Straight talk for the Novice - Harry Shannon


It has often been said that not enough help is given to Novices from the top flying men. Could I say straight away that much advice and the many methods freely available for those who seek them does not guarantee success. The reason being that without constant management nothing is foolproof. This is why I think many top fanciers do not put pen to paper in this regard, but would not hesitate to give good advice when asked. I also feel many of the experts do not know all the reasons for their successes. One thing is certain, there is no substitute for personal experience to find answers. Unfortunately, for those without patience this takes time. Observation of, and commitment to the birds is vital for consistent good flying. The nice thing about flying Tipplers is that sometimes even someone with limited experience can achieve great success. It's also a fact that someone with 20 years experience of pigeons could still be termed a Novice and still enjoy his birds.

For the true beginner - if he has obtained good stock and a pair are producing exceptional offspring, then his first challenge is why? We must continue to find out why certain things occur. If we do then this must be our example. It may be a type of bird or knowledge of best types of birds to pair together etc. In other words, play your hunches and note them.

I remember years ago a top fancier telling me he switched his pairs around until he found which birds hit. This is what I mean by not knowing all the answers and that there is no substitute for getting to know your own birds' strengths and weaknesses. It should not be regarded as progress if you must continue to breed off the same pairs for your successes without thinking of the future and trying to improve your stock with some in-breeding - no easy task.

The many varieties of pigeons from the original Rock Dove illustrates how things can be changed, possibly for the worst. It would not be the design of mother nature to produce a flying Tippler - never mind a better one, so we must remember to use our common sense and be prepared to both work with and against nature at the same time!

I feel that those who succeed in any sport must start first of all with a deep love for all that is involved. This helps to cushion the disappointments met along the way and usually with the right person, hardens the resolve to succeed. It is natural to want to run before you walk but it should be remembered that part of the enjoyment of Tipplers is getting to know what makes them tick and finding your mistakes and successes.

In flying - again the example of your best performance must be remembered. It must be a good idea to keep notes regarding weather as well as the birds and remember what works with one kit may not be best for another. In this regard we have all had the experience of some birds preference for only certain grains and seeds even to the point of refusing that which we feel is necessary for good health. This is one of the reasons why I personally do not like to give feed-up tonics etc., that which most Novices think are the secrets they must know before they can achieve success.

There are more ways than one to get the best from your birds and here again close contact and knowledge of the birds is most important. It also must be realised that the weeks of training are just as important or more so, than the "feed up" period. While the "feed up" is important, too much emphasis seems to be attached to it at the expense of common sense training. I remember when I first achieved success and had my first 19 hours fly. I was daft enough to expect the "feed up" and tonic of the great Sam Billingham to work wonders. This was given to me by a great local flyer of days long gone. I should add that his record was second to none and who I thought knew it all. However, I spent 2/3 years with this diversion only to realise that which I have tried to outline. There is no foolproof road to success and what suits one may not suit another. This also applies to the birds training flys. I am not a great believer in continued long training flights - not that I think they don't work with the right management, rather, I feel they can be counter productive and leave the birds more vulnerable to Perigrine attack. Don't forget also, nature gives us many examples that birds prior to migration do not need many hours training to fly thousands of miles. A good example of this also is the Corncrake or Rail - almost extinct now - he comes to us in spring from S.E. Africa, spends 95% of his 6 month stay runriing on the ground and then leaves to cover many thousands of miles back to Africa using his wings.

It has been my experience that common sense always seems to be the first casualty with beginners. This has probably happened to many of us~ in our time and must always be guarded against. This may well stem from the fact that many still believe there is some magic "black bottle" that changes all.

The best advice is to get a training feed to suit your kit. If they are very strong this may be good barley with linseed only, to a depurative mixture if not so strong. Train 10 to 20 hours a week according to weather. Epsom Salts once weekly. Observe in the air and handle frequently to learn affects of feeding and flying. Adjust feeds so that birds carry no excess weight and that they take heed of the droppers. Give 4 day build-up with a good variety of grain and seeds, about 50% each.

Give an iron tonic until Friday. Make notes and seek advice if things go wrong that you don't understand. Be a good listener to good advice until you can get your birds to the form they need for competition. Times of feed can vary but a good guide is Wednesday - on coming in Thursday - lunch to teatime - Friday l2pm to Spm - Saturday 8am to lunchtime. Canary Seed 2 to 6 hours before liberation.

Sorry if I have not given what's wanted, but if I have put you off the thoughts of only searching for the magic bottle then I have achieved something worthwhile and, remember,1 oz. of experience is better than a ton of theory.