|Vancouver Island Pigeon Racing
by Jeff Mawbey
Vancouver Island, British Columbia, located on Canada�s Pacific coast and named after George Vancouver; the island is 460 km long and 80 km wide. It is Canada's 11th largest island and 2nd highest populated island. It is well known internationally for it's mild temperature, salmon fishing, scuba diving and year round golf, this is the place where some people wear their shorts all year round.
Click image for a larger view.
Vancouver Island is roughly divided between a rugged wet west coast, and a drier more rolling east coast by the Vancouver Island Ranges; which run down most of the length of the island. The highest point of these ranges is the Golden Hinde at 2195 metres. This is located near the centre of the island and is part of a group of peaks that include the only glaciers on the island, the largest being the Comox Glacier.
Our island has much to offer in the way of adventurous outdoor activities, and pigeon racing is right up with the most challenging.
There are three clubs here on the island: Capital City Racing Pigeon Club, located in the city of Victoria, (the capital of BC), Nanaimo Racing Pigeon Club, and the club I belong to; Mid-Island Racing Pigeon Society. Our club is nestled between these two major cities on the outskirts of Chemainus (world known for it murals). MIRPS is the youngest and fastest growing club on the island with 25 members, and growing!
Our old bird season had consisted of flying from the mainland on Mountain Pacific club�s truck. We flew an eastern course along the BC and US border; a very challenging course for our birds to fly, with the toughest leg being the crossing from the mainland to the island. With 28 km of open, and most times very choppy waters of the Georgia Strait, our birds tended to hesitate in crossing.
In the past few years our losses were getting greater than ever before, and we could see the spirits of the members slowly dropping - we had to make some changes before high losses took it�s toll on membership.
This year, the club as a whole, decided to fly our old bird season on the same course our young bird season is flown on. This meant flying only the island; but don�t think that sticking to the island is a walk in the park! The island offers a diversity of challenges.
The southern end of the island has very mild winters, and thus birds that would normally migrate for winter, don�t. This includes the hawks and falcons, which not only adds to the challenge of racing, but training as well.
From my loft to the furthest release point: (Port Hardy), it is 329 km as the crow flies - and we all know that our birds don�t fly a straight line, they must navigate the Vancouver Island Ranges that I mentioned earlier in this article. They must follow valleys and coast lines, never knowing what is around the next corner.
Out of the five release stations on the island, only one is in range where a cell phone will work. The other four we have to rely on finding a pay phone, and hope it works to coordinate the release with the race secretary.
Once the birds are up, it�s anyone�s guess as to how the days race will be. Weather in the ranges can be very unpredictable (around here the joke is: if you don�t like the weather, wait 5 minutes!). The sun can be shining one moment, and a km down the road it will be raining or snowing, and a tail wind can suddenly become a powerful head wind.
If the birds follow a valley to the west, chances are they will battle the Pacific Ocean head winds a good part of the way, then once they find themselves on the west coast, they have to find the right valley that will bring them inland to the east coast where most of us live. If they take a valley going east, it takes them out to the side of the island that is very close to the mainland. This area is dotted with lots of small islands, making it easy for them to cross over to the mainland and follow it�s coast as it spreads further away from the island. They would have to cross over the choppy water, or back track to find an easier crossing, and all the while keeping an eye out for the many raptors that populate our island.
We might not have the distance on the island, but we surely do have some of the roughest terrain for our birds to fly over, through and around. So if your think you have birds that can do it all, we invite you to be brave, ship them to the island and put them through the paces of our course. When you ship a bird off to one of our races, whether it be a club race or a derby race, there is no room for luck when they come home - it is 100% the best of the best; the pigeons that make it home any flyer is proud to have in their lofts.
If you�re still second guessing our racecourse, check it out on Google Earth; the satellite images of our island say it all! Better yet, come out for a holiday, tour the island, and if you plan it right, attend the derby loft on race day. Lots of fun to be had (what could be more fun then a gathering of pigeon people?) as well as one of the finest pig roasts anywhere!
Mid-Island Racing Pigeon Association