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 Le Tour Race Reports 2004

Stage 1: Kouchibouguac (120 km) July 21, 2004

Stage 1 of the Le Tour Des Maritimes was flown this morning.  Because of heavy fog on the way, the release was delayed until 9:00 am inside Kouchibouguac National Park a distance of almost 120 km.  At the release it was mostly overcast with a few sunny breaks.  The weather for the last 3/4's of the way home was mostly sunny, hot, humid and with a light SW to W breeze.  The humidex value was over 30 C.  The first bird trapped in 1:46:14.

Congratulations go out to Bill Madore from Cape Breton Island for his win and to all that did well.  Goto Kouchibouguac 1 for complete results of this race.

Stage 2: Kouchibouguac (120 km) July 22, 2004

The conditions were right for a fast race and I was not disappointed.  However my worst nightmare became reality.

The birds were released at 9:00 am from 120 km into a cloudless sky and with a slight tailwind coming directly from the south.  About 140 birds arrived in one large group.  The winner flew the distance in 1:36:19 hours, which was 10 minutes faster than yesterday.  When the birds landed they were hesitant to trap.  At that time I was about 30 m from the loft so I decided to go up into the loft and call them in with some feed.  About thirty had trapped  and my whistling and the sound of feed hitting the floor encouraged another 15 to trap.  But I could see no more in the trapping aviary so I stepped outside on the loft balcony to see why.  As I stepped outside the birds on the roof scattered.  I expected the goshawk to be diving through but to my surprise he was directly to the south of the loft approaching it.  When it spotted me it veered to the east and disappeared.  Only about 50 race birds had trapped by this time.  Most of the rest disappeared.  Some remained on the roof and trapped a couple of minutes later.   About 30 minutes later the remaining birds returned, circled the loft for about 10 minutes and began to land.  Then all of a sudden the goshawk came over the northeast corner of the loft and dove down on the birds for its last time.  The birds scattered and about 5 minutes later another goshawk appeared over the northwest corner of the loft but spotted me and made the wise decision to leave quickly.  I knew they were hunting in pairs.  For the rest of the morning the birds flew over the loft in smaller groups and left.  Some hesitantly landed and trapped.  I found out why when I looked up to the northwest and high in the sky spotted the other goshawk circling.  At 12:00 and about 1:30 hours after the birds first arrived home over 50 birds were still flying around the loft trying to land.  By 12:25:48 the last bird had trapped.

After the last bird had trapped I immediately began thinking a fair solution to an unfair ending of a pigeon race.  The following is my solution and rationale for my decision.

Congratulations go out to Pierre L'Archeveque from Montreal for his win and to all that did well.  Goto Kouchibouguac 2 for complete results of this race.  The next race from Moncton is scheduled for Sunday July 25 weather permitting.  Keep your fingers crossed for a "normal" race.

Stage 3: Moncton (200 km) July 25, 2004

It's been a strange year and fraught with adversity.

The birds were released outside of Moncton a distance of about 200 km in overcast skies with the sun's outline clearly visible through the clouds.  To the north the sky was cloudless all the way home.  The winds were not a factor at the start but for the last half of the course an insignificant 10 km NW wind was in the birds' face.  Mike Rogers assisted me with the release and shot some excellent photos.

                   

Upon release the birds made a few low circles over the truck and then as a group started slowly drifting in the direction of home.  The conditions were ideal for a good race and I expected a 2 3/4 hour flight; I was not disappointed.  At about the 2:45 hour mark a group of about 20 birds arrived.  They circled a few more times than they usually do and then landed.  The first arrivals were somewhat hesitant to trap which was understandable.  You could see their heads turned skyward searching for danger.  When they were comfortable that the coast was clear they began trapping.

Only thirty-one birds trapped in less than three hours from the time of the release.  Needless to say, I was a bit concerned because the Le Tour birds have been to Moncton many times over the last 8 years and they have never been broken up as they were today.  They always came home as group.  Occasionally you would have an odd straggler but never like this.  Today after the first arrivals they arrived in various sized groups for the next 30 minutes.  By the 3:20 hour mark over 80% of the birds were home.  By early this afternoon only a handful were missing and 3 arrived early the following morning.

It looks like the Overall Standings will have experienced a major shake-up.

Congratulations go out to Ryan Harvey who I believe is still a high school student in Halifax, NS for winning the race and to everyone else who did well.  Goto Moncton 1

Next Moncton race is scheduled for Thursday of this week.       

