General Management 2003
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June 1st to 7th
The first week of June passed without incident. The only thing of note worth mentioning is that a hawk passed near by and spooked the birds but there was no attack. It only resulted in the infrequent flyers going up for awhile which was not a bad thing.
The birds were treated for cocci this week. Droppings have improved more to the point where I like to see them. There are still some problems with a few. Now if we could get some consistent warm sunny weather I am confident that there would be a considerable improvement in the birdsí health. Not all droppings are of this quality but enough to remain encouraged.
The vast majority of birds are eating well. When I go to feed them they act as if I was starving them. Yet when I handled a dozen birds Saturday morning I got the impression that they may be a bit on the fat side.
Some birds still need some encouragement to fly however their flying habits are improving by the day.
June 8th to 14th
The week began with a bang. On Sunday I decided to give the birds open loft to take advantage of the so infrequent sunny days. This was not a good decision. About half of the birds decided to go out and sun themselves. The owl eye contraptions, that I would like to believe have deterred hawk attacks for over a year did not work this day.
While in the garden I heard the ominous sound of birds scattering that normally herald the arrival of an eminent hawk attack. I was not wrong. As I looked up I saw a hawk chasing one of the young birds directly toward me. As it approached me I yelled and threw the garden fork into the air. I came close enough to make the hawk veer but not close enough to distract it from its prey. He chased the young bird in a southerly direction and into an open field. Eventually both the hawk and young bird disappeared into the woods that bordered the field. I expected losses. A few birds trickled back during the week. Fortunately the losses were minimal.
The rest of the week was uneventful. The general health of the birds is slowly improving but not quickly enough for me. A quick count of the birds suggests that 200 still remain of the 226 entries. Less then 9% of the losses were due to young bird sickness and the balance was lost around the loft. My goal is to have less than 10% of the birds lost due to sickness. If the weather does not improve this goal will be hard to achieve. More rain with cool temperatures was forecast for the weekend. An accurate inventory of the "survivors" will be available shortly.
Saturday was reserved for vaccinating the birds for PMV. This is not one of my favorite tasks however things went quite well and I finished the job "alone" in about 4 hours - just looking for a little sympathy. This ordeal gave me the opportunity to handle all the birds and to my surprise they handled better than I expected. Sometimes it is difficult to remain positive because when one enters the loft the most obvious droppings are the wet ones and the most obvious birds are the ones huddled in a corners suffering. Thankfully these birds belong to a small minority.
June 15th to 21st
There is a well worn path to the loft that houses the Le Tour birds. I guarantee you that no grass will grow there this summer. Many trips have been made to the loft and many more will be made.
This year's health management of the Le Tour birds has been very challenging. An increase in entries has resulted in an exponential growth of health problems. Every precaution has been taken to insure that the birds live in a healthy environment and have the best of feed and health supplements. Still, young bird sickness (YBS) has not been stopped. At the present moment over 10% of the the young birds have been lost to this disease. Unfortunately, the total will go higher. Another 5 to 10% could become victims. An inventory will be taken at the end of the week.
On the positive side there are over 150 birds that are flying strongly. But for some peculiar reason they have decided to fly in 2 groups. I suspect the smaller group is the infrequent flyers who have finally decided that flying can be fun and good for their long term health. And of course there is always a group that just doesn't want to fly. Even flagging won't get them up. Some just fly to the house and sit on the roof until the others are ready to come down. This is hard to explain because some of them are perfectly healthy birds. Yet there are others that have health problems but will still go up and fly with the main group. It's unfortunate that these birds refuse to fly because eventually they become easy prey for the hawk and this is all that will be left as a reminder that there was a racing pigeon on the roof that refused to fly.
On Wednesday when I arrived home after work, Margie informed me that a large dark hawk had banged into the east side aviary and was trying to get at the birds. I thought nothing of it because this is not an unusual occurrence. I was just thankful that all the birds were in at this time. However, I really got a surprise when I went upstairs to see how the Le Tour birds were doing and found the window broken in the door on the east side. Most of the glass fell into the loft as if the window had been kicked in from the outside. This is a very old door with a quite thick plate-like glass window and that doesn't break easily. I thought, could a diving hawk have broken the window? Actually I was hoping it was one and it flew away with a life-long headache. I think it's only fair - hawks have given me many headaches.
The week ended on a positive/negative note. On Saturday morning the birds were let out a 6:30 for their regular morning exercise. As usual some of the birds needed a bit of encouragement to fly. My philosophy is that young birds should only be seen in 3 places: in the loft, in the basket or in the air flying. Anyway, back to the story. About 10 minutes later most of the birds disappeared from view. I had about 200 last week. Thirty minutes passed and no birds. An hour past and still no birds. Eight o'clock arrived and past and still no birds. I was quite worried after the first 30 minutes but now at the 90 minute mark panic had set in.
