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The Richard Scott Story by Dave Brierley. 03-11-20

The Richard Scott Story by Dave Brierley

Subject: Q&A s for Richard

Question 1:

Please explain the pivotal moment when you were introduced to our mystical, feather laden, mussel bound and intelligent friends. Who only those are passionate and love these little bundles of fun would be able to recognize this description as a pigeon! Please feel free to explain the background to your early life and elaborate using any details no matter how small to emphasis the your experience?

1A: Well it was a gradual introduction really, over years, but the seed was planted in my head from the age of being able to recognize that people raced these birds. So probably about 6 years old, when my mother explained to me why my grandad spent every Saturday at the end of the garden, on his loft steps, puffing on his pipe, just sitting there waiting. He didn't rush over to see us when we visited, and no one really talked to him much, just take him the odd cup of tea up. He was a serious looking chap, 6 foot 4 and an ex marine  in the war. Lucky to survive. Anyway, he totally loved his pigeons, there were usually an odd few in baskets in their bathroom. Never knew why, he was a man of few words, they were probably being treated or trained. He used to cycle 10 miles to the pub and then back every night, then cycle 12 miles plus to toss his pigeons in the week! Fit chap!

We then left Birmingham, me being aged 8, we moved about a bit, then finally settled in a cottage in the Welsh hills. Bit of a difference. We started a small holding, and amongst the weekly market visits, I'd return with fantail crosses, tumblers, and then finally, aged 12 I brought 27 rung racing pigeons all for £2. Kept them in a shed for a fortnight instead of a month advised by my dad. I then let them out and they disappeared instantly, never seen again. This got me thinking! If they can be that determined to get back home, then I want birds to race back to me now. 

The years rolled by, beer and girls etc, then I started getting an interest in feathered birds again , as my farmer friend kept pied pigeons as pets, flying about the farm, and even ate the odd few when too many pigeons had bred. I had one for Sunday dinner there one day! Anyhow, I got myself a rented cottage aged 25, at age of 30 I had a flock of white racers flying about, looking nice on my cottage roof. The thought of racing them one day maybe.

But the pivotal moment was while collecting some free logs locally ten years ago, and a neighbour was out waiting for his pigeons to return from France, two young lads they were from Wrexham. After a quick chat, and a chap up the road was recommended, a Mr Hale, my dad and I ended up, after many friendly cups of tea there, and loads of good advice, leaving with a few stock birds and a dozen YB’s to get me started! Stopped at Cliffs corn store at Chirk and more good advice, then it was back home to quickly convert my tool shed into a loft like structure within 24 hours! Tools out- pigeons in. Sputnik and feeders and I felt great, this is when I decided that this should of been done years ago.

A visit to a nearby neighbour who keeps pigeons , more birds and advice, then joined the local club, who are great, and haven't looked back since, just forward. 

So in a nutshell, the pigeon bug seed was planted in Birmingham in 1975, then after a few phases of keeping pet pigeons, I finally had a race team ten years ago. Can't see being without one now either. 

 

Question 2:

Moving forward using the label time in the same vein about a fancier and his bird’s everyone one in all aspects of life need what I call champions others my call mentors or friends to support, encourage and educate them through the good times and those dark times within the sport. Who then has kept your spirits up, kept that light burning and just been there for you. Please mention them and how they have helped you?

2A: It would have to be my wife who has gave me the most encouragement to stick at it the first few years, when I doubted sometimes if it was worth the time and trouble . Also a large part goes to my parents who said to give it a good go. The main reason I had the chance to have time to take part was due to me injuring my spine in a motorcycle accident, I can walk ok but can't work since due to the pain, so this was an ideal hobby to help keep my mind occupied . It gave me something else to focus on . 

