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These last few weeks have seen two 2013 bred pigeons return after the winter out. The chequer hen was feather worn and at first sight you could tell that she had been living rough but she looked well and was tight in her feathering. The other is a mealy cock who was really spot on and at first sight looked as if he had been up in a loft somewhere, or that was what I thought because I only saw him in the loft where the light was not brilliant with a cloudy spell outside. However later in the day I went in and picked him up and this time took him outside and it was then that I could see that the feathers were only slightly worn and he was in fact showing signs of having spent part of the winter on the tiles. I must say that they had both looked after themselves and were handling and looking good enough to fly quite some distance. A few weeks earlier we had been in conversation about how fanciers had not seen the returns that they have in other winters but it has been mild and we have not had the snow and frost. Later in the day I was talking to Cameron about these turn ups and he was saying that he likes pigeons that spend the winter out and return in reasonably good condition (see Gareth Watkins’ latest Elimar article featuring Dave Goddard to see the value of pigeons working back after a long absence). Does it really harm them? That depends on the pigeons themselves because if they can look after themselves then they should be OK if given the chance for the future. I suppose when you look at the overall picture for returns at such a late date then they would not be allowed to stay in the loft. Fair enough if they come back looking worn out and as if they have not coped then that is a different matter. But in the cases where they turn up looking the part then we have to look at them in a different light and also ask what were the circumstances when the pigeon went missing. The chequer hen was bred at the normal breeding time of the year and was trained well before the season started so had no setbacks. The mealy cock was sent to me by Ron Williamson with his nest mate a blue hen bred from his distance family and he was aware that I do like the longer races. These two came to me a bit later and were really on their own because the rest were flying and ranging while these two were just about managing the top of the loft. They did eventually catch up to the others and were flying well and sticking up with the rest of the young bird team. After they had been showing their ability to race across the sky with the others I started giving them a few short tosses on their own and then put them in the basket with the other young birds. By the time they had been to just over 20 tosses I decided to enter them into the race and I could not believe it when we had the worst young bird race of the season. The losses were heavy for a lot of fanciers and the pair from Ron failed to return and I must make the point that the chequer hen was also lost in the same race. So for them to turn up within a week of one another after being out for 7 months was a big surprise. With racing widowhood cocks this year the hen will come in handy but as for the cock, well I shall keep him and train him with the others and I might, only might give him a comeback race or two between the channel races. Should we keep pigeons after being away for so long? That is a big question because every pigeon that returns needs to be treated in accordance with the condition it has come back in. If you study your pigeons you will know how they have fared and what they can withstand, their ability to race and at what distance is what we all need to find out. No matter what family or line of pigeons you have there are always going to be pigeons that will have that ability to win at various distances in that family, the problem is knowing what that ability is and how to get the best out of them at the distance each and every pigeon can cope with. I finished the above on Monday and it is now Wednesday and the mealy cock decided he did not like the loft and has cleared off again; we can never fully understand racing pigeons! The cocks have been going out twice each day and they are beginning to exercise well with the winter weight nearly gone. The next couple of weeks should see them topping the hour with ease. They are around 50mins twice each day at the moment but I expect that to extend to over the hour mark. They are mostly kitting up better after a couple of weeks not being in a tight bunch for more than a few minutes when they first go out. It is now 5 days since the mealy cock returned and I am beginning to wonder if he has been up in a loft not a million miles from here because he keeps disappearing and has had a couple of nights out but he does return. I cannot see him still staying out when he has found his home loft where food is readily available.

North West Classic

This week I have included the second batch of photos taken at the successful North West Classic Club presentation held at the Kinderton Hotel, Middlewich and there are still a few more for next weeks notes. To go with the photos I thought we would refresh your minds on the winners of the racers during the 2013 season.

The season started with a race from Bedhampton when 407 birds competed for the red card that went to James Smith from Northwich who was the leader in section B. Graeme Marskell showed the way home in section C while Ken & Mark Cliffe saw red in section A. The next race was from Carentan when Section B saw another open winner when Mike O'Hare & Ron Woodward topped the list with Roger Sutton coming good in section A and Tommy Jackson doing likewise in section C. The club then had another Bedhampton race when members of section C had a good race taking the first 8 positions led home by Terry Hughes while Derek Woodward won section B and Ray Bullen was the man to beat in section A. Mike O'Hare & Ron Woodward made it a second red card at Niort with Roger Sutton being the bridesmaid after topping section A while Graeme Marskell picked up another section C red card. Ray Bullen was a section winner in an earlier race but in the Messac race he was 1st section 1st open with once again with Mark & Heather Smith winning section B while Tommy Jackson collected another red card as section C winner. In the young bird Gold Ring race 1st section A 1st open Martin Hough. 1st section B Mr & Mrs Dudley Niblett with 1st section C going to Tommy Jackson. The gold ring race went to Roger Sutton who was telling me about the young bird darkness and how he does it. Roger was saying that he pairs the pigeons to breed a young bird team and when they are moved they go straight into the darkness loft so that they are not getting confused. They then go through the normal system and are raced well. Roger added that he likes to do this system so that his yearlings are more experienced for the old bird programme. Then as yearlings they are not paired early because he likes to give them a few extra weeks to help them complete their moult. For many years Roger has had the darkness system off to a fine art therefore he must know the system well because his pigeons do go on to win as yearlings and also in later years. Back to the results, in the other young bird race from Bedhampton that was sponsored by the BHW, Slicker & Daughter were 1st section 1st Open with 1st section B going to Tom Howarth and T McGrath taking 1st section C. I think that just about covers the winners.


Jim Smith, race winner.

Table 2 at the NWCC presentation

Derek Woodward with Geoff Kirkland

Geoff Kirkland giving his speech

Rita O'Hare & Mark Cliffe

Gerry Clements and daughter Allison with Geoff Kirkland who are certainly having a laugh about something

Joyce Latham with Geoff Kirkland

Marie and Allison Clements

Mark Cliffe and Carol Brown, manager at the Kinderton Hotel, Middlewich where the NWCC presentation was held.

Mark Cliffe & Liz McGuinness landlady at the NWCC marking station

Gordon Bath collecting on behalf of his understudy (name evades me, or does it?) and Geoff Kirkland

Gordon Bath with a cake from Mark Smith

Les J Parkinson. 11 Rushton Drive, Middlewich, Cheshire, CW10 0NJ, +44 (0)1606 836036. +44 (0)7871 701585. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web site: