A good friend of ours, Grant Paterson from Canberra, was instrumental in us being invited to Australia. He competed in South Australia from 1970 until 2002 when family commitments saw him and his wife Kaye move to Canberra. He acknowledges his good fortune in starting with quality pigeons gifted to him by his late cousin, Allen Goodger. As the result of this he had a continued presence at the top level of competition in the 1980s and 1990s. Since moving to Canberra he has concentrated on One Loft races and special events with great success. Grant was the SAHPA treasurer for about 16 years, in which time a property was purchased in Adelaide and developed to become the headquarters of South Australian pigeon racing. Many SA fanciers confirm that part of the reason that their asset base is so strong is thanks to Grant's capable management.
After a long and tiring flight we landed in Sydney and were met by Dave and Janet Buxton. Dave and Janet live in Sans Souci, a suburb of Sydney, and we could not believe the variety of wild birds there: there were cockatoos nesting in the street lights and everywhere you looked there were different species of parrots. David has been involved with racing pigeons since 1994, when he formed a partnership with Bunn Snyders. Flying in the southern suburbs of Adelaide, they have been very consistent in winning aggregates at Club and Federation level as well as being very competitive at open level with up to 330 flyers. The base for flying has usually been at Hallett Cove, a south-western beachside suburb of Adelaide. Because of the many moves the partnership have made, racing was a difficult proposition at times. But winning out of turn has set the partnership apart. Whilst selling nearly all the birds on three separate occasions in the past 18 years, the bug has bitten again within the last two or three years and Dave and Bunn have started again. There have been a few birds whose bloodlines originate from an Australian long distance family called Goodger. To these have been added Janseen based birds of the James Bond/05 line with other Sheer Elegance/Stamvater birds and the occasional outcrosses. Lofts have been built, pulled down, and sometimes rebuilt on the same site within days of starting a racing season with the birds winning almost immediately. In 2012, Bunn has returned to Adelaide from Ayers Rock, Central Australia and part of the old loft has been set up in the house that Bunn is currently renting. He has 80 squeakers to fly this season. Dave is living in Sydney 1400 km away but the very regular phone calls and occasional visits means that the partnership will fly birds again from the most difficult position in the Open area, being even further to the South West and almost 100 km from the front markers.
FLTR: Dave Buxton, Bunn Snyder, Geoff Cooper
In Australia, the emphasis is on young bird racing to the perch. This enables the partnership to start over without a significant concern about the lack of depth in the old experienced birds. Babies bred in August to December (spring/summer in Australia) are not raced until June to September of the following year. They may have been educated/trained to 50km as squeakers before moulting, but they are probably flown more as the yearling equivalent in the northern Hemisphere. At that point, they will race out to 1000 km.
Future plans are to try one loft racing as well as setting birds to try and win Classic races. The longer term dream, when both are retired and have more time, is to learn the subtleties of widowhood flying. There are a few more years to do research.
David and Janet took us to visit one of the top lofts in Australia, the lofts of Graham and June Davison, from Wollongong. There, we met up with Grant and Kaye Paterson and George Desira, who runs the Ponderosa breeding stud, and Bill and Dell Lamers, all pigeon fanciers. We had coffee and cakes before looking at the birds. Wollongong is a lovely town, south of Sydney, with rolling hills, very green, lots of trees and wildlife. We were amazed to see the wild white cockatoos, so tame they would fly onto Graham's veranda and take food from our hands. Graham's garden houses several wooden lofts, similar in design to many European lofts. We visited Graham's trophy room and were impressed with the number of trophies on display. Graham, or, as he is known to everyone, "Davo" commenced racing pigeons in 1948 and for the past 46 years he has flown in partnership with his wonderful wife June. He has taken dedication to new limits having not missed a scheduled race in those 63 years, including the race flown on the day of his marriage to June!! As you may have gathered, June is a tolerant woman who continues to be of great assistance and support to her husband. Davo, pre-partnership, and with June has won in excess of 200 SC Federation races with the partnership winning the aggregate points 37 years in a row. In comparison with other members' achievements over the years this reflects a picture of dominance.
Geoff Cooper and Graham Davison
Obviously, with such a record, there have been a high number of outstanding pigeons housed in the loft. One such bird that caught the eye of Geoff and Catherine Cooper was the "Record Hen" (now 18 years of age) which is the only pigeon in the Fed's. history to have flown the longest northern race point (that year Bundaberg 1070 km) on a day. This hen left her mark in the stock loft being the dam of three federation 500km winners. She is a granddaughter of Deweerdts Liesbet 1st National, 2nd International Barcelona. A daughter of Liesbet was one of the founding birds in our (Geoff and Catherine Cooper's) loft. Davo does not employ the widowhood system, but instead teaches his birds to race (not just home) to the loft shoulder to shoulder for feed. Just prior to the commencement of the season the young birds have about seven days of "brainwashing". Each day they are loft flown before being tossed from distances between 8km and 20km. They are released immediately upon arrival at the tossing location and race home to a food ration which is slightly reduced on a daily basis. From an early age it is ingrained into them to race for food and, judging by their results, it stands them in good stead.
Thereafter the birds are rarely tossed but are expected to loft fly for 75 minutes daily early in the season and then twice daily for about 50 minutes as the races lengthen.
The basis of the outstanding group of pigeons spanning several decades is performance driven. However, the partnership is always happy to consider the introduction of new birds to improve performance taking the view that "there are better pigeons out there than our own".
June and Graham are renowned for their hospitality - many attest to the enjoyable days spent at their Wollongong home sampling June's cooking and absorbing Davo's knowledge. A glance at the visitor's book reveals the large number of people (many notable overseas fanciers) who have made the trip to Wollongong. The Davison's have gotten a lot out of the sport and have put a lot back into it. They thoroughly deserve the life membership bestowed upon them. One of the most competitive pigeon racing organisations in Australia is the South Coast Federation Its most northerly flyer is approx. an hour’s drive from Sydney with the distance from this loft to the furthest southerly member being some 55km as the crow flies. Many of the members live close to the coast (the eastern seaboard of the country) with the furthermost from the coast being 15km inland.
Graham Davison's loft
Racing commences late May from 80km and finishes early October from 1000km with young and old birds competing from start to finish. The current Fed. membership stands at 90 which pales in comparison with the 1966 figure of 234 - unfortunately this trend is repeated throughout the country. Despite this decline it remains a challenge to win a federation race for a number of reasons:
- the experience and the quality of the existing flyers
- the narrow east-west corridor confining the spread of pigeons
- the presence of two of the national treasures of Australian pigeon racing - the partnership of Graham and June Davison