News

VFWCPR State of the Race - 2016-10-01

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From Dr Wim Peters – Race Director

It has been a while since we communicated the happenings at the Victoria Falls loft apart from our frequent posts on social media.

The most important news is that the nets have all been taken down and the birds have had their first experience of total freedom under the African sky.  Most have preferred to fly from one rooftop to the rooftop on the other wing of the loft and back again a few times not yet venturing to explore their surroundings.  This is understandable as, for the last few months, they have not been allowed to roam freely.  There are some that have taken to the air with gusto, flying wildly in all directions.  I am sure that, within the next few days, they will begin to form ‘packs’ as pigeons are want to do, and explore over a wider area.

We were visited yesterday and today by what is believed to be a honey buzzard, which did make a few feeble attempts at diving at the pigeons but mainly circled above the loft (some viewers are of the opinion that it was a booted eagle).  Though they are known to have caught pigeons, these birds of prey are not reckoned to be dangerous predators.   

It was gratifying to see that the pigeons paid scant attention to the helicopters with sight-seeing passengers, who pass in the vicinity on a regular basis.  Similarly the birds tend to ignore the presence of the ubiquitous vultures that roost and feed nearby.  Even the presence of the yellow-billed kites with their fork-tailed steering wheels, were ignored.  However I think they will soon learn that not all birds of prey can be ignored, as the peregrines and sparrow hawks will then find them to be easy prey.

The condition of the pigeons – in general – is very good.  Most are in excellent shape – not yet race fit – but healthy and the body moult in most birds is completed.  A few pigeons are also on their second-last main flight, indicating good health and excellent living conditions.  I think that the very gentle climate and a state-of-the-art loft that is not overcrowded, combine to assure a good oxygen supply with fantastic living conditions and that these are reflected in the condition of the birds.  I must hasten to add though that the loft as it stands, is perfect for this climate but I do think that the same loft standing in the Western Cape of South Africa for instance, with that area’s wind, rain and cold spells, would be a total disaster.

Our next task is to get the birds fit.  We will begin with circling them twice a day but do foresee that there could be problems initially.  Consequently we have toyed with the idea of taking them for short tosses in order to get them flying as they should.  This situation is being closely watched and debated daily.