West of England Combine with Alen

Written by Alen Gibb on .


At last I have found time to pen this latest article highlighting the achievements of the winners in our Combine races. Unfortunately I have been unable to get details from everyone. I would ask all who are fortunate to win the Combine to send me details of their winner together with a photo of the bird or their loft.


A big thank you to all clubs for their support so far - our old bird racing saw a total of 38,313 birds being convoyed against a total of 31,073 in 2013. Our average birdage was a fraction under 3,000 birds per race – not bad in this day and age especially when five of the thirteen races are across the channel.


As I write this we have had three young bird races – more details of which will be in the next article. Our birdages have suffered in what must be one of the worst (if not the worst) years for young bird sickness. This alone has seen my own club lose about 250+ birds from each race. This coupled with the increasing hawk attacks during training and around the lofts is unfortunate to say the least. Let’s hope the worst is past.


Following on from our third channel race, the Combine returned to inland racing from Lyndhurst on 21st June when 243 members from 25 clubs entered 2335 birds. The birds were liberated at 7.50am in very still conditions with no wind. The Crewkerne club took the first eight positions with a further six in the top twenty. Coming out on top was our race advisor Mike Staddon flying 51 miles, with the first three in the result followed by 5th, 6th & 10th. Mike’s winner is a 2 year old chequer cock, ‘09’, making 1461 ypm. Mike had seven birds drop together and was pleasantly surprised to win 1st Combine as they didn’t trap too well The second timer is a 6 year old hen, ‘49’, and is a full sister to the winner. They are from Mike’s number one pair, mainly Marcel Aelbrecht from great friend Sheldon Leonard.  Incidentally, the winner and third bird have previously won many NFC prizes, both topping section C.  The third timer, ‘50’, is bred from Chris Gordon pigeons. 5th and 6th Combine are grandchildren of Mike’s number one pair.  All pigeons are raced widowhood not roundabout.  The hens exercise to their own section and the cocks exercise to the nest box sections.  They only see each other at the races. The birds are never routinely treated for anything but would be treated if there was a problem. Mike firmly believes in natural immunity and the only supplements used come from the supermarket or health food shops. He believes the stuff on the market for pigeons are a total rip off. He never keeps his pigeons to a routine.  They go out when it suits Mike and not 7am every day or 5pm at night. Sometimes they are out at 6am but next day could be 9am and mostly only once a day.  You could call it a chaotic system but it works. Mike feeds various mixtures from Verse-laga depending on the distance.


Mike Staddon with 1st Combine Lyndhurst (2335b) Mike’s widowhood hens


Our penultimate channel race was from Nort-sur-Erdre on Sunday 29th June following a one-day holdover due to rain throughout France. 185 members from 26 clubs entered 1,164 birds which were liberated at 7.30am into a light west wind. Ever consistent fliers Sid & Val Miles of Carlingcott came out on top with a 2 year old mealy cock making 1167 ypm for the 271 mile trip. They were followed by Clive Taylor of Farrington Gurney on 1159 ypm and Ray English of Wraxall Village on 1147 ypm. 2nd & 3rd Combine winners were both yearling cheq hens. In a stiff race 40 birds made 1100+ ypm. Sid & Val’s winner is a very consistent bird having now won three 1st prizes; he is bred down from their old distance family originating from ‘Little Darling’ and ‘Ashgrove King’, both winners of 1st NFC Pau.


Sid & Val Miles of Carlingcott with their 1st Combine Nort-sur-Erdre (1164b)


For the last inland race of the OB season the Combine was at Littlehampton on 5th July when 201 members entered 1767 birds. They were liberated at 11.35am into a west wind and the most northern clubs came out on top in what turned out to be a fairly stiff race. Steve Hanman of Gloucester & District timed the winner to make 1184 ypm for the 104 mile journey with a yearling chequer cock. Steve is no stranger to winning and is thoroughly enjoying his first season flying in the Gloucester club with the Combine. The winner is a Beverdam Janssen – the sire being a son of ‘Bruce’ – a big winner for Beverdam – and the dam is a grand-daughter of ‘Jackpot’, the sire of many winners for Herman and others. Club-mates Dean & Tracy Peart were 2nd Combine followed by Mr  & Mrs Mick Doney of the Stroud Valley club.


Steve Hanman of Gloucester & District with his 1st Combine Littlehampton (1767b)


To round off the old bird season the Combine raced from Bordeaux on Friday 11th July when 95 members from 24 clubs entered 533 birds. Luckily for us the weather in Bordeaux was fine, unlike Bergerac where the Classic and others were forced to hold due to mist and overcast. The birds were liberated at 6am into a light NW wind and a hard race ensued. The day ended with 12 gallant birds being timed. It would appear that the Combine had the best race of all others who raced at the distance that weekend. A total of 44 birds were recorded in race time but we do know of others who arrived well within race-time but were not timed. Failure to do this did result in one club missing out on the trophy for best points in the old bird season.


Geoff and Catherine Cooper of the Carlingcott club timed a two year old chequer widowhood cock, named ‘Farmer Sparey’, after Mark Sparey of Wales who fancied this bird when he visited this spring. He was timed after 12hrs 20minutes for the 451 mile journey making 1074 ypm and topping the Combine.  He was paired at the end of January and reared one young bird.  Prior to racing he and the rest of the birds had two training tosses of 20 miles and then just loft exercise twice a day. As a yearling he flew through to Saintes then this year as a two year old he flew a couple of inland races then two BICC races, the last one being Tours; here he was 25th National. He was then sent to Pau International, which was going to be his last race for the season but when Geoff was basketing four two year old late breds for this race ‘Farmer Sparey’ was bouncing round the loft, telling Geoff that he was in top form, so he was picked up and sent.  The partnership had four back in good time from six sent and all returned in excellent condition.


The sire of ‘Farmer Sparey’ is ‘George Junior’ who won 4th Classic Carentan. He is a son of ‘George’ 1st NFC Tarbes. George has been a prolific breeder for Geoff and others.  He is one of those birds whose children turn out to be superb breeders, regardless of what hen he is paired to. ‘George’ is G/Sire to 1st International Bordeaux, 2nd International Bordeaux yearlings for Mark Gilbert plus a host of many other top National birds for the Cooper's and others. The Dam of ‘Farmer Sparey’ was bred by Clive Lister and is a granddaughter of Brockamp's ‘George’.


Geoff Cooper with ‘Farmer Sparey’ – 1st Combine Bordeaux (533b)


Incredibly, in such a hard race, 2nd & 3rd Combine winners were split by decimals. Alan & Kim Bedford of Broad Plain Houses club in Bristol timed a 4 year old cheq cock to make 1056.859 ypm over the 460 miles closely followed by T Palmer of Lydney flying 482 miles on 1056.294 with a 4 year old blue cock.


The Combine awards a trophy for the most points accrued by a club in old bird racing. There are 27 clubs so the winning club in each race gets 27 points, the second club gets 26 and so on. At the end of the season things couldn’t have been closer. Sodbury Vale club had 254 points, Gloucester & District 253 and Towers 252.


I would close by giving a special thank you to our race advisor Mike Staddon for the hard work he puts in each week in liaising with other organisations to negotiate liberation times to avoid clashing for all and by closely studying weather forecasts. Because of our geographical location the Combine is extremely susceptible to clashing and our sometimes very large birdages can have an adverse effect on others unless sensible times are worked out and adhered to by all. A further vote of thanks must go to our convoyers/drivers for the hard work they put in to looking after our birds – it’s nice to see their efforts are commented on by others at the various race-points who witness their efforts.


That’s it for the old birds – let’s hope we have a good young bird season.



Alen Gibb