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Brian’s Brit Blog 2015.   Leave a comment

Brian Batchelor.

Well a lot can happen in a year since I last tapped the keyboard with a report on pigeons from the UK and it certainly has been an eventful year at least for me anyway. Last year I wrote that I had to sell up my pigeons having been diagnosed with pigeon fanciers lung, however, as it happened this was not the end of the story. I ended up making several trips to the hospital for various tests and consultations with the specialists. To put it in a nutshell the results eventually showed that I did not have pigeon fancier’s lung after all but suffer from asthma with a touch of emphysema but it is not that serious and hasn’t stopped me from doing all the activities I normally would. The main cause of my condition is due to allergies such dust mites, moulds, grass and grass pollen but no allergy to common animals, cats or dogs and no allergy to feathers. New bedding with anti allergy covers has improved my condition. I am still sensitive to dusty or smoky conditions but the good news is that there is no reason not to get the pigeons back again providing I keep them in a relatively open type loft and use a good quality mask and protective clothing. Anyone interested to find out more about pigeon fanciers lung I recommend to visit

This year I also recently retired from full time work. I’m only doing part time work now and we have put our house on the market, so I will not be restarting with the pigeons until we resettle, hopefully early next year. I have kept up my membership of my local club and have been actively involved with it and I have kept a note of a few more notable performances this year including some of the national channel races. Generally the weather this year has been kind without extremes providing for some good flying conditions with few hold over’s resulting in good returns. The Barcelona International was perhaps the exception due to a heat wave in southern Europe and thunder storms in northern Europe. The small British contingent struggled a bit, however the winning British pigeon bred and raced by well known long distance stalwart Dave Delea was timed at 10.50am on the second morning, many birds have continued to return after the race closed which often happens in these conditions as the pigeons entered into this race are all seasoned campaigners.

Wicky Bullen and son pulled off another stunning win taking the honours in the BICC National Poitiers against 2696 birds, I have mentioned this partnership before when they won the PAU International with “Islas Rainy Day Boy”. This year it was another remarkable victory in that their pigeon named “Sienna’s Cloudy Day boy” beat the drag and the wind. It was expected with the westerly wind that the prizes would be won in the east section and the majority were except the Bullen’s widowhood cock racing into the central section to take the top slot. What is even more astonishing is that this game pigeon was only a late bred yearling on his 3rd ever race of his life. He had already shown his potential with 30th open Tours on his 2nd race. He was a gift pigeon bred by R.Roberts & Son, whether he can repeat these performances in future only time will tell.

A second brilliant performance was that achieved by Bobby and Anthony Beasant’s “ Noble Dream” in winning the Agen International against 10510 of the best in Europe. The dam of this pigeon was bred by my good friend Keith Mott, it is bred down from Keith’s Brian Denny family of distance pigeons which are well known in the UK, you will find the Denny pigeons in the pedigrees of many top UK distance pigeons including some of the legendary Mark Gilbert’s pigeons.

The National Flying Clubs Blue Riband Grand National from Tarbes was again an early afternoon liberation following a one day hold over due to adverse weather at Tarbes. I happened to be holidaying a few miles from Tarbes on race day and there was a moderate head wind for the birds to face on release and throughout their journey but otherwise the weather was fine and clear which continued into the second day when the pigeons were arriving home. It turned out a steady race and was won by a yearling hen raced from the loft of Lloyd & Kelly, another great effort by a yearling.

Another performance that caught my attention at local Combine level, was one of those exceptions that make us question what we really know about pigeon racing. This was that of a Blue hen owned by Mick Tuck. In order to make up the numbers to get enough support for the Combines longest race from Bordeaux 450 miles, Mick was asked by our club secretary to enter as many birds as he could. Looking through his loft he spied a three year old stock hen that was a gift pigeon that he bred plenty from but she had never been trained or raced. Nevertheless Mick decided to try her and in the week before the birds were marked for Bordeaux she had two tosses from the coast about 35 miles then went into the race basket. Much to Mick’s and everyone else’s surprise, this little hen was his 2nd pigeon home taking 3rd club and 5th FED/Combine.

