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Brian’s Brit Blog July 2013.   Leave a comment

My seven year old 'Hardluck cock' showing damage from a peregrine falcon strike.

My seven year old ‘Hardluck cock’ showing damage from a peregrine falcon strike.

Well, another old bird season has been and gone and it has been a difficult one weather wise especially on the channel racing, with head winds most weeks, cold and wet in the early part of the season and extreme heat at the back end. My two target races the NFC Tarbes National and Combine Bergerac turned out badly. With the Tarbes race, the pigeons were held over for three days and and they had an afternoon liberation on the fourth day. The first pigeons arrived on the south coast of England about 2pm on the 2nd day, but arrivals were sparse. My first and only bird home to date from four sent, arrived in the afternoon of the third day, it was my seven year old blue cock named “Hardluck” and he lived up to his name, homing for a third time minus half his tail and some wing coverts from a peregrine falcon attack somewhere along the way. I accept some of the blame for the loss of the other three, as I sent them much too light weight for the prevailing  race conditions, having kept them on the light depurative diet too long, plus not giving them enough shorter channel racing prior to the event.

The Bergerac was a similar story, the build up race was from Saintes the same weekend as the Tarbes National and this turned out a tough race. I only got three on the day from eight, although the other five turned up the next day, but it had taken the sting out of them and they were not ready for the Bergerac race. I did however send one cock back, even though he was not quite right, but again it was a stinker of a race with only four birds timed on the day in our area, all to my friend Mick Tuck (I will report on this at a later date). Returns were few and far between on the second day and the majority of fanciers never got a bird home in race time. My single entry arrived at 6 am on the 3rd morning, which wasn’t a bad effort considering his preparation.

Sometimes a pigeon can do something against all the odds and accumulated wisdom of pigeon lore on how pigeons should be raced, such a case occurred a couple years ago with one of Mick Tucks pigeons. He was basketing his team for the Tarbes National, when checking each pigeon, one had broken a couple of flights and could not be sent. As the entry fee had been paid in advance as per the NFC rules, he looked through the rest of his race team for a replacement, but nothing was ready to go, then glanced in his young bird section and spotted an old stock hen that had been loaned to Darran McFadden for two years and had been locked up in Darran’s stock loft for all that time. She had been back in Mick’s loft for about four weeks and had been flying out each day with the young birds and had paired up with a young cock and laid eggs in the corner. Anyway, Mick picked her up and she felt o.k. so in the basket she went. Well, you guessed it, it was a very hard day, only two birds made it home on the day in our section and this old hen being sent without any training, was 1st clock station and 9th open National!!

We start our young bird programme next week and from the original 17 young birds I had, one was killed by a sparrow hawk, a peregrine had another three, one hit a wire and one has been lost training, leaving eleven for the start of racing. From all accounts, this is a better average than most, one of our club members is down to 22 from 110 having lost 45 in one toss when peregrine falcons hit them!

One loft that has done well this year is that of D & D McFadden and a loft report on their performances can be viewed below in ferg’s blog here.

Editors note-reading of the tremendous result of Mick Tuckers excellent hen, which had only been out for four weeks, flying daily I might add, having been locked up for two years, illustrates the point that a fresh, experienced pigeon, may be the better option than a tired, past its peak pigeon for a race like Tarbes, which incidentally is well into France. In fact, Tarbes is about 30 miles north of the Spanish border and about 15 miles north of the Pyrenees Mountains. Tarbes is about 15 miles due east of Pau. Perpignan and Barcelona are the only two longer British long distance race points. So Tarbes, Perpignan and Barcelona are similar ‘ballpark’ airline distances to an Invercargill to Auckland, airline pigeon race.

The above example goes against the grain of the argument ‘that we need to have a middle distance race liberation from such and such a race point this weekend to set the birds up for the longer distances’. What I illustrate here, is that pigeons can be bought back to a shorter race point that will suit the bulk of the pigeons in any given liberation, that is, if only two days are being considered for a liberation i.e. the pigeons don’t need to be bashed to build them up for the long distance events. Of course, I’m not talking about Auckland’s release protocol here. Holding the pigeons over till the worst of the ‘shit’ weather is through, is what we here in Auckland do thanks to Jim Cater, our liberation coordinator! Good on you Jim! However, the option of driving the pigeons back a bit towards home, to be fair to the pigeons liberated, also happens here in Auckland when required.

Auckland Federation are pigeon liberators of the ‘new millenium’ and have a release protocol to match this statement which is second to none, believe me!

Brian informs me also that the NFC transporter is state of the art with air conditioning, automatic drinkers and feeding troughs that insert into the crates which have wire bottoms to keep the birds off the floor. Sounds like the NFC has excellent transportation facilities, which certainly make a big difference if the pigeons need to be held over to give them a fairer run!

Posted July 30, 2013 by ferguselley in Brian's Brit Blog, U.k. news items

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Darran Mcfadden of Cranleigh, by Brian Batchelor of Elstead.   Leave a comment

Darren with his 2nd BICC 2nd Pau International outside his lovely new loft. the background.

Darran with his 2nd BICC, 2nd Pau International outside his loft.

I said to Darran last year that he had joined the elite after a successful 2012 season, this year he proved it by winning 2nd Pau International, against 8,527 pigeons.

This year Darran invested in a new Tranter loft, erected just in time for the start of the old bird season and some detractors said he would not do any good in the first year in a new loft, but he  proved them well wrong! The loft is 48 ft long and 8 ft deep, with a corridor running along the entire front, which can be closed off in sections, the loft has an apex tile roof. Ventilation is through the top under the overhang, both front and rear and I have to say I was always a skeptic of this system, but the air was sweet and clean in the loft, with no smell or dust. This year he raced 48 widowhood cocks and 36 widowhood hens, a few more hens are kept than he has partners for, so that a degree of jealousy was involved. Both his cocks and hens performed well right through the season.

Darran has developed a family of pigeons through hard testing on the road, one of the key pigeons is a white hen of Kirkpatrick origins that won him a London & SE Classic merit award. The Pau International winner is a Blue chequer hen off Van Berkel blood pigeons which were obtained at a clearance sale. Although Darran has little information on the ancestry line, her sire was also a top performer for Darran’s Cranleigh loft.

