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By ©Silvio Mattacchione
*all photos remain the exclusive property of their respective owners.
I believe that it would be safe to say, ( everyone would be in total agreement) that racing pigeons instinctively do not like to fly over bodies of open water. Pigeons will endure in most cases, hundreds of kilometers of additional flying time to go around a body of water as opposed to taking the risk of going over it. How often have I heard in our combine and others, that so and so got a really good performance because his bird must have flow over a portion of Lake Simcoe thus giving him the advantage and the win by many minutes ahead of the competition. My old friend Karl Winterstien often trained from the narrows ( of Lake Simcoe) because the “old fox” believed ( and rightly so) that if he could get some of his best birds to fly over a portion of the lake it would give him a distinct advantage, and so it often did.
In the “Le Tour” race, operated by Andrew Skrobot ( consisting of a series of 7 races) the first six races are in fact a preparation for the rigors involved in flying from Glace Bay , Cape Breton, an Island in the North Atlantic at the tip of Nova Scotia ( Nova Scotia being a Canadian Province surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on three side). If the birds were to fly direct from “Glace Bay” to “Bathurst” New Brunswick they would of necessity fly over 400 kilometers of the open Atlantic. This rarely happens and thus the birds probably add 200 kilometers to their already rigorous flight of 500 kilometers rather than risk the open ocean!
In Taiwan many fanciers value a bird solely on its ability to fly over the ocean. Well they need to do this because of the really small land mass that constitutes this last bastion of Democracy before reaching the empire of China. Taiwan is a small stronghold of freedom surrounded by a dangerous ocean. Therefore the racing pigeons are developed to fly over the open a non forgiving ocean! These flights are dangerous ,grueling and can and are very often deadly.
In North America, we fly our pigeons over forests, over mountains, over deserts, over every imaginable and hostile terrain , but rarely are our birds confronted with the absolute fury of the open seas( remember that in all other terrains our pigeons have the option of stopping and resting, but over the ocean stopping is as the say, “not an option”). Winds and waves that can break enormous ocean going tankers in half are just some of the dangers. The open oceans are certainly the most formidable force in nature that our exquisite , fearless little warriors could ever be confronted with. We are all familiar with the hit film :TITANIC” where almost a thousand lives were lost to the unforgiving power of the “North Atlantic”. That is why “Skrobots” “Le Tour” (actually “Les Tour Des Maritimes Futurity” http://www.tourdesmaritimes.com,) final release point “Glace Bay” is so very difficult?
Most fanciers don't realize how difficult of a release point Glace Bay is. During the winter 100+ km winds are common throughout the Cape Breton Highlands. Fortunately they are not as strong during the summer months but they still can be problematic. At the release point unfavorable winds exceeding 20 km/h can always be expected. If the birds fly home as the "crow flies" they would fly over 400 km of open water. This is quite unlikely so by flying along the mainland of Nova Scotia the actual distance the birds fly exceeds 600 km. Just getting off the Island is challenge. The first 6 races of the Le Tour schedule are used to condition and build the birds confidence for this task. Getting day birds from this point is always the main goal of the Le Tour series.
Figure 1 Map of the final release point of the "Le Tour" race station in the North Atlantic "Glace Bay"
So what is my sudden fascination with water, when most friends of mine know that I cannot swim a stroke? I am fascinated because it never fails to amaze me that the birds that we keep can have so much raw courage, so much power , so much strength , so much endurance, so much determination and such a love for home that nothing , not even a deadly ocean ( and would under all normal circumstances avoid) would ever keep them from trying to get to their homes. Yesterday I received an email that caught my attention , actually held me in awe as to what our pigeons are really capable of. I had never really contemplated whether or not racing pigeon fanciers existed in small remote island chains in the middle of the ocean. Believe it or not , the coast of Africa, Morocco, the Sahara are not what I normally think of when I think of racing pigeons. Yet it seems that the Canary Islands ( officially a part of Spain) has a large , extremely dedicated and extremely courageous group of racing pigeon fanciers as well as racing pigeons! Though for the most part, we in America face the assaults of Mountains, forests, open prairies and deserts these relatively unknown and unheard of racing pigeon fanciers face the rigors of the open ocean every race day! The open ocean, not “Lake Simcoe and the narrows”, but the ocean with its gale force winds and gigantic waves, with its deadly calm one minute, and 10 storey waves the next.
