Archive for the ‘U.k. news items’ Category

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 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 or through my site 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.


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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Blackpool Show 2012.   1 comment

Brian Batchelor with Terry and Jane Williams from the Somerset 1 loft stand.

Hi All,
This year three of us travelled up to Blackpool from Surrey; Tony Dann, Mick Tuck and myself, it was a very wet and windy drive up with Tony at the wheel and Mick riding shotgun, myself in the back having a snooze as I had worked early in the morning before we left. A good deal of banter was had all the way up with the result Tony missed the turning for the M40 and the toll road by passing Birmingham so we arrived about an hour later than planned but still in plenty of time. Over the weekend we caught up with lots of old friends and made some new ones which for me is what makes the long trip worthwhile. As a scribe for the BHW I am invited into the Scribes room behind the BHW stand where as usual we were made most welcome by the hosts Helen and Netty with a steady supply of tea and biscuits. This is a nice  sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the show and a chance to sit down and have natter with the other scribes and visitors passing through.

Some of the crowds around some of the trade stands at the Blackpool 2012 show.

The crowds were heaving around many of the trade stands who were doing a roaring trade as usual, however we understand due to the recession in Europe quite a number of the previous suppliers had fallen by the wayside and various items normally on display were not obtainable. We managed to find the only supply of tobacco stalks that we use for nesting material and these were all sold out in seconds. Luckily we happened to arrive at that stand just when the trader opened up his pack of them. Nest felts were also hard to find but we did eventually manage to find what we wanted.  My list of purchases included PMV Vaccine, Loft Book 2012, scraper, some DeWeerds medical supplies, Unicon chip rings, telephone ID rings, Pick pots from Natural, Versa Laga special feed supplement and so on. The main loft builders had demonstration lofts on display and I took a liking to a new design from Echo Lofts that had all the features I would like to have in a loft so I came home with their brochure to ponder on for the future. We also had a good look at some of the feed suppliers stands, our club have recently changed to a new corn merchant “Countywide” who have a nice selection of corns for every season and type of racing be it sprint or long distance and everything in between, while at their stand we put the hard word on them to supply a prize bag of corn for our Futurity race which they agreed to.

Mick and Brian overlooking the main show hall where you can see the show cages in the background.

There were of course thousands of pigeons for sale and the major studs were present, Louella, Ponderosa, Axleholm and a few others, there were also several auctions that took place in various venues around the city. We attended the auction sale of pigeons from Ed Sittner who we understand is retiring back to the States after putting up some excellent performances from his loft in Belgium. The base strain of these being Kees Boshua, the pigeons were all of a similar type and looked the part for middle distance, however being a long distance man these did not interest me. What took my eye were on the Axleholm stand where they display some of their stock birds along with some birds that were for sale. They had a magnificent pair of Supercracks on display and the hen is the dam of one I purchased from them 2 years ago. Louella had some lovely Jan Ardens for sale that I would have liked if I had the space to house them and the funds to buy them, one Dark Ch Pied hen in particular stood out for sale at 1500.00 GB Pds.  The show pigeons as always looked amazing and I can’t imagine how the judges manage to sort out the winners as they all looked immaculate to me. All too soon it was all over and we were winding our way back to Surrey.

Tony centre, Mick right relaxing at our Hotel.

On the home front although we are still very much in winter, the days are gradually starting to lengthen out and by and large it has been a mild winter with only a few heavy frosts, last week we had one of these when it was minus 8 deg celsius. After Blackpool many fanciers will begin to pair up for the coming season and I am no exception, I only have a small 6ft x 4ft breeding loft with 4 nests and all going well I will pair up my 4 breeding pairs this weekend. As mentioned in my previous article I have to be careful not to over crowd my equally small 12ft x 8ft race loft so with some reluctance I sold my original pair of Eric Cannon stock birds that are now 8 years old and will be moving some of their offspring into the breeding loft. These have all flown well for me out to at least Tarbes 560 miles and it is time they had their chance in the stock loft. The first round will be going to the Somerset 1 loft race and I will keep the 2nd round plus a few late breds. I haven’t decided whether to let the race team sit a round of pot eggs before racing starts but still have plenty of time to do so if necessary.

Brian Batchelor
Elstead UK

Posted January 28, 2012 by ferguselley in Brian's Brit Blog, U.k. news items

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