Stage 4: Moncton (200 km) July 29, 2004

Pierre L'Archeveque does it again with CU 20354.

The birds were released in Moncton (200 km) this morning at 7:45 in mostly overcast skies and with the sun clearly visible.  The wind was brisk from the WSW but nil throughout most of the course and at home.  The first 30 km were very overcast with low dark clouds but the rest of the way home was an equal mixture of sun and clouds.  As soon as I arrived home I put out a handful of late breds just in case the goshawk would fly by before the race birds arrived.  If so they may have satisfied its appetite for today.  

The first group of about 100 birds arrived around 2:37 hours after being released and were followed by most of the rest 5 minutes later.  Trapping was a little bit slow but proceeded without incident. 

Congratulations go out to Pierre "again" for winning another 1st and to all that did well.  Goto Moncton 2

The next race New Glasgow (300 km) is scheduled for August 5th.  This is the last race of the sprint portion of the Le Tour series and when the "real" racing begins.  Expect at least a four and a half hour flight.  Good luck to all.

Stage 5: New Glasgow (300 km) July, 2004

A tough stage 5 from New Glasgow, NB (300 km) was flown today.

I spent the night at Lothar Schmitt's and was up at 5:30 this morning hoping for a 7:00 am release.  The moon was clearly visible but by 6:00 clouds moved in and a light rain began to fall.  It lasted for about 30 minutes.  By 7:30 small blue patches of sky appeared and at 7:45 the outline of the sun was clearly visible through the clouds.  At 7:50 a substantial sunny break appeared so the birds were released at 8:00.  They made a few circles and headed in the right direction for home.  Throughout Nova Scotia it was overcast with bright clouds but not a drop of rain fell.  By the time I reached the New Brunswick border it was mostly sunny all the way home.  I expected a fast race but was wrong.

Leo Boudreau arrived at the loft about 11:00 and told me the winds began blowing quite strongly from the time he arrived and out of the northwest .  When I arrived at 12:45 they were about 20 km/h with frequent gusts.  They remained that way for most of the afternoon.

The first group of 7 birds arrived shortly after 1:45 and trapped quickly.  CU 22174 was the first bird to clock.  The early arrivals did not look tired.  Later the birds arrived in small groups and singles throughout the afternoon and didn't appear to have over exerted themselves.  By nightfall 67 racers reached home.  I have no explanation why 17 birds flew the distance in respectable time and the rest found it more of a challenge.  I would guess that because of the cloudy conditions the birds may have attempted to cross the Northumberland Strait and PEI and encountered more difficult weather conditions or the winds were much stronger throughout the course then I suspected.  The winds did not appear to be a factor on the road home.  But who knows.  Lothar Schmitt called later in the afternoon and said that the clouds cleared later in the morning and it was a beautiful day.  I would expect quite a few more birds to arrive tomorrow.

Congratulations go out to the partnership of Baetens and King for winning Stage 5 and winning the sprint portion of the Le Tour series.  Also congratulations to everyone else that did well.

 

Stage 6: Antigonish (350 km) August 15, 2004

Stage 6 of the Le Tour Des Maritimes from Antigonish was flown Sunday August 15th.  It originally was scheduled for Saturday but the birds had to be held over for another day because of unsuitable weather at the release point.

I arrived at Ken & Donna Gavel's home around 9:00 Friday evening after an exhausting 6 hour drive.  Ken and I have been the best of friends for 25 years and ever since he was superintendent of mechanical maintenance for Brunswick Mines in Bathurst.

As soon as I arrived the birds were taken out of the truck immediately and given water.  Ken was anxious for me to meet a friend who was looking forward to meeting me and had offered an ideal location for the release of the birds.  So about 9:30 we left to visit Richard Schoder who lives a few kilometers down the Ohio Road.  Goto:  Schoder Visit

The prediction for the following morning was for favorable weather.  However at 6:00 am when I looked out the bedroom window all I could see was fog, low clouds and drizzling rain throughout the Ohio Valley, 20 km west of Antigonish.  By 10:00 am it was obvious that the weather would not improve and there was no choice but to postpone the race until the following day.

I spent the day visiting some of Ken's family, snoozing, relaxing, drinking a "few" Bud and even found time to split some wood to pay for my keep.

