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Barcelona Route Part 1 Nigel Lane Rate Topic: -----

#1 User is offline   Kyleakin Lofts 

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 08:50 AM

Which route do our pigeons
really take from Barcelona?
This question has intrigued us avid marathon flyers for a long time now. For
this international classic not only has a magical attraction for pigeon fanciers
around the world, it is also surrounded by mystery and stories.
The pigeons immediately after they have rounded the shoulder of the Pyrenees
fly to the North via the Rhone Valley, so at least some experts argue. It is in the
Rhone Valley that the notorious mistral winds cause the characteristic hard
flights and make it difficult for the Western European enthusiasts flying against
a head wind. Others claim that the pigeons quickly deflect to the west of France,
because they are accustomed to flying that route from liberations at Pau,
Bordeaux and St. Vincent. The message provided by the PIPA radar gives a
beautiful image of the timing pattern but is inconclusive about whether they
have passed the Massif Central to their right or left. Unfortunately in the
current state of the art it is still not possible to follow the exact GPS track of our
pigeons but we did not let it sit there. Previously we had tried to use small GPS
loggers to capture the pigeons route despite the weight (14 grams), the lightest
little logger out there on the market today, but it was not a success. The pigeons
refused to do their training flights with the group and went back much earlier
than the others on to the roof or in the loft. If you are a fancier then you know
this is wrong, especially if this is still the case after an adjustment period.
Scientists have tried this, but it was with pigeons that only have fifty kilometres
to fly home. At the beginning of this millennium the National Le Mans, Blois
and Bourges pigeons in the Netherlands and Belgium were equipped with GPS
loggers from Italy, but again they did not bring the dream answers. Other
fanciers like Roland den Blanken and the organizer of the one loft race Derby
Arona on Tenerife sometimes had their pigeons equipped with a GPS logger,
but it showed that it was not easy to gain something useful and really was
distracting. The pigeons are affected by these heavy and clumsy devices and
you dare not use them if you want them to have some chance of a top prize.
GPS loggers are excellent in terms of accuracy but far too heavy due to the
battery (10-20 grams) needed for the chip to work and register. So we had to
find something else.
Through various contacts we finally came across geolocators, tiny data loggers
that provide information about the daily position of the birds using the measured
light intensity. These devices have already been used attached to the back of
swallows that were caught and ringed by volunteer ringers of the
Vogeltrekstation (The administrative centre for bird ringing in the Netherlands.)
(See photo above of a swift). Even small songbirds have already been
successful with these geolocators, as well as waders and other shorebirds. In
weight and size this is an ideal device just over 1 gram, about as heavy as a chip
ring. After some emails with the Englishman James Fox of the firm Migrate
Technology we decided to take a chance. So 6 pieces were ordered and a device
to read them. The accuracy of the geolocators is at most 50 square kilometres
and it is an absolute requirement that at least two days data is collected. The
suns rise and fall are necessary to determine the correct latitude and longitude in
the Northern Hemisphere so they are only suitable for flights where at least one
night out is involved. At Barcelona, a distance of almost 1300 kilometres, this
was virtually guaranteed so we took the gamble. The chip rings have holes and
with a tie-wrap we could tie the geo's in the ring, see the picture below:
First test Ruffec.
Three pigeons with a geolocator were sent to Ruffec. Logger number F959 and
F960 on pigeons of Ultsje Jellema and the third F869 on a pigeon of Wiebren
van Stralen. They were attached to proven pigeons, as the loggers cost too much
to lose on risky pigeons. The geolocators register the amount of light (in units of
lux), and possibly also temperature and conductivity (to determine between wet
and dry). As mentioned it is necessary that there is a night between liberation
and the return home, this did not succeed at Ruffec unfortunately because the
pigeons were liberated in the morning and all three were back home that
evening. The information brought back by the pigeons offered us no
information about the route, but we can derive some other things from the
recorded data. It is a learning process, such a project, so everything is included.
The sensitivity of the geolocators is very high; the lowest value which is set is
slightly more than 1 lux in which a man cannot see a thing. Daylight, indirect
sunlight 10000-20000 lux, well lit offices about 500 lux while quite a cloudy
day 1000 lux and twilight is about 10 lux. We could from the data at least
deduce when the pigeons flew or were pottering around the loft, when they were
basketed, when they were in the dark truck and when the pigeons were
conducted in the car etc. The liberation is quite perceptible in the data set, as
well as the homecoming. At the same time after a first test case you can find
things that can be better. The data from the two cocks that went was clearly
different from that of the hen; she recorded significantly greater amounts of
light. Feather Shade is the new word that we acquired, the loggers probably sit
too much under the tail or the feathers on and around the upper part of the
pigeon’s leg.
Barcelona and Cahors
After proper co-ordination and collaboration with the NPO, Department
Friesland'96, NIC Borne, NIC Noordwolde and Nic Balk, not to mention the
ZLU preparations could be made for the Barcelona race. Jelle Jellema basketed
three hens with a geolocator attached to the ring, the first nominated and two
decent pigeons, so confidence was high. The markers at Borne were informed
and when the pigeons were presented, as required by the ZLU for a control
rubber and wing stamp they had a picture with a description of the geolocators
printed in front of them, provided by ZLU Secretary Hub Wetzelaer. Everything
went smoothly. The liberation took place as expected on Friday morning. At
9:30 the pigeons with geo F956, F957 and F958 departed from the beach of
Barcelona for their epic journey home, the weather left nothing to the
imagination, it would be very hard. On Saturday July 6 at 18:58 Jelle clocked
the first nominated pigeon, with a geolocator! On Sunday morning they were
all back home, mission accomplished. Ultsje, at the National Cahors sent two
pigeons; the cock was trimmed around the top part of the leg, to try all ways as
best as possible. Cahors was also about this time a night flight and one of the
two pigeons brought the happy geolocator home on Saturday afternoon. The
data was read out on Monday morning and is now being analysed. As soon as
we know more we will report it, because it would be wonderful if we can
reconstruct the route of these flights?
Ultsje and Jelle Jellema and Wiebren van Stralen

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