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Mike White & Son of Bournemouth

 

 

Gareth Watkins'

MARATHON SERIES

Part 9

MIKE WHITE & SON OF BOURNEMOUTH

Mike & Steve White

CONSISTENT SUCCESS IN MARATHON RACES

In the earlier articles in this series based on the performances and conditioning of individual marathon pigeons, I have tried to highlight the individual pigeon's preparation, and ultimately, the performances achieved by these pathfinders. However, in the final two articles in the series the fanciers concerned have produced so many top class extreme distance racers that I thought it only fair to give an in depth insight into the complete set up of man, pigeons and lofts - such is the number of marathon pigeons and great consistency of success in extreme distance races achieved by these fanciers and their pigeons.

The father and son partnership of Mike and Steve White of Bournemouth have achieved an outstanding level of consistency at the extreme distance spanning more than 20 years, as the performances that are highlighted later in this article will testify. During this time they have produced with monotonous regularity, a long line of outstanding long distance racers.  I will attempt to set out here the methods the partners have applied to their team of pigeons in order to achieve this remarkable level of consistency in what is possibly, the hardest race in the racing calendar - Palamos/Barcelona.

Stormtrooper

THE BEGINNING

Mike White started in the sport in 1950 with pigeons from his uncle Jim who had developed his own family of "Old English" pigeons over more than three decades of trial and testing.

THE LOFT

Mike's first loft was a simple 6ft x 6ft x 4ft construction with aviary attached. However, over the years and since the move to the present location some 23 years ago, the loft has taken on more substantial dimensions to the extent that the present loft measures 60 ft long and has 12 sections that are 5’ wide and 7’ deep. One of the sections has a sink in it with running water, and is used as a basket and corn store. There are three sections for distance birds, three sections for the sprint birds, a further three sections for young birds, plus one section for the sprint hens and a final section for the stock birds. Along the front of the loft there is a corridor that is 2ft 6’ wide. The corridor also acts as an aviary when the inside doors are opened. The loft faces south west so has access to any sunlight for most of the daylight hours.

All sections are cleaned daily as the partners can monitor the health of the birds by examining the droppings during this daily cleaning.

The impressive loft of Mike and Steve White

A view of the corridor

One of the old bird sections

A young bird section

THE BIRDS

A team of 30 pairs of distance racing birds are maintained along with 5 pairs of distance stock birds which are either retired racers or children off the partners' Spanish Diploma winning pigeons. From these Mike and Steve like to breed about 50 distance young birds every year. The long distance bloodlines are "White & Son" which have been developed over 60 plus years. Mike's uncle had them for many years before that so they have certainly stood the "test of time"! A number of introductions have been made over the years as and when the partners felt it necessary. These introductions have to be off of the best, and in the main are from Old English long distance performance pigeons. More on these introductions later in the article.

Mike and Steve like to inbreed but have found that by doing this they usually breed 2 hens or 2 cocks in a nest, which can lead to an imbalance of the sexes occasionally. This is the down side of inbreeding but the plus side is that you can soon define which is the dominant sex by sending them on to the extreme distance races which soon sorts "the wheat from the chaff".

In addition to the tried and tested distance family the partners also keep a family of SVRs that have been inbred to the original pigeons obtained from Mike's life long friend, the late Rod Baxter. These have been augmented with the addition of 6 pigeons from Louella Pigeon World plus a couple of Van Loons bred from Tony Heynes of Ranmoor Lofts. The sprint team amounts to 20 pairs of racers plus 5 stock pairs which once again are retired racers. Mike and Steve rear approximately 40 sprint young birds for a bit of sport while they patiently bring on their distance birds.

MANAGEMENT

The distance birds are raced naturally as the partners have found that their hens are as good as, if not better than the cocks. The sprint birds on the other hand are raced widowhood. Stock birds are paired at Christmas and the distance racers are paired in March. Mike likes the racers to be flying well around home before training begins and then they usually get two or three tosses at 10 miles before the first race.