The local club members have been a great help to me, and most other flyers have all been helpful , but the inspiration behind me getting the distance racing bug is mainly due to a visit to my friendly neighbour , Cameron Stansfield, who first opened my eyes with his achievements over the years at distance racing with his strain, a lovely loft of birds, and photos of his prize winners framed on his wall. Also a book of his 'The Roads To Rome' , a great book. He no longer races but still keeps his strain going. I obtained some birds from him, but only raced them inland mostly. They done better at distance. I then got into reading Jim Emerton books, I loved these, a different outlook on it, and a very different angle, concentrating on the birds minds and proven genes/ types , more so than the fancy named breeds feeds and methods etc in most books I'd read up till now. Long story , cut short, I wrote to Jim , we started to regularly message and then spoke over the phone  , and soon became friends, this led to me obtaining great birds direct from his strain, and now we're race partners. I do the racing, and he's my mentor, initial pigeons stock supplier, and any other obstacles are always helped by Jim, so without Jim I wouldn't be racing today. Nick Harvey, Cliff & Nick at the club, Cliff Davenport at the pigeon corn shop, and a few others have all helped along the way. Plus yourself Dave have been helpful when possible. Thanks 

 

Question 3:

It’s obvious from the title that your dream is to win Barcelona! Please will you explain where and how the dream came into your sights and your journey so far?

3A: I had the idea since hearing it's the longest race from the Uk! I just couldn't believe it possible. I never imagined trying. 

I then got told to listen to the song "The King Of Rome" original, by a non pigeon friend, - talk about heart moving, it reminded me of my grandparents days, when life was harder. And the amazing pigeon made it in 1913, all the way from Rome to Derby! I then went to watch the band "The Unthanks" who also sing a good version. It was in my head then , favourite song! 

Then after conversing with Jim Emerton who is a Barcelona "nut" , then the challenge was set. I wanted to try my hardest at it as its a challenge for the bird especially, but also the flyer. You have to be a bit ruthless and hard-headed to send your very best birds to one of the hardest races on earth! Oh , but what a feeling if you get a good return I bet. So during changing from sprint races to distance racing I decided to test what I had in my loft, to see if any capable hidden distance birds in there? I started with 37, all my own mixed breeding, with help on prerace training preparation from Jim , I set about testing them, a few nationals later, they were halved, then came Barcelona! I sent my last 8 older birds, and 3 returned ! Out of race time, but I was amazed, I even seen two pitch in and land on the Sputnik and in, quick drink and feed, and they looked fine. I was a happy man. 

Fast forward to the next Barcelona, I'd obtained some top quality proven distance bred YB’s  for stock, so I had the start of my mission in my lofts. Meanwhile I still had my 3 surviving Barcelona returns, I prepared again by sending to a couple of nationals , plus a good single up toss, then I drove a 6 hour round trip, which included a speeding ticket, to Newport marking station. A long wait ahead now! They were in transit for 5 days, released on a Friday morning during a heatwave, but just as I gave up looking up in the air every day, two returned on day 11, within an hour of each other. Late but I now had witnessed two returns both years, they have got to be worth sending again. 

So that's really most of my journey so far, the next phase is next season, testing the new yearlings  bred from our new stock selection , hoping they'll do well, then it's a case of maturing and keeping them trained, fit and healthy, until they're two years old, and they'll all be tested out to Pau and Barcelona. Any returns will be duplicated from the stock loft and also tested, using this method and planning on improving the strength of the team every year. Tough methods some might say, but it's a tough race and they've got to be ready and fit and healthy. That's if they've got it  in their heads to begin with. This will be tested partially as yearlings to start with.

So it's an ongoing journey as far as I can see!


Question 4:

Every master craftsman needs the best tools at his disposal in our case the bird’s can you tell me about the bird’s the strains and how you came by them and what do you think makes them special?

4A: Exactly, it took me my first few years until I realised without the right birds for the job, you're fighting a losing battle!

Firstly, it's who you know sometimes more than how much money you can spend, in pigeons, also life in general. 

I wouldn't have been able to get the contacts or the quality of pigeons I have now without the big help of Jim. I keep on mentioning his name, but he's gone well out of his way to help me get closer to my Barcelona dream. He has called upon a few close friends and obtained a top mixture of quality types to test, see if there's anything better or worth adding to his long strain of proven distance winning birds. They are my main aim, to keep them pure and proven. The Emerton strain has been evolving over 47 years, winning upto 879 miles. I now have about 20 direct pairs, all from his proven Barcelona racers. These are my main family of stock birds I'm concentrating on. 