The parents of the Pau hen were thus obtained at a clearance sale by Darran’s Dad, Darran raced the parents and as just mentioned the sire was one of his best cocks, but he died in the winter and Darran was of two minds whether to keep racing the Pau hen or put her to stock, but he decided she still had a good race in her which proved to be the right decision. However, having won 2nd Pau International, she now is deservedly in the stock loft!
Three of his best performing cocks are grizzles out of the white Kirkpatrick line hen. His 2008 grizzle cock which was 11th BIIC Pau International and 234th International is out of the white hen and a Mick Tuck Cannon cock. His two half brothers (nestmates), also grizzles, were 3rd sect 14th open NFC Tarbes and 1st sect 4th open NFC Tarbes. Darran says his best pigeons are coming down from those early pigeons that were successful for him when he first started. Although he has introduced some new blood lines from a couple of other top lofts to try, but it is early days for these, as it can take time for these to acclimatise.
Darren with 11th BIIC Pau International and 234th International

Darran with 11th BIIC Pau International and 234th International.

Darran rears around 70 young birds and like most of us already has suffered a few losses training and most of these are from the new lines. One big mistake he made was not showing his young birds the outside of the loft before releasing them for the first time and when a hawk went over on their first outing, they went everywhere and were drifting back over the next two to three days and 12 were lost.

With the old bird race team, both sexes have two to three tosses prior to the first race, but after that, the cocks are not trained at all, unless they need a freshener before marking for a big race. Then they will get a toss from the coast about 30 miles. On the other hand the hens are tossed twice a week from the coast. Darran says, ‘rest is rust’ for the hens and they need to be worked! Young birds get as many tosses as possible before their first race and again twice a week during the season, young bird racing is not taken seriously, it is just a matter of sending them and counting what’s made it home.

With feeding the widowhood race team, both cocks and hens are fed the same Gem widowhood mixed with Versele-Laga super star plus and energy plus depending on what races are coming up and peanuts are added in the last few days before marking for a major event. On race day they get Gem G10 pellets with light corn to restore their body, the birds are never broken down with depurative, as Darran says ‘they are already broken down from racing without depriving them further’ and he believes hungry pigeons won’t fly. So his have as much to eat as they want and his cocks will fly around home for up to two and half hours without any problems. On this feeding regime, his Pau International hen arrived home in the same condition as she went, with no noticeable body muscle loss.

Regarding medication, his pigeons only get their annual PMV vaccination and once a year a drop of Harka-Mectin on the back of the neck for lice and worms, no other treatments are given. However, Darran is great believer in natural supplements to enhance the pigeons natural immunity. Cider vinegar and garlic are added to the drinker, four days a week, probiotics from Dr Brockamp are given twice a week on the corn mixed with a little garlic oil, gemthepax is also added twice a week to the corn and naturaline is also given.

Darran races in partnership with his Dad Des, who was instrumental in getting Darran started, but unfortunately has not been in the best of health lately and at the time of my visit was back in hospital.

Posted July 30, 2013 by ferguselley in Brian's Brit Blog, U.k. news items

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One step closer to the grave for PETA part II-‘If PETA ruled the world!’   Leave a comment

Imagine a world without pets or companion animals as Ingrid Newkirk insists on calling them. A core of people in the PETA organisation are aiming for this. Their desire is that animals never be chained, caged, eaten, experimented on, worn or used for entertainment. They are hard at work campaigning for the outlawing of zoos and circuses too.

An example of this is their campaigning with some success in some states of America to ban pitbull terriers. It is just the start of PETA’s efforts to systematically destroy the rights of American citizens to eat meat and animal products, own pets, hunt, fish, breed animals and view them at zoos and wildlife reserves. One day America, in the future, the world!

Peta at times like to quote Adolf Hitler as a man who was a champion for animal rights. In doing so, are they implying that their view of animal rights and humans is similar to the Nazis, since we know what the Nazis did to the Jews? Six million of them were brutally euthanised in Hitler’s concentration camps. Funny how PETA used those holocaust concentration images to highlight their total revulsion with factory farming. PETA in the end were forced to apologise to current day Jews, but used the lame excuse that Jewish people in PETA instigated and dreamed up the comparison of the Holocaust murdering of Jews with current day factory farming!

Don’t get me wrong, I am in favour of better conditions for the likes of chickens and pigs. Progress is being made around the world. I would like to see it happen faster. For instance, I’d prefer to see free range chicken farming for both eggs and meat. Perhaps governments need to take these issues even more seriously and subsidise both free range eggs, pig and poultry meat.

So what are the figures for PETA’s Norfolk Virginia headquarters with respect to animals adopted out? In 2012 only 10.8 percent of the pets taken in by PETA at their headquarters in Norfolk Virginia escaped the syringe and hypodermic needle; 94.1 percent of the cats and 82.1 percent of the dogs ended up in Ingrid’s walk-in freezer!

A total of 1,675 cats, dogs, and “other companion animals” are listed in the column headed “Euthanised.” Plus 72 unlucky wild animals.

Now Ingrid recently placed her ‘spin’ on these figures, saying that they only take in really bad cases and others go on to other animal shelters set up for adoption. I realise that some animals are suffering in a major way with bad facial cancers that may’ve eaten a good chunk of a dog or cats face away, but surely not all these animals euthanised needed to be, surely not!

I have written in a couple of previous articles on PETA that perhaps they could help adopt out surplus racing pigeons around the world. In the back of my mind and maybe yours too if you love animals, would be the thought, “Are they still alive”. Nathan Winograd whom PETA don’t particularly like has written about this type of situation in-depth. Google his name and you’ll find quite easily what I am talking about.

If PETA ruled the world there’d be laws forbidding the eating of animal products. Animal breeds once used for humankind’s nutrition would be phased out. How they would do this the mind boggles, but I have a brief vision of many ‘vans of death’, sorry, ‘trucks of death’ to cart off the animals which PETA wouldn’t be able to find a home that they deemed suitable for, regardless of the health and age of the animal.

The alternative, which is releasing all the farmed chickens, pigs, sheep, cows and goats e.t.c. into the wild, is a somewhat daunting one and hence the need perhaps for those ‘trucks of death’ which come to mind when I contemplate, if PETA did rule the world! Would this really happen if PETA ruled the world, well it’s certainly on the cards!

There is nothing wrong with PETA being a champion for animals and their rights, but sometimes I have another vision of what they might be really up to and it reminds me of ancient cultures such as the Babylonians, the Egyptians and in parts of the world today, where animals are still adored, worshiped and deified, even rats! Animal worship!

PETA seemed to have rejected their own species, humans, the alpha species in today’s natural world and usurped humans with animals, even fish, which they’ve suggested we call sea kittens! Yes, a hook would hurt in the fish’s mouth, but humankind has been catching fish with hooks for eons. A simple bang on the fishes head is a very humane way to kill the fish once landed.

How does all this relate to racing pigeons, since that is what you’ve come to this site to read up on and be stimulated by? If you haven’t read the previous two articles on PETA then please do so, they are below. The more recent condensed version is the one available for public publishing in newspapers, pigeon magazines and the like, if you’d like to request it from me.

