Feeling at home with Stopmite
"Thou must get pigeons from thy ground."
In these days of autumn, after a summer with an unprecedented and frightening flood, a moment of reflection is appropriate. The great solidarity within the nation, with warmth and affection between the citizens, contrasted sharply with the sometimes bitter rhetoric on the political stage. There is still much that unites us Belgians unconditionally, certainly in times of adversity.
It's not different in pigeon sport. Is there still a future after a season in which we lost so many pigeons without explanation? Of course, there is if we keep our membership numbers up. That is possible with the rule of three:
- The older fanciers have to give the young interested, starting candidates a pair of their best pigeons. By doing so, they invest in the future of the sport, also in their interest.
- The trainee pigeon fancier must be prepared to observe a lot and listen very carefully to the (older) master pigeon fancier.
- The trainee pigeon fancier must make sure that his love for the pigeon is unconditional. Otherwise, nothing will succeed.
Back to the roots
The celebrated brothers' Noel and Robert Descheemaecker, sons of a publisher, were passionate enthusiasts. They had the true spirit to reach the top through analysis and insight. By their publications, they taught the fanciers almost 100 years ago how to play with the pigeons. Noel (former lawyer) remained active in the sport until he was 92 years old. I once read in one of the old editions of "Duifje lacht" (Pigeon laughs), then called "Het Duivensport", a green booklet from the thirties:
"Thou must get pigeons from thy ground."
I thought about that sentence for a long time. Could the orientation from distant places to a fixed coordinate in our region be inherited? I talked about this with Luc Sioen from Moorslede, and he is convinced that the pigeons are selected per region in the function of the average position in the wind. Indeed, pigeon racing is a wind game, and therefore pigeons from Limburg are developed differently than pigeons from West-Flanders.
Pigeons that always have to fight against the wind ("Flandriens" (Flandrians) in cycling terms) or pigeons that have more tailwind develop other types of muscles. The flight muscles in the first case have to use more pure power (long smooth muscles) against the second type that provides more agility and steering in the tailwind (cross-strained muscles). The dark red smooth muscles function ideally with a solid fat metabolism, whereas white transversal muscles must have sufficient carbohydrates (sugars, starch).
To be clear: both performances are different but have the same final impact.
Of course, the miracle pigeon can easily switch between these typical calorie sources, but these processes take a bit of time, meaning the difference between winning and losing the race. The required performance "depending on the location concerning the release point and consequently the wind" also determines the development of the type of pigeon. The headwind pigeons are built differently from the tailwind pigeons. An experienced fancier can relatively easily guess which region the pigeon comes from when he takes it in his hand. This is how, together with the one loft races, pigeon types were created that were selected for this kind of race and performed well in this competition.
The statement ("Thou must get pigeons from thy soil") could also be true because of the smell of the region. Every region has its typical smell that is determined by the soil and everything that grows on it. Scientific research has taught us for a long time that pigeons have a geographical map (visible elements), a magnetic map (an accurate compass), a sound map (long sound waves) as well as an "olfactory map". They are recognised by sensors in the back of the nose, which is in contact with the brain through the olfactory nerve, the smell of the region through its forests, fields, rivers, and the fish that swim in them, the sea air, the mountain air, etc. They smell the stable, literally and figuratively.
I like to quote this article from 1985: "Thus, not only can pigeons be prevented from orienting their course home by removing certain substances from the inhaled air, but they can also be systematically misled by false information at their olfactory centre."
Pollution past and present
In the past, between and after the wars, the pollution from emerging industries was more severe, with large amounts of primarily detectable smelly emissions.
Now the industry has become cleaner at first glance, but it now produces thousands of different chemicals that we cannot even see or smell. Sometimes they cannot even be analysed.
The recently discovered pollution with PFOS by 3M is a poignant example. An entire population was infected day after day for years without anyone noticing. We must not forget that pigeons can find each other from miles away with their sense of smell, using tiny amounts of pheromones (scent hormones).
A more significant loss percentage than average may be due to hidden harmless chemicals that interfere with pheromones. Some pigeons will be less affected than others, but there is undoubtedly an effect.
It is an additional argument for not providing the pigeons with unnecessary chemical aids such as antibiotics, but only with natural substances based on the secretion of ordinary plants.
Based on this principle, with a specific selection of aromatic plant extracts, Stopmite creates a feeling of home based on a typical home smell in the loft. Fanciers have also told us that they become attached to the ambient scent produced by the regular use of Stopmite. It's a pleasant smell, which frees the respiratory tract for the pigeon as for the man. It is a breast remedy with an expectorant effect. A pigeon flying above the loft or sitting on the roof perceives the recognisable smell and is inclined to enter.
Sometimes, I see laypeople jump up and listen to a strong story like that of some little pigeons, born from an egg hatched by foster parent pigeons at a fancier many miles away. Then, at their first flight, they fly back to the loft where they laid the egg.
These almost supernatural phenomena make pigeon racing so magical and must fill us with admiration, modesty, and gratitude. This attitude is also the basis for the love of the pigeon. It is worth all our sacrifices. In our polluted environment, we also evolve with our pigeons to pure nature. COMED has been pointing the path there for almost 50 years. In the run-up to the new breeding season, COMED's familiar classics are once again ready.