We are now just at the tail end of young bird racing, the usual problem of raptor attacks has created havoc and caused some heavy losses on a few occasions. The worst case I heard about was a local fancier who had 46 young birds missing on one occasion; these were well trained youngsters that already had three races under their belt. A few were reported having been scattered to the four winds and the carcass of one of his missing youngsters was found in a peregrine nest by an attendant who cleans out peregrine nests that have been erected along many of UK’s motorways. This is one aspect of the sport that has made me think twice about starting up again as I will only have facilities to manage a small team and this sort of loss can set you back years.

Last year I did a loft report on Wally Cable and his top pigeon “Joe 90”, at the time I interviewed Wally I said Joe 90 was one of the best pigeons I have ever handled, as his performances were outstanding I said to Wally if he were mine I would put him straight into the stock shed as anything could happen to him. However Wally said he is still a young pigeon with a lot more racing in him. Anyway Wally put him back on the road again this year with the channel Nationals in mind. In the first National Joe 90 was the first bird into our area by a good half hour, however in the second National Wally sent 23 birds and at clock reading had 22 home, yes Joe 90 was missing and Wally was beside himself with grief. However, that is not the end of the story, ten days later when Wally went down to close his loft there was one hell of ruckus going in the loft and when Wally opened the door there was Joe 90 battling with a pair that had occupied his nest while he was missing. On inspection Joe 90 had suffered a nasty knock down his keel and breast, enough that would put him out for the rest of the season. The day he went missing it was a very strong wind and he must have hit something probably early in the race. Anyway the good news is Wally has been able to get some more youngsters from him including two late breds that he has kindly offered to me.

There you have it from me from UK, good luck to all with your racing down under.

Brian Batchelor
Elstead, Surrey,UK

Keith Mott from the U.K.   Leave a comment

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KEITH MOTT (CONVOYING). Special thanks to Keith Mott and our U.K. expatriot NZ friend Brian Batchelor for forwarding this.

At the end of the 2008 season Keith retired after eight good years as chief convoyer of the London & South East Classic Club, which took him to all the major race points in France, including twice Tarbes (560 miles) and six times to Pau (550 miles). He says he loved convoying and could write a book about his experiences while driving the pigeon transporter on the continent, but maintains he would never go to Guernsey for a holiday as he took the Classic young birds there 15 times and has had enough of the place. He has been writing in the fancy press since 1972 and enjoys doing his regular pages every week in the pigeon fancy press. Keith has appeared eight times on the television with the pigeons, the…

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News from Terry Williams of   Leave a comment

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This blog is based on information that Terry sent me to give the U.K. picture and we thank him.
The Club Liberation
Liberations in the Uk are a mixed bag, there are pigeons going all over the place. We have North roaders going South and we have South roaders going North and we have East and West birds going across them all. You could have over 100,000 pigeons in the sky going home and all the conveyors are trying to get the birds up early!! How it works here is the transporter goes to the liberation site and he calls to say he has arrived and gives a quick weather update and receives the home end report as well. He waters and feeds the birds and the next morning he is on the phone to his home end to find out what is what and gives his weather…

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“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT” Brian Batchelor of Elstead.   1 comment

Brian Batchelor.

Brian Batchelor.

Brian Batchelor has told me recently, he is suffering with a bad pigeon fanciers lung problem and after 50 years in the sport, sadly has to pack up his pigeons at the end of this season. His pending retirement from the sport has spurred him on to have one big final fling with his birds and he has enjoyed a brilliant 2014 old bird season. The highlight of the season was sending three cocks to the NFC Tarbes Grand National and clocking all three on the winning day, recording, 15th, 31st, 40th section A, 90th, 233rd, 308th open. A brilliant performance in such a hard race! The first bird on the ETS from Tarbes was Brian’s good blue Cannon / Van Bremen widowhood cock, ‘The Tarbes Cock’, and he also won 36th section A, NFC Carentan (495 birds) this season. This handsome cock is a direct son of Brian’s foundation stock bird ‘The Old Cannon Cock’, when mated to his good racing hen, ‘Baby’, who was clocked on the winning day from Tarbes and Pau. Brian’s small racing team have won a list of prizes this season, the highlights being: 1st club Yelverton (254 birds), 3rd club, 4th Federation, 5th Amalgamation Bergerac (1,213 birds), 4th club, 11th Federation Messac (1,042 birds), 5th, 12th club, 19th, 37th Federation Nort sur Erdre (632 birds), 74th, 294th open BICC Poitiers (1,934 birds), 36th section A, NFC Carentan (495 birds), 15th, 31st, 40th section A, 90th, 233rd, 308th open NFC Tarbes (2769 birds).

