All about PIGEONS.....from the guys who know

After dropping into the Larkhall Inn for a quick 'lemonade' (yeh!), I learned more than I've ever known about pigeons! So I ordered my lemonade, walked out to the back garden of the pub and sat down enjoying the late afternoon sun. All of a sudden I heard "cooing" noises coming from the road and turned around to see some guys carrying in baskets and baskets of pigeons. Me being the "nosey parker" I am asked them what the birds were for (and hoping they weren't on the menu at the pub for dinner) was delighted to be told that they were racing birds getting ready for tagging and release the next day. Of course this wasn't enough information for me, so I spent the next two hours with Simon, Dave, Steve, Janet and the rest of the Bath South Road Pigeon Club, learning all about how, where and why you would race pigeons. I must say I had no idea how complex the process is.

Did you know:
- During a race, upwards of 6000 birds can be released at EXACTLY the same time
- Pigeons are fed a special mix of maise, corn, maple peas and supplements
- Pigeons tend to mate for life (however some of the friskier cocks might have "a bit on the side" ever so often) I'm told
- The birds all have bands on their legs (some have state of the art electronic tags) that are 'clocked' when they arrive back home at the end of the race
- The pigeons start racing at about 6 months of age and have to 'train' just like any other athlete
- During WW2 pigeons were often the safest means of the military to communicate and a couple of pigeons received the Victoria Cross as a result of the support they provided in the midst of immense threat, during the war
- Lots of racing pigeons are killed by Sparrow Hawks and Peregrines (because their numbers have increased due to being protected species)
- Racing pigeons can fly 1880 yards per minute (depending on wind velocity)

The "pigeon pals" I met were en route to Little Hampton, where they would be released the next morning and it would take most of them about 1 1/2 hours to fly home.

So thanks to Dave, Steve, Simon, Jane (the publican), Kevin, Janet, Dave, Rob, Brian, Dave (again) and a mystery man (we'll call him 'the phantom' who is hiding in the back of the photo), who provided me with all of this information and who were all so friendly and generous to a nosey Aussie who knew NOTHING about pigeons, but was keen to learn!.

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