In brief, PETA have declared war on pigeon racing worldwide. Although they’re seen as a ‘bunch of crackpots’ by most in this world, we shouldn’t take them lightly. Hitler comes to mind here, how Chamberlain tried to appease him and we all know what happened there. Therefore we must all unite under the common umbrella of this great hobby and past time which humankind has practiced for centuries. Many civilisations have benefited from the pigeons’ homing skills for eons e.g. the Romans and Genghis Khans use of carrier pigeons as winged messengers. In fact the Greeks used them to proclaim the winner of the Olympics and further back still, they were used as messengers between outposts in ancient Egypt.

What do I see as the future for the organisation PETA? Well one thing’s for sure, they’re not going to meet their demise in the near future. I guess I could see them lasting perhaps another couple of decades. Hopefully other animal rights groups will rise up and become a stronger and more credible voice than PETA’s. Hopefully they will attain a balance that is lacking in PETA!

There already exists around the world a whole myriad of animal welfare organisations which provide checks and balances for PETA currently. These are the ones that we should support financially and by our voluntary time.

Don’t get me wrong, PETA has achieved some great things such as reducing the experimentation on animals is one area that comes to mind, whether it be cosmetics or human drugs. In fact PETA, founded in 1980 by Newkirk and Pacheco was clearly established as an internationally known organisation in 1981 when they exposed some nasty experiments in a Maryland facility involving Silver Spring monkeys. Although the State investigation took ten years, it resulted in prosecutions, the facility was closed down and an amendment in 1985 to America’s Animal Welfare Act was made.

Another great achievement by PETA was exposing the cruel and degrading practices in the Thai elephant industry e.g. the use of iron rods and hooks on the elephants to break their spirit. The caging of bears for the milking of their bile salts is another issue which PETA has campaigned hard against with some success. The Pentagon stopping shooting pigs and goats in wounds tests, another achievement I rate highly.

These are just four examples of the good things which PETA have done, really good things. However PETA uses controversial protest techniques and billboard campaigns, at times to their detriment. Using the female body to get its message across, including the use of porn stars is hardly a gratifying way to win the support of women in this world, especially given that in some countries women are still second class citizens. Sex sells PETA says, a pity though, that they don’t use more images of animals in their campaigns rather than us humans.

If things are really so bad in farming around the world then surely just providing the clear, cold facts graphically is as convincing as anything. Otherwise PETA are simply seen as exploiting and degrading women. However if PETA are right and animals are superior to us, then in their minds the abuse of women in their ads is justified! So too I’d assume in PETA’s minds were their posters of a child eating meat with the slogan ‘feeding kids meat is child abuse’. Given the rampant child abuse around the world I’m sure there’d be many that would find that offensive!

I also wonder how much PETA pay people like Sir Paul McCartney and a whole raft of women celebrities to do ads for them. It has been said that PETA have made the mistake of confusing attention for approval, and controversy with actually being right. Sometimes I just can’t help seeing PETA as the spoilt little child who’s craving for everyone’s attention. The media surely will give it freely and Ingrid has said in the past re the media, that “PETA have a duty to be press sluts” and admit openly on their website that they use provocative imagery to get attention. In their eyes, the gain for animals is worth the pain for women, abused children, and holocaust victims’ e.t.c. Incredible isn’t it? I guess one might surmise that their perceived reality differs from many of us.

PETA seem to concentrate a lot on getting the vegan message out there. If they want to be vegan and not enjoy the nutritional benefits of animal products i.e. meat, eggs, milk and other dairy products and fish, then that’s their choice. Humans are the alpha species and traditionally we are ‘hunter gatherers’, our bodies have actually evolved to eat these products, perhaps not in the amounts that some people eat, but for most people eating these things are normal, totally moral and totally health benefiting! So I’m afraid that PETA are just a little wrong on this one! Oh well, you can’t win them all PETA! Besides, humans are not the only species which eat meat in this world!

Finally, we ask the question, “How could PETA affect pigeon racing worldwide?” From my research the organisation including Ingrid are quite happy to attempt to slowly but surely change the face of factory farming in America by actually working with some of the big companies. In other words they are prepared to lower their temporal expectations in exchange for gradual change. This has earned them staunch criticism from those outside of PETA who label PETA ‘The new Welfarists’ and they see them as copping out and not being true ‘Animal Rights Activists’.

Unfortunately for PETA, with respect to racing pigeons both in America and the U.K., PETA has taken an ‘in your face’ approach and personally I’d be surprised if any organisation anywhere in the world connected to racing pigeons would be willing to work with PETA given for example the lies and deceit in the PETA Graveyard Races U.K. video. Further, their attempts to catch the media wave and stir up anti pigeon racing sentiment for example with the recent Chinese bird flu outbreak. In this case they’re appealing to U.K. authorities to postpone Channel racing. This is viewed by many in the public arena and us pigeon fanciers as being another opportunistic move by PETA. Remember, China is many thousands of miles away from the U.K. It will have to spread to closer countries and anyway, don’t a truckload of wild birds cross the Channel on a regular basis? There’s that word ‘truck’ again!

This smacks to me of pride and our role as fellow fanciers is to get informed about them. Expose their soft underbelly e.g. their high kill rates in their Virginia shelter and the terrible way they twist things. Also be very wary that whatever you might say to fellow fliers might be taped and filmed by probably a well meaning person attempting a sting on pigeon racing, but the problem here is, like the devil himself, PETA mixes a little bit of fact, with a big dose of beguiling lies. Perhaps the devil has infiltrated PETA big time? That would make sense, as I do kinda see them as a quasi-religious group, even if I agree with some of their policies and applaud some of their victories!

But then not everyone believes in the Lord, let alone the devil.

Posted April 19, 2013 by ferguselley in Food for thought, U.k. news items

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U.K. PETA cook their own goose in attempt to make racing pigeon pie!   Leave a comment

Tasty Roast Goose.    Too many lies by PETA UK has certainly cooked their anti pigeon racing arguments!

Tasty Roast Goose. Too many lies by PETA UK has certainly cooked their anti pigeon racing arguments!

Fergus Elley, a racing pigeon enthusiast, former Veterinarian and long term Chronic Fatigue sufferer replies to the PETA’s U.K. video allegations of the fancy.

Have PETA gone totally “rabid” in their attempt to “liberate all the worlds animals”, free suffering pets from this earthly existence and totally undermine societies’ rights to own animals? Fergus wonders.

It is public knowledge that PETA wishes to shutdown pigeon racing worldwide. However, all Fergus thinks they will achieve is to be made to look rather stupid again. People around the world are becoming increasingly fed up with PETA and their controversial, sometimes quite bizarre media promotions.