The Tarbes Cock.

The Tarbes Cock.

Brian Batchelor is a ‘hard-core’ long distance enthusiast and in recent seasons has been very successful in the National and Classic races from 550 miles. He races in the very strong Godalming club and the 2012 season has seen him win the longest old bird race from Bergerac (450 miles), and record 3rd SMT Combine. When I recently asked Brian about his family of pigeons he told me, ‘my main family of long distance racers are the late Eric Cannon of Wormley bloodlines, with the sire of the loft being ‘The Old Cannon Cock’, which must be described as a champion breeder having produced a long list of premier racers from 550 miles. This handsome blue cock was bred by Keith and Betty Mott in 2004 from their Number Three Eric Cannon stock pair and he is a grandson of Champion ‘Culmer Sam’ and Champion ‘Culmer Bess’, the NFC Pau Merit Award winner. ‘The Old Cannon Cock’ is a full brother to the Eric Cannon stock cock, ‘Foxwarren Fred’, who is the sire of many premier long distance champions including: 1st Federation Bourges (581 miles), 2nd Federation Bourges, 2nd Federation Bourges, 2nd Federation Bourges, 3rd Federation Bourges, 5th Federation Bourges, 8th Federation Bourges and is grand sire of 1st Amalgamation Bourges (581 miles) in the 2012 and 2013 seasons. He is the sire of the champion cock, ‘The Five Times Bourges Cock’, winner of 3rd, 5th, 8th Federation Bourges and sire of 1st Amalgamation Bourges (twice)’.

Brian owns the Post Office in the village of Elstead in Surrey and his very smart little loft is in the garden of the premises. He is only a small team man, about 50 pigeons in all, including old bird racers, young birds and his stock team. The old birds are raced most seasons on a celibate system and the racers only see their mates on race day or returning home from training tosses. Brian says his system is very similar to widowhood, but he races both the hens and cocks. The 2014 season has been raced on widowhood with a couple of spare hens also being raced. Working where his pigeons are kept he can keep to a tight routine, with the cocks getting out for one hour twice a day, the hens getting one to two hours in the middle of the day and young bird team have their fly in the evening. They are fed on Countrywide Super widowhood mix. They also get, G10 Pellets, minerals and Osmonds purifier is added to the drinking water once a week. Brian tells me no medication is used in the off season, but during the racing season he has a medication regime. The team is raced every week up to the second channel race then bi-weekly. In the week between races the birds get one or two training tosses from about 30 miles, if possible into the wind regardless of direction. His young birds receive ten tosses and then three or four races, before being stopped to finish their very important moult.

Prior to starting up with pigeons at Elstead in 2004 Brian had racing pigeon in New Zealand where he had lived most of his life before returning to England permanently, the country of his birth. In New Zealand he had pigeons off and on since he was eleven years old and tells me he had some good success at times. Two memorable races in New Zealand were in 1994 when he was 2nd, 3rd Young Birds National and 1st Section, 2nd overall Auckland Federation Timaru (560 miles), with the same pigeon recording 5th Section, 5th overall in the same race the following year, which was flown on the day in 13 hours 26 minutes. He also still holds the record in one club he belonged to, when his pigeon flew 453 miles in 8 hours 27 minutes. In the later years of his New Zealand pigeon racing he flew in partnership with Digby Reiman, under the flying name of Royal Oak Lofts and scored numerous positions including 3rd, 4th, 6th Auckland Futurity, 3rd Young Bird National on a hard day and 2nd section, 2nd Federation overall Timaru (560 miles).

There you have it, a small team fanciers scoring big in the very hard 2014 NFC Tarbes Grand National. That’s our article for this week! I can be contacted with any pigeon ‘banter’ on telephone number: 01372 463480 or email:



Wally in front of his loft.

Wally in front of his loft.