Home exercise is purely voluntary as the birds are left to do as they please, but the Whites try to get the birds out as many times as possible every day. If left out for any length of time the birds tend to become lazy, so they are called in and then let out again half an hour or so later for another fly. The birds only have further training during the season if the partners think they need a "freshener". The maximum distance the birds are trained is just 10 miles from a spot on the edge of the New Forest. This is purely down to the fact that there are a great number of raptors resident in the forest. There is no special pre race preparation for the birds destined for Palamos and Barcelona. Mike and Steve prepare the Palamos/Barcelona team with the previously mentioned training supplemented by 2 or 3 races from Carentan (100 miles) or Fougeres (170 miles) and then it's off to northern Spain at close on 700 miles.

Becky

YOUNG BIRDS

The young birds get 10 to 15 training tosses to 10 miles from all points of the compass. Some of them will get one race from 60 miles and the rest of them won’t get a race just training.

The young birds are flown naturally as Mike and Steve don’t believe that it helps the development of the birds for the marathon races later in life if they are wound up and kept on the darkness or light systems in their formative year. They are hopper fed with as much food as they want and any leftovers are then picked up when they have finished eating.

All food fed to the birds is obtained from Willsbridge, (A. E. James & Son) and the partners particularly like the Willsbridge No. 2 Special Mix, containing Tic beans, Maize, Maple peas, White peas, Blue peas and Tares.

In the final three weeks build up to the long races extra maize is added to this mixture, building up to 50% maize by the time of basketing for the long distance Nationals. Groats mixed with cod liver oil and ground peanuts are also fed to the birds by hand in the build up to basketting for the extreme distance races.

Becky's Boy

MEDICATION

Except for Paramyxovirus as per RPRA rules RPRA the birds get no further medication. Nevertheless, the partners would resort to medication if need be but only on the advice of a vet after tests have been undertaken. Grit, red or black minerals and pick pots are always available for the birds to take ad lib.

DEVELOPMENT OF A LONG DISTANCE RACER

This is a rough guide as to how the Whites have set about building their present day team of  extreme distance racers. As young birds they are trained from 10 miles and then maybe one race from 60 miles. As yearlings they have 2 or 3 races up to 200 miles (Messac)/250 miles (Nantes). As 2 year olds the majority have 2 or 3 races up to 350 miles (Saintes). The odd one will go to 500 miles (Pau/Tarbes). As 3 year olds they have 2 or 3 races to 500 miles (Pau/ Tarbes). Again the odd one will go to 675 miles (Palamos/Barcelona). As 4 year olds and older they again have 2 or 3 races usually only to 100 miles and then of to Palamos/Barcelona.

As can be seen from the above race schedule, the older pigeons that go to Pau, Tarbes, Palamos or Barcelona only have races from around 100 - 170 miles in that season, as Mike and Steve feel they don’t need too much work for the longer races once they have had the experience of some long distance channel races earlier in their racing careers.

Doorhopper

THE CREATION AND MAINTENANCE OF THE FAMILY

The bloodlines that are currently raced are based on the White's own family that has evolved from nearly 100 years of trial and testing. Mike obtained the originals from his uncle in about 1950 and what their origins were nobody knows. After racing these originals for a decade and a half Mike introduced four birds from Charlie Way who was at the time one of the best fliers in Dorset. In 1976 one pigeon was purchased from Cyril Medway of Southampton, and this  was bred down from his fabulous long distance stock including ‘Pathfinder’ who was 1st open Palamos by 2 days; ‘Palamos Joan’ who was 110th open Pau National Flying Club, 9th, 13th & 38th open Palamos. Also included in the breeding of this introduction were the bloodlines of Cyril's Champion hen ‘Maureen’ as well as some Vic Robinson bloodlines.

Mike and Steve believe that Cyril Medway was possibly the best long distance fancier in the country, considering the fact that he only kept 20 to 24 birds and his performances from Palamos, Barcelona and Pau with such a small team were fantastic.