Sunday morning we got up at 5:30 and when I looked out the window it was obvious that there would be a release.  The birds were released at 7:10 in ideal conditions.  The sky was virtually cloudless, visibility was unlimited, the temperature was 19 C and the winds were insignificant.  The conditions to the Miramichi River were similar except for a variable cloud cover but it still remained mostly sunny.  From here the winds picked up significantly around 12:00 and blew from a north westerly direction at about 20 km an hour.  At home by late afternoon they died down considerably.

The first bird OAK 4095 entered by Glen Lyon arrived alone in 7:29:56 hours of flying to be followed by Jeff Mawbey's MIRPC 409 about 10 minutes later.  Then a small group of 7 birds arrived about 7 minutes after the 2nd bird.  This was a remarkable performance by 4095 because in 8 years of running the Le Tour a bird arriving home alone and winning a first is a rarity.  It has only happened a few times in over 40 races.  I noticed another interesting fact.  The winner arrived with mud on his eband.  Also many other racers returned in the same condition.  On the third day a race bird was reported in Amherst, NS.  Amherst is at the beginning of the isthmus that connects New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  This neck of land is very flat and is characterized with mud and salt flats.  Could the birds have gone down here for whatever reason?

Throughout the afternoon birds arrived in small groups and singles and well into the evening.  By the end of the day 56 racers arrived home and 29 more arrived the following day for almost 90% returns.

Congratulations go out to Glen Lyon for his win and to everybody else who did well.

 

Stage 7: Canso Causeway (400 km) August 25, 2004

Shortly after 6:00 am Ken Gavel and I arrived in the Village of Havre Boucher  which is a few kilometers before the Canso Causeway.  The sun had just risen above the horizon and revealed an ideal day for the release.  Ken found an excellent location to release the birds on his aunt Martha DeCoste's  property.  It is a couple of kilometers from the George Bay along the Northumberland Strait.

The birds were allowed to sit and orientate for about 30 minutes and given their last opportunity to have a drink of water.  Then they  were released at 7:15 am in mostly sunny skies and calm wind conditions.  We watched them circle couple of times and then fly off towards the George Bay where they hesitated and then made a right turn to fly in the opposite direction from home.  The birds didn't fly far before they came back in the opposite direction and disappeared flying along the coast in the direction of home.

To Antigonish it remained calm however from here it clouded over considerably and the winds increased in intensity from northwest. By the time I reached the New Glasgow area the winds were quite brisk but it began to clear.  The rest of the way home could be best described as mostly sunny with varying wind conditions that often were quite brisk from the NW which would be a headwind.  By 2:00 pm the winds in northern NB were blowing at 20 km/h and gusting in excess of 30 km/h.  The 400 km race all of a sudden became a 500 km plus race. 

The flags along the route home describe the conditions the best.  It's interesting to note that the winds blew from a north westerly direction for most of the way accept for a few kilometers at the NB/NS border were they blew from the opposite direction.

New Glasgow Area

NB-NS Border

Miramichi Airport

Bathurst Airport

I expected a 9 to 10 hour flight but I was quite pleasantly surprised and very pleased to see the birds arrive in less than 8 hours.  The returns under these conditions and from this distance were more than acceptable.  By 20:05:25 seventy-one racers or 75% of the birds shipped had reached home on the day and 84% returned in race time.  Congratulations go out to the team of Baetens/King for their first place win with CU 22174 and also to all that did well.   

Below are some candid shots of the early arrivals.  The first 3 pictures were taken within 30 minutes of arrival.

           

OAK 4095, 2nd after Stage 7,  leader for the Long portion & 1st 350 km.

CU 22174, 1st 300 km & 1st 400 km.

CU 22170, leader after Stage 7, Sprint Champion & in 2nd for the Long portion.

 

In the first drop but rested for 7 mins before he trapped.  Grrr!

Stage 8: Sydney-Glace Bay (500 km) September 5th, 2004

Stage 8, the last race of the 2004 Le Tour series is tentatively scheduled for Sunday September 5th.  All due care will be taken to release the birds in favorable weather.  If you look at the map of the release point (Glace Bay) it is quite evident why the weather must be favorable.  The Le Tour birds will be in Glace Bay for a Sunday release.  The decision to release them will be made that morning.  If the weather is not favorable they will be held over to the following day.  The general weather prediction seems to be better for Monday, however the winds are predicted to be considerably stronger at the release point.

        Race Report

Who said this was a tough course? And what a difference no head winds make.

The birds were basketed Saturday morning and I left at dinner time to meet Bill Madore at the Canso Causeway to exchange the birds.  Bill has supervised 7 Le Tour releases from Glace Bay and we were always fortunate to have birds home on the day.  As I drove the 6 hour trip I wondered if he could continue his record.