Wally is one those successful fanciers that races his pigeons very well but hasn’t had the recognition he deserves, although reluctant at first he agreed to let me do this loft report. Wally started racing pigeons back in the 1960’s but like many had to give them up when the family came along and other more important commitments got in the way of pigeons. He restarted in the sport in 1997 when he had more time and his original pigeons were obtained from Dean Pallat being Van Reets and some of that blood still runs through his birds to this day. Although if you ask him what strain he races now he will tell you they are Van Cables, as he said you go over to Belgium and buy a pigeon it is always the strain of the fancier who sells it to you even though the top Belgium fanciers are always trading pigeons amongst themselves and the origins could be from anyone. Wally is a member of the Godalming and districts flying club with 30 flying members located in Surrey south England and it is affiliated to the South Coast FED. This club has a good number of successful flyers both in the local FED and Amalgamation, but also at National level. Wally is a very competitive fancier and tries to win every race he enters and does not take kindly to being an also ran and takes it hard on the rare occasions he has a bad day. Fortunately that is not very often as his results over the last two seasons have shown. In 2013 Wally was the top prize winner at Godalming by a long way, lifting half the club trophies including the Old Bird and Young Bird averages. Up until about three years ago he concentrated on the sprint and middle distance races winning more than his fair share of the prizes but as he said the glory goes more to the distance flyers so in recent years he has been introducing distance blood into his loft mainly from his two good friends and top distance flyers Darren McFadden and Mick Tuck.

Previously he only raced on the traditional widowhood system but for the past three years he has tried the round about system with some success and for the longest races the pigeons were sent natural to the nest with eggs or a small youngster. The loft set up is a basic Blakes pent roof loft with a central section for the hens and two identical sections for the cocks either side with 12 nest boxes in each. The lofts are closed in with lower and upper ventilation and an electric extractor fan is set in the front of the main loft with a timer that runs for one hour every second hour in other words on one hour off one hour. Wally is great believer in providing some special motivation for his birds and one of his favourite tricks is to put a cock in the opposite section which is identical but houses another cock in the same position as its own box so creating some fierce jealousy as the cock being raced thinks there is an intruder in his box. He times his pigeons on the Unicon ETS system which he says is the best thing since sliced bread, especially if the birds arrive home in the early part of the morning as he is out working doing a rural newspaper delivery round and would not be at home to time his birds if they were on rubbers. Young birds are raced on the darkness system which he finds works well for him, this year already he has won two races and the young birds look like yearlings and none of his team of 28 have been lost in the first four races in the series.
Feeding is Verserlager corn, Super widowhood for the old birds and young birds start off on the young bird mix but once racing is underway they also go onto the widowhood mix. The pigeons are well trained before racing starts but once the race season commences very little further training is done as the birds are raced regularly most weeks. When asked about the use of medication he said he treats the birds for worms, canker and coccidiosis before breeding and racing and half way through the season. He used to treat each drug individually but this year he used the 3 in 1 tablet and found it just as effective and easier to administer. They also get Aviform products, post race after each race and the stamina, respiratory treatment in the water twice a week. Fresh grit and minerals are before the birds at all times and orego stim is given once a week. The lofts are cleaned out when it suits him about twice a week on average.

Joe 90

Joe 90.

When asked about the highlights of his success over the past couple of years he said winning the averages in the Godalming club was one, although Wally was honest enough to admit that since the club joined the South Coast with his loft position being the nearest to the coast had put him in a favourable position. However it must not be forgotten that in the past he has won the FED when the club was in the Surrey FED and his loft position was not so favourable. The second highlight was the great performances of his Blue Cheque cock named “JOE 90” named after the last two digits of his ring number which was bred by Darren McFadden. Wally said prior to racing this outstanding cock that he was losing a bit of interest but this one pigeon had really perked him up. This wonderful cock was 3rd section, 13th open National Flying club Tarbes National 550 miles against an entry of 2769 in a very testing race when only 393 birds were timed in race time. However Wally was sorry he let the pigeon down by not pooling him as he said prior to the race he would be a good one and he was going to pool him right through but chickened out at the last minute. Having put up this top performance Wally then sent him back again to the NFC Saintes National and again timed him to win 12th section and 252nd Open against 3187 pigeons, this time Wally didn’t chicken out and pooled him through doubling his money as a result. In his build up to Tarbes JOE 90 went to all the club channel races although he was 2 hours behind Wally’s first bird in his last start before TARBES which Wally said disappointed him but on reflection probably gave him the hours on the wing which set him up nicely for the Tarbes National. Another of Wally’s top performers is a Blue Gay pied yearling hen that has raced on round about this season and won him 3 races.

