Pigeon project at Kingsmead Technology College (Hednesford, UK)

Back to school at Kingsmead Technology College. We have had a very tough season with only a few weeks races getting to a mile a minute and with wet and cold days all year it was always going to be hard racing for our pigeons which are all yearlings.

All season we been racing in the Lea Hall Welfare Flying Club in Rugeley who race in the Wolverhampton Federation in the West Midlands of England and competing against some of the best known names in the UK such as C Leadbeater & Sons, D Nesbit & Son etc. We have had a mixed season up to now with a great start, taking 6th Club from Frome 104 miles with pigeon GB 11 E49985 which was a blue hen bred from stock off Pickstock & Gillespie from Runcorn, Cheshire. After that though the races started to get very difficult for us and saw our position slip to mid table, which was not so bad as we did only have yearlings and it has been hard racing but the students did not give up and were enjoying the racing. Unfortunately we did have one very bad race in the club it was from Wincanton 114 miles, which is now known in the fancy as black Saturday where we lost 4 out of our team of 9, this left the students a little disheartened but they had learned that that’s part of pigeon racing and after a few days their heads were up getting the remaining pigeons ready for the up and coming national races from France.

So going into the channel races we had 8 pigeons to race from France as we kept one back for the inland races as it was a bred very late from the well-known lofts of Mark Gilbert of Windsor and did not race as a young bird. We entered our first ever channel race in the National Flying Club and as some called it, jumped straight into the deep end as we sent 3 to the Fourgeres race which is 304 miles to the school. We went to the marking station on the Thursday morning at Congleton which is run by Mr & Mrs Froggatt, everything went smoothly and even got back in time for school which was a bonus!

Early Saturday morning I heard that they had been liberated so I called the students’ parents as usual to inform them of the time that they had to be at school to wait for them to return. At 12 pm all the students were at the loft and we started to set up ready and hoping that we would get a pigeon. The guys waited patiently and at 3:15pm the first arrival came from the south and straight through the trap (NWHU N 5250 bred by Bamfords Top Flight) and that was that, we had clocked in our first pigeon on the channel and in the National Flying Club. After we had verified the bird our second arrived 15 minutes later which was the blue hen E85 that we took 6th club with a few weeks back. This time the students phoned up and verified the pigeon so that they could understand what to do in the big races. Their 3rd pigeon arrived early next morning and which meant that we had sent 3 and had all 3 back, which not many people had done as it was a tough race. I suggested to the students that we stopped these pigeons and hold them for the next season, but they asked if we could send again in the National as they enjoyed the racing, so we set the same pigeons up for 2 week time which was the Cholet Race in the NFC and Fougeres again in the Midlands National Flying Club.

Two weeks passed and the birds were all set up for the next set of National races, the first of which was the National on the Saturday and we had entered 2 of the 3 pigeons that had been to the National FC previously. Again the pigeons were basketed on the Thursday for the liberation on the Saturday from Cholet. On the Saturday we had also sent to the club race from Kingsdown so we had 2 races to wait for which was another first for the school. At 3:40 the lads shouted “Here is one!!” at this point we did not know if it was a club or national pigeon, the lads called it down as per usual and it became apparent that it was a club pigeon. Whilst the boys were sorting out the pigeon with food and water and I was also in the loft checking the time it had arrived, suddenly we heard a beep off the Unikon ETS system. We turned to look on the landing board in the loft and sitting there was GB11E49977 and it was a National pigeon, he had flown 392 miles in 9hrs 29 min and you could tell he had given everything. He was watered, fed and verified, the students were over the moon and I told them that this was a very big achievement to only send 2 and get a yearling back in an east wind from 392 miles. I don’t think they believed me but they still looked proud at what had just happened.

So we moved on to the Midland National Flying Club Diamond Jubilee Race from Fourgeres 303 miles. In this race the school had entered just the one GB11E49985 blue hen that I spoke about earlier. The lads picked her to go to this race as she was the best pigeon we had and they said she was the best hope we had of getting a good position in such a big race. The pigeons were basketed on the Sunday at Penkridge marking station for a Tuesday liberation, the day of the Jubilee, but due to bad weather they held until early on the Wednesday morning when 5,382 birds were liberated in a west wind and our blue hen was one of them.