We met at around 6:00 pm and exchanged the birds quickly and then I left for Antigonish to spend the night with Ken Gavel.  The following morning I left for home and made a quick stop at Lothar Schmitt's to pick up some feed.  The conditions were mostly sunny with a variable cloud cover.  As I drove along the Northumberland Strait the north winds were quite brisk off the water and remained that way until I reached the Trans Canada which is more inland.  From the Nova Scotia border all the way home the winds were insignificant.  The temperatures throughout the course were rather cool and the highs only reached in the upper teens Celsius.   I was confident that the conditions were right for a good race.

When I reached home about 1:00 I  went to the loft immediately to see if everything was in order.  On race day I am always paranoid about an eclock malfunction.  I have always wondered what I would do if this should happen.  I refilled the drinkers with fresh water and my "secret formula" for quickly restoring the birds' energy - grape sugar reinforced with vitamin C.

I am not sure why I decided to go outside about 1:45.  My new neighbor who seemed to be fascinated about the birds came over so I gave him a quick tutorial about the Le Tour.  During our conversation he asked me what time I expected the birds.  I replied, "if I get some by 5:00 I would be more than pleased".  We continued our conversation about 25 m from the loft and under a clump of trees with my back to the loft.  All of a sudden Dave said, "I think you have got one home".  I quickly turned to the loft and from this distance saw what looked like a blue bar.  I casually turned back to him to continue our conversation and said, "It's too early.  It's probably a bird from a previous race".  Then I thought to myself, it couldn't be or could it be - it's only 2:00.  I quickly excused myself from the conversation and slowly started walking toward the loft and started whistling.   The bird stood motionless and as I got closer I could see it was a light checker and when it turned it's head I immediately recognized the noble well matured head of Glen Lyon's OAK 4095.  I thought, "he arrived ahead of the pack before, why not again but in 7:00 hours?". 

Because of the hawk problems I have had this year, I made it a practice to stay outside of the loft on guard when the birds were exercising and returning from a training toss or a race.  I whistled again and all 4095 did was to twist his head and look up into the sky.  It always worries me when the birds are hesitant to trap and look skywards.  It's obvious they see something I don't.  I quickly decided today was the day to change my practice and go to the loft and throw some feed on the floor.  I had to do everything possible to get him in quickly.  Surely he would be hungry, thirsty and would hear the grain hit the floor.  Just as I threw the grain down I heard birds hit the roof.  You can't imagine the sigh of relief I felt to hear more birds arriving.  I thought, the Le Tour was over and the returns would probably be good.  At my age it was the greatest feeling in the world.

The second arrivals did not hesitate and began trapping immediately.  Trapping would be a crap shoot and I wondered who would be first.  Two birds, a red checker and dark checker pied, almost simultaneously came through the dual tunnels that housed the scanning antennae.  CU 22504 entered by Ken & Donna Gavel timed at 7:10:30 and Lothar Schmitt's EC 3012 timed a second later.  The clock showed 13 birds had arrived in the second drop and the first arrival OAK 4095 trapped 12th.  See Canso

CU 22504

Early Arrivals

Some Later Arrivals

After the birds had the opportunity to drink and have a light feed I scanned the clock and it showed that 7 out of the first 15 leaders (after Stage 7) were home.  Very unfortunately, the leader CU 22170 entered by Baetens/King who flew so consistently well and being the Sprint Champion had not  yet arrived.  Another thing that I am paranoid about is a bird trapping but not scanning.  In the tunnel the birds have to cross 2 antennae before entering the loft.  You would think it would be impossible for a bird to get through without timing.  I was not taking any chances so I quickly looked through the birds and didn't see CU 22170 anywhere.  What happened to such a superb racer on a easy day will remain a mystery.  Hopefully it will return.

The last race of the Le Tour 2004 was a classic.  The returns were exceptional.   Sixty-two birds arrived and the day and 69 birds clocked in race time for 77.5% returns.  A couple more arrived a few days later.  Stage 8 Results

I take this opportunity to congratulate Glen Lyon who entered OAK 4095 who was the Overall Champion,  Ken and Donna Gavel for winning Stage 8 and everybody else who did well.  Moreover, I thank all the participants who supported the Le Tour and for those that enjoyed following it.  I hope you will consider entering the Le Tour 2005.  DETAILS.

Andy

Overall Results    Stage 8 Results    Sprint Results    Long Results    Reservation 2005    Payout