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News From Malta By Tony Harte March 2014




by Tony Harte

March 2014

The weather in Malta has been warmer than normal but now it has changed for the worse. We have had a spell of heavy showers and strong winds, not unexpected for this time of year and this season we have had more holdovers with the pigeons than I have known throughout the last five years that we have been living here. This can be considered a good thing in one way as the Maltese have a bit of a reputation for releasing the pigeons irrespective of the weather. When pigeons are released in showery weather and they come back extremely nervous. This I guess is due to the fear of being hit by driving rain. Early morning mist can play havoc with the pigeons orienteering and if the Maltese pigeons are a half a degree out and not able to see a small island like Malta, they can fly past and the next port of call is Tunisia/Libya. It is a hard life being a racing pigeon in Malta, so it’s all the more important that we give the greatest priority to the welfare of the pigeons.

Some of the North East of England's top fanciers on a bus man's holiday to Malta. From left to right: Ardanette Harte, Margaret Stobbs, David Smith, Ket Litchfield,Mark Stobbs, Charlie Williams, Paul Stobbs, Lee and Alan John Croudace.

Here is an update on the racing scene.

Belvedere (3), 155Km, was a good one for Gozo, as in the Rabat RPC we took the first 7 positions in the Federation from 8183 pigeons and also took 9th position. 1st club, Rabat RPC, Club 18, (452 pigeons), 1st Fed was Noel Grima. 2nd and 8th club, 2nd & 9th Fed was club President John Bajada (Argentine), 3rd club, 3rd Fed was Raymond Grima, 4th club, 4th Fed was Martin Cardona, 5th & 9th club, 5th Federation was Salvu Vella, 6th & 7th club, 6th & 7th Fed was “yours truly” Tony Harte, 8th & 10th Federation was Oscar Mangion. Central RPC, Mosta, club 11. The next race saw Fed 6607 with 361 Rabat RPC birds. First Federation was Frans Sultana and 1st Rabat RPC, 2nd Fed was Michael Scibberas, Nadur, Club 14, James Cardona was 2nd Rabat RPC and 3rd Fed, John Hili was was 3rd club, 4th Fed, 5th Fed were Cilia Bros, Nadur, Tony Grech was 4th club, 6th Fed, 7th Fed was Oliver & Ronald Scibberas, Sliema RPC, 8th Fed was Peter Paul Debono, Nadur, Gozo, John Bajada was 5th & 6th Rabat RPC and 9th Fed, with Richard Schembri, St Julians PC in 10th Federation.

Belvedere (4) was flown on 5th January with 8344 birds competing. Oscar Mangion, Central RPC was 1st Fed/National, Noel & Heathcliff Attard, Birkirkara HU was 2nd National, Louis Taljana, B`Kara, 3rd Fed, 4th Joseph Scibberras, club 23, 5th Fed was Mario Cardona, B`Kara, 6th was William & Jeffrey Cauchi, B`Kara, 7th National Raymond & Nicholas Gauci, Central RPC, 8th Nat`l Francis Scicluna, Homer club, 9th John Camilleri, Msida club and 10th National, Henry Pullicino, Central RPC. In the Rabat RPC, Gozo, Noel Grima takes 1st & 5th places, M & K Mercieca take 2nd spot, Joe Attard 3rd, young Christian Muscat (16 years) takes 4th, Alfred Hili  6th & 7th, with V & S Spiteri in 8th.

The next race was also from Belvedere (5), as to be able to send a pigeon on to a longer race, the pigeon must first be qualified by competing/racing from Belvedere. With only being allowed to send a maximum of 10 pigeons per race, this means that those fanciers wishing to compete at the longer races, but also wishing to be competitive on the short races, have to balance the number of “sprint pigeons” to try to win the race/gain points with the “long distance” pigeons, which need to be qualified, but less likely to gain any honours at this distance. 1st national was that man, Oscar Mangion, Central RPC, again, from 8344 pigeons and 2nd National was Noel & Heathcliff Attard, B`Kara, 3rd was Louis Taljana, B`Kara, 4th, Joseph Scibberasd, Club 23, 5th Mario Cardona, club 23, 6th William & Jeffrey Cauchi, B`Kara, 7th Raymond & Nicholas Gauchi, Central RPC, Mosta, 8th Francis Scicluna, Homer, club 3, 9th John Camilleri, Msida PFC and 10th National was Henry Pullicino, Central RPC. In Rabat RPC, Gozo Mario Grech was 1st club from 448 pigeons, Gregory Lofts 2nd & 9th, Joe Vella 3rd, Raymond Grima in 4th, Tony Sacco 5th, Paul Aquilina 6th, John Portelli 7th and James Cardona 8th. In the Rabat RPC the first 8 places get a trophy for each race, from around 70 members.

