Mike Staddon of Crewkerne
Mike has flown pigeons to Crewkerne for the last 30 years and in that time, he has won the National Flying Club three times, the Central Southern Classic seven times and the British Barcelona Club twice!
For this win, his third in the National Flying Club, he carefully prepared a team of old birds, so they would be in a favorable nest position that he knows will give maximum motivation, especially with the hens. Its not an easy task to keep them in tip top condition for this last channel race considering how late in the season it takes place, but he sets his loft up for this race by calculating the nest position he wants, and recouples them accordingly.
The hen that wins the National Flying Club race from Falaise, now called “Falaise Queen” is bred from a Chris Gordon sire when paired to a hen bred by Sheldon Lenard of Ireland. She is not a particularly tame pigeon within the loft, although when she is separated from the cock she will turn her attentions to Mike and come looking for him in the garden and play up to him around the loft area, many times landing on a line post near the house waiting for him. She was flown on the widowhood system, which is total widowhood during the previous races, where the cocks and hens each fly to a separate section of the loft and the hens only go back into the cocks section upon returning from a race.
They are exercised separately, just once per day, with the cocks going out at 6am and the hens at 6pm. This makes it life easy for Mike so he can have time to do other things and the pigeons have to fit around his lifestyle “you do not have to be tied to a strict system to win, it’s all rubbish” he says, and the youngsters can have their exercise around midday if he is at home.
Thirty cocks and hens make up the old bird race team, with the cocks going one week and the hens the next, although sometimes all will be sent if the weather forecast is good. They are paired in February but not allowed to rear before being separated into the different sections after sitting eggs for 10 days. Mike had made alterations to the nest box fronts, to allow them a 4-inch perch and he finds they rest better like this. Training pre season is direct south direction although racing with the club is on the east/west line weekly, with the West of England South Road Combine.
He can also take advantage of a local training scheme, which costs just £3 per loft per training toss, and is a great benefit to all the local fanciers. But when he begins training his young birds he likes private training, and often liberates them in pairs, every two minutes. When they have found their line, they will “Daisy Chain” home two minutes apart, and once they are all back they are fed, as he does not like to train them to the corn tin. He says the pigeons should race home without that encouragement, and a good pigeon can be made into a really good one by training this way. But if they are moderate pigeons they will always be just moderate anyway.
Mike had selected eight pairs to be prepared for the Falaise race, and of those, the eight hens were raced in the Combine, as trainers, up to 100 miles for four weeks before the race. In fact, the week before the National he had five old hens arrive before the young birds, so he knew they were in good form. Better form in fact than the eight cocks that were trained twice per week from twenty miles, so the club training races are a real benefit. Of the 16 that were being prepared, he picked out five cocks and five hens to enter and was quietly confident of a good race.
On the actual liberation day, after being in the baskets for five days due to poor weather conditions, Mike had a 4-hour flight time in mind for a good result. So it was very exciting for him to see a pigeon arrive after only 3 hours 36 minutes, and after a few laps of honor she was timed to record a wining velocity of 1457 yards per minute. Once verified, Mike received confirmation of his win via the leaderboard on the National Flying Clubs website.
Falaise Queen was one of two pigeons, a 6 year old and a 5 year old, that Mike had great faith in, as they have both been very good pigeons with numerous wins between them. “You don’t get many good pigeons like that” Mike says, only this time one of them came back late, with wounds where a hawk had attacked her, and she will be nursed back to full health over the closed season. Hawks are a big problem in the area and each year Mike will loose 15-20 young birds to them
He had also noticed a hen, that had previously won Messac the year before, 2nd West of England Combine, had not performed to the best of her ability this season. Lately she had taken a liking to a young cock which he allowed her to pair to. She was sent with a 3-day-old youngster and subsequently, she was his second pigeon home. “Sometimes the little things can make a huge difference” he said, “she obviously did not like her previous partner as much”. Three more pigeons arrived in quick succession and Mike was happy to see them in excellent condition, which is a real credit to the chief convoyer, who took great care of the pigeons in a difficult situation.
One other interesting thing Mike pondered over. At first, “Falaise Queen” had attacked her youngsters upon her return to the loft, and he could not understand why. He gave it some thought, as it was most unlike the hen to do this, but then realised that they were 6 days older than when she had last seen them, and beginning to grow their feathers, so she thought they were strangers to the nest. An interesting observation indeed, as the hen had obviously expected them to be exactly as they were when she left. She soon settled down again though and was in such good condition that Mike was considering sending her again to the British International Championship Club race from Falaise the following week. But he thought “What a great honour to win the one and only National Flying Club” and decided not to tempt fate, and finish the season on a high.