In 1990 I spent some ten days or so in the Canary Islands at the second world parrot congress. Most of my time was spent in Tenerife. Tenerife is famous as the site of the worlds great “747” disasters and it was also the site of “Racquel Welsh” movie entitled “1000.000 BC”. Part of the island is desolate, moonlike in terrain and the higher altitude is beautiful, tropical an ideal vacation spot. Yet in 1990 the only pigeons I saw were flying near the shore and out over the ocean, near the hotel that I was staying at. Had I known just how great the interest in pigeons was I may have gone back in 1994.
Figure 2 This photo was taken from satellite and shows the "Canary Island Chain" in the ocean and the yellow mass to your right is the "Sahara" desert and the coast of Morocco. A violent storm is blowing desert sand over the islands and far beyond, hundreds of miles out to sea. Not a very hospitable course
While this image is fresh in your mind I will give you another map that will reference the key cities along the African coast so that we will all have appropriate reference to better understand the type of racing that these island fanciers are involved in!
Figure 3 Map of Morocco , showing the major cities including Casablanca, the furthest race station used by Canary Island fanciers. Map reference http://www.lonelyplanet.com/mapshells/africa/morocco/morocco.htm
There are several organizations governing racing is called “The Tenerife Island Federation” ( with over 1000 members) it purchases some 70,000 bands each year. “The Las Palmas Island Federation” purchases 60,000 bands. The other small islands collectively purchase an additional 60,000 bands. Its amazing to see that this small island group off the coast of Africa purchase a total of 180,000 bands representing more than 60% of the Spanish National Federation total. I would never have suspected that the number of birds bred on these islands could have been so large.
I think that it goes without saying that the loses, in racing over the sea are very , very great! Equally great would be the elation and satisfaction of getting birds home in race time given these conditions. In my estimation, taking the emphasis away from 1st and reorganizing your thinking to recognize the achievement of such a test is an extremely positive development that would ultimately lead to the improvement and advancement of the overall qualities of this unique strain of pigeons capable of endurance or long distance racing over the sea!
I was advised that the heaviest loses occur in the young bird series as the youngsters fly over the sea for the first time. In essence young bird training begins with several tosses around the home island followed by four, training races between “Tenerife” and “Gran Canaria” then two from “Fuerteventura” then “Lanzarote” and finally “Cabo Jubt” in Africa ( 360 kms.) The first race is from the island of “Gran Canaria” to Tenerife which is a distance of about 100 -135 km depending on loft location. In any given year between 12.000 and 18,000 birds fly in this race. Those numbers are pretty staggering. We are certainly hard pressed to generate such numbers in North America. As the races continue the numbers are reduced dramatically. The race from “Fuerteventura Island ” averages some 8,000 birds and “Lanzarote” only 5000 birds. These race stations are 275 and 330 km. Respectively.
The young bird season lasts some four months and the old bird season last a total of six months.
Figure 4 The map above shows all of the race points from the coast of Morocco in Africa to the Canary Islands. The shortest being "cabot Jubt" 330 kms. and the furthest being "Casablanca' 1064 kms..
Now comes the real test , old bird racing at the distance. Old bird racing begins in April and continues until the second week in July. The long races include two races from Tan-Tan, Morocco, Africa 550 km. Followed by “Cabo Ghir” 730km. And “Safi” 849 km and finally the incredible race from “Casablanca” a total of 1064 km.
