Review on 2007
A review on 2007 in Holland and Belgium
2007 Was a turbulent year for fanciers in Holland and Belgium.
Especially the Dutch often complain about the fact that the racing season starts too soon, they would rather start one month later (end of April), which is understandable.
March is mostly cold and windy, which is fatal for the condition of the birds if they are trained and raced under such circumstances.
And only after some races many fanciers desperately apply to vets to get the birds into good shape again. But 2007 was different.
From the end of March the weather was better than in summer with clear skies, high temperatures (up to 30 Celsius instead of 7) and the wind was north, so quite ahead.
Never before was the start of the season so nice and smooth and understandably it was often the same birds and the same fanciers that dominated the sprong races of 2007.
I myself was among the lucky ones.
The birds performed unbelievably and won all possible championships on all levels.
It happened that after I had clocked 23 of 29 birds still over 800 prizes were to be won. Then, May 19th, the Middle Distance season started for the southern part of Holland with a race from Pithiviers.
Below my Ace pigeons in Fed in Belgium. Look at Dutch bands that start with '1'.
Belgian bands start with '6'.
I raced 8 hens. 3 Of them in firs 5 Ace pigeons. Fanciers from over 30 towns/clubs can compete in this Fed:
- Comb. Maegh'Ad Schaerlaekens 12 149,22 1161009-06
- Cop Gustaaf 11 102,08 6186103-06
- Van Gastel en Zoon 11 121,16 6187035-06
- Combinatie Maegh ' Ad Schaerlaekens 11 130,23 1160949-06
- Combinatie Maegh ' Ad Schaerlaekens 11 156,80 1161020-06
WHAT A SMASH
The weather forecast was good for this 425 kilometre race.
And when we put on our tellies early in the morning on racing day we read that the birds were released which we found normal in this 'nice' weather.
Some hours later I got a call that I will not easily forget.
'How many birds have you entered?' I was asked.
'All of them' I said.
'Then be prepared for the worst' he (W de Bruyn) reacted, adding 'two hours after the release your birds were still flying above the trucks or sat down on houses. Since pigeons of your province did not leave, ours will be released 2 hours later from a station nearby.
I did not know what to think or how to feel.
Then it became noon.
We awaited the birds but even 3 hours later we were waiting in vain.
When I heard that the Belgian birds that were at the same station were taken home by truck since they dared not release theirs after they saw what happened to our birds I got scared.
Finally some birds got home but it was shocking to see how devastated they were.
They could hardly stand on their feet and this scared me even more.
How could those pigeons completely fall apart with tailwinds?
Unfortunately it turned out I had reason to be scared. We had the greatest smash ever.
Some things were strange.
- After a bad race most birds normally get home the following day or days, but not this time. The fact that they were total loss must be the reason.
- The number of birds that did not make it was not extremely high but it was especially the super birds that never got home. Bad pigeons that normally arrive 1 hour after the first birds and understandably do not win a prize were now on top if they arrived one hour after the first birds - Close to me lives some one of whom I did not know he was a fancier since I never saw his name on the result sheet. One day after the smash he got all his birds home!
- Willem, the man who called, lives in another province, their birds were released nearby ours 2 hours later and it was a fast race without losses.
For me it was a disaster. I lost my best birds, some of them with a sensational record.
- Some super birds from fellow sportsmen did not get lost but' after the smash they were not able to win a prize any more. Had they lost confidence?
A 2 day race from Sint Vincent (1,000 to 1,200 kilometres) also caused much commotion. It was one of those races for which birds are released past noon so that they cannot make it home on the day.
Since pretty many birds arrived in the night from 2 day races with tailwinds in the last few years the Homing Union decided in 2006 that the birds should be released early morning if the wind is south in order to avoid nightly arrivals that make the competition unfair.
Birds are supposed to rest at night and the clock 'is stopped' from sunset till sunrise.
If a bird arrives at 1.00 a.m. and a bird from a fancier that lives 1 kilometre further (North) arrives 3 hours later that bird will win, which is unfair indeed.
This year the people that organised Sint Vincent 'forgot' what was agreed upon, they opened the baskets at noon and what many feared came true; pretty many birds got home at night when they were supposed not to fly.
