.05 m/min and flying time of 6.29.31. The BBH won by a big margin, over 50 minutes!

I mentioned last week in my Jack Longville article that the biennial event was taking place last weekend and the Henderson Club had a good muster with 22 lofts in the East Section and 14 in the West Section. In the East there were 192 pigeons sent and the West sent 198 pigeons. There were also other Auckland pigeons in the liberation which were only entered in their local club races. One of these was a pigeon of Kerry Frazer’s, a clubmate, but it needed about 36 minutes to beat Neville’s in the independent Combine result.

This time of year, being the last week of Autumn, is a difficult time of year for racing and a challenge to those making the wise decisions with pigeon liberations. There was a big cold front out to sea in the Tasman and on the day of basketing, that being Thursday, this was forecast to affect the race with rain but not until 6pm Saturday, so all looked about right. The following day the forecast was very similar with the same time predicted as the previous day for the rain to arrive.

The pigeons were liberated at 7.55am and the front (going on Metservice rain radar observations) was seen to be starting to reach land to the north in the Kaitaia area. I calculated that given a not much more than light northerly wind start, with the winds in the middle of the North Island probably much lighter and forecast to remain so, that the pigeons at the very best might average speeds of up to 43 mph (about 70 kmph) up until they encountered the rain/shower bands coming down from the north (which was hard to predict, but likely hit Auckland around 1pm). So, for example, Neville Rhodes, who is close to the front of the Federation in Pukekohe, might calculate that if he had a front bunch pigeon it could possibly return any time realistically from 1.45pm onwards i.e. 5 hours 50 minutes to cover the roughly 250 miles to his loft. Although we both agreed that that would be a super time, and that they were more likely to start coming from between 2.15pm and half past 2. In fact Neville’s BBH timed in at 2.24.31 with a flying time of 6 hours 29 minutes and 31 seconds.

Neville actually rang me soon after getting the pigeon. Naturally he was pretty happy and we spoke again about an hour later and he still had only one pigeon home from the twenty entered in the club race, eight of which were in Jack’s race. By that stage Neville was already remembering other big races that had been won by big margins and being the good friend I am, I wisely, in my view, suggested that he shouldn’t get his hopes up, but that I thought it was a pretty good pigeon! I’ve found it’s better to get a nice surprise later at the clock off than get too over confident, but I will add that Neville is quite good at getting some of the inside info and that’s probably why Neville was dreaming already of a win by a big margin!!

I live about 7 km south and 4 km east of Neville and haven’t flown pigeons this season. At 1.20pm I was outside and that was when the first very light rain came gently spitting down, just the odd drop really. But the sky, although overcast, was averagely bright. In fact the rain was light until 4pm when it became moderate. I am telling you this because, although we don’t know exactly what the weather was along the line of flight, we can speculate as to the possible reasons why Neville’s BBH was so incredibly far out in front of all the other pigeons in both the Jack Longville race and the independent Combine. For instance, Wyn Arnold, whom Neville allows about 15kms, needed almost 54 minutes to beat Neville’s BBH and Wyn’s Mealy cock was 2nd in the East Section of the race!

Even looking at Theo van Lier’s BBH which won the West by almost 22 minutes and was 2nd overall in the race. This pigeon’s velocity was 932.84 m/min and Neville’s pigeon’s 1042.05 m/min. Theo’s hen would have needed to time in close to 50 minutes earlier to beat Neville’s hen. Even though Theo’s first pigeon had to finish in likely more moderate, rather than light rain for the extra distance of 47 km airline, even if we allow an extra 10 to 15 minutes for Theo’s pigeon to do this, Neville’s pigeon was still 30 to 40 minutes better!

Another flier Kerry Frazer, who lives near Neville Rhodes, had a club only pigeon arrive about 8 past 3, but Neville only gives Kerry about 8km, so although Kerry’s pigeon takes 2nd in the independent Combine which Peter Longville senior collates and supplies to the Auckland Club members participating, Neville’s pigeon is still well over half an hour better than Kerry’s.

So how might Neville’s pigeon have managed to gain so much on all the field and what conditions might have been encountered or reasons why within around an hour on the slowby (time needed) there were only 5 other pigeons of the 192 entered in the Jack Longville race from the East and 8 including Theo’s from the West?