The usual phone calls were made and the students arrived at the school on about 4 hours 30 minutes, the pen was cleaned and pigeons fed and watered, ETS ready and we sat and waited. It was a strong west wind and the early times on the internet indicated a quick race. As we sat there the wind really picked up and the trees behind the loft were bent right over. As we were looking at this I noticed a pigeon high up wings back and heading for the loft. I called here she is! She had over flown and was heading back over the trees from Rugeley, the boys started to whistle to call her down but she was still full of flight and gave us 6 or 7 laps of honour around the loft before she came down, with a slight hesitation on the landing board outside the loft she finally decided to go through the bob wire and was recorded by the ETS system at 5 hours 26 minutes 09 seconds after 304 miles of flying. One of the students verified her on the lib line as the others fed and watered her, then we headed over to school to log onto the internet to see how she was doing in the race. To our shock we found that she was provisionally 9th south west section 71st open. This even took me by surprise as when I saw that she came from the north and wasted time around home I did not think we would be up there. I said to the boys again they had done so well again, to only send one and get her back so high up the result was a massive achievement, I think they understood this time as they could see how many flyers were behind them. It was a great weekend of racing and one I hope we can replicate next year.

Please see below the final results of the 3 national races the school has flown in:

National Flying Club Fourgeres 2012, 304 miles

NWHU 11 N 5250 cheq cock

70th I Section (318 Birds)
1439 Open (6976 Birds)

GB11 E49985 blue hen

81st I Section (318 Birds)
1614 Open (6976 Birds)

National Flying Club Cholet 2012, 393 miles

GB 11 E49977 cheq pied cock

17th I Section (482 Birds)
447TH Open (8717 Birds)

Midland National Flying Club Fourgeres 2012, 304 miles

GB 11 E49985 blue hen

11th SW Section ( 508 Birds)
96th Open (5382 Birds)
3rd SW Section Yearlings National
24th Open Yearlings National
8th SW Section Diamond Jubilee Race
52nd Open Diamond Jubilee Race

Alongside the racing we have been able to get young children involved in the sport by inviting local primary schools to the loft and working alongside them to create new educational environments for them to work in and learn whilst using the pigeons in the process.

On Thursday 17th January Kingsmead invited BBC Midlands Today to film students from both Kingsmead and also St Peters C of E Primary School about the work they had been doing with Mr Chambers within the Kingsfield Lofts Pigeon Project at Kingsmead Technology College. Previously around 60 students from St Peters had come into Kingsmead to look at the diet of the birds and how the students involved in the project maintain a healthy balanced diet, such as protein, carbohydrates, fibre and fats and what effect this had on the birds during racing and also when they are moulting. As you can see by the picture all of the students had the opportunity to feed the pigeons and also hold the birds so that they could see what a racing pigeon felt like.

On this second visit Mr Chambers, James, Mitch and Jordan delivered an introductory lesson to the students on the genetics of racing pigeons and the different colours there are in a racer. The group was split up into 3 groups and James, Mitch and Jordan took a group each. They read the description out and the St Peters students had to match the colour with the pigeon and the description and they did very well.

We then took a visit to the pigeon loft where we were met by Mr Mike Lakin, press secretary of the Midlands National Flying Club (one of the national clubs the school races in) and Laura McMullan from BBC Midlands Today as they were visiting the school at the same time to do a feature for Midlands Today about how the Midlands National Flying Club have produced a video to promote the sport of racing pigeons within the younger community.

So James, Mitch and Jordan showed everyone what they do on a day to day basis with the pigeons, they showed the children from St Peters how they exercise the birds, clean the lofts and get them in through their special bob hole they have so that the birds can be fed and watered. As you can see by the picture the lads are really calm around the birds and as a result the birds are calm around them, this is very important and research in the USA has found that this interaction with nature can have a very positive effect on the development of young children. This is something we are just starting to find out at Kingsmead.

After the demonstration it was time for Laura to interview the students from St Peters and Kingsmead and what a professional job the students did answering the questions brilliantly. It was time for St Peters to return to school after their morning with us but no doubt they will be back again and hopefully inspiring another generation of pigeon flyers in the area.

The morning was finished when the final interviews were completed with James, Mitch and Jordan and also Mr Chambers and Mike Lakin and they went out to the viewing public on the Thursday 24th January 2012.

Thank you again to the BBC and also St Peters C of E Primary School who brought their students to the pigeon loft and as a result a great morning was had by all.

We don’t just have up and coming young flyers at St Peters we have one budding young flyer who really knows his stuff, Bobby Pinchers from West Hill Primary School is one of the next stars in the sport, he is still in the early years at primary school and he has his own pigeons with his dad. As you can see in the picture he was given an award by the members to say congratulations on a great season. Bobby not only races pigeons, he also has tipplers and loves the colours that they have in their feathers.

Well done Bobby a true pigeon man and you’re doing a great job.

Well that’s it for another edition if you have a school in your area who might be interested in doing the same kind of things we are doing, with their students please show them this article and ask them to contact us at kingsmeadpigeons@hotmail.co.uk  as we have lots of lessons and resources that they can use.

May we take this opportunity to thank all of our sponsors for their support, without this we would not be able to do what we are achieving at the moment.

Richard Chambers
Kingsmead Technology College
Kings Avenue,
WS12 1DH
01543 512455