PETA probably started out with good intentions 33 years ago but now there are just so many hidden agendas! Banning pigeon racing worldwide is just one of them, but what’s next, banning recreational fishing or guide dogs! Banning all dog breeds created by humans is another known agenda.

PETA started the ball rolling against racing pigeons some time ago and their futile attempts so far include protesting outside Mike Tyson’s Las Vegas home in 2008 prior to the screening of the great series, ‘Taking on Tyson’ by Animal Planet. The six part series showed Mike Tyson in a completely different light. No longer the ‘bad boy’ he’s portrayed as an excellent ambassador for pigeon racing and has a great love for his pigeons.

Fergus thinks that attacking the Queen is just another of PETA’s attention seeking media gimmicks. The Queen has Royal Lofts on Sandringham Estate containing around 250 racing pigeons. Her Majesty is also the patron of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association (RPRA) in England. Her birds regularly take part in UK races, and she has had racing pigeons since she was a child which she inherited from her grandfather.

The video starts with release footage of the Fougeres Young Bird National race on September 1st 2012 from France to English lofts. PETA incorrectly assert that 90% of the pigeons were lost including the Queen’s four birds which may’ve homed in after the race closed. Fergus says that PETA is misguided and the figures PETA is using simply don’t contain the full result of all the pigeons returning in race time.

Furthermore, in any pigeon race from anywhere, pigeons often return home after the race is closed. Fergus had one hen turn up almost a year later from a long distance race. A friend had one turn up three years later from the same racepoint and many turn up in the weeks following the race. Fergus says it is simply a fallacy that most pigeons can’t find some food in the wild of some description.

PETA says that ‘particularly for young birds crossing the Channel for the first time is extremely daunting’. This is partly true, if not misconstrued. The fact is that pigeons, like wild migratory birds need to learn to cross water and some birds are more innately gifted to do this than others. Pigeons do not only orientate by sight, they feel their way home by instinct, including over bodies of water. Some pigeons simply aren’t as gifted and, to coin a PETA type of cliche, they ‘fly to freedom’ by, in this case, perhaps staying in France.

Additionally, to assert that pigeons always fly close to the water’s surface Fergus says is not true. This happens mainly in headwinds, particularly strong ones and if the person looking after the pigeons has done their job right the pigeons will still be in the shelter of the pigeon transporter!

Fergus says, for example, in the case of a tail wind that the pigeons circle high and then when the flock has enough confidence they cross high and at great speeds.

Fergus also refutes the statement “that flying over water is more of a risk than flying over land”. There are no power lines, TV aerials or chimneys over water for one. There are also no birds of prey i.e. raptors! On land there are many peregrine. These raptors have devastating effects on pigeon racing in the UK. It is not so much the number that they kill, but that they cause the racing flocks to split up and scatter all over the place. Many become disoriented and lost as a result, especially young inexperienced racing pigeons.

Fergus says that for most fanciers around the world, pigeons are extensions of the family, just like your cat or dog. Orientating back home to their respective lofts in a race is what pigeons do naturally. They grow to love it. They are very well cared for. They have a much better life than the ‘street pigeons’ that have to scavenge for food daily and find shelter sometimes in very bitter winters.

Fergus says that pigeons winning medals in World War II is all the more reason to preserve the keeping of racing pigeons in honour of all the gutsy pigeons that came back to their lofts shot up.

Fergus says that the assertion that ‘the punters just having a flutter’ is incorrect, too, as in many parts of the world today there is very little money in pigeon racing. Fergus for one, as a person with a major health disability, enjoys the challenge of conditioning his birds for racing and breeding, just like many livestock breeders do.

Fergus emphasises that he might not be alive without the pigeons. He lived in the back of a lady’s garage for seven years from 1990 in Auckland, New Zealand. The pigeons gave him both solace and enjoyment as a very sick, single man. He eventually married and has two girls now aged 11 and 13. His wife says if he’d chucked the towel in, as many do with chronic illnesses, the girls wouldn’t have the enjoyment of their lives and the world would be a poorer place!

Fergus believes we need to promote the sport more around the world amongst those with infirmities. He says caring for animals or birds is better than anything else to keep one’s head above water when one has a chronic health problem.

So he has much reason to defend the sport. He knows the situation over in England and with regard to race liberations it is a very good one. They try very hard to get it right!

Fergus says that he loses very few pigeons in a year, racing up to 750 miles. In the natural world a lot more animals and birds over the course of a year become statistics e.g. the Mara River Wildebeest crossing and the migration of birds e.g. the Bar-tailed Godwit from the Arctic to New Zealand and back again within the year. Some flying to New Zealand as young as three months old with one female called “E7” setting a nonstop flight record of 11,680 kilometres from Alaska to New Zealand.

Fergus wonders if rehoming racing pigeons whose racing careers are over could become a policy which PETA could adopt in the future to show how much they care for pigeons.

Fergus says that PETA also had a swipe at the Barcelona International race which U.K. pigeons can participate in. Pigeons from Europe and the U.K. are very carefully prepared for these races. No stone is ‘left unturned’ in racing pigeon preparation for these long distance race events. Most fanciers will only send pigeons to these races that they think have a high chance of navigating the distance, usually just a handful at the most.

Of course there are hazards, just like there are for wild birds and for the pigeon it is the natural thing to fly home. Fergus says he personally doesn’t think there is a great risk of the pigeons perishing at sea if the flight is a very long one, e.g. Barcelona. Pigeons are highly intelligent and the UK pigeon is more likely to find some shelter e.g. in France and move on in the early hours the next day. Good liberators wait for forecasts of good settled weather for enough days for all the different countries pigeons entered in the International Barcelona race.

Fergus says that to say that pigeon racing is a blood sport is ridiculous. Fergus’s pigeons aren’t culled nowadays and he has many old ones that he doesn’t breed off due to their old age. These are the real trophies Fergus says!

Fergus therefore thinks that pigeon racing is capable of regulating itself without PETA’s interference. He can see clearly that PETA has a concern for animals and suggests that PETA look at working together with the respected racing pigeon organisations throughout the world to jointly make life better for racing pigeons. That is what he would do if he was a ‘mover or shaker’ in the PETA organisation!

 

 

Posted April 13, 2013 by ferguselley in Food for thought, U.k. news items

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One step closer to the grave for PETA or ‘just another brick in the wall’!   2 comments

Peta or pigeon racing. I know which one I would send to the cemetery.

Peta or pigeon racing. I know which one I would send to the cemetery!!

Yesterday, I was viewing Peta’s YouTube video ‘Graveyard Races’ and I happened to ask my young daughters about it. They answered me that “it sounded like a young Queen’s voice”. I can’t help wondering if that is intentional by PETA and I find it quite distasteful. What do you think readers?

