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July 2007 Diary

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Week 1

July 5 - The month of June ended on many positives.  The birds are flying strongly for up to 60 minutes a day and trapping extremely well.  Sickness has not been a major problem which is a blessing in this sport.  Only 4 birds have succumbed to sickness.  Not all birds are 100% healthy but  will they ever be in this environment?  The general health of the birds is at a level where I feel optimistic that weather permitting we will have another very good race season.  Speaking of the weather, it has been unusually wet and cold for the last 2 weeks.  The long term trend is for temperatures 5 C lower than usual with highs barely reaching the low 20's.  Before I forget, the biggest positive is the birds have not been bothered by a hawk in over a week.

Training should begin early next week.  The forecast is for rain tomorrow so it should be a good day for taking an inventory.


Week 2

June 9 - On Sunday the team flew for 45 minutes in a steady rain and 75% of the birds continued flying for over an hour.

Training began today.

Eighty-five entries were basketed last night (see OA Results)  The birds were released at 8:15 just west of the Bathurst Airport a distance of 8 km.  It was a cool morning (14 C) and mostly sunny with no wind.  The youngster circled the release area for 5 minutes and disappeared over the trees to the east.  At the hour mark no birds were in sight and dark clouds were moving in.  I began to get a bit anxious because the weather was changing quickly.  It became mostly cloudy with an east wind which is sign of bad weather to come.  The first birds I saw were a group of four at 9:30.  Within seconds the rest of the team appeared.  They flew around the loft for another 20 minutes.  They flew like they were cheated out of their morning exercise period around the loft so I let the fly.  As soon as it looked like they had enough I called them down and they all trapped within 30 seconds. 

I hate the first toss.  I am glad this one is over.


July 11 - Due to rain the birds were kept home yesterday.  However they were exercised and flew strongly around the loft in a steady shower.

A close call today.   The prediction was for early morning showers so I didn't bother basketing the birds last night.  The stars were out later in the evening so I decided to shut the birds in the roosting section in case the weather prediction was wrong.  Overhead at 5:30 this morning there appeared to be a thin bright layer of clouds and in the east the clouds were a bright red/orange - "red sky in the morning sailors take warning".  Regardless of the saying I decided to basket the birds and hoped that the predicted showers, if any, would be late in the morning.  As you see below the 5 day forecast is for rain at some time everyday.  The prediction of rain has been fairly accurate but the time of day for the rain has been quite inaccurate.  This has been the typical forecast for the last several weeks.  It could be a long summer for me and the birds.

I think I set a world record basketing 130 birds in less than 45 minutes.  You might not be impressed with this time but basketing the birds is an arduous ordeal here.  Actually I hate this part of the sport.  Catching the birds is usually easy enough because they are shut in the roosting pens and I usually do it in semi-darkness.  Then 15 to 20 birds at a time are taken down a narrow staircase and transferred into larger baskets in the truck.  This year it takes 7 to 10 trips depending on how many birds I take down at a time.  I usually do this the night before and to motivate me I have a few glasses of refreshments before I start and most times also during the basketing.  The refreshments also help numb the pain of the ordeal of walking down the narrow staircase with a basket of birds and then back up to refill it.   That's enough self pity for one day.  By the way the good part of basketing the birds manually is I get the opportunity to handle them all more frequently.  This morning I liked what I handled.

When I left the yard I could see blue patches of sky through the thin clouds.  The birds were released at 7:15, 8 km from home and the sun was clearly visible through the clouds.  The youngsters made a few low circles as if they were confused and then rose quite high, made a few more circles and then disappeared in the direction of home.  I was confident they would be home quickly.  By 8:00 am the south east winds blew in threatening clouds and I could hear thunder to the south and of course the birds were playing with my nerves again.  There was no sight of them.  To take my mind off these foolish youngsters I decided to attend to the stock birds.  I could see out the window that it was getting darker by the minute.  Finally at 8:15 I heard the thump of birds hitting the metal roof.  Trapping is not problem this year.  They were all in within 30 seconds.  Just as the last bird trapped the "skies opened up" and it poured for 15 minutes and then it turned to a steady rain that continued for most of the morning. 