Gay Pied YLG 500

Gay Pied YLG 500.

Well an enjoyable loft visit to a fancier whose pigeon have put in some top performances in the past two years.

Brian Batchelor

Posted October 18, 2014 by ferguselley in Brian's Brit Blog, U.k. news items

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As I recorded in my last article we had suffered the wettest winter on record, the sun has now finally put in an appearance but we are still getting plenty of rain showers in between the periods of sunshine. I started to write this in the spring but as I come to finish the article it is now officially the start of summer.

Old bird racing got underway here in late April and apart from the 3rd race which was also our first channel race the racing has mainly been very fast with tail winds and velocities up to 2200 ypm. The channel race from Falaise was a different story with a very strong almost head wind, only a small number of game pigeons homed on the day and a number of missing pigeons have been reported in Belgium and Holland. Anticipating a difficult race I only sent two experienced cocks and one spare nine year old hen. The two cocks made it home on the day, the first finishing in 10th place and the old hen being wiser or more cunning homed early on the third morning when the wind had at last abated.

Again this year I am racing a dozen widowhood cocks and both the cocks and myself having learned a thing or two last year, this year I’ve seen the pigeons come very well picking up prizes each week including one red card so far. On the negative side my first training toss with eight late breds turned out badly as a peregrine got into them, I eventually got six back, two with tail and wing damage. The first pigeon home from this toss was then taken around the loft by a goshawk about a week later, another was also lost leaving only four survivors and one of these has not been raced being the mate to one of my widowhood cocks. One of these four I lost for 10 days. He was racing from Kingsdown inland but they arrived here at the same time as our National birds from Carentan (France) and with the very strong tail wind I suspect he got caught up with the National birds (there were 9300 entered in the National) and was probably carried on up north and being inexperienced must have ended up many miles from home. He is out of my best Cannon pair which have that survivability factor I mentioned in the last article and has turned up dirty and skinny having been living rough but I am happy to have him back as he will have learned from the experience. This is typical of the struggle of racing late breds in this country as I mentioned in my previous article, even the yearlings find it tough going especially early in the season and many have fallen by the wayside already including one of mine.


I have been asked to give my ideas on training pigeons and while others have written on the subject before me I have compiled my thoughts and ideas as follows which I hope may be of some use to readers. One well known scribe from the past wrote that you cannot teach a pigeon geography anymore than you can teach it mathematics and the only purpose in training pigeons is to get them fit and get them into the habit of flying a straight course home rather than meandering around in circles as they do when loft flying. There is a lot of merit in what he wrote, however on the other hand another equally acclaimed author wrote of experiments conducted during World War II that showed pigeons were indeed able to pick out locations and land marks. In one test pigeons were trained from three different locations and observers posted at the first and second training points recorded that when released from the third point, the pigeons flew to the 2nd spot then the 1st one before heading home. They followed this round about route for about a week before heading directly home from the third release point. Similarly how often have we heard about a stray pigeon that when liberated near to where it originates from only to have it return back to the loft that it strayed into. Another example that I have mentioned in previous reports is that of the Welsh stray that dropped into my loft again on the same weekend exactly one year later when he was raced from the same race point in France. The point is that pigeons do have an uncanny ability to pinpoint a location and scientists studying the homing ability of the humble pigeon have confirmed this in controlled experiments using tracking devices attached to the back of the pigeon.
How does this help us in setting up a training regime? Well the conventional wisdom is that pigeons should be trained along the line of flight that they will be raced along with the toss distances starting close to home and gradually increasing out to virtually the first race point. Some fanciers will start at about two miles working out to about 40 or 50 miles with multiple tosses being given from the point where they want their pigeons to break out from the drag. This type of training I believe is very suitable for what is known as corridor racing whereby the pigeons are racing up a relatively narrow band width into a compact area when to win you need a pigeon to break near the home area and trap like lightning. In this sort of racing, breaking out and training to trap quickly are the most important factors. A pigeon that does a victory lap around the home loft or one that deviates slightly off line following the drag over the final part of the journey will drop 20 or more placings on the result sheet in a matter of 30 seconds or so.