It is public knowledge that PETA wish to shutdown pigeon racing worldwide. However, all I think they will achieve is to be made to look stupid again. There are many online commentaries about PETA, (if you have time to view them then I suggest you try YouTube). It seems many in PETA’s country of origin, i.e. America, have something to say about PETA.

There is even what some describe as a parody PETA site both in website form and on Facebook viz P.E.T.A. which they say stands for ‘people eating tasty animals’. I guess some might say that’s in your face, but isn’t that what PETA appears to be doing at times in their campaigns? PETA’s FAQ’s informs us that they do this since PETA’s advertising budget is limited?

Free speech is a great thing but it is important to do your best to get the facts right!

PETA started the ball rolling against racing pigeons some time ago and their futile attempts so far include protesting outside Mike Tyson’s Las Vegas home in 2008 prior to the screening of the great series, ‘Taking on Tyson’ by Animal Planet. They achieved nothing there apart from giving the appearance of being stupid in my opinion. I thought that the six part show was great. Mike and the boys were excellent ambassadors for pigeon racing and gave us something to aim for i.e. the comradery and love between the fanciers and the love for their pigeons, which we all know as pigeon fanciers are extensions of our family.

Did you watch the ‘Taking on Tyson’ series by Animal Planet and what did you think of it? Please take some time to comment below.

Moving on now to the Graveyard video and PETA’s upfront challenge to the Queen:  For those of you who didn’t know, the Queen of England i.e. her majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second has Royal Lofts on Sandringham Estate containing around 250 racing pigeons. Her Majesty is also the patron of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association (RPRA) in England. Her birds regularly take part in UK races, and she has had racing pigeons since she was a child.

The video starts with what we are told is release footage of the Fougeres Young Bird National race on September 1st 2012 from France to English lofts. Its title is Graveyard Races-A Peta Undercover Investigation.

5560 birds were released and PETA assert that only 622 returned and thus allege that 90% of the birds were lost including all of the Queen’s birds. Incidentally her Royal Lofts only sent four racing pigeons and some may’ve homed in after the race closed. PETA’s assertion of course is rubbish and misguided and the figures PETA is using simply don’t contain the full result of all the pigeons returning in race time, as the official result didn’t contain all the pigeons timed in. Additionally, most fanciers using the non electronic system don’t clock all their returning birds. Electronic clocks may also be disconnected from their power source and pigeons returning thereafter, even though in race time, have not been recorded.

Furthermore, in any pigeon race from anywhere, pigeons often return home after the race is closed. I had one hen turn up almost a year later from a long distance race. A friend had one turn up three years later from the same racepoint and usually, many turn up in the weeks following the race. It is a fallacy that most pigeons can’t find some food in the wild of some description.

Moving on now to a point PETA makes in this video i.e. ‘particularly for young birds crossing the Channel for the first time is extremely daunting’. This is partly true, if not misconstrued. The fact is that pigeons need to learn to cross the water and some birds are more innately gifted to do this than others. Pigeons do not only orientate by sight, they feel their way home including over bodies of water. Some pigeons simply aren’t as gifted and, to coin a PETA type of cliche, they ‘fly to freedom’ by, in this case, perhaps staying in France.

Additionally, to assert that pigeons always fly close to the water’s surface is a load of crock. This happens mainly in headwinds, particularly strong ones and if the liberator has done their job right the pigeons will still be being looked after in the shelter of the pigeon transporter!

Just to clear that up for the inexperienced flier or non pigeon fancier reading this. For example, in the case of a tail wind i.e. one assisting the pigeons across the body of water, the pigeons circle high and then when enough of them have orientated to give the flock confidence they cross and they can cross very high and at great speeds. Please get your facts right PETA, you are being made to look ignorant here!

Next, they move onto a clip from a National Geographic programme which Taiwanese TV makers filmed after a release of pigeons at sea in Taiwan over a decade ago. These pigeons have just come off the boat after it lurched. Many thousands of pigeons were let go from the boat at that time and some subsequently landed in the sea.

This is a snippet of a video on YouTube. It isn’t U.K. pigeons and it appears that PETA is trying to make out that these are ‘flown out’ or ‘tied up’ pigeons that can’t fly anymore. To me it’s deceitful and as soon as I saw this segment I knew straight away where it was from. Good try PETA, be a bit more honest next time!

Pigeon racing in Taiwan is completely different than other parts of the world; we don’t let pigeons go at sea in the western world. In Taiwan they do it to help stop cheating. Look at YouTube and search ‘Racing Pigeon in Taiwan by English version’ for more of a picture of Taiwanese pigeon racing. I’ve also been to Taiwan several times so I know the full situation.

Personally, I would refute the statement that flying over water is more of a risk than flying over land. There are no power lines, TV aerials or chimneys over water for one. There are also no birds of prey i.e. raptors!

Perhaps racing pigeons flying over the English Channel are  a lot safer than PETA would have any persons gullible enough in the public to believe! There are no raptors out to sea such as the peregrine whereas there are many on land. These raptors have been having devastating effects on pigeon racing in the UK in recent years. It is not so much the number that they kill, but that they cause the racing flocks to split up and scatter all over the place. Many become disoriented and lost as a result, especially young inexperienced racing pigeons.

The main thing, whether it be races with or without a water crossing, is that the liberators do their job right and if in doubt wait until conditions are right for a good race, i.e. delaying the release until the following day or days if necessary.

However, I am confident that the racing pigeon organisations particularly in the western world have protocols in place to protect the welfare of all the racing pigeons they both transport and liberate.

PETA’s next line of attack in this video is to degrade pigeon racers even more by implying we are sending pigeons away to races just for a bit of fun and a flutter. I do not agree with this.

Our pigeons are extensions of our families. There is a strong bond between the fancier and their pigeons. Orientating back home to their respective lofts in a race is what the pigeons do naturally. They grow to love it. They are very well cared for. They have a much better life than the ‘street pigeons’ that have to scavenge for food daily and find shelter sometimes in very bitter winters.

The fact that pigeons won medals in World War II last century e.g. pigeons won the Dickens medal for bravery (a Victoria cross pigeon equivalent), is all the more reason to preserve the keeping of racing pigeons in honour of all the gutsy pigeons that came back to their lofts shot up. Cher Ami comes to mind and I clearly remember being amazed to hear the account of this pigeon as a young boy.

Cher Ami delivered 12 important messages during WWI. Cher Ami was shot through the breast and returned with a message capsule dangling from the ligaments of one of his legs. The message was from the “Lost Battalion” that had been isolated from other American forces. Just a few hours after the message was received, 194 survivors out of the 550 were again safe because of Cher Ami’s heroism.