I have kept racing pigeons at this location for almost 30 years and I have never had a fly away. I have read about them, talk about them but I have never experienced one. Was today going to be the first one, I thought. Then all of a sudden at 8:05 a big and beautiful group of youngsters arrived from the south, made a few circles, landed and trapped as if nothing happened. You can imagine what a relief it was for me to see them.
Not all returned. Some straggled in during the rest of the day. I am afraid there will be losses. An inventory will be taken tomorrow.
June 22nd to 30
On Sunday Margie helped me take an inventory of the birds. I don't know what I would do without her. I hate to think what she would do without me. Oh well! After almost 34 years of marriage what are our options?
It was another hot day; it reached 30 C and the humidex was considerably higher. Boy was Margie glad when it was over. So was I. One hundred and eighty (180) birds remain. The losses from yesterday's routing were greater than anticipated. Some of the unaccounted birds may have been lost around the loft during the week because the hawk was a frequent visitor. See Inventory
The weather for the next 4 days was extremely hot. For example on Thursday by 11:00 am it reached 30 C in the shade. By mid-afternoon the humidex reading was in the low 40's. I live 15 km inland from the Bay of Chaleur and don't benefit from the cool sea breezes that are associated with the changing tides in Bathurst.
As usual the birds were let out every morning around 6:30 for their regular exercise and flew well for an hour. They normally disappear for 15 to 30 minutes and then fly around the loft in high wide circles. On Tuesday they were let out in the late afternoon but chose only to fly for about 30 minutes. It's just too hot for them now but they will have to learn how to fly in this heat because there could be a few days like this on race days.
Trapping is going really well. With just a couple of whistles the birds drop out of the air and trap immediately. If this keeps up training should begin in about 10 days. I would prefer to start sooner but I will wait a few extra days for some of the sick birds that are still recuperating. The hawk has not been a problem for a week. Perhaps it is recuperating from a terrible migraine headache. I hope it lasts all summer.
June 27 It's a scorcher. Would you believe that we had frost early in the month and this afternoon at 3:30 the thermometer read 37 C. The humidex was at 44 C. When I went into the loft this afternoon I actually found it quite comfortable, but it was a relative thing. The thermometer read a few degrees cooler than outside because both end doors were open so there was a nice breeze blowing through. The birds ran out of water at this time. They usually have enough to last into the evening.
This morning over 160 birds flew freely for 75 minutes when temperature was quickly approaching 30 C. The same 3 remained on the house and 3 others only stayed up for a short period. Seven birds remain in sick bay. Late this evening the birds were let out and went up to fly on there own. They only lasted 15 minutes and came down. Finally after 9:30 the temperature dropped below 30 C. Inventory was updated this evening.
June 28 I heard that yesterday's record breaking high of 37.4 C in Bathurst was the highest temperature recorded in Canada this year. Rosehill is 10 km inland from Bathurst and normally on hot days we are hotter.
The birds were let out for their morning's exercise in considerably cooler weather. It was 19 C at 6:30 am. The youngsters seemed to be more anxious to get out and enjoy their exercise in cooler weather. They disappeared immediately after they were released and only returned an hour later. They circled the loft for about 5 minutes before the resident hawk made an appearance and I believe nabbed one of my late breds that was only out for the second time. You could say that the late bred served a purpose. It is unfortunate because it was a beautiful blue bar hen.
The flock disappeared again for another 30 minutes. Upon return I whistled to get them down and about 100 trapped immediately. The balance of over 50 birds flew for another 30 minutes. I waited until they were all in before they were fed. No need to punish those that flew longer with a missed meal because that's what they are here for.
June 29 Oops! I guess I was wrong. The little late bred blue bar got away from the hawk. She arrived this morning a little worn out and hungry.
Birds were released as usual for their morning exercise. They immediately disappeared but for a few stragglers. At the 30 minute mark 20 returned and like clock work at the 60 minute mark the balance returned. I let them circle for 10 minutes and then called them in. It's beautiful to watch 150 birds land together and trap within a minute. No hawk this morning. Phew!
June 30 We finally got some cooler weather. Once again the majority of birds went ranging when released for their morning flight. Fifty minutes later they were back and about 30 landed and trapped without being called it. The rest circled for about 10 minutes and landed but not for long. They looked a little nervous and took flight again then disappeared for 30 minutes. More than half of the flock flew until 8:20, landed and trapped immediately. Over 100 birds flew for almost 2 hours this morning. At least a dozen birds still have some health issues and unfortunately the prognosis for half of these does not look good.