Life in the North East of England (49)
The trouble with the freezing weather we are having lately is not the extra intake of food the birds require just to keep warm, or even the amount of energy needed to heat my conservatory but the sheer quantity of “medicinal” whiskey my visitors are consuming per visit! Jasper is partial to a drop or two and the rest of Fridays visitors didn’t say no either, so I was forced to break into my reserve stocks (well hidden from Mrs Rod in a locked steel filing cabinet up in my converted attic) and bring down another litre of Jamiesons Irish whiskey ready for the weekend rush.
The talk this morning was all about how much money is changing hands at our local sales. It is quite phenomenal. For a sport that is supposed to be shrinking, the money involved just isn’t real and I can only suppose that the purchasers have it in mind to recoup their outlay by selling on the progeny. No racing pigeons are worth that kind of cash. The top fanciers are constantly seeking out and buying new strains, mostly from the continent, but then again most of them as well as being good racers are sellers too. Some of them in quite a big way. Fashion seems to play a major part in all this. New strains always sell better, even if they don’t race better! Big money never guaranteed good birds, but it gives one a far wider choice of course and if you chose wrongly, then you have two fresh choices to make. You can bury them or sell them on. I think it is pretty safe bet to say that not a lot of spades get worn out. Me? I get my best birds for nothing off my friends. It’s safer that way!
“2953" and her daughter are both horrible looking pigeons, yet are good breeders. Awful looking birds, if bred down off good stock, can often breed pigeons which are far better physical specimens than themselves and which can excel on the road. It is a lesson that I learned the hard way. Everything 2953 has bred, excepting the daughter mentioned earlier who has herself bred good pigeons, has been better than her and she has left a very good line in my loft. It makes you think. We all like good looking pigeons that handle well, but that is no reason to dump well bred “horrors” without first seeing what they in turn can breed. The end result of all this is an open mind. No longer do I have a prejudice against pigeons that aren’t my type providing they come from a winning line with winners very close to them in their pedigrees. When you can’t find a winner in four generations of breeding and start turning the pedigree over to see if there’s one on the back, then it’s high time you put that particular piece of paper, and the pigeon, back in the pen! Yet some people do buy them. And pay over the odds for the privilege!
Going to Malta in winter time was a fine idea. It was part of the Argentina deal that I had with my wife. Coming back was not. One day I was sat in the sun with a glass of beer in my hand, plus a belly full of Octopus done in garlic, butter and red wine, watching the world go by, and the next day I’m trudging down the garden freezing cold and with my shoes full of snow. This is the weather that sorts out the fanciers from the stamp collectors. There is no doubt about that!
The big debate in Malta was about dehydration as a factor in their recent losses. And whether big pigeons were affected more by it than small ones. Personally I would think so, but there is dehydration and there is dehydration. What the pigeons suffer from in Malta and what we undergo in the UK are two very different scenarios! To a lesser extent our birds will be affected by problems of heat loss and dehydration, but any comparisons are not really valid.
Size, even within a species, has it’s advantages and disadvantages. Birds tend to be larger in the cooler parts of their breeding range. This is to conserve energy as the surface to weight ratio decreases as size increases and therefore less body heat is lost in a given amount time. It would be an interesting exercise, if it were possible, to scientifically compare the size of racing pigeons of the same breed say in Australia, with those in somewhere like Norway and to determine whether this has any relevance in their tolerance to dehydration!
Another factor which comes into play, is that when the environmental temperature is close to the birds body temperature, say 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Centigrade) the bird can’t get rid of all its heat production by radiation and convection and must evaporate water to keep itself cool. Having no sweat glands it can only do this by panting and when the weather is humid, as it often is in Malta, less water can be evaporated than when it is dry and the pigeon will lose condition. Despite the best efforts of the Convoyer. You lose condition you lose pigeons! I once made a living out of Human Physiology but Avian Physiology is another field altogether and I am not so sure of my ground here. Facts are facts though and heat regulation in birds is pretty well understood these days.
Being on the East or the West side of any organisation, as opposed to being in the North or the South, was well worked over at the annual meeting. Despite the fact, that in the Up North Combine we are corridor flying, and up a non too wide corridor as well, there are many who think it makes a big difference in our Inland Nationals if the wind is from the wrong quarter. Of course I can appreciate the obvious problems of being situated right at the back or right at the front on the “wrong” wind but flying into an east to west strip of perhaps 10 miles in width, with maybe 18-20,000 birds racing up it, ought not to present many difficulties in side winds. Whichever direction they are blowing from or wherever the lofts happen to be. Big National winners invariably arrive on their own and bang on line. Whatever the wind. The ones most affected by the wind and racing in from the wrong direction are your latecomers. Not your winners!