General Management May June August
(Click on thumbnails for larger view)
June 30 - 8km, 1:15 Birds were released at 7:00 am west of the Bathurst airport and they circled high for about 15 minutes before sight of them was lost. When they arrived home they made a few circles, landed and trapped immediately. Non were noticeably fatigued and behaved as if they had just completed their morning exercise. A couple straggled in later in the day. I suspect they were some of the infrequent flyers.
July 1 - 10 km, 0:40 Birds were released at 7:30 am and arrived at 8:10 am. They made a couple short circles, landed and trapped immediately. One arrived later in the evening.
July 2 Due to early morning thundershowers the birds were not trained. Birds were exercised around the loft later in the morning and flew strongly for an hour. The high temperature for the day was 30 C (86 F) in the shade with high humidity.
July 3 - 10 km, 0:35 Birds were released at 7:30 am and arrived shortly after 8:00. They made a couple of circles, landed and all but a couple trapped immediately. The weather at release point was hot, humid, calm and hazy. I could hear a lot of wild bird activity so I felt quite comfortable about releasing the birds. By 8:30 the temperature reached 28 C (82 F).
July 4 - 20 km, 1:25 When I finished basketing the birds at 6:30 this morning it began to rain and thunder with lightning. By 10:30 the skies cleared and it became sunny, hot and humid. The temperature quickly shot up to 25 C. A brisk southerly wind was blowing the storm north. To the south the skies were clear.
I hesitantly decided to take the birds for a 20 km toss. On the way to the release point I heard the weather report on the radio for more thunder showers but further north. I felt relieved. At the release point it was hotter and more humid with a brisk southerly wind and barely a cloud in the sky. Home was north. I still could hear the thunder in the distance. The birds were released at 11:40 and they went up high immediately, circled for 5 minutes and disappeared in the wrong direction. Oh! Oh! I thought. On the way home I heard the new forecast - more thunder showers in the area and the possibility of tornadoes. Tornadoes in New Brunswick! I thought.
When I arrived home shortly after 12:00 it was mainly sunny. By 12:30 the winds had shifted and dark ominous clouds began to move in. (pic 1). I got worse and I could hear the thunder louder. Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! I thought again. By 1:00 there was no doubt that we were in for another storm. I began to sweat and it wasn't from the humidity.
Finally, at 1:05 the birds arrived (pic 2), landed immediately (pic 3) and trapped quickly (pic 4). All the birds rushed to the water fountains for a drink (pic 5) and ate heartily (pic 6). By 2:00 the storm hit with more rain, thunder, lightning and with winds gusting to 50 km/h (pic 7, 8 & 9). It stormed for the rest of the afternoon. I sat back and had a few glasses of "lemonade".
July 5 - 20 km The morning could have been best described as overcast with light rain and poor visibility. By 10:30 it cleared considerably so the decision was made to basket the birds for a short toss. They were released at 12:15 in relatively cool weather in bright, mainly overcast skies. Blue patches of sky could be seen in the distance. The visibility was excellent. After the release the birds circled low a few times and then went higher to circle for another 10 minutes. They seemed indecisive as they circled. A group of 20 momentarily broke away from the main group but rejoined them after a few circles. Eventually all the birds disappeared in the wrong direction. Another sightseeing tour I suspected was to occur.
The drive home was quite pleasant with frequent sunny breaks and no rain. The visibility was excellent to the horizon. At home the weather was similar and I expected the birds to arrive shortly but was I disappointed.
It was a long afternoon. Finally two birds arrived at 3:30 and 3 more groups of 2 arrived by 4:20. At 4:30 it began to rain steadily. Needless to say my level of concern shot up sharply. Finally at 5:00 a group of over 50 drenched birds arrived in the rain. Ten minutes later a dozen landed. It continued to rain for the rest of the evening and more birds arrived until dark. By the end of the day a quick count revealed that about 105 birds had returned.
It is interesting to note that the first two that arrived have been persistently slow from the earlier tosses. Both have had some health problems and were definitely not as fit as the rest. I have seen this before. I would like to believe that that rest are very fit and went sightseeing and flew into a storm. The vast majority of birds flew almost 5 hours or better and eventually arrived home in not ideal conditions. This must say something about their condition.
I never did like late morning or early afternoon tosses. My opinion has not changed. The weather has been so unsettled and unpredictable lately that choosing days for training tosses has been a "guess and test" ordeal. Also the local forecasts have not been helpful.