If on the other hand where we are looking at training for National and International racing or your loft is located outside the area of the main drag then a different approach is called for. Take for example my own Federation the South Coast Fed in southern England in which the premier racing is channel from the continent and many members also belong to the specialist clubs that fly the nationals and internationals. Let’s consider first those fanciers that live along the south coast, no way can they train a line of flight programme across the channel so what they do is train from the west, east and north and when the pigeons are eventually raced from France they are racing at roughly speaking either directly opposite from where they were trained (north) or approximately 90 degrees from the west or easterly training line. Where I am located about 30 miles inland it is not so extreme as we can train down the south coast in a V shape giving the birds coverage over the range of the coastline where they will most likely cross over the channel into the UK depending on the wind direction. However all our early racing is from the west country so that when they go over to France the line of flight is still about 70 degrees away from where they have been previously raced from. When it comes to the Nationals the pigeons are racing across a very wide front to many different parts of Britain and the successful pigeons are those that break out very early close to the race point and head for home on their own.

I have read in Australia that some clubs alternate the race points and line of flight each year so the pigeons would need to learn a new route each successive season, which is perhaps a little like our national programme in that such racing calls for a pigeon that can think for itself and adapt to a new line of flight. In this situation a different training approach is required.
What the majority of successful fanciers in my area do is initially train their pigeons down to the coast and also on the westerly line out to about 40 miles. Once the birds are coming well they then toss them in small groups, two up at a time being very popular and also single up. The idea is to get the pigeons confident to fly on their own, I also give mine the odd toss in the opposite direction ie north and north-east, as in the early shorter races on a fast day and being one of the front markers mine get carried over and this training gives them some experience in working back. The idea here is simply to give each pigeon a chance to build up its confidence in flying alone and navigating on its own instead of just following the drag flock home.
How far to take the youngsters on their first toss is another consideration, one of the most successful fanciers in my patch takes his youngsters at least 25 miles and sometimes up to 40 miles for their first toss and he loses very few. However most of us are not game to go to this extreme and like myself will start at around eight miles. One of the big problems we have are the all too frequent raptor attacks, particularly with young inexperienced birds as they will scatter in all directions resulting in many being lost. There are plenty of reports of fanciers losing half or more of their young bird team in a bad early toss when they have been hit by a bird of prey. There doesn’t seem to be any way of overcoming this and it is a case of the pigeons having to be trained so let’s hope for the best.
Another training system used by a successful fancier in my local club has been developed as a result of his loft being plagued by goshawks, instead of loft flying his pigeons they go for a short toss virtually every day five to ten miles, often being singled up and on arrival at home they go straight inside. I also read recently of a an unusual system practiced by a successful father and son partnership who race on the north road, as neither of them drive they give their pigeons repeated tosses from a park across the road from their loft. Apparently the pigeons go up over their house and trap straight into the loft and going by this loft’s excellent race results their pigeons must do the same thing on race day, out of the race panniers, straight home and into the trap.
Regarding the fitness aspect, there are those fanciers that toss down the road frequently and other equally successful fanciers who keep their pigeons fit by working them around the loft by flagging them and other similar means. The Belgium champion Michael Van Lint uses helium balloons on strings to keep his team in the air around the loft. The risk with flagging is that the pigeons will land on nearby roofs when they have had enough, personally I find that once they have warmed up after ten minutes or so they will keep flying quite well on their own without the necessity to flag them. The widowhood cocks tend to land and take off frequently which takes a lot more energy than simply circling around the loft which keeps them fit with a one hour session twice a day. One also has to consider how often the birds are being raced and if they are raced virtually every week then they do not need much flying in between races and rest is just as if not more important so that the pigeons recover their reserves as quickly as possible. To conclude it is really a matter for the individual fancier to decide what system will work best depending on the type of racing they intend to do and their individual circumstances.

Finally, another subject that has hit the pigeon fancy press recently is the question of drug testing. Late last year it was reported that tests run on Belgium pigeons were carried out in another country and one in four, yes you read that correctly, 25% tested positive for banned substances. Here in the UK there has been a tightening up on testing and the RPRA provide drug testing kits to encourage all clubs and organisations to stamp out this illegal practice.
Till next time, good racing to all.