Prior to the “World Record “ flight of “Bayo Casablanca” owned by Jose and Abel Ledesma of “Ledesma Loft” no bird had ever successfully flown this distance over the sea to be clocked on the morning of the second day! “ Bayo Casablanca” was released along with 125 other birds from “Casablanca, Morocco , (a distance to his home loft of 1064 km or 665 miles) at 7;30 am and arrived at his home loft in “Tenerife” at 9:15 am the morning of the second day. Yes he arrived on the morning of the second day, but remember that since there is no place in the ocean where a pigeon can land and spend the night this incredible pigeon had in fact flown to the North end of the island of “Tenerife” by nightfall of the first day, spent the night in “Tenerife” and then flew the remaining distance to the “Ledesma Lofts” the morning of the second day! What does it mean? It means that this incredible athlete flew at least 1000 kilometers over the ocean on the day! Jose Ledesma , in personal correspondence with the author believes that the map below is most likely the route that “Bayo Casablanca” took to return home in this “World Record” time in this “National “ race. The line drawn in white represents what may have occurred during his flight.
Figure 5 " Bayo Casablanca" the white line above represents his National race from "Casablanca" Africa to "Tenerife ". This flight in 2002 is a Worlds Record Over The Sea flight that has never been achieved before. 1064 km. over the sea on the morning of the second day!
What type of a pigeon is “ Bayo Casablanca” ? It seems that Jose Ledesma has carefully cultivated a Hybrid Colony of pigeons that are especially adapted to open ocean flying based on, none other than the bloodlines of our ( now deceased) great American “Sion” specialist “Charles Heitzman” ( whom I had corresponded with personally for quite some time before his death) and those of the Janssen strain. I have had many discussions of the potential of this cross with many fanciers including the grandfather of “Sion” breeders in the USA Mr. John Garzolli. Mr. Andrew Skrobot and I are currently experimenting on this very same cross.
I think that so many of my friends are committed “eye sign “ enthusiasts that I am compelled to cater to their addiction before I even give you a photo of “Bayo” I will need ( for their benefit) to give you a photo of this incredible athletes eye!
Figure 6 The Eye of "Bayo Casablanca" has been especially inserted for all of my eye sign friends including Andrew Skrobot and Mike Van Der Jagt .
Figure 7 " Bayo Casablanca " World Record over the sea.
ANCESTORS OF “ S u p e r c r a c k B a y o C a s a b l a n c a” ESP-286102-2000“
ESP-133159-1993This bird came back from “PIÑEIRO LOFT”, one of the old Glories of racing pigeon lofts in the Canary Islands. The origin of its bloodline is that of Hopa + Charles Heitzman imported years ago by Sr.Daniel Piñeiro.
Blue flown to 330 Km. ( Arrecife ) in young bird season then stocked.
GrandFAther: ESP-140648-1987 ( FROM JANSSEN AND OLD GLORY CANARY PIGEONS )
GrandMother: ESP-232721-1990 “La Bombon” ( FROM Charles Heitzman IMPORTED PIGEONS ABOUT YEAR1980 ).
So what kind of a man starts breeding pigeons in 1994 with his brother and in less than eight years achieves this level of success in establishing a beautiful as well as performing family of pigeons. Much to my surprise I found that Jose Ledesma is a Composer of music. Most people do not know that the world famous Dutch fancier Wout Smeulders ( breeder of the Smeulders Janssens, the Kannon 23 X 1st etc)) was also a Conductor and incredible lover of music. So do Composers and Conductors have an edge on just normal pigeon breeders? I do not know but may have to investigate further.