Mark

The next significant introduction took place in 1980 when Mike purchased 6 pigeons from Louella Pigeon World. These contained the bloodlines of the following champion long distance racers:-

‘Misty Lady’ 2 time winner of the London North Road Combine from Thurso in consecutive years; ‘The Lewis Cock’ 1st Open Pau National Flying Club; ‘Clanfield Expected’ 1st Open Pau National Flying Club; ‘Channel Queen’ 1st Open Pau National Flying Club and ‘Champion Pauline’ 1st Open Pau National Flying Club. The above named five champions were the grandparents of the six young birds purchased.

In 1982, Mike went back to Cyril Medway and purchased a cock out of ‘Palamos Ned’ who was 218th open Pau National Flying Club and 5 times Palamos with the British Barcelona Club recording 17th, 88th, 10th, 66th and 54th open. ‘Palamos Ned’ also had some Vic Robinson bloodlines in his make up.

The 1986 season saw Mike purchase some "Spangles" from Mike Young of Timsbury. The first of these was a son of ‘Rome Boy’ who had been kept for stock for 4 years before starting his racing career in 1984 flying Dax on the winning day. The following year he was sent to Barcelona and finally he was entered in the Rome race where he finished 17th Open from Rome flying 959 miles. On the dam's side the grand dam was ‘Mandy’ a winner of 221st Open Pau National Flying Club, 12th British section, 94th open hens Pau International, 3rd & 20th British section Barcelona. Also the grandsire was bred down from Reg Churchill’s ‘Knightsdale Lady’, who flew Palamos 6 times with the British Barcelona Club recording, 1st, 6th, 10th, 15th, 17th & 57th open.

The second one  purchased from Mike Young was a granddaughter of ‘Channel Queen’ who was 12th British section Pau, 34th & 1st section British section Perpignan and also contained the bloodlines of ‘Mandy’ & ‘All Alone’ 1st British section, 8th open Hens International Lourdes. The third Young introduction was also a granddaughter of ‘All Alone’. These were the last pigeons introduced until recently and the Whites now have a few new additions that they are testing. All the aforementioned introductions were raced because the partners didn’t have a stock loft until 2001, so until that time it was a case of "survival of the fittest" and the survivors were then introduced into the old family. The resultant type produced by this method is a small to medium sized pigeon and definitely not deep keeled.

GB84J26104

PERGFORMANCES FROM SPAIN SINCE 1986

The performance that gave the partners the most pleasure was ‘Phyl’s Pride’ who was 1st Open Palamos with the British Barcelona Club in 1991, closely followed by ‘Phyl’s Boy’ who was 1st Open Nantes with the National Flying Club in 1999.

Performances in long distance National races since 1986.