July 7 A day of rest. Besides, it is raining steadily. One more arrived early this morning and several other arrived in the rain before dinner. This morning most of the team was quite active and showed no signs of their ordeal and their droppings were back to normal. A handful are not faring as well. Next training toss is scheduled for Tuesday because I will be away Monday to a workshop .
July 9 The birds were kept home because of early morning fog, rain and the threat of smoke from the Quebec fires passing through Northern NB. The youngsters were put out at 8:00 am for their morning exercise. Initially some required encouragement to fly but as the hour progressed they flew stronger and stronger. Then at 9:00 a group of 80 landed and trapped immediately. However, the remainder refused to land and kept on flying. No amount of whistling or rattling the can would bring them down today so I let them fly until they were ready to stop. They disappeared several times to return in 10 minutes. For a while I thought they must have been spooked. Then at 10:00 a small group decided to land but the rest kept on flying (pic 1). Finally at 10:20 the remaining group of about 25 landed (pic 2), looked relaxed (pic 3) and trapped immediately to the whistle. Five hours of flying a couple of days earlier didn't hurt these guys much.
July 10 - 20 km, 0:20 A 113 birds were basketted for a 8:15 release in mostly sunny weather and into a brisk headwind. The release point was the same location as the previous training toss. They circled high for a few minutes and disappeared in the direction of home. As I approached home I could see the birds circling above the loft. Receiving two thirds of their daily ration the day before seemed to have helped. Birds were fed their normal ration today.
July 11 - 40 km, 0:45 The birds were released at 8:15 in mostly cloudy weather with frequent sunny breaks. They had to fly home into a brisk headwind. A group of 100 arrived at 9:00 and several arrived during the next hour. Then at 10:30 a group of 10 finally made it home. The birds will be tossed from the same spot tomorrow.
July 12 - 40 km, 1:15 This morning's release was at 8:00 am into mostly clear skies and a brisk headwind. In the distant horizon a haze could be seen. Three persistent late birds arrived 15 minutes after the others.
It was my morning to experience the bizarre and unusual. Just before I released the birds I heard a crow squawking and diving at the edge of the woods. There I noticed a coyote who wanted to cross the clearing. He spotted me and hesitated and then the crow divided at it again forcing the coyote to retreat into the safety of the trees. Later on the way home a loaded log truck tailgated me. I was traveling at 115 km/hr. Aware that the truck was close behind I began slowing down considerably before a rough railroad crossing to avoid the trailer from bouncing. The driver paying no attention to what I was doing had to pull off on to shoulder of the road to avoid ramming me. Now if that wasn't enough, just before the turn off on the main highway, "Believe or Not" I spotted a wheel barrow sliding down the road upside down towards me and slowly crossing into my lane. Fortunately I had enough time to pull off on to the shoulder and barely missed colliding with it. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw that the wheel barrow had stopped in the middle of my lane and several hundred yards behind me rumbled on the log truck. You can guess what I was thinking. This time the driver being far enough behind me had plenty of time to pull off to the shoulder and for the second time in just a few minutes avoided another collision. I made it home safely. I will always wonder if the trucker did.
July 13 - 75 km, 5:15 The thirteenth day of the month was not a good day. The birds were released at 8:30 am 2 km north of the Miramichi River and at a release point that I have been using for 10 years. They rose quickly, circled high a couple of times and disappeared in the direction of home. The weather at release time was sunny, calm and with a few light clouds in the distance. The last 50 km on the way home was overcast with high light clouds and the outline of the sun could be seen easily. At home it was overcast with light clouds. A light rain began to fall about 10:00 but to the south it was obviously much brighter with a light yellow tint in the clouds. Just after 12:00 the light rain stopped and blue patches of sky appeared everywhere. Still there were no birds home. The rest of the afternoon remained mostly overcast with the occasional sunny break.
I remained calm to the 5:00 hour point thinking they flew for 5 hours a week earlier then why not today. But after 1:30 I became less confident and I began to get a little concerned to say the least. I went into the house to take my mind off a possible disaster. So I decided to begin writing about today's training toss. As I was writing this account, my wife Margie called out, "the birds are here". She reacted to the shadow cast by the birds flying near the window at which she was sewing. It was 1:45. I ran out expecting the whole flock but was devastated to only see a small group of birds circling. I ran to the loft and watched them land under complete control, preen themselves for a few moments, and then without been called in trap quickly and calmly. After a good drink and a light feed I handled all 9 birds and non showed any signs of flying through rain.