Figure 8 Jose Ledesma Composer, Conductor Artist and breeder of Worlds Record holder over the sea “Bayo Casablanca”. He is also a software developer “ The Professional Loft” software for fanciers and a ‘UNIKON “ dealer. www.joseledesma.com
As you can see from the enclosed CD cover Jose is extremely successful in many different fields of human endeavor. He produces incredible music that combines his love and respect of the past and its popular island traditions the sounds of his country and his people fused to the anticipation of all that the future may promise. He has vision that he is able to express in music and in the forming of living art in his pigeons. Beautiful music, beautiful design and beautiful racing pigeons .What more could you wish to achieve?
Figure 9 Jose Ledesma most recent CD release "Chill Out In The Canarrias" you can see it at http://www.joseledesma.com/musica
It is also of record that “ Bayo Casablanca” 20 days after his “World Record” flight from Casablanca also flew 730 Km from “Cabo Guir” .
“Ledesma Loft” in 2002 also clocked birds from C.Juby 350Km, C.Guir 730 Km, Safi 849Km and Casablanca 1024Km, ( 4 race stations from Africa ) . No loft from Spain or the Islands has ever successfully clocked birds from four African race points ever!This is really quite an accomplishment for this team of brothers. If you want birds that will fly over the sea then you might want to speak to Jose and Abel about their line of birds. They might just be what you are looking for. I would love to test these birds in our “Glace Bay” “Le Tour “ race in Canada and hopefully we can get Jose and Abel to send some to the races in Canada!
I indicated that Jose has an eye for breeding beautiful pigeons and I am sure that you will agree that the images that follow are very beautiful but each is also a performance champion over the sea!
Figure 10 Beautiful Red Champion racing hen bred by Jose Ledesma, Canary Islands.
Figure 11 " La Geniosa" a typical "Ledesma" racing champion.
IMPORTANT RESULTS IN 2002:
1º COMARCAL 5º NATIONAL OF CASABLANCA 1064 KM ( Only 9 birds arrived National )
1º COMARCAL 6º NATIONAL OF SAFI 849 KM ( 22 BIRDS TOTAL ARRIVED NATIONAL )
1º COMARCAL 9º NATIONAL OF CABO GHIR 730 KM ( 29 BIRDS TOTAL ARRIVED NATIONAL )
OTHER IMPORTANT RESULTS:
3º NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP OF SHORT AND MIDDLE DISTANCE 1996
2º NATIONAL ACE OF SHORT AND MIDDLE DISTANCE 1999
2º COMBINED CHAMPIONSHIF OD MIDDLE DISTANCE 2002
4º COMBINED CHAMPIONSHIP GENERAL 2002
THE BEST OLD BIRD INSULAR TENERIFE 2002 ( LA GENIOSA / 3124 BIRDS)
CHAMPION SECURITY IN VIII INTERNATIONAL DERBY ISLA DE LANZAROTE 2002
CHAMPION OF FOND
CHAMPION OF LONG DISTANCE 2002
CHAMPION OF YEARLINGS 2002
THE BEST YEARLING IN 2002
THE BEST OLD BIRD IN 2002
Figure 12 Certainly seems that "Bayo Casablanca" breeds true to form. This is a picture of 22 of his sons as of May 28 2003. Who knows maybe soon we can see some of our North American and Asian friends importing some of these distance birds? Sons of ‘Bayo” already exported to Japan in 2003
These youngsters above were bred in an ideal loft that any fancier anywhere in the world would be proud to call his own. See if you do not agree?
Figure 13 Ideal loft of Jose and Abel Ledesma . Canary Islands.
The interior loft set up again is conducive to good heath and ideal youngster development!
Figure 14 Interior of the lofts of Jose and Abel Ledesma, Canary Islands.World Champions are not easily come by, nor are they easily bred, but to breed and race across 1064 km of open sea is certainly a accomplishment worthy of recognition all over the world.
Figure 15 Newspapers throughout the Spanish speaking world carried this incredible story! Bayo Casablanca " "World Champion Over The Sea". Abel Ledesma shown holding world Record Over The Sea “Bayo Casablanca.
Figure 16 World Record Holder Over The Sea "Bayo Casablanca"
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