The 2014 Falaise race had an entry of 3,229 birds and with an easterly influence in the wind the members on the western side of the country were expected to have a slight advantage. This proved to be the case and for quite some time the world class West Country partnership of Geoff and Catherine Cooper led the field only to be beaten by a pigeon flying 30 or so miles further west to its home loft at the top of the Welsh Valleys. This three year old cock was entered by the highly successful father and son partnership of Gareth and son Stuart Treharne of Nantyglo.
The following is a brief report on their latest National win which is largely based on a loft report I completed on the partners following their incredible performance in the Welsh SRNFC Young Bird National from Carentan a few years back when they clocked the FIRST SIXTEEN PIGEONS on the NATIONAL result.

The partnership was formed in 1975 with birds obtained from top local fancier Steve Robinson of Blaina, supplemented by pigeons from Welsh legends Lee & Cooper of New Tredegar. At that time the birds were flown on the natural system and the race team was initially made up from many different strains. However, once the partners had built up a team of Lefebre Dhaenens and Verheyes obtained from Steve Robinson, Bob Lee and Graham Cooper , their performances took off. Perhaps the best of these early performances was winning the Scottish Averages in the Welsh North Road Fed with a team of, what was in those days, considered to be sprinters! I should point out that the Welsh North Road Fed was the largest in the UK at that time with more than 1,500 members sending as many as 25,000 birds to the early races.
Although Gareth and Stuart have always raced to their present location the lofts themselves have changed considerably in the intervening years. The present loft set up includes a 22ft x 9ft old bird loft and a 21ftx8ft young bird loft with each loft having three sections and a corridor. The lofts all face west south west down the valley The main stock section is situated under the old bird loft and this houses twelve pairs of stock birds. An L shaped loft has been added recently, which houses a separate team of stock birds for the longer events i.e. 500 to 600 mile. The long distance team is quite young at the moment and untried. There are also a further three breeding sections but only two of these are in use at the present time. These open into covered aviaries.
Old birds are raced on roundabout, and the young birds on darkness although a small team of natural young birds is also kept and these act as a back up in case of a bad young bird racing season. This approach has been taken due to a particularly bad experience a few years ago when on release from their first training flight peregrines stooped straight through them the result of which was a loss of 21 out of the 60 young birds with a number of the returnees unfortunately too badly injured to survive .
The roundabout cocks are housed in three sections which contain nest boxes, two of which are fitted out with newly acquired Hermes boxes. The roundabout hens are kept in two sections, one section with lift off perches and the other with v perches. However, the hens spend most of the day in two small aviaries.
The darkness young birds are raced virtually throughout the programme with the later rounds of natural young birds getting perhaps two or three races if in good feather. All the young birds are left together to do as they please as they are never separated and can mate if they so wish. Two of the sections in the young bird loft are fitted with pipo boxes which are utilized as nest boxes when the young birds are mature enough and start to go to nest.
Stock birds and racers are all paired at the same time at the beginning of the second week in February. This allows the first two rounds of young birds to be quite close together as the partners float the first round of stock birds' eggs under the racers. All the darkness young birds therefore are of roughly the same age so that they can be let out together rather than having to spend more time with two lots of babies of different ages. Gareth sees to the youngsters while Stuart is at work so this has helped to reduce Gareth's workload. Gareth does a lot of the work at the lofts and at 77 years of age things don't get any easier !! During the racing season Stuart will be at the lofts before work and after work every day.
The Old bird racers training before the first race amounts to just four tosses at , 12 and 18miles and they get very little if any road training thereafter. The racers are then kept fit by twice daily home exercise. During these exercise periods they are shut out of the loft but are never flagged as they exercise freely once fit. It takes a couple of weeks for the birds to get used to the system and then they can be relied on to exercise well for up to an hour twice per day depending on the weather. Gareth and Stuart have found however, that they need to leave the lofts and sit in the house out of the way as the birds are reluctant to exercise if they know that the partners are in or around the lofts.
The young birds, like the old birds, are not trained after the first race as the partners have found that by doing this they have had far fewer losses to hawk strikes. The furthest they take the birds, both old and young, is just 18 miles. Young birds get eight to ten spins out to 18 miles starting at 3 miles and then at 5,9,12 and 18 miles doubling up at each training stage. The young birds are exercised twice daily around the lofts once the old birds are sent to the last race , and a system for exercise similar to that of the old birds is used, although it can take a while to get them used to it
The birds are fed by hand in hoppers and when rearing the old birds will have a gallipot topped up with food in their nest box as well. The food is not measured but when the birds start