Firstly as mentioned earlier, racing this time of the year is difficult. The days are getting shorter, the weather overall deteriorates gradually every year by May and it is difficult for those controlling the liberation to know how the pigeons as a flock are going to cope with the effects of a big cold front out in the Tasman Sea about to hit the tip of the North Island.

I would speculate that the pigeons would have got off to a good start after they were observed heading to the north and a bit inland.  I repeat, speculate, sometimes pigeons head towards the nearest city’s lights (Paraparaumu perhaps or Otaki, a good 20kms or so away) which may’ve been still on at 7.55am. The flock doesn’t always orientate in a direct line route, even if they seem to have cleared the racepoint well. Every now and then a flock of race or training pigeons will be seen again, five or ten minutes drive up the road. With Young Birds first time at a new race point, it probably happens more than we think!

Winds at liberation were north, not strong and it was likely the pigeons only had 50 to 60 miles of these to fly in and then even lighter winds, which can take as much effort. Years ago I did a reasonable amount of driving of my pigeons down as far as the road west of Taumarunui and sometimes west of Raetihi. There are an incredible amount of really big hills and valleys down there and particularly this time of year onwards it is quite cold on the volcanic plateau. It can be really cloudy, even low cloud, showery and the valleys can contain a lot of mist. The pigeons including the winning ones cover much more distance than that which is measured by airline. Not just the zig zagging sideways movement, but also the up and down movements as they feel their way through the hills and valleys. But some areas may’ve been quite clear. Perhaps Neville’s pigeon got well ahead in the first half of the race, perhaps it was leading by the time it reached west of Taumarunui, we’ll never know.

I do know one thing also, I am of the opinion that approaching fronts, especially the big cold ones, affect the atmospheric conditions, changing the electrostatic conditions in the air, perhaps making the true magnetic fields much more difficult to hone in on for the pigeons, creating more of a challenge for the pigeons, as they navigate towards home.

I did study carefully the wind or lack of it and the rain radar for the North Island during the day and had quite a few conversations with Neville during the day. The last one prior to his BBH’s return being at about 1.30pm. You’d hardly call it rain at my place then, but the blanket of partly patchy yellow colour on the Metservice rain radar was down as far as near the northern tip of Lake Taupo at 1pm. This doesn’t mean it was raining down there, it just is the first indication that the front is starting to show its effects and that there’s a possibility of light rain. I will add also, that seeing that we had a very dry Summer and virtually no rain until about mid April that the pigeons hadn’t had a lot of experience of rain during their racing careers. This does make a difference, and even more so if any training the pigeons have been given is mainly only on fine days, i.e. the pigeons need to be taught to orientate through showers, light rain and murk e.t.c.

Many of us who have raced pigeons for a while in Auckland will know what the situation is with Mount Pirongia when a front is approaching, it gets all clouded in. I would imagine that it was so on Saturday and I’ve seen the showers and light, moderate or stronger rain banked up to the south of it many times in the past when I could handle driving down that way. It can be banked up right down to Pio Pio and the start of the King Country. I don’t know if it was last Saturday around the times the pigeons may’ve been working their way up the island, but it is a possibility. There are a lot of big hills and valleys south and west of Pirongia, down past Waitomo, onwards to Pio Pio.

Various pigeons that orientated that side may’ve been tiring once they were that far up and it is likely that some may’ve gone down for a drink wherever they could find it. If it had been raining significantly, I don’t think it would be too hard!

Before I tell you about Neville’s pigeon and a few tips from him, I will just reiterate the point that now having negotiated this race, these pigeons will have learnt a great deal. In last year’s Futurity which I have written about a number of times on this blog I sent 9 that I thought were up for it and only 3 returned on the day. I lost one, but the other 5 turned up the next day, mainly in the morning. Many other fliers were in the same position, i.e. about a third or so of their pigeons returning on the day and the bulk of their other pigeons the next morning.

Just for the local new fliers’ encouragement, one of my second day Futurity pigeons turned out to be my best yearling and was first by itself or with others every race bar one. It won 1st Futurity Yearling from Ward and was 17th East, in the Old Bird National Christchurch last year. So be optimistic about any 2nd day pigeons from last weekend. As I’ve said, they learn a great deal from these races.

The 2012 Futurity was indeed a very similar situation as last weekend’s in that it was the first hard longer distance race. So in the same way as last weekend, I think that many pigeons in both races were thrown by the conditions that they encountered. But the value of these races when they do occur is that the pigeons get the experience of flying under conditions other than blue skies and marshmallow clouds!

