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Mike White & Son of Bournemouth





As much as I enjoy writing my articles, and doing the required research, I do sometimes get a little carried away. And when I get carried away I sometimes, just sometimes, make mistakes! One mistake I recently made was in my latest "Backyard Marathon Challenge" article. Although I stated that Nic Harvey and Mark Gilbert were the only 2 fanciers to clock 4 birds in race time with the BBC from Barcelona, there was in fact a father and son partnership from Bournemouth who achieved the same feat. This was swiftly pointed out to me by Steve White and another member of their club and I was straight on the phone to the partnership, apologising immensely, and much to my happiness the apologies were accepted. Fortunately this conversation allowed me to request a loft report from this excellent long distance partnership, and so here we go!

Congratulations both on your stunning performance from Barcelona in 2012, and also your performances in previous seasons. What is the attraction of Barcelona to you both, as we all know it is such a difficult race point?

"You cannot beat the thrill of clocking in from Palamos or Barcelona, which are the furthest race points that we can fly on the south road. As soon as you see the bird appearing in the distance heading straight to the loft on the week of the race and you get to realise the dream that started three or four years earlier when the bird was first hatched, through all the training and races up till this point, it is an unbelievable feeling. Anyone else that has had this experience will know what we mean."

Having spoken on the phone, you informed me that inbreeding for many years has played a massive part in the development of your family. Can you tell me how your long distance family has been maintained over the last 30/40 years to deliver these phenomonal results?

"We got our original pigeons from my Uncle in about 1950 and he had them for about 40 years before that. When we first acquired them they won from the shortest to the longest races. Then over the years we pushed them further and the sprint pigeons disappeared and we were left with the distance birds. The family has been developed over the years by inbreeding, inbreeding and inbreeding, best to best, just adding the odd pigeons when we have thought that they needed a cross to break the bloodline. The hardest thing with inbreeding is that you tend to get two hens or two cocks in the nest which can lead to an imbalance of sexes in the loft but they seem to balance themselves out over the next few years. Where a lot of people say that their pigeons get smaller with inbreeding, we have found that ours are the same size now, small to medium, that they were forty years ago."


What does your off season look like, i.e when are the birds split, what is the feeding regime over the Winter, how are they exercised, when are they paired up?

"When our birds return from Palamos or Barcelona we let them have a round of late breds as a reward for their hard work. We then separate them as soon as possible to get them through the moult. We feed them the same during the off season as we do in the racing season except for a few weeks after separating we give them Willsbridge Conditioner to help them through the moult. They are exercised once a week during the off season when the weather allows and to have a bath. We have to be careful because of the Sparrow Hawks & Peregrines, also on windy days we have to keep the birds in because of the pylons running just behind our garden. We pair our distance birds at the end of March/the beginning of April; the distance stock birds get paired up at Christmas the same as our sprint birds. The distance birds are all flown natural, as the hens are as good as the cocks."

Can you detail me the race preparation that the birds had before Barcelona?

"Our Barcelona birds have 2 or 3 x 10 mile training tosses before their first race, they then have 2 or 3 races usually from Carentan (105 miles) or Fougeres (171 miles)."

What feeding regime is undertaken to ensure the birds are in first class condition for the start of July?

"The distance birds are fed Willsbridge No. 2 mix all year and about one month before Barcelona or Palamos we add extra maize building up to approx. 50% maize/50% No. 2 mix."

What do you think makes "Becky's Boy" keep delivering at these distances, and how did it feel to know you had clocked him again this year, thus winning the Golden Salver?

"Becky’s Boy was bred for the extreme distance races being a son of Becky who was 1st section, 5th open, Palamos BBC, 2nd section, 13th open, Palamos, BBC, & 3rd section, 32nd open, Palamos, BBC, winning a Spanish Diploma. His grand sire is Stevie Wonder who was 4th section, 18th open, Palamos, BBC, 2nd section, 7th open, Palamos, BBC, & 1st section, 12th open, Palamos, BBC, winning a Spanish Diploma. His great grand dam on the dam’s was Phyl’s Pride who was 1st section, 1st open, Palamos, BBC, 1991. His great grand dam on the sire’s side is Door Hopper who was 1st section, 11th open, Barcelona, BBC and 8th section, 32nd open, Palamos, BBC. As you can see he is full of extreme long distance winning bloodlines.  How did we feel when we timed him? OVER THE MOON!"

What is the next step for "Becky's Boy"?

"The next step for Becky’s Boy: Barcelona or Palamos maybe."

Michael, you also said to me on he phone that your family were late developers. Can you tell me the workload that the long distance birds are expected to achieve from the year of their both, right through to hopefully going to Barcelona?

"The preparation of all of our Barcelona/Palamos birds begins when they are young birds because they take up to three years to grow and mature. They start with only one race as young birds usually from about 60 miles. As yearlings they have 2 or 3 races up to 200-250 miles. As two year olds the majority have 2 or 3 races up to 300-400 miles, with the odd 1 or 2 going 500 miles. As three year olds they go to 500 miles, with the odd 1 or 2 going to Barcelona or Palamos. Four year olds go to Barcelona or any other distance race."

Extreme distance racing seems to be making a steady increase in popularity year on year. What do you think it takes me to be a top quality "distance fancier"?

"Set your stall out for the chosen races and be patient."

Following on from the last question, is there anything that you think can be done to accelerate the rise of extreme distance and marathon racing in this country, especially given the fact that the Belgians send in excess of 10,000 birds to Barcelona, compared to our circa 600!?

"You can try to encourage more people to send to these races but we’re afraid that most people don’t have the patience or birds for these extreme distance races, also the Continentals don’t have to cross the English Channel at the end of their journey."

Is there anything else you would like to add regarding the future of this great sport of ours?

"We would like to see an end to all the bickering and jealousy in clubs and federations. The national organisations and specialist clubs could also cut back on their race programmes because they seem to be losing money because there are not enough birds to go to every race."

Beckey'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 for 3 times in the result. Golden Salver Award for 4 times in the result.

Becky - 1st section, 5th open, Palamos. 2nd section, 13th open, Palamos. 3rd section, 32nd open, Palamos. Spanish Diploma Winner.

Stevie Wonder - 4th section, 18th open, Palamos. 2nd section, 7th open, Palamos. 1st section, 12 th open, Palamos. Spanish Diploma Winner.

Mark - 1st section, 16th open, Palamos. 11th section, 93rd open, Palamos. 1st section, 14th open, Palamos. Spanish Diploma Winner.

Mandy - 14th section, 86th open, Palamos. 3rd section, 18th open, Barcelona. 3rd section, 32nd open, Barcelona. Spanish Diploma Winner.