Brian Batchelor Elstead UK










2013 Christmas is one that everyone around the south of England will remember for the rest of their lives. On December the 23rd a severe storm rolled in from the Atlantic bringing gale force winds and torrential rain resulting in wide spread flooding, trees down, roofs blown off and power cuts to over 90,000 homes. One of the worst hit areas was our county of Surrey, our local market town of Godalming was flooded with many having to vacate their homes and two of the access roads into our village of Elstead were also flooded and the roads closed for a few days. At home we got off lightly with only a couple of fence panels blown out, but we did suffer the power cut for 61 hours and lost all our refrigerated stock in our shop and domestic freezer. Luckily we had recently decided to book a three day Christmas stay in a country hotel at the Goodwood estate near Chichester in West Sussex and fortunately, although they had no power either, they had hired a massive generator, so everything was running as normal. It was a bit tricky travelling down to Goodwood on Christmas eve since the main road had been closed due to flooding and we had to make a deviation in the dark which added an hour or so to the journey, so we were relieved when we eventually arrived safely at our destination.

How did my pigeons fare through all this, very well actually, the lofts were undamaged and as I have automatic drinkers it was only a matter of filling the feed troughs with enough corn for the three days we were away and leave them to it until we returned.


When I raced pigeons back in New Zealand I often bred a few late youngsters i.e. hatched after the summer solstice and generally found they could be raced very well in that years old bird season at eight to ten months of age. In fact they were no different to their earlier bred siblings that had raced as young birds, some were top pigeons and others not so good, as you would expect from the general population. The only problem I had, was in my earlier years pushing them too far too soon and I well remember losing a couple of very good ones that had won previously. However, that was my mistake and no fault of the pigeons. Here in the U.K. it is a totally different story and very few fanciers bother with them except to breed some to keep a blood line for breeding purposes and not racing them. My good friend Tony Dann calls them heartbreakers! As an example last year he kept one late bred and when it came time to train his new year’s young bird team he took his 30 something young birds and the one late bred for their first training toss of eight miles. The young birds all arrived home more or less together in a short time minus the late bred. The late bred was reported having strayed into a loft about 50 miles away in the opposite direction from home. It did not have a clue how to find its way home even from this very short distance, this is typical late bred behaviour and I have experienced the same phenomena myself many times.

Last year I only reared two late breds, nest mates, they weren’t trained identically, but both had a night out from their first eight mile toss, one is still with me having completed training and had one inland FED race. The other went west at its first club transporter toss from 25 miles.

For some reason their homing faculty does not develop as normal, I have an idea why this may be so which I will relate further on. Nevertheless, most years I have persevered and reared a small team of late ones and although the attrition rate is certainly high with many failing on the first training toss or first time on the FED transporter, the few that come though to their third season are as good as any other pigeons in the loft. Looking over my current old bird team around 15% started life as a late bred. Some flyers say they must be trained in the year of their birth to have any chance of surviving, however, I have tried this and it did not make one bit of difference. Getting back to the reasons for the high failure rate with late breds, while I don’t have any scientific answer, I considered that the main factor may be something to do with daylight and in particular sunlight. The young birds bred in the spring develop when the days are long and the sunlight strong, whereas the late bred birds develop when the days are short and the sunshine weak, with many days the sky being dull with heavy overcast conditions. Admittedly, many fanciers darken their early bred youngsters to stimulate their body moult while retarding the moulting of the wing flights without too many problems, but in the hours these birds are exposed to the daylight it is midsummer when the sun is at its strongest. It might be something as simple as a lack of vitamin D which is also a problem for the human population in British Isles and supplements are recommended especially for children during the winter or it might be an hormonal issue. As I said, I do not profess to have any substantive evidence to support this theory other than my own observations. This year I have again got a small team of late ones and I have been getting them out as much as possible, particularly on sunny days and I have also fed them a richer corn mix with a vitamin/mineral supplement being added once a week. I have noticed a few have continued to moult their flight feathers which is unusual, so I am hoping this lot will turn out O.k. with a higher percentage surviving, time will tell. One interesting point I have noticed is that two were hatched 16 days later than the others on the 7th of August (equivalent to about the 1st week of the southern hemisphere’s month of February). One of this nest pair disappeared the second time out, probably taken by a hawk. The other one is still here but its development has been retarded, so it is well behind the others hatched 16 days earlier. I nearly culled this one but it is now catching up and being a cock bird, in the last week or so he has started to show an interest in the hens and has been moved into the cocks section. Anyway, it seems there may be a certain cut off point when it is probably not productive to continue breeding latebreds, say late July in the northern hemisphere. It may be the end of February to early March in the southern hemisphere, depending on the latitude.