While I think of it, if the world does experience widespread telecommunication and internet breakdown in the future, who knows, we might just need the humble pigeon again to carry messages. Don’t count on always being able to communicate so freely in this age of internet hackers and military use of cyberspace. Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 comes to mind here, they downed Georgia’s internal and external communication as they launched the offensive.

Re the assertion that ‘the punters just having a flutter’. In many parts of the world today there is very little money in pigeon racing. I for one, as a person with a major health disability, enjoy the challenge of conditioning my birds for racing and the breeding side I enjoy even more i.e. the attempt to breed better pigeons just as many livestock breeders enjoy such past times.

For myself personally to be totally frank, I might not be alive without the pigeons. I lived in the back of a lady’s garage for seven years from 1990 and the pigeons gave me both solace and enjoyment as a very sick, single man. I am married and have two girls now, 11 and 12 about to turn 13. If I’d chucked the towel in, as many do with chronic illnesses, then they wouldn’t have the enjoyment of their lives and the world would be a poorer place.

We need to promote the sport more amongst those with infirmities around the world as I believe caring for animals or birds is better than anything else to keep one’s head above water when one has a chronic health problem.

So I have much reason to defend the sport. I know the situation over in England in regard to liberations is a very good one. They try very hard to get it right!

There are articles on U.K. liberations on this ferguspigeonman.wordpress.com site for those who wish to read them under the archive category of  U.k. news items. These are articles by Keith Mott and Terry Williams.

PETA have got themselves into this fight starting with a dispute against their own USA pigeon racers and are currently really stirring it up. PETA are against some aspects of keeping companion animals and racing pigeons are classed as companion animals which we farm in my opinion.

PETA are against a lot of things including eating meat. I have clear memories of teenage girls not looking after themselves when I was a teenager by abstaining from meat products. PETA are free to promote veganism and the rest of us that eat meat can enjoy it and be thankful that the world is changing in its animal husbandry methods e.g. the trend towards organic free range chickens and eggs.

I’ll admit that by eating a nice roast chicken that I may deprive it of a full and long life. Will vegetarian PETA members admit that they deprive many vegetables of a full and reproductive life e.g. baby corn in the can and baby carrots come to mind here!

PETA are against many things and I encourage you to read up on them on the net and if you feel strongly enough about the things they say, then perhaps you could write your opinion on the net, even if it is just commenting on this site. There are a lot of YouTube videos mainly by young people against PETA’s ideas and activities. Place a comment on the site and I’ll email you the links if you like without posting your comment.

We should also tell you about the alleged very high percentage of animals that PETA have euthanized in the past at its animal shelters in Virginia. Shouldn’t they be relocating many of those animals that they put down to other places in America to give them the long and full life they deserve?

Returning to the Graveyard video: The clip of the guy holding three dead pigeons is likely from an International Barcelona liberation involving tens of thousands of pigeons during which some pigeons have been unlucky and flown into something and been traumatised leading to death.

I cannot comment on how many pigeons are left at the seasons end in the U.K. but I can comment on my own lofts losses. Young birds 2012 I lost 8% of the team during racing and the same amount in the Old Bird season. Our longest race for me is Invercargill (750 miles) through a lower North Island breaking point. We also fly Timaru (560 miles) and Christchurch (450 miles) and Ward (330 miles) to my loft. So an 8% loss is quite acceptable and in the natural world a lot more animals and birds over the course of a year become statistics e.g. the Mara River Wildebeest crossing and the migration of birds e.g. the Bar-tailed Godwit from the Arctic to New Zealand and back again within the year, some flying to New Zealand as young as three months old and some flying direct, perhaps non-stop!!

One female called “E7” on 29 August 2007 flew non-stop from Western Alaska to New Zealand, setting a new known flight record of 11,680 kilometres.

I will add that if any of the pigeons lost last year in Old Birds return then I will keep them. The pigeon mentioned earlier which returned from a 450 mile race a year later with a damaged wing I still have! However, for those fliers that cull pigeons, that is their choice. I suffer much and the sicker I have become the softer I get because the pigeons didn’t ask to be born. I know many fanciers personally who are on the ‘same page’ as myself pigeon welfare wise.

On that note, would any of the worldwide PETA branches be willing to find homes for fanciers’ cull pigeons around the world, as it is difficult to find loving homes for these pigeons. The average fancier shouldn’t be ‘bagged’ by PETA because they farm racing pigeons and want the best possible performers, whether for racing or breeding! Perhaps rehoming racing pigeons whose racing careers are over to loving homes is a policy which PETA could in the future adopt to show how much they care for pigeons.

Following the video again, we do need to be careful with our liberations especially with the global warming phenomena affecting the world’s weather. As I mentioned earlier, the U.K. set up for liberations is up with the times. They are very well organised and Stewart Wardrop of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association has written a very sincere letter as a public statement and press release to address PETA’s allegations.

Now back to PETA’s video: PETA has a swipe at the Barcelona International race which U.K. pigeons can participate in. Pigeons from Europe and the U.K. are very carefully prepared for these races. No stone is ‘left unturned’ in the preparation of racing pigeons for these long distance race events. Most fliers will only send pigeons to these races that they think have a high chance of navigating the distance.

Of course there are hazards, just like there are for wild birds and for the pigeon it is the natural thing to fly home. Hazards for any birds may include power lines, TV aerials, chimneys, birds of prey, people who indiscriminately shoot birds, predators such as cats e.t.c. at night if the pigeon doesn’t home on the day.

I personally don’t think there is a great risk of the pigeons perishing at sea if the flight is a very long one, e.g. Barcelona. Pigeons are highly intelligent and the UK pigeon is more likely to find some shelter e.g. in France and move on in the early hours the next day. Good liberators wait for forecasts of good settled weather for a number of days for all the pigeons entered from the different countries, such as for the International Barcelona race. A lot of thought and weather observation and ringing along the line of flight is done for pigeon racing all around the world.

Back to the video: Only some pigeon fanciers refer to pigeons that haven’t featured in their racing as ‘rubbish’, That is a pigeon fancier slang term used by some. However, if pigeon fanciers wish to cull a high percentage of their racers at the season’s end i.e. as yearlings or two year olds, then that is their choice; but they need to cull them within the laws of their own country. The clip in the video of the chap pulling the head off a pigeon in a bag is not the typical way that fanciers cull their pigeons. This guy did a messy job, I’d agree with that!

Looking at things logically, how does a fancier culling pigeons and perhaps making a tasty dish with them differ from a vegan growing or buying baby carrots for their consumption. Both the pigeon and vegetable have been robbed of a long life! If I had a choice between being a baby carrot or a baby sweet corn cob, the later in a can, or a racing pigeon, I’d choose to be a racing pigeon!