1986      Palamos            3rd & 15th section, 12th & 78th open.

1987      La Junquera       1st section, 8th open.

1988      Palamos            7th section, 38th open.

1989      Palamos            10th section, 61st open.

1990      Palamos            19th section, 93rd open.

1991      Palamos            1st & 14th section, 1st & 61st open.

1992      Moved to current location.

1993      Palamos            3rd, 4th & 19th section, 11th, 13th & 67th open.

1994      Palamos            3rd, 9th, 10th, 13th & 14th section, 10th, 45th, 53rd, 83rd & 86th open.

1995      Barcelona          2nd, 3rd & 4th section, 12th, 18th & 25th open.

1996      Barcelona          2nd & 3rd section, 15th & 32nd open. Only 32 of 702 sent on the result.

1997      Barcelona          1st, 2nd & 7th section, 11th, 13th & 30th open.

1998      Palamos            1st, 4th, 8th & 23rd section, 5th, 18th, 32nd & 141st open.

1999      Palamos            2nd & 7th section, 7th & 25th open.

2000      Palamos            1st & 2nd section, 12th & 13th section.

2001      Palamos            2nd, 3rd, 4th, 8th & 16th section, 11th, 32nd, 36th, 66th & 96th open.

2002      Palamos            3rd section, 37th open.

2003      Palamos            5th & 12th section, 39th & 86th open.

2004      Palamos            9th section, 98th open.

2005      Palamos            1st & 2nd section, 16th & 31st open.

2006      No race due to bird flu.

2007      Palamos            7th & 11th section, 67th & 93rd open.

2008      Palamos            1st section, 14th open.

2009      Barcelona          3rd section, 26th open.

2010      Barcelona          2nd section, 16th open.

2011      Palamos            4th & 8th section, 6th & 59th open.

2012      Barcelona          1st, 2nd, 7th & 10th section, 9th, 15th, 26th & 37th open.

Mandy

During this time Mike and Steve's pigeons have won the section 8 times and the Dorset Cup awarded to the  first bird into Dorset from the Blue Riband race 11 times. In addition the White pigeons have been awarded 5 Spanish Diplomas for 3 times in the result by the same pigeon plus a Golden Salver Award for 4 times in the result by the same bird. The Mr & Mrs B. J. Reeves Trophy for the Best Open Combined Average All races in the British Barcelona Club has found its way onto the White’s sideboard on two occasions.

As an aside at this point, I know that both Mike and Steve have great admiration for one of the stalwarts of the BBC - none other than Jim Hooper, who did as much as anyone, and more than most to expand the BBC and who is still doing sterling work for the fancy in his efforts with the Raptor Alliance.

Phyl's Pride

 

PERFORMANCE PIGEONS

Just take a look at this lot!

‘STORMTROOPER’ 1st Club, 1st Bournemouth & District North Road Federation, Thurso. Winning the race by almost 3 hours. There were only 10 birds clocked on the day because it was pouring with rain all day, thus the name. Mike also clocked the 10th bird on the day, which was Stormtrooper's mother.

‘GB 84 J 26104’ 3rd section, 12th open Palamos, as a 2 year old. 1st section, 8th open La Junquera. This is pigeon is bred down from the nest mate of ‘STORMTROOPER’.

‘PHYL’S PRIDE’ 1st section, 1st open Palamos and Grand dam of ‘Becky’ [see below.]

‘ANGIE’ 4th section, 13th open Palamos. 9th section, 45th open Palamos. Retired for stock. Dam of ‘BECKY’ And Grand dam of ‘STEVIE WONDER’ and many other generations of winners.

‘MANDY’ 20th section, 60th open Pau CSCFC. 14th section, 86th open Palamos. 3rd section, 18th open Barcelona. 3rd section, 32nd open Barcelona. Spanish Diploma Winner.

‘ANN’ 2nd section, 15th open Barcelona. 2nd section, 13th open Barcelona. Half sister of ‘MANDY’.

‘DOOR HOPPER’ 33rd section, 42nd open Rennes, CSCFC. 11th section, 30th open Pau, CSCFC. 1st section, 11th open Barcelona. 8th section, 32nd open Palamos. Lost to a raptor whilst training.

‘STEVIE WONDER’ 270th open, Saintes NFC. 11th section, 37th open Bordeaux BBC. 28th section, 96th open Bergerac CSCFC. 4th section, 18th open Palamos. 2nd section, 7th open Palamos. 1st section, 12th open Palamos. Spanish Diploma Winner.

‘BECKY’ 1st section, 5th open, Palamos. 2nd section, 13th open Palamos. 3rd section, 32nd open Palamos. Spanish Diploma Winner.

‘MARK’ 15th section, 60th open, San Sebastian CSCFC. 1st section, 16th open Palamos. Winning the section by a day and a half from a loft mate, in a NW wind, the furthest flying westerly bird for that time. 11th section, 93rd open Palamos. 1st section, 14th open Palamos. Spanish Diploma Winner.

‘BECKY’S BOY’ 3rd section, 26th open Barcelona. 2nd section, 14th open Barcelona. 4th section, 6th open Palamos. 1st section, 9th open Barcelona. Spanish Diploma Winner & Golden Salver Award Winner. Killed by a peregrine first training toss 2013.

Stevie Wonder

An unbelievable record of success at the distance and one that I am pleased to highlight as part of this Marathon Series. Congratulations Mike and Steve on the many outstanding performances of your pigeons - and here's hoping that the "conveyor belt" on the production line of long distance winners may long continue to function as effectively as it has in the past.

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Elimar - April 2014