The other stock strains and breeds here, are to breed racing YB’s from to test against, including some top bred Jelle Jellemas direct from PJ Lofts, all bred from his top lines.

 An excellent nest pair direct from Alan & Roger Phillips from Guernsey Stud Channel Lofts, bred direct off Timmy & Ruby, brother to 1st BICC St Vincent 537 miles,  a Grandsire to Barcelona National winner 2019, plus Ruby full sister 2nd open NFC Tarbes, 36th open Perpignan, plus many other great placings. 

There are also a few, pedigree Stichelbaut pigeons, that have bred winners for the last owners. Dark and strong looking. 

 Also a cracking hen down from  Padfield Invincible x his own daughter, along with a few good Jim Donaldson based birds, plus a few proven pairs of interesting Van Geel/ Cooper/ Derwert mixes, also some good old Jan Aarden pedigree based birds chosen and purchased by Jim himself from Louella and Aarden stud lofts. They are all excellent on paper, and also from proven distance breeding. It's a case of trial and error now to filter out the birds that aren't capable of the tough tasks ahead. 

I still have my 2 own Heinz 57 types that have completed Barcelona the last two years, but not in race time yet, so they will stay in the race loft unless they can pull off a few great races in their next few years, then they may have earned a place in the stock loft ' testing area' . 

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Question 5:

So Richard we now know a little more about you and your bird’s, if there’s anything you feel we’ve missed or you feel is important enough to elaborate feel  free to  add it now before we move on to the practical side of your methods and hardware which you use?

5A: The only thing I can think that might need adding, is I'm not proposing to be a long time, super flyer, who's won lots of good positions in national racing, like a lot of you who maybe reading this, but I am extra keen, as I feel I've found my new goal in life, and this is now my main aim since having to give up my tree surgery business I had for 20 years, due to my injury. I know that won't necessarily help me with racing, but I've always been a strong nature lover, a country boy, hunter and poacher , and spent most my youth out in the welsh hills , bareback on my pony, taking in the essence of nature and all around , also spending many cold hours alone birdwatching, so my general feel for birds and nature has always been there, now I feel I'm putting the birds and their natural abilities together, to both enjoy and see if I can realize my dream of doing well at the mighty Barcelona race. At the same time keep trying to improve upon the pigeons natural ability to 'home' from faraway.

 

Question 6: 

The loft and how you house your bird’s, how important is it to create the perfect environment for your them?

6A: My race lofts are not fancy affairs at all, I wish I could afford them! They are both gifted old lofts, but have had a bit of TLC and they do the job for now. They are well ventilated, but also dry and cosy, not too light as I find the pigeons sometimes like the shady areas. They have a mixture of box perches, nest boxes and the v perches to choose from. But the environment is dictated by outside mostly as I keep them on 24/7 open loft nearly all year round. I separate November/ December to March , but even then they're out on alternate days, so from first light to evening they are in and out all day, depending on the weather. They love the rain and high winds some days, which surprises me, they really can power on then! Got to be good practice for tough days racing I think.

My two stock lofts are converted solid sheds with an aviary each end. I find they spend most the year sitting out in the aviaries and enjoying the weathers elements, a partially covered aviary roof allows them to have a good wash in the rain then too. Separate after breeding, and I then just watch them to see if they look happy with where they're in. 

I think if firstly they're healthy, and have access to a dry rest place and plenty of fresh air all day, they are usually content. Good feeding helps to create the perfect environment , by keeping the birds healthy and happy. 

I personally think some pigeons spend way too much time cooped up in their loft, flying the skies at high speeds looks like when they're happiest to me. I understand hawk problems very well here on the welsh border, but my pigeons evade capture a lot more now they're on open loft, compared to when I gave them an hour or two a day, for sure. 

 

Question 7: 

We all are aware of the different types of systems fanciers use to get the performances from the type of racing they do. What system or systems do you use and please explain why?

7A: I've answered that in the previous question at the same time  I think. 

