We were finally able to advance in training this morning with less smoke on the course. This morning's training toss looks fairly normal on the results but about 2/3 of the birds got into some real trouble not arriving for 1 Hour & 20 Minutes after the release. Hopefully they learned something.
This morning was not a good morning here in Garden Valley. We and apparently the birds were caught off guard by heavy wildfire smoke that rolled in from the north. As I write this at 12:30 we are missing 50+ birds from this morning's loft flight. Over half the birds were out ranging and a group of 50+ just never came back after the smoke started to roll in really heavy.
Sunday and Monday Jon completed a two-day hands on inventory of all the birds (except the youngest 25 that were sent over the last couple of weeks). He also pulled the 10th flight of most of the birds. Birds that were a little too young and not on their 10th flight yet were marked with snap rings and will have theirs pulled late in June. As is usually the case around early June, various birds are in all stages of body moult. Some are almost done, some are starting to drop body feathers, and some young ones have barely started. Racing primarily in October helps to get just about all of the birds through the body moult before the races start.
The 2020 Gold Country Challenge season has come to a close. Just about all of the birds have been picked up or shipped back over the past week and most of the checks were mailed out last week as well. For those that won prizes shipping charges were deducted from your prize check. We charge very close to the actual amount for shipping as depending on how close you live to California, USPS vary quite a bit. If your bird(s) are still here and you want them back please let us know soon. Anything still here after this coming weekend will be given to new flyers.
Yesterday we flew the 320 Mile Final of the four race series for the 2020 Gold Country Challenge. With a difficult race station it turned out to be slower and tougher than anticipated. Returns were good very early but slowed down dramatically after the third drop. We had a big 22 bird drop at 1301 YPM with several of the top performers from the entire series on this drop including what I believe to be one of the greatest one loft Ace Pigeons ever (more on that to follow). Video of the first drop landing is at the bottom of this post. Congratulations to all of the winners. Notably 1st Place in the clock was H & H Flying Circus (Chuck Hughes). This is the 3rd time now that H & H Flying Circus has won actual 1st Place on the final race.
Also congratulations to Ceyx Torado (Emmalyn & Carelyn) whose 708-CEYX was on the first drop and moved up all the way to 1st in the Nominated Point Bird standings.
Finally as mentioned this drop contained one of the greatest performers ever in One Loft Racing in America. Portland Loft's 2514-PNW pulled it off and was 1st Drop in all 4 Races and won 1st Overall Average Speed by over 6 Minutes. Even more impressive this pigeon was on the first drop on all 4 of the longest training tosses including the 101 and 131 Mile activation. I can't remember reading about or hearing about another bird with a record like this one.
Record of 2514-PNW (Portland Loft):
1st Drop @ 320 Mile Final Race 4 (1301 YPM)
1st Drop @ 253 Miles Race 3 (1532 YPM)
1st Drop @ 190 Miles Race 2 (1378 YPM)
1st Drop @ 169 Miles Race 1 (1471 YPM
1st Drop @ 131 Mile Activation (1349 YPM)
1st Drop @ 101 Miles Training (1262 YPM)
1st Drop @ 72 Miles Training (1242 YPM)
1st Drop @ 72 Miles Training (1421 YPM)
Prizes listed on the main race page incude Overall Ace Pigeon and Nominated Point Birds. 1st and 2nd AOC Color Bird Ace Pigeon are actually still in play this Sunday morning but 1st Ace Color Ace pigeon should be decided by 9 AM.
Full Race Recap with more details will be posted in a couple days...... Congratulations to all of the winners and more to come. - Matt
The final race (320 Miles) of the 2020 Gold Country Challenge was released this morning from Lancaster off Ave. G at 7:15 this morning. Bryan Schaller came over to watch the release. Sun was out early in the desert and Jon watered the birds about 45 Minutes before release although it very cold (Mid 20's) before 7 AM so I doubt many birds drank. Jon did make a video of the release but will have to upload it later this evening or tonight as he's back on the road.
Conditions at release were very cold, clear sunny skies, and a very light NE wind. As mentioned Jon released the birds at 7:15 and they struggled a bit at one point heading SE towards the sun. It took them about 9-10 minutes before Jon & Bryan finally lost sight of them but they appeared to be leaving in the right direction. The most notable thing is they continued to gain elevation before leaving and they left at an incredibly high altitude. Jon and Bryan both reported that this is the highest they've ever seen pigeons at a release. High elevation has been a trend of this group of birds all season as they generaly leave the release points higher than my own/club birds have and they've been arriving very high on return from the races. It sounds like this morning is the highest they've been yet.
This is the first time the birds have been on the other side of the Tehachapi mountain range and this is also the highest mountain range they've had to navigate all season. It appears they recognized this upon release which would be pretty smart if they knew right away that they needed to gain extra elevation. Either that or they were just confused........we'll find out this afternoon.
There is a pretty solid east wind around 10-15 MPH blowing in the Tehachapis right now which should hopefully prevent them from drifting too far east towards the sierras. After that the rest of the course is clear skies (no fog this week), cool, and light winds (mostly a cross to slight headwind). Winds forecasted for late morning are under 5 MPH most of the course. Likely they will pickup a light headwind the last 100 Miles or so. The most wind they will see though will be in the first 75 Miles going through the Tehachapis. Temperatures at the loft should reach a high in the low 60's. Based on conditions I'd think a race somewhere around 1380 to 1440 YPM range but will remains to be seen how much the lingering at release affected them.
Points will be updated later in the day most likely after the sun goes down and birds stop clocking. There are several "races within the race" today besides the race itself with the biggest of course being Overall Average Speed. Several super birds are in contention for those prizes. Good luck to everyone today. - Matt
Race 3 was a bit of a surprise with the speeds 100-150 YPM higher than I thought they'd be and the birds performing better than we could have asked for. Overall I believe it was the best race so far of the series. I arrived at the release point in NW Bakersfield (off Reina & Santa Fe) around 6:20 AM. I drove I-5 down to the release point and I hit very little fog (only at the very end) of the drive but I was aware of some dense fog again on portions of the course. At the release point itself there was a very light fog/haze that was trying to develop but fortunately with the sun coming up soon that little fog was going to burn off quickly.
Race 3 will be released this morning around 7:45 to 8:00. It's currently hazy sun at release point but getting better. There is heavy fog in Tulare and Visalia though about 50-70 miles north of the release point. I'm waiting a little longer to release to give the skies more time to improve in that area before the birds reach it. Very cold right now at release area with temps in uppers 30s and light E wind.
Update: Birds were released at 7:50 in cold hazy/sunny skies with a very light east wind. They took off very quick and we lost sight of them in less than 3 minutes. They were headed due north. There was a section of fog 10 miles wide that extended for about 20-30 Miles North to South from Tulare to about Selma that was narrow enough for the birds to go around it to the west or east.
Release video posted below was shot by Gary Berthiume who lives in Bakersfield and came over to watch and help with the release. He sent me the video via text/email which is why the resolution is low. I was 2 minutes into making my own video when the camera app on my phone froze up and I lost the video. By the time I got it going again the birds were so far out of view that I could barely see them anymore.