The next race held on 23rd January was the first of the “long distance” races, held from St Euphemia, Italy, 360 Km, with 4926 pigeons (including 200 from the Rabat RPC). The weather was appalling and there was a holdover with the pigeons having 6 nights in the basket (all races involve 2 nights in the basket, under normal conditions). Noel Grima, Rabat RPC was 1st National, 1st club, Rabat RPC, Peter Paul Debono, Nadur club 14, Gozo, was 2nd National, 2nd & 3rd Rabat RPC, 4th & 8th National was “yours truly, Tony Harte, with an Eddie Newcombe blue hen that had previously spent 5 months AWOL from her very first race. When she came back she was black but still had her ETS chip on, so I moulted her through and started to race her again this season, so my “Festival Holiday hen” has more than repaid me. 5th National was Silvio Borg, club 23, 6th National was Marco Farrugia & Henry Jackson, club 23, 7th National were Lara & Gorg Delcapo, Msida PFC, 9th National, Carmel Azzopardi, B`Kara and 10th National Joseph Dimech, B`Kara. Tony Grech was 4th Rabat RPC, Demis Bajada was 5th club, Mercieca Bros were 6th club, 7th club was Martin Cardona and 8th club was “The Farmer”, Coronato Mercieca.    

As a relief from racing the Rabat RPC held its Annual Pigeon Show, which was very well supported, although attendance was effected by the strong winds, with some Malta fanciers not wanting to chance a rough ferry crossing. However, a very successful show ensued, a raffle of a 40 inch LED TV, an auction of some gift birds, for club funds and of course, the show of the pigeons themselves. The Rabat RPC was successful in winning the club shield for the club with the most points gained in the show. Best in Show was Leo Agius (Tyson), best cock was won by Mario Niccu and best hen was won by Leo Agius. There were classes for old & young, hens & cocks, raced & not raced, as well as foreign cocks and foreign hens etc. The judges certainly had their work cut out and did a marvellous job, as did Marco Farrugia in auctioning the gift pigeons.   

Some English winter visitors, Paul Dawson, Maltese Michael, George Fisher and Malcolm Proudlock.

At this time of the year there is not a lot of wildlife to be seen. I feed some overwintering robins, pied wagtails and redstarts, together with some resident sparrows, in the garden. On the days where we have some warming sunshine, you will see the occasional lizard and also some bats coming out at night. March is usually the month whereby we will see the start of the spring migration and something that I look forward to. The overwintering birds will be with us one day and suddenly you realise that they have left us for another year. Next we see the various species crossing the Mediterranean, including such birds as Kestrels, Buzzards, Bee Eaters, Quail, Night Herons etc.

It is still the season for British fanciers to recharge their batteries, enjoy some sunshine and socialise with the friendly Maltese fanciers. “Ginger Joe” Mifsud at the Blue Bar Cafe, Qawra, always provides a warm welcome and it is a popular meeting place for UK fanciers.

I enclose some photos of some fanciers recently spotted on our beautiful islands. Meantime, I need to get to work on the birds and pair up my stock, on the day/night of the full moon!

Philip Carbonaro, selling some Belgian imported pigeons at the Gozo Show.

From left to right, Tony Buttigieg, Charlie Portelli, Joe Saliba and John Catania, the four Maltese judges at the Gozo Show 2014.

Andrew Pace, selling some Jap Van Alphen pigeons at the Gozo Show.

Marco Farrugia, auctioning some gift birds for club funds at the Gozo Show.

Gato & Paul Aquilina, with some happy faces, at winning some trophies at the Gozo Show.

Marlon Curmi, club secretary, together with members of Rabat Pigeon Club, with the Gozo Show, Club winner Shield.