I went into the house again to continue writing this account. At 2:45 another group of about 10 birds landed. This time I walked out to the loft and watched the new arrivals standing alertly as if just finishing a routine exercise around the loft and waiting for me to call them in. I walked upstairs and stepped out on the balcony to observe the birds more closely. None looked tired. None were gaping for air or looked visibly exhausted. I whistled them in and they trapped quickly. When I went into the loft I had difficulty spotting the new arrivals. The photo inserted is of one of the birds that arrived in the second group. It was taken less than 5 minutes after trapping. I assume it flew for over 6 hours.
Another dozen birds arrived an hour later and more birds arrived in groups of 2 and 3 until 8:00 when a brief thunderstorm struck. I took an inventory later that evening. Fifty-five racers had returned. A quick glance at the droppings suggested things were visibly back to normal.
I have no explanation why the birds were slow coming today. I reflected about my management and concluded nothing was changed from my normal practices. I took my time basketting the birds this morning to examine them more closely. I was very pleased with their condition. The July 5th noon hour toss was probably not a wise decision for young birds early in their training. This morning's toss was at 8:30 in ideal weather conditions and at a spot I have used for years without any difficulty. I would like to blame it on the smoke from the Quebec fires but that was not in the forecast and none was reported. The only peculiar thing was that the later birds were more interested in feed then water. This behavior suggested they went down for a drink.
The birds will be rested for a few days and tossed from the same point. After that I have one more toss planned from 100 km before the first race. Hopefully more birds will return on Sunday and things will go on as planned. But one never knows about young birds.
The birds that have arrived today are highlighted in red at Overall Results. Birds arriving tomorrow will be highlighted in blue. The list represents birds that were present at the beginning of training.
July 14 The morning began overcast with foggy patches. Just before 8:00 a solo bird arrived. As the morning progressed 16 more birds reached home by dinner time. They arrived in groups of 2, 3 and 4. The morning remained overcast but quite bright and with good visibility. The sun came out briefly during the dinner hour and made its appearance regularly through out the day. Three more birds arrived at supper time. They were exhausted.
The early morning droppings for most birds arriving the first day were back to normal .
July 15 One of the birds released on the July 5th training toss was found on the 7th dead on the side of the road in Miramichi City. It was apparently hit by a car. Miramichi City is 50 km south of the release point and in the opposite direction from home.
The birds were given open loft all day. Light showers fell frequently through out the day and the birds took this opportunity to bathe and fly in the warm rain. No birds returned today.
July 16 Exercise around the loft for an hour this morning was the order for the day. The birds flew well for an hour and weather permitting they will receive another training toss from 75 km. Keep your fingers crossed; I know I will. Three more birds arrived after 6:00 this evening. They are highlight in green at Overall Results.
July 17 - 75 km, 1:25 Finally, the birds have responded as expected. They were fed sparingly yesterday to increase their motivation to come home. The racers were released at 10:00 am in overcast skies with the outline of the sunny clearly visible and in calm conditions. Most of the way home was sunny and at the loft the skies were cloudless. Ten birds arrived late. On Saturday the birds will be taken to the first race point, Kouchibouquac, for a training toss. Hopefully racing will begin Sunday.
July 18 & 20 The birds received open loft. Both mornings they were unusually anxious to get out when I entered the loft. As soon as I let them out they immediately disappeared for over 30 minutes. When they returned they flew strongly around the loft for another half of an hour.
July 18 & 19 The birds received open loft. When I entered the loft both mornings they were unusually anxious to get out. As soon as I let them out they immediately disappeared for over 30 minutes. When they returned they flew strongly around the loft for another half of an hour. They spent the rest of the day resting, relaxing and flying whenever the urge hit them.
July 21, 110 km, 1:31 Finally! They know where home is. The birds were released at 8:30 in cloudless skies and very calm conditions. A slight SSW wind was at their backs. They circled a few times and darted off in the direction of home. I thought, they must have been here before. About 10 minutes later as I was driving home they crossed the highway in front of me. When I drove in the yard I noticed their shadow passing over. They made one circle, landed and sat on the roof as if waiting for me to get out of the car and whistle giving them permission to enter the loft. They were not patient this morning and started trapping before I could get out of the car.
Training is over and it has been a difficult time for the Le Tour Birds. Two 5 & 6 hour unexpected training tosses were hard on the birds. Losses were unexpectedly high - 86 entries still remain. Some of them are still suffering from their experience. Fortunately the majority have coped well with these challenges and are ready for the series which will begin tomorrow.
Good Luck to All!