The winner was a hen from Koopman that flew, according to the result sheet, 134 kilometresper hour, which was not its real speed of course.
The bird had flown into the night when 'the clock stood still'.
Koopman could not help this but his winner almost led to an uproar.
NPO (National Homing Union) admitted a mistake was made and said that from now on birds will be released early morning in case of tail winds; thus the two day race will be a one day race.
We all know that in the last few years H5N1 caused big problems to pigeon sport.
The one positive thing about it was that it was only in spring or in fall that it showed up, since it was birds of passage that spread the virus then it was said.
In 2007 however the virus hit Germany in the month of June.
This had no consequences for German fanciers, since scientists over there found chances are almost nil that pigeons get or spread the virus.
But we felt uncomfortable when we heard the news.
We know how strict the French are and unfortunately soon it turned out we had reason to worry, since 2 weeks later 3 dead swans were found in France.
When tests showed they also died from H5N1 the French authorities directly closed their borders for pigeons.
Fanciers wondered what would happen with the birds that were on their way to Barcelona(Spain) and Sint Vincent (South of France) at the moment the French forbade races.
The Sint Vincent birds were taken some kilometres more south and released in Spain, the birds that were in Barcelona were released like it was planned.
A crazy situation since those pigeons had to fly over France on their way home.
The result from Barcelona showed again that fair races with equal chances for all birds are rare, even at long distance.
The wind was west, people thought the first birds would be clocked in the East of Belgium orHolland or in Germany and thus happened.
The International winner was a German, followed by fanciers who live near the German border.
After the French closed their borders we got a chaotic week.
In some areas there were no races at all, elsewhere there were only sprint races fromBelgium and some provinces raced from new stations in Germany.
The fact that birds that were released in Germany flew over France on their way home again showed how crazy the situation was.
Many that were able to race from Germany dared not since they feared massive losses if birds would be released from another direction as usual, others did not care and raced.
Much to the surprise of many the first races from Germany were normal with no losses.
Yearlings performed best. Was this because old birds were used to another route?
No one can tell.
Then came the second race from Germany on July the 14th.
There was not a cloud in the sky.
The south of Holland raced from Baden Baden, which was approximately 400 kilometres. It was a normal race without losses.
On the same day the Belgians raced from Heidelberg which was also about 400 kilometres.
Now they got 'their' smash, 50% of the birds got lost and the question was why?
Was this because Heidelberg was a bit more off route than Baden Baden?
Again, no one can tell.
PROMOTING THE SPORT
Belgians that auction pigeons will have to pay 5% to the Union, also if they auction abroad.
Throughout the years this was pretty much money.
KBDB said this was used to promote the sport but we saw no signs of that, on the contrary. In 1979 there were about 120,000 fanciers while there were about 40,000 in 2007.
Fanciers asked KBDB what they did with the money but they refused to tell!
Understandably many were not too happy with that.
2007 Was the year that the Belgians organised the Olympiad at Oostende.
It was well organised, many people there, especially from Eastern Europe, Japan and China.
What went wrong were parking problems, a cold atmosphere, high prices and 2 stolen birds, despite the many cameras that were installed,
As for the stolen birds the thieves had bad luck. They were supposed to be good birds but the owners had sent in others that looked like their supers.
After this leaked out people wondered how many birds were not the ones that were supposed to be shown.
Talking about fake in China also many European birds seem to be fake.
Birds have false pedigrees or were bred in China where they were put on a Belgian or Dutch band.
Furthermore many buyers over there found they were misled by middle men.
They thought they bought pigeons from a European champion.
These birds were bred by that champion indeed but he had sold or given them to others where they turned out to be no good.
So what did (some) middle men do?
They bought 'direct' Klaks, Houbens, Koopmans and so on from others where they had proven to be no good.
This lesson is that if you want pigeons from say Meulemans for arguments' sake, you have to buy from Meulemans himself and not from anybody else.
In a yearly overview I normally pay attention to fanciers that performed well in that year.
Naturally also in 2007 some performed real well but none was consistent the whole year round.
Most probably this is due to the changeable weather which had a big impact on the loft climate and consequently on the condition of the birds.