Several British carrier pigeons that went missing in a suspected solar storm across the UK have reportedly turned up in Ireland more than a week later.
Thousands of birds disappeared during the Peterborough and Swindon races on June 19, described from a breeder as ‘one of the worst racing days in our history.”
A total of 250,000 birds were released that day and only a fraction returned.
Many have since returned home, but two carrier pigeons believed to be from the missing group have now turned up in West Cork, Ireland.
A woman in Clonakilty found a bird with a UK registration number on her bedroom window – but was unable to capture the animal.
Thousands of birds disappeared during the Peterborough and Swindon races on June 19, which one breeder described as “one of the worst race days in our history”. Pictured: One of the pigeons found in Ireland
Many have since returned home, but two carrier pigeons believed to be from the missing group have now turned up in West Cork, Ireland
She told the Cambs Times: “We’ve already rescued him from a neighbor’s cat who pounced on him. It doesn’t seem to be roadworthy when it comes to cats.
“We would like to reunite him with his owner.”
Another person found a dead carrier pigeon in their yard and added the bird had the registration number “ihus21s021202”.
Richard Sayers of Sayers Bros & Son of Skinningrove in the East Cleveland Federation said, “There are tens of thousands of carrier pigeons out there.”
Mr Sayers, who lost 40 per cent of his pigeons on June 19, asked anyone who found a lost carrier pigeon to give it seed and water to “help it on its way”.
He added, “You’ll know it’s a racer because it has rings around its feet.”
The missing birds were spotted as far away as Holland and Mallorca after the mysterious incident.
Dene Simpson, race director for the South West Wales Pigeon Breeders’ Association, described how large numbers of the birds the group had lovingly reared from chicks evaporated.
Pigeon fancier Dene Simpson (far left) said only a few hundred of his 1,400 pigeons have returned home after being released for an ‘unusual weather’ weekend race this month
The 92-mile journey Dene Simpson’s carrier pigeons made from Swindon to Swansea when up to 1,000 went missing in an unusual incident, experts believe it could have been caused by a solar storm
“We dropped ours from Swindon that same Saturday midday – that’s a 92-mile downwind journey so it shouldn’t have taken that long,” said the 39-year-old from Swansea.
“But of the 1,400 that went out, only about 200 to 300 made it home. And when we looked around on social media later, we saw that many other associations across the UK had had similar experiences.”
Mr Simpson, who is responsible for checking the weather situation and deciding when and where the birds will be released, said there were no warning signs anything strange was about to happen.
“The forecast was cloudy in the morning but with good visibility – there were clear blue skies back home in Swansea in the afternoon.
In the pigeon race, the birds are released at a starting point before making their way home, and the birds use the earth’s magnetic field as a guide, which expert Dene Simpson believes can be distorted by unpredictable weather conditions
“So I believe something happened that is invisible to the naked eye, something that messed with the birds’ internal navigational equipment and caused them to go drastically off course.”
Mr Simpson said carrier pigeons can use the Earth’s magnetic field as a guide to navigate, but an unusual event such as a solar storm could distort their sense of direction.
“There was definitely something weird going on that day because before that there were hardly any wild birds in the sky, it was just dead up there,” he said.
“Personally, I haven’t ruled out that a series of mini tornadoes are to blame.”
Mr Simpson said another member of his association, which covers Port Talbot, Pontardawe and Llanelli in Wales, has been told one of his pigeons has been sighted in the Netherlands – identified by the tag or ‘lifebelt’ around its leg.
“It’s upsetting for the guys because they hand-raised these birds and really cared for them,” he said.
“And although money is the last thing on anyone’s mind at times like these, pigeon breeding can be an expensive hobby. Losing so many birds will have cost a fortune.”
Pictured: Ian Evans, Chief Executive of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association
Ian Evans, chief executive of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association, said some of the pigeons that went missing on that puzzling day have started to return home.
He told Radio 4 last week that the birds would normally cover “relatively short distances” within a few hours, but the pigeons showed up “a couple of days later”.
“I’d like to think the number missing today is a lot less and should get a lot less over the next few days,” Mr Evans, 45, said.
“Pigeons are actually very smart, when they get tired and get into trouble they find another loft where they can rest and the people there take care of them.
“Then when they are fit enough and healthy enough, they will free them to go home.”
Mr Evans said the “unprecedented” incident had also been reported on the continent, adding he had spoken to Met Office experts to understand what happened.
He couldn’t give a number of birds that hadn’t come home yet, but confirmed that they were slowly returning.
Mr Sayers, from Skinningrove, North Yorkshire, 170 miles from the Swindon to Swansea race, says 300 birds have also disappeared on lofts in the fishing village where pigeon racing is a way of life for many.
Richard Sayers (centre, with his family and birds), based in Skinningrove, North Yorkshire, 170 miles from the race, says 300 birds are missing in the fishing village’s lofts
He appealed to people to give shelter to the missing birds and reminded the public of the role pigeons played during world wars in carrying vital messages.
Mr Sayers said: “We experienced one of the worst racing days in our history. Around 300 birds are missing in this village alone, and thousands across the Northeast.’
“We ask anyone who encounters a carrier pigeon to feed, water and rest them, and there’s an 80 percent chance the birds will make their way after a few days,” he added.
“Each pigeon has an identification ring with a code and a number.
“We needed the help of our little birds in the big conflicts and they saved thousands of lives by delivering messages. Now we can do our small part to help them.”
Mr Sayers flies his homing birds as Sayers Bros & Son of Skinningrove in the East Cleveland Federation. The partnership has kept birds for around 50 years.
Mr Sayers flies his homing birds as Sayers Bros & Son of Skinningrove in the East Cleveland Federation. The partnership has kept birds for around 50 years
Nicola Maxey, a spokeswoman for the Met Office, told the Times that there had been “nothing unusual” in recent weeks that could have influenced the strange behavior.
She said: “Looking at space weather, nothing unusual has happened in the past few weeks. Everything was business as usual.
“There was some low-level geomagnetic activity, but only fairly regular occurrences, nothing strange or extreme that we haven’t seen often.”
In the pigeon race, the birds are released at a starting point and then make their way home.
The time it takes for the pigeon to travel the specified distance is measured and the bird’s travel speed is calculated and compared to all other pigeons in the race to determine which returned with the fastest speed.