Jim Emerton Talking To John Berry.
John your history in pigeons goes back for years and years, how did it all start?
When my interest in pigeons first started in 1983, I kept tumblers and fantails etc, I purchased a pair of racing pigeons from my local cattle market auction and I then joined my local club. Over the years I have had a few breaks from pigeons, but I seemed to always start again with them never having more than a few years break. My family has always had pigeons including my father, grandfather and son.
Tell us a little about your good self-John.
My name is john berry I am 52 and live in Blackburn Lancashire with my wife and family, my main hobby now is pigeon racing.
Who inspired your first attempts at long distance and marathon racing. ?
I was always interested in club channel racing, I started taking an interest in races above 500mile when my friend Ricky brindle won the section from Bordeaux with the BBC in 1995 and I was present when the bird arrived early morning of the 2nd day, the following year I joined the BBC.
What is your take on the great races like Palamos and Barcelona?
There is no feeling like watching a pigeon fold up from 800 miles plus. And once you have done this there is not much else that can match the adrenaline.
How do you prepare birds for these races?
They are prepared from the very first race of the season and they are always fed as if they are flying a channel race whether that be 100miles or 500miles. Due to only flying a handful of pigeons I need pigeons that always come home, and I lose very few pigeons feeding this way, so it works for me. I race total widowhood cocks only and very rarely fly hens however this year I am going to try a few pairs on natural with Tarbes in mind.
But this will be the first year I will have ever flown natural. And all performances and wins I have had up to 857miles have been on total widowhood cocks only. They will have 3 land races up to 150miles and 1 channel prep race for an extreme distance race. They are loft flown twice a day for an hour. They are always fed the same high carb mix with added fats from the first race until the last race, I have a bag of barley on hand in case I need to regain their appetite for a few days. The race birds are tested regularly during racing however I very rarely have to treat.
What are some of your best performances over the years?
Before I started to concentrate on the national races my birds won clubs, federations, combines, 2 bird clubs, open races etc from 60-520miles. My most memorable performances were sending to palamos 857miles twice and timing twice, both times being single entries.
I clocked the furthest flying bird in race time when I won 1st section, 31st open palamos 1998 winning quite a few honours clocking early morning on the 3rd day this was a delbar cock that raced previously for my father and I broke him to my loft when he stopped racing he was bred by Alan parker from his Sutton pair and purchased in a breeder buyer which he ended up winning he also was the only bird on the day from Nantes as a yearling and won quite a few other prizes. I sent 1 pigeon again to palamos in 2001 clocking again in race time getting 11th section 163rd open.
Does your family help and support your interests?
Yes, they have supported me, but they don’t take an active role. My son raced with me from the age of 12 but now races on his own since he moved out.
Do you develop a strain of birds John e.g. by inbreeding?
I only keep 3 pairs of stock currently having only been back racing 7 years and now I am racing 3rd generation from these so I am not at the stage where I need to start inbreeding, over the years I have tried inbreeding and line breeding but I have found my best results have come from pairing best to best for example good racing cocks to daughters of good racing cocks.
How can we promote marathon racing in the North of England and the Midlands e.g. with the BICC?
I think if it is made more accessible for fanciers in the north you will get more fanciers sending as we have good birdage in the nfc etc in sections L & K so I think if there was somewhere to mark up north for the internationals I personally know a lot of people who would love to participate however for me at this moment in time it would mean a 300mile + round trip to mark and send my birds so it isn’t an option for the internationals.
What is a good marathon food mix?
I’ve used a very similar mix for over 30 years which is 2/3 versele laga superstar plus and 1/3 maize and on top this I add extra hemp and sunflower hearts. Additionally, they get 2-3 peanuts everyday all season. This mixture is fed from the beginning of April.
Have you won at different distances?
I have won from 60-857 miles.
Do you read good pigeon books John?
I used to read lots of books, but I don’t tend to bother much now.
What is your take on pigeon politics?
I try and stay out of it as much as I can however, I think the sport needs a drastic shake up.
Are British pigeons the best?
Most families of pigeons now have a big continental influence so it would be hard to say they are the best as they are few and far between.
How does a great pigeon man tick John?
Observation is key I think many problems can be solved if spotted early so in answer to your question I would say observation is the most important thing. Knowing your pigeons as individually and this can be advantageous to the small team flyer.
Is the essence of a good bird on the inside of the pigeon?
Yes, the type of pigeons I need for the races I want to compete in must have big hearts, guts, terrific homing ability and a love of home.
Are good pigeons given?
Yes, some of the best pigeons I’ve ever owned were gifted
Is the drive for money killing the sport?
I think now there is a lot of money being made from the sport but none of this money seems to be going back into the sport to sustain it.
What are the names of great birds of the past?
Woodsider is one that has stuck in my mind over the years.
More comments please and pics to me Jim Emerton and thanks.
I don’t consider myself an expert or even a good flyer but if I was to advise anyone who wants to fly these kinds of races my advice would be to put the reserves into them right from day one not the week before, 800 miles isn’t just around the corner like some fanciers think it is a long way with potential mistakes on route and they need to have a good reserve of energy. Before they win, they must come home my aim first and foremost is to get them home I don’t lose many pigeons over the channel they seem to always come home, and I put this down to the way I feed.
Right: snowy flown France 12 times up to 734miles (7 years old)
Left: snowy son flown France 5 times up to 734 miles (2 years old)
My breeding now based mainly around snowy his children and grandchildren are good honest pigeons.