I think the white dots in the 2nd photo are the reflections from the drops of rain.  It was quite dark so the camera's flash was going off.  At first glance the dots look like hail.  On Sunday there was hail in the area but I can't remember that last time it fell in the yard. 


5 Day Forecast

Today - July 11
Cloudy with sunny periods. A few showers beginning early this morning and ending this afternoon. Risk of a thundershower. Amount 5 mm. Fog patches dissipating this morning. High 25. UV index 3 or moderate.
Cloudy. A few showers or thundershowers beginning this evening. Local amount 5 to 10 mm. Fog patches developing overnight. Low 18.
A few showers or thundershowers ending in the afternoon then a mix of sun and cloud. Local amount 5 to 10 mm. Fog patches dissipating in the morning. High 24.
A mix of sun and cloud with 40 percent chance of showers. Low 11. High 24.
A mix of sun and cloud with 60 percent chance of showers. Low 14. High 24.
A mix of sun and cloud with 60 percent chance of showers. Low 13. High 21.


July 14 - On Friday the birds were tossed from 10 km in a southerly direction from the loft.  They returned in 55 mins.  This morning they were released from the same point and they beat me home.  When I drove in the yard the last bird was trapping at the 25 minute mark.  Tomorrow they will be released from 20 km.

Week 3

July 15 - Youngsters do odd things.  The Le Tour team was released at 6:55 from a distance of 20 km.  They circled for 3 minutes and disappeared in the direction of home.  It was mostly cloudy at the release point and at home it was a mixture of sun and thin cloud.  At the 45 minute mark 3 youngsters appeared and trapped immediately.  It was no until the 65 minute mark did the rest reach home.  The next toss will be from the same location tomorrow.

July 17 - On Monday the birds were released at 8:30 from a distance of 20 km.  When I arrived home at approximately 9:00 only a few youngsters had not trapped yet.  The first bird clock at 8:55.

It was an odd morning today.  The birds were release at 8:15 from a distance of 40 km in perfect weather.  They circled once and then began drifting in the direction of home so I picked up the first basket and put it in the truck.  When I turned around to look for them they were nowhere to be seen.  At 9:00 as I approached the Rosehill Road on my way home I spotted the team circling over an open field a kilometer west of the loft.  They appeared not to be in any rush to go home.  When I turned off onto the Rosehill road it was as if they spotted me because they began following me to the loft.  They circled the loft several times because it look like they were slightly spooked when a couple of crows were trying to join them.   When the birds landed on the loft they began trapping immediately without me whistling them in.   The first bird trapped at 9:05 and shortly after it was followed by the rest of the team.  Weather permitting they will go back to the same spot tomorrow.

July 18 - The birds were released at 8:00 from the same spot as yesterday.  They circled a few times and disappeared over the trees in the opposite direction from home.  I hate it when they do that.  A few minutes later a smoky blue white flight appeared, circled over the release point and disappeared once again back over the trees in the wrong direction.  When I arrived home half the birds had trapped and the rest went in as soon as I whistled them in.   The first bird trapped at 8:45.

The Le Tour team will commence their training on Monday or Tuesday.  I will probably take them back to the same spot since they will be shut in Friday, Saturday and Sunday because I am leaving tomorrow for Halifax and my daughter's wedding.  If everything goes well they will receive a couple of tosses from 70 km by mid-week and then racing will begin with the first race from Kouchibouguac (100 km) by the weekend. 

Have a great weekend.  I know I will.