I do wonder though, in the short races, especially in Old Birds, where the pigeons have negotiated say the Raetihi liberation point quite a few times in their careers, that unless there is widespread rain or thick fog at liberation, that we should give the pigeons more experience of showery and murky weather on the return leg home. I’m not saying to let them up in rain or fog, but between the showers or a break in the fog, as Jack used to do from the toss point Naike.

I believe we will have better long distance racing if we do this more often, as it hardens the pigeons up for the programme that lies ahead and from these short races, especially in Old Birds, it is the right thing, I think. I used to train mine and other fliers’ pigeons up to distances of 200 miles and once went to Foxton to test a group of my pigeons after the Old Bird season about 10 years ago to release about 120 of my own pigeons. It was a fine day and they all returned well before I did! Of course any of those long trips would put me in bed with migraines for 3 days. But if people wonder how I got the results I did in the West up until end of 2002 they should consider the training and the very good pigeons. My motto used to be: nothing good comes easy! So now that I’m not driving much and can’t really train my own pigeons, one should think how much my health has deteriorated.

Well, now to what Neville has told me about his BBH and his methods. Neville says that this Young Bird season he has gone back to a method he used with success about five years ago. Firstly the feeding. Neville feeds twice a day, an ounce to an ounce and a quarter per pigeon is hopper fed. He feeds a depurative mix which he makes himself containing 40% barley and the rest about equal parts of wheat, safflower, sunflower and sorghum. For the overnight basket races which generally basket Friday night, Neville feeds the depurative mix from race return until Wednesday night when a richer race mix is fed until basketing morning. For the two day basketing events, Neville starts the race mix on the Tuesday night. He also adds two products to the food which he purchases from Fisken’s in Pukekohe. One is a cider vinegar product and the other contains molasses, garlic and kelp. Both are liquids. He adds brewer’s yeast and stirs it all up prior to feeding and believes it does the pigeons a world of good with nice clear throats.

Neville did do some dosing earlier in the season and after the Futurity race and then just the natural additions in the food. Neville also won the Eastern Union Young Bird race which was a team’s race; however his first pigeon also won the independent Combine which Peter Longville senior collates and distributes to participants.

Neville’s pigeons don’t tend to fly that much around home during the race season and once daylight saving finished it made it difficult for Neville to exercise his pigeons. However he sends pigeons every week on the Federation training toss, usually from Whatawhata. It is generally a 50 to 60 minute fly. Neville swears by this for his pigeons. As for the Jack Longville Memorial race winner the BBH’s last race was Otaki, so she had a two week racing break with a Wednesday Federation toss the following week followed by a private Pirongia toss on the Friday and then an additional Wednesday Whatawhata toss the day before basketing. The Pirongia toss was a single up. Neville’s pigeons have single ups whenever he can get the time off work.

Neville keeps the Young Bird pigeons separate sexes but let’s them out together for flying around home. On return from training midweek they can go into either section and Neville separates them when he comes home from work. Sometimes a cock and hen will be all cosy somewhere in a section.

I think Neville really deserves a good season with a couple of excellent wins as he works hard for the Pukekohe Pigeon Club as President, Treasurer and Race Secretary. So good on you, Neville!

I guess I ought not to forget the breeding of the winner. She is off a Houben cock from Peter Longville junior and a hen I gave Neville off a mainly Vandie base cock to a Janssen bloodlines hen (the top stuff!).

Other results this Young Bird Season are that the Auckland Young Bird Futurity was won Overall by Wyn Arnold with his BCH winning in a moderate Westerly wind doing 1250 m/min. The West Section of the Futurity was won by Theo van Lier. Wyn obviously won the Futurity East Section and Paul Millar, who has health challenges like myself was 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th Futurity East and Overall and also won the Futurity Auction Bird race.  In addition, Paul won the Eastern Union Auction Bird race from Otaki. Well done Paul!

Finally, one result not mentioned on this site from last year’s Old Birds was the Open Old Bird National Christchurch which was won by Kerry Frazer’s Yearling hen, winning by 8 minutes and doing a velocity of 1332 m/min. Good fly Kerry after a difficult year waiting for a knee op! Shamrock lofts won the West Section and was 2nd Open too. Good to see a fairly new flier do well!

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Posted May 28, 2013 by ferguselley in Uncategorized

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