I use open loft as much as I can, I prefer it for two reasons, I think it definitely suits distance birds being allowed access to all weather conditions , as its great experience for racing. The other reason is it suits me, I think the method used has got to fit in with the fancier and his lifestyle . Some days I can't get out of bed I ache that much, but I manage to just get down my lofts for a look, even if it means my wife doing the feeding etc for me, it gets me up and out even on a bad day. I can do the tasks that need doing most days so no real problem. The birds look happier out too. The sexes are split at times when needed, but even then it's alternate day open loft.


Question 8: 

Feeding and supplementation is critical to provide the correct fuel for the bird’s. Please outline the what, when, how and why you feed and explain your thinking for doing it the way you do?

8A: I feed them the best I can all year round. This is mainly the chosen general pigeon mix, with a percentage of chicken pellets added, enhanced with peanuts, hormoform, and maybe a few added hemp or sunflower kernels. A rich mix, but if out all year they need it. Fats are added more so during distance racing times obviously. Added liquid feed then also seem to help, but I only add these during breeding and racing . I find Osmond's ulti max grit very good too.

 

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Question 9: 

What’s your thoughts and practices regarding medication, explain if do or do not give it what you give when and why?

9A: I vaccinate and treat with Harkers 4 in 1 once a year, and try to stick to just that if possible . I will treat illness's if they arise, but am trying to get them to use their own strong natural immunity . I do find I have to treat for canker during race season . I like the idea of natural medicines but can't really say I use them often as I'd like to. Garlic, cider vinegar, iodine, yoghurt and kefir have all got health benefits , I intend to look more into them in the future.

Question 10:
Now this might just be a very short answer but my own opinion is water does not get the recognition it deserves and is just strap lined with the statement “I just give fresh clean water” Bearing this in mind what are your practices with water for your bird’s and please explain why? 

10A: I totally agree with you on water, there's all sorts of chemicals in there a lot of the time , and we don't really know the long  term effects it could have on our pigeons. I'd like to give them fresh spring water like I used to at my parents , it was clear, tasty water . Frogs living in it, it never harmed us. I now have several water butts I fill up with tap water, then leave for at least 24 hours before filing up the birds water containers, also I mix filtered rain water off the loft roofs from butts in with it when it rains, which it does quite often here! Also I put there baths out on the flat roof in the rain to fill up, as I've noticed when given a choice they prefer rainwater to bathe in definitely . They've adapted to tap water, just like we have had to, but if I had access to running fresh water I'd much rather use it. Natural again, always healthier. 

Question 11:
Fitness and stamina are crucial for long distance or marathon flying can you explain how you achieve this using the analogy of a pigeons build up starts from a youngster. Do you believe it started then or later in life and can you share your thoughts on this subject?

11A: I think stamina can be bred into them ,using proven parents genes , where as fitness has to be worked at more so I think, as I personally often compare pigeon fitness to humans, only because I was very fit in my youth while boxing training, and if you didn't put in the exercise to get fit, then you couldn't last the distance as exhaustion set in. This has dire consequences , in the boxing ring and also in the air flying home. It just can't be done if not fit enough! I feel open loft has the advantage of keeping them fit throughout the year, as they're flying about, in all weathers, often at high speeds racing each other, this keeps them toned, then as the racing starts, I get a few good training tosses in up to 100 miles, then use the extending distance national  races to get them time on the wing in all conditions, this tunes them up ready, and if they return well each race, then I just aim to get them on their first chicks to give them extra motivation on top of the fitness, to try and get that extra bit out of them.

As for stamina, I've experienced it with working dogs, ferrets, horses and even humans, some just seem to have stamina naturally. I know pigeons are totally different beings, but from my experience with racing, the pigeons with good stamina seem to come through thick and thin, and still get home, not always winning of course, but in my one years entry into Barcelona race, 3 of them took 3 weeks! Looking fine on return too. Now that's stamina surely. They probably got carried off and had to work back, I'm hoping anyway. No good to win taking that long I know, but the next year I tried improving on their speed by change in diet and more shorter tosses for speed and confidence, and the same 3 done it in half the time.  An improvement at least. Maybe this year they'll do it in race time. Also if the parents are proven distance racers, they should have the stamina, which I believe is passed on in the breeding. The speed side of it is decided by how well the pigeon grows up and how hard it is raced, although there are sprinters which are usually all pretty fast as that's what they're bred off, but for distance both speed and stamina are needed in abundance, amongst many other attributes.

