How people longed for the end of autumn 2020. They were so fed up with that Corona that many hoped for once that time rushed. That they could go into the new year and erase the old from memory as quickly as possible. The pigeon fanciers were no different. Standing in line with a mask on to basket. No longer being able to preview or review flights over a beer did not make the sports experience any more pleasant.
Then came 2021. And sighs of relief as the year went on. Also among pigeon fanciers. Club rooms could open again, we could start chatting together again. But unfortunately. At the end of 2021 we seem to be back to square one. In society it is only about one thing. The same thing it was about in 2020: Covid-19. Corona.
NO BIG PROBLEMS
Unlike 2020, we were able to practice the sport without too big 'Corona problems'. But we were facing other misfortunes; particularly miserable weather, usually just on flying days.
The Dutch released the birds out of a different location almost every week. Also the time the birds were released was seldom at schedule. You could hear 'never experienced', even from people who have been racing pigeons for 70 years. There are hardly any lofts where no top pigeons were lost.
It may sound strange, but I think that the KBDB and NPO occasionally hoped for bad weather towards the weekend. To prove them right after they cancelled flights. Because when the weather is nice, sitting in your garden with your pigeons in form in the loft because flights were cancelled due to the predicted bad weather? Some have gone to drink for less. Responding to the forecast weather is always delicate, but canceling all flights on Wednesday, as happened in Belgium, is too early.
The flexibility is also commendable. In the past, nothing was looked at and that was even worse. Flights were even brought forward this year. We raced a couple of times on Friday with beautiful competitions as a result.
2021 also taught that members of the board need to be more aware that even 12-year-olds are walking with a phone these days. Images circulated on social media of Dutch releases that were downright scandalous. One concerned Limburg pigeons. There was so little space that the pigeons flew into the trees en masse. It was good that the Departmental Board hastened to apologize. It wouldn't happen again.
In another video, a car was seen skimming right in front of the truck just after the pigeons had been unloaded. Dangerous for humans and pigeons. Had no one thought of blocking traffic for two minutes?
Someone who has been releasing pigeons for many years once said to me: 'It's good that you don't know everything that happens there.' I like to believe him. But now that practically everyone has a phone with a camera in their pocket, one can hope for fewer abuses.
TO THE WEST
Previously it was whispered, now it seems that it can no longer be denied: Pigeons deviate to the west on their homeward journey. Countless pigeons that were given a 'GPS ring' just before basketing prove this. Those 'GPS rings' also teach you about the speed from the first to the last kilometre, about the flight height, any breaks. Especially the height at which pigeons sometimes fly is astonishing. Up to 2,000 meters. And people who are experts in the field know it: Wind speeds and even wind direction can vary enormously at different heights.
It explains the lead victories that you sometimes see and that indicate that the pigeons did not fly under equal conditions. At certain heights pigeons were favored, at other heights disadvantaged. You rarely see those victories with a big lead when the wind is up against. Then pigeons will fly under the same conditions: all equally low.
How can you still win a prize on the east side if pigeons make a bend to the west? Well, the pigeons on the west side also make that curvature. Fanciers, rational as some are, are looking for an explanation.
The observed curvature would be apparent because of the globe turning to the east 'under the pigeons' during the homeward journey. Or to put it as simply as possible: When pigeons in, say, Orleans set their sights on Brussels, Brussels is more to the east when they arrive there and they did not always correct their course along the way. Others disagree with this theory.
Furthermore, pigeons with 'GPS' seem to perform below par. The ring too heavy? Confused about orientation? Technology is advancing so fast that we will soon know. Also thanks to the efforts of people like Michel Beekman who are doing pioneering work in this matter.
In 2021, flights with southeast winds have convinced even sceptics. That is not good wind for pigeons. There is always something.
Good pigeons that miss their prize, competitions that take too long, too many pigeon that are lost. There are even fanciers who decided not to play in SE wind.
No one has an explanation and that also applies to the massive losses of (especially) youngsters. Fanciers who consider that as a good selection are really wrong. Too many examples of super birds that got lost. And this problem is always around the longest day.
J vd Pasch Nederland is a good fancier. Even such a man lost 60 birds from an insignificant flight! And what was so bizarre? From that same flight, his pigeons that were not lost dominated the top of the result.
I remember how icons like Gust Christiaens and Stan Raeymaeckers used to think about 'those night flyers in the Netherlands'.
There was a hearty laugh about that. In 2021, decades later, those nighttime arrivals became quite massive. All cheaters? Come on. It has become part of the sport. Whether we should applaud that is another story.
FOREIGNERS IN BELGIUM
What you also saw in 2021 was few fanciers that dominated too much. Some talk about 'German results'. There was that race from Noyon in Vorselaar. 20 participants, three of them won just a prize, 14 no prize at all.
The guy with the many birds, the mob flyer, took all.
Will it get even worse now that wealthy foreigners are known to want to race pigeons in Belgium? Don't panic yet. In this sport 'too much money' and 'too little of common pigeon sense' often go together.