PETA, you’re definitely barking up the wrong tree with the racing pigeon fraternity in America and the U.K. Tidy up your own backyard and re-home more of those animals that you’ve been euthanizing, they can’t all be suffering or behaving so badly that they need to be put down!

There’s a saying that ‘you need to choose your battles wisely’. Pick the ones you can win PETA. Pigeon racing is capable of regulating itself without PETA’s interference.

Finally, I can see clearly that PETA has a concern for animals. But I think once again you are using very ‘controversial media tactics’ and you clearly state this in your site’s FAQ category. Is the public really supposed to assume that this is one of your preferred ‘modus operandi’s’ and just to save advertising money?? I think that’s a bit lame and the other reason could be to provoke.

PETA, don’t you think that working together with both the respected racing pigeon organisations throughout the world and other perhaps even more successful animal welfare agencies (maybe not in the number of members PETA has but perhaps in animal rehoming figures) is a much wiser path for PETA to take. That is what I would do if I was a ‘mover or shaker’ in the PETA organisation.

Any questions or right of reply from you PETA can be emailed to me directly at ferguselley@gmail.com or through my site ferguspigeonman.wordpress.com. I’d love to hear from you!

A very similar article to this one is available to be used for free on any internet site or any other public forum on request to myself.

Posted April 7, 2013 by ferguselley in Food for thought, U.k. news items

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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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Brian’s Brit Blog October 2012   1 comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till next time good racing to all.

Brian.

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

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Brian’s Brit Blog Bergerac cock part 2   1 comment

I thought I may as well give you some background on my Bergerac winner for the blog.
This Blue White Flight cock is a yearling now named SUPER BLUE and he flew in three inland and two shorter Channel races prior to going to Bergerac 440 miles. As with all my pigeons he is flown on my simplified version of the total widowhood system i.e. the hens and cocks are separated all week but trap into the cocks compartment which houses the nest boxes on race day, the pairs spending some time together, the length of time depending on how hard the race has been. Two days prior to basketing, SUPER BLUE’s  hen laid an egg on the floor in the hens section so I lifted her and the egg, placed them in their nest box and she immediately sat it and laid the second egg in the afternoon he was marked  so he was well aware of this change in events so must have been that bit extra keen to get home. This motivation must have stayed with him in spite of 6 days in the basket being held over for 2 days due to bad weather. He is a SUPERCRACK, a strain of pigeons named after their famous ancestor rather than the fancier Gruson who raced him. The original SUPERCRACK was the winner of 3 National races and went on to breed National winners. In one race he was first and his direct son 2nd. The origins of Supercrack are a bit murky, he was one of a dozen youngsters obtained by Gruson from a fancier named Hovaere one of my Belgium contacts believes he was of Bricoux/Commines blood.
SUPERCRACK and all related pigeons were purchased by Robert Venus in 1974 who developed the line into the renowned family that has done well wherever they have been raced. However they are not easy to acquire and tend to be rather expensive whenever any come on the market. I managed to get the sire of my  cock from a clearance  sale and the dam from Axleholme Lofts who have a few pairs in their stud. I have since purchased another cock from Axleholme and I have found a young hen from another source  to strengthen the line in my loft also.

Posted August 26, 2012 by ferguselley in Brian's Brit Blog, U.k. news items

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Brian’s Brit Blog July 2012   1 comment

Greetings from a damp and dreary water-logged Britain, the British weather at best is fickle, but this summer in Britain has been something else, being reported as the wettest since records began. The culprit is the jet stream which normally flows above Scotland, but this year it has dropped down across northern Europe and is cycling around siphoning up tons of water from the Atlantic and dumping it on us. At the time of writing there are ten days to go before the Olympic Games start so I can only hope for the sake of the athletes and visitors alike that it shifts back up to northerly regions.

Of course the weather affects all living things including our racing pigeons. This has meant a very high rate of attrition indeed and our local SMT Combine like many other organisations had to cancel one of the Channel races from Messac and run a shorter inland race instead, also the Combiner had to join forces with the London & South East Classic and Central Southern Classic clubs to transport the pigeons for our Blue Riband race from Bergerac at the end of the season. However it has not been all doom and gloom and some excellent performances have been put up by game pigeons that have beaten the conditions. I summarise some of these major over 500 mile events as follows: –

Pau International British section was won by J Shipperfield of Herne Bay with a velocity of 1203 ypm, when there were a good number of pigeons recorded on the day.

Tarbes Grand National: After a one day holdover a late liberation was made the next day at 1.45 pm to prevent the birds from reaching the Channel late on the day. The weather forecast showed some rain in France on the line of flight but some pigeons broke through this and the first pigeons were timed late morning on the 2nd day, the weather here packed up soon after with heavy rain showers all day and continuing the next day, so after the early returns the arrivals slowed to a trickle. The winning pigeon was owned by Mark Bulled doing a velocity of 1203 ypm.

Barcelona International British section was won by the ace fancier Mark Gilbert of Windsor doing a velocity of 1028 ypm. One of my local club mates Ray Hammond was a very credible 5th and 14th.

Agen International British section was won by C.Simmons of Basildon on a velocity of 1149 ypm.

Unfortunately the NRCC Lerwick race was cancelled and the pigeons were brought home due to a long period of very bad weather.

Rather than bore readers with endless results I will deviate and tell a couple of rather strange stories on the behaviour of pigeons that throws an interesting light on their intelligence that I believe is often under estimated by us fanciers. The first concerns a pigeon of mixed breed that is owned by a lady in my village named Ingrid that keeps a few pigeons as pets. Her favourite and boss of her loft is a Blue Pied cock named “Frankie”.  This pigeon flies up to her, coos and carries on when ever he wants her attention. Well about a month ago late one evening Ingrid and her husband were sitting inside watching TV when Frankie kept flying up onto the window sill and calling to Ingrid. Eventually Ingrid’s husband said for heaven’s sake Ingrid go out see what that pigeon wants. Well Ingrid went outside and Frankie flew down and walked around the side of their car next to their boundary hedge. Ingrid followed him around and there on the ground was a completely flown out racing pigeon. As soon as  Ingrid picked it up Frankie immediately flew back to the loft and up onto his perch. This racer turned out to belong to one of our club members Mr and Mrs Durrant and sons and was missing from that weekends Channel race from Cholet and it had finally dropped exhausted a mere two miles from home. Naturally the Durrants were delighted to get it back.