Week 4

July 24 - After being shut in for 3 days, I thought it would be prudent to exercise the birds on Monday and the next day train them from the same spot as their last toss.  Yesterday most birds exercised for  90 minutes.  This morning they were released at 9:00 am from the 40 km point.  They acted a little foolish by circling low around a clump of small trees.  I got the impression that they were looking over their shoulder waiting for me to leave for home.  Five km down the road I spotted them zig zagging over the trees as if they were waiting for me to catch up.  Later I spotted them past the airport about 5 km east of the loft.  Now I am convinced that they are following my "candy apple red" Ranger.  When I reaching the loft they were circling to land.  By the time I parked the truck near the loft they were sitting on the roof.  Today they were in no rush to go in.  I probably overfed them yesterday.  That will be fixed for tomorrow's toss from 70 km.  The following day they will get another toss from the same spot and racing will begin within a couple of days.  I am always amazed how many times the birds have arrived home at the same time as I did.  They must be following me.  For tomorrow I think I will paint my truck with a different color of wash off paint and see it it makes a difference. Aaaa!  I changed my mind because they will probably recognize the its a Ranger.

The predicted high for today and a few days following is: 29, 34, 32 & 30 C.  This usually mean it could be a few degrees hotter in the yard.

July 25 -  The birds were basketed the night before.  I normally do unless the weather forecast for the next morning is iffy.  I left home around 6:00 for the Miramichi (70 km).  It was clear and promised to be hot.  The forecast was for 34 C.  About 20 km from the "Mighty Miramichi River" I ran into fog.  I should have expected it because more often than not at this time of the year there is early morning fog around the river.  When I turned off the main road the fog seemed to be lower and heavier than it was along the highway but the sun was still visible so I new the fog should burn off shortly.  At the release point it was scary calm.  Not a leaf moved on any of the trees surrounding the field.  After about a 45 minute wait the birds were released at exactly 8:00 in almost cloudless skies.  The team grouped quickly and disappeared to to west over the trees.  I was quite confident that I would beat them home today.  When I arrived home at about 9:15 all I could see is a group of 15 late breds on the roof of the loft.  As I walked to the loft shadows alerted me to 5 birds flying above.  When I entered the loft I didn't hear anything and therefore didn't expect anything.  Needless to say I was very surprised to see the loft floor covered with birds.  The first bird trapped at 9:00:32.  Tomorrow the birds will go back to the same release point and then racing should begin the following day from Kouchibouguac (100 km).



July 26 - The Tour Testing Team (TTS) was released at 8:20 in very hazy skies, a slight westerly wind and a temperature of 21 C.  The birds did not circle they just grouped and began flying in a westerly direction and quickly disappeared out of sight.  Shortly after 9:30 when I turned on to the Rosehill Road I could see the team circling over the loft about 1 km away.  By the time I arrived in the yard they were all down and most of them were preening themselves.  As I got out of the truck and began whistling they began trapping immediately.  The first bird trapped at 9:34:09

Today was a South Africa day.  When the birds arrived the temperature was 26 C (humidex 32 C) and the winds were blowing out of the west at 20 km/h with frequent gusts up 37 km/h.  By dinner the temperature had risen to 30 C (humidex 38 C) and it eventually reached 32 C by the end of the day -  the same prediction for tomorrow.


Week 5

July 29 - The day after the 2nd Kouchibouguac race the birds exercise briskly for 90 minutes.

July 30 - The TTS team was exercised this morning in overcast skies and some fog.  They were reluctant to fly during the first 30 minutes so I flagged them several times.  I have found that if I can keep them up for 30 minutes they seem to get in a rhythm and will fly longer on their own.  They flew for 70 minutes this morning.  As well, they are creatures of habit.  This morning I slept in a bit so they were out later then normal and when I went in the loft they were at the door looking for their breakfast.  Usually at this time they are finishing their exercise period and are anxious to eat.  Also I had some difficulty getting them to go out to exercise.  Another lesson learned. 

Weather looks good for Wednesday's Toss.

July 31 - The birds flew strongly for 70 minutes during exercise period this morning.  They were basketed this evening for tomorrow's Stage 3 from Moncton a distance of 183 km.  The weather prediction for the release point is - Sunny. High 25. UV index 8 or very high and for home it is - Sunny with cloudy periods. High 27. UV index 8 or very high.

Overall Results

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