On Saturday the 17th May 2014 the British International Championship Club Alencon race went underway into bright sunshine and a light north wind turning south westerly in the UK.
The wind was light enough for the pigeons to hold their line and so, with the top of the result spread over three sections, the winner, raced by Mark Shepherd of Plympton, was a yearling cock raced on widowhood of M & D Evens and Stuart Inett bloodlines.
The sire bred for stock by O’Hare & Woodward from their direct Myrtle Lofts pigeons is a brother to 2nd section L, 127th Open NFC Fougeres, 1st Club Tewksbury and 2nd Club Mangotsfield. The Dam was also bred for stock by Stuart Inett and is a full sister to multiple winners. She is herself bred from “De Kannibaal” via Peter Fox of Syndicate Lofts.
So a whole list of proven breeding pigeons make up the gene pool of this racing machine now named “Durham Dazzler” who himself has won 10th Federation Lyndhurst, 5th Open BICC Falaise against 3278 birds and now 1st Open BICC 6590 birds just two weeks later.
It has to be said that by modern standards, Mark has a modest set up to race his pigeons to but the small six bird team is pure quality raced on a very well thought out system. Mark has a preference for young bird racing so his system is geared towards getting his team right through the moult before they begin racing.To achieve this he coupled his pigeons at the end of November 2013 and with the use of artificial lights, gave them the equivalent of 14 hours daylight from then on. This allows Mark and his partner Sam, to more easily care for the pigeons during the winter months and when work commitments take Mark away from home for weeks at a time.
The upshot of this system has meant that all his old pigeons are now on their third and forth flight in the middle of May when most other pigeons have not yet thrown their first. Some are big believers in the pigeons showing best form when the first flight has been replaced and thereafter form peeks as each of the following flights are thrown.
The wing of Durham Dazzler shows he had grown the second right up and just thrown the third for this race, so you can draw your own conclusions.
The pigeons are fed on a strict system with a detailed list being left for Sam to follow in Marks absence and in his line of work he has met fanciers from all over Europe and a very good friendship with a Dutch fancier from Amersfoort has brought forth good advice.
He feeds Wal Zoontjes and Gaby Vandenabelle mixtures from Beyers along with energy mix and various supplements to give peak performance towards the end of the week.
At this moment in time his young bird team are on their 8th flight and well on the way to completing their wing moult before racing begins in July. Once through Mark begins training and considering the proliferation of Peregrine Falcons in the area, he is very anxious each time they go, but go they must.
Not happy with the darkness system because some did not complete the wing moult by year end he decided to change his system and it has already brought forth success with the old birds early season racing.
It has to be said that Durham Dazzler is a very good pigeon and no doubt would have raced just as well on any system. He is a calm quiet pigeon around the loft and showed no opposition to the attention he received today and promptly returned after being liberated some distance away for verification, such is the bond to his box.
When I arrived the very next day a barbecue was being prepared by Marks good friend Richard Elliot and a place at the table was soon arranged for me and after a very long drive, it was very much appreciated.