The next story occurred about the same time, on this occasion I was sitting watching TV early evening about 5.30pm when a pigeon swept around then dropped onto the landing board and went straight in. I thought, that’s funny, I have no pigeons out at the moment so I went down to the loft to investigate. When I got to the loft the pigeon had gone through the internal trap and was sitting on the drinker where it had obviously just quenched its thirst. It was not one of my birds but I immediately recognised it by an unusual white marking on its neck as a pigeon that had strayed into my loft the previous year. Anyway it was indeed a Welsh pigeon that had come into me from exactly the same race from Lille in France the previous year. This years race was also a hard day with a head wind all the way so it seems this bird, starting to get tired, thirsty and hungry after a good few hours on the wing had remembered where there was a free perch and board and so pitched into my loft to enjoy another dose of my hospitality. On phoning the Welsh owner to let him know he was here, he immediately asked what time it arrived, the comment then was with the typical Welsh lilt  “ Da lazy Buggar”  the pigeons I timed in that race got here that day about 8.30pm. So it seems this smart pigeon saved himself about three more hours on the wing. A couple of days later when the weather cleared he slung his hook and headed home to Wales. I wonder if I will see him again next year.

Moving onto my own loft and pigeons and how they have fared this season, well firstly let me say I had no great expectations at the beginning of the season with a rather small, young inexperienced team. The only two experienced pigeons were a 7 year old BC Pied hen and 3 year old Blue hen and they served me well, one very hard race from Messac 237 miles I timed the Blue 3 year old after 12.5 hours on the wing and old 7 year old after 14.5 hours on the wing. Many pigeons were lost that day due to the fierce NE wind and two of my club mates had 4 pigeons between them reported in Ireland. I later sent both these hens to the Tarbes Grand National and as mentioned a few game pigeons came through early on the 2nd day then the returns were sparse due to the rain and there were only 3 pigeons timed in my local clock station on the 2nd day. I found my Blue hen in the loft at morning tea time on the 3rd day and she recorded 51st section, 452nd open from the convoy of 2809 pigeons. Raptors have again been a big problem, I lost my best two year old cock on the first 15 mile training toss and upwards of 50% of the race team have returned at some stage during the season with wing and tail feathers missing and other damage from being attacked. However my yearlings have put in some good performances and won some prizes and trophies. The best was winning the clubs longest race from Bergerac 440 miles with a Blue white flight cock of Supercrack bloodlines pictured below. He was also 3rd Surrey FED and 3rd SMT Combine.

My winner from Bergerac 440 miles, a Blue white flight cock of Supercrack bloodlines.

Posted July 24, 2012 by ferguselley in Brian's Brit Blog, U.k. news items

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Brian’s Brit Blog April 2012   Leave a comment

Here we are it is Easter already it only seems the other day when it was Christmas. This weekend heralds the first race of our Old Bird racing season and right on cue the north-east winds have arrived. It was interesting to read Leo Turley’s comments on the NE wind in the last issue and he is quite correct in that it all depends on your location and the direction the pigeons have to fly. For us it means our pigeons fly up from the SW so the NE wind is a head wind, right on the nose and this time of year it is born in Siberia and cold. As I start to write this article much of the British Isles are covered in ice and snow brought in by this NE arctic wind and last night April 5th we had a 7.5 degree frost. In these NE conditions the experienced fanciers do not risk too much, yearlings are especially vulnerable and easily lost. However March was generally warmer than normal so I have been able to train a few spare (unmated) birds mainly yearlings and some late breds. The late breds are always fickle, I train them separately as I would do with young birds. I started with eleven and lost two on the first toss, the remaining nine carried on well until the 5th toss when they ran into trouble, only one homed on the day, three more the next day and one a week later with four lost. A week later the five survivors had another bad one, again only one homed on the day, the same pigeon as the first toss (a promising pigeon for the future), eventually all five returned, one minus half the feathers on one wing as shown in the below photo, a typical Peregrine strike. Late breds simply do not have the experience to cope with raptor attacks, however the survivors will have learned a valuable lesson for the future.

Hawked Late Bred

Hawked Late Bred

Our breeding season is now in full swing, the fanciers who breed early will already be finished and by now will have youngsters starting to take to the wing. My first round from the four stock pairs were scheduled to go the Somerset One Loft Race but I only managed five as the eggs from my good cock VINO got chilled in the cold snap in February when night temperatures dropped to minus 15 degrees celsius. The bad luck with VINO continued when his second pair of eggs were due to hatch I found his nest bowl overturned on the floor and both eggs smashed, hopefully it will be third time lucky. The 6th squeaker had been pecked on the back of the neck when it left the nest so could not be sent away. Luckily I had a further eight pairs down in the race loft from which I can make up the other three for the Somerset one loft entry.

I see in the last APJ that Geoff and Catherine Cooper paid a visit to Australia, they and their pigeons are at the pinnacle of pigeon racing both in England and indeed internationally, there are no better fanciers nor few equal. They are among the elite along with Mark Gilbert, Brian Shephard and now Wicky Bullen who have beaten the best in Europe by winning an international race against the top lofts in Europe and many thousands of birds.

As I mentioned above, March was warm and dry and indeed our winter has been one of the driest on record to the point that water restriction regulations were introduced across the S E of England on April the 6th. That seemed to send a signal to the heavens so that the traditional April showers arrived on April the 7th and were very much-needed in the gardens and on the farm land but not too conducive for pigeon racing. Nevertheless our first race kicked off from Blandford Forum April the 8th 65 miles to me, I don’t normally start my birds until the 2nd week of May but this year I threw caution to the wind and sent 3 spare yearling cocks and one 2010 rung cock that was a late bred last year. The weather was not the best with a cold NNE wind and occasional showers. The 2010 cock came first but he is a very nervous type so after a couple of circles landed on my house roof, then after a few minutes he went over to a neighbours roof then back to ours before being satisfied there were no cats or hawks lurking in the vicinity of the loft before coming down to be clocked,  losing the best part of 10 minutes. Needless to say he was well down the result list at 19th but not last. Two of the yearlings arrived soon after but the 3rd yearling never turned up until the next day, all members had some pigeons out that night. The race was won well by Wally Cable who had a widowhood cock well out in front, the best yearling was at 14th showing how difficult it is this time of year for yearlings and most fanciers won’t race them until later in the year. Wally told me last year he started 18 yearlings in the first race and by the 5th race 16 were lost so this season he is only racing the early events with two year or older pigeons.

On a final note it was sad to read last week that the surviving Janssen brother Louis was in hospital at age 99 and the remaining 30 pigeons from 6 Schoolstraat, Arendonk had been placed in hiding pending sale on the PIPA auction site. Certainly the end of an era and an important chapter in pigeon racing worldwide as their pigeons have had an impact wherever pigeons are raced. Yet in spite of the constant demand from the world to purchase this remarkable strain of pigeons they always retained the breeding core of the family and resisted the temptation to sell all. We salute them for their dedication to their pigeons that have benefitted so many others.  

 

Brian Batchelor

Posted April 11, 2012 by ferguselley in Brian's Brit Blog, U.k. news items

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