I have raced YB’s hard and also kept them back the first year, with just tosses, to see if there's a difference, and if fit and healthy I don't think it makes a great difference. It's down to the individual bird again in my opinion, they are teams or flocks, but each bird has a different mind set. You need to try to bring all these together, is the hope. There is always the exception too. Some will win unexpectedly, that's the beauty of it all. We all have our own ideas. But when the stamina and speed are reached then it's the birds best chance, send it !

Question 12:
Now we know more about the man and now his methods what are your thoughts on the future of pigeon racing as a hobby/sport and please share any ideas that you may have on how it can develop and grow?

12A: I wish I had the answer to this one! The way the world is , it's a job to know, they try and ban anything related to animal sports, but it's ok to intensively farm animals! I've worked on a few of these farms, not nice. I like my fishing too but have been told it's cruel on several occasions ! 

I think the best way to improve the sport is to invest more money into getting it televised, if cameras or trackers were fitted it would make great viewing, especially interviewing a few fanciers, so people can see how much it means to us, and the mental as well as physical benefits it can offer. I personally think the pigeon sport donates too much to charity, it's all well and good, but I've always been so surprised how much is given away. To good causes yes, but why not half it and invest it back into the sport.

Bigger prize money would definitely increase flyers as most things are money orientated in one way or another these days. It costs quite a bit to keep and race pigeons compared to what people imagine, so that puts people off starting up I think. But if chances of good prize money were on offer then a few would bite the bullet and give it a go. Also it would give it a purpose to the public eye more so. I do hope it increases over the next few years. Distance races would blow the average persons mind, if they could see what these birds are capable of. Aim it more at retired or people not working due to an illness maybe, as most the youngsters aren't interested in nature these days, let alone the beauty of seeing your pigeons return home. 


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Question 13: 
For any new starters just being introduced racing pigeons can you give some tips on how to help them get started on the right track so they to can enjoy their bird’s and hopefully achieve their goals in  pigeon racing?

13A: The best tip I could give to new starters is start small. A converted garden shed, and 12 pigeons is enough to get going and see if it's for them first. As starting up in real terms of a new loft and advertised quality birds , plus the ETS and all the other bits can add up and become quite daunting to most. I started with gifted used lofts and a mix and match of free pigeons, but once I was hooked, I improved my methods, lofts and birds qualities. Also you can make do to start off with homemade perches, nest boxes and feeders if you or someone you know is handy with woodworking. Even re-cycled cupboards I've used for nest boxes when I couldn't afford any. I bred as good birds out of them.

The other big point is get friendly with a genuine , friendly and knowledgeable flyer locally if possible, this can help your aim and achievements a lot sooner than struggling on your own. Most flyers I met  I was amazed at how helpful they were when I first started. Read as much about racing and pigeon management as you can, and use all the useful tips . And best of luck.


Question 14: 

Finally this question is yours for you to show case yourself and have something to say to other fanciers the podium is yours?

14A: Thank you for the questions, it's always good to read how other flyers go about their sport and hobby. No two flyers are the same. 

The one point I'd like to say is that pigeon racing is there to enjoy, yes it's competition, but it's what we enjoy doing , and that's how it should stay. No room for bitterness or cheats, let's keep the sport going together. We can't all be big names with loads of trophies, although I wouldn't refuse it, the taking part is what counts, and doing it to your best ability. If we all carry on enjoying it and taking part then long may it continue. Yes there's commercialism, that's in everything these days, and who doesn't like to make a few quid. It helps cover the keeping and racing costs of the birds, but some people are selling anything with sometimes a quality distant relative/s  these days for incredible inflated prices. It'd be nice to try and keep it reasonable so more can obtain genuine well bred birds to help them on their mission. The more people racing the better it will get. Its the flyers we need, not fewer flyers with 100's of racers, although they're welcome too, more the merrier. It's the beauty of your pigeon returning home from faraway places that is the true lure to most of us surely? So let's carry on enjoying it while we can, it's a unique, amazing sport ! I hope you enjoyed the read.