As some readers will know, my base family contain mainly Eric Cannon and Jim Biss bloodlines and recently I was reading an article on the late great Jim Biss penned by Cameron Stansfield wherein he made an interesting comment following his loft visit to Biss in the late 1990’s. To quote Cameron; “He (Jim) went to Scotland where he bought some Palamos pigeons all flying circa 1000 miles, one or two of these left a lasting impression. Now these Palamos pigeons took a good while to get home so I asked him what was it that made him value them and he said something I have never forgotten, that is they had the most elusive quality of all SURVIVABILITY.” These were Henry Mair’s “Lion Heart” family and I notice a daughter of Lion Heart appears back in my Biss pedigrees.

Now this got me thinking about my own pigeons and sure enough all the four pairs of stock in the base family, which are retired racers, have, with the exception of one bird, all displayed this characteristic by surviving a difficult or smash race in their career on the road, some of them more than once. An example being the BICC Saran smash a couple of years ago when from a convoy of around 3800 pigeons only about 300 were clocked in race time and very few returned in the days and weeks that followed. I sent six to this race and had five home within a couple of weeks and four are still with me today having gone on to succeed in that and later seasons. These survivors have on occasions returned home in a bedraggled and dirty condition and some carrying injuries that had partially healed and sporting frets on their flights and tail feathers. But they all had that elusive survivability factor that Jim talks about in that they never quit! In contrast when I started out in 2004 I also introduced a couple of Van Breemen hens from my friend Tony Dann which were crossed with the Biss and Cannon pigeons and these crosses flew very well for me gaining some of my best results but they were found out at the long distance on a hard day. They seemed to be a type of pigeon that give their all on the day of release and if they are not home by early the 2nd morning you never see them again, ideal middle distance pigeons and Tony has won some top National positions with them up to around 300 miles, but they do not have that survivability factor suitable for the long distance that I am after and now I only have a couple of these crosses left so they have phased themselves out and this line will eventually die out in my loft.

The Biss line that survived are from a cock line bred to Biss’s TURBAN 2nd Pau Grand National 645 miles and 5th National Perpignan 689 miles, TURBAN is also G.Sire of J.Halsteads “ASHLEY” 2nd Open Barcelona 696 miles. The dominant pigeons in the Cannon line were obtained from my good friend Keith Mott and are the CULMER SAM and CULMER BESS (Merit winner) lines.


A.Austin 1st Old Bird Hens.

A.Austin 1st Old Bird Hens.

One thing that I believe is lacking in the calendar in New Zealand, I don’t know if it is the same in Australia is the absence of activity in the off season after racing has ceased. In the U.K. we are blessed with the show season where there are numerous shows open during the winter and culminating in the BHW show of the year at Blackpool in January. This gives the fancy an opportunity to get together and keep everyone’s interest going through what otherwise would be a barren period. Our local club holds three shows each winter, this time there was an all age through the wires, followed by the old bird show and finally the young bird show. All three events were well attended although I missed the first through the wire show I did manage to enter the later two shows. The winners of these were as follows:-


1st OB cocks B.Batchelor.

1st OB hens  A.Austin (I was 2nd in this with the hen that won last year).

Brian Batchelor with 1st Old Bird Cocks.

Brian Batchelor with 1st Old Bird Cocks.


1st YB cocks D.Robinson.

2nd YB hens M.Tuck.

Brian's winning mealy cock again, this time in the loft.

Brian’s winning mealy cock again, this time in the loft.

BHW Show of the year at Blackpool, Tony Dann and myself are again heading up the motorway for the five hour journey up to Blackpool on Friday the 18th of January. We enjoy catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. As a scribe for the BHW we have an invitation to the BHW staff rooms where a welcome cup of tea is always waiting and the chance to sit down and have a chat with the other scribes and BHW staff. During the day we troll around the dozens of trade stands picking various items for the loft and birds and having a look at the pigeons in the show and those offered for sale by the well known stud lofts. There are also a few auctions staged in various hotels around the city and one in particular featuring pigeons from the top long distance lofts in the U.K. will attract my interest, but I suspect these will sell well above my price range, still it’s nice to be a looker! The evenings will be spent around the bars enjoying the banter and talking pigeons until late in the evening.

Good racing to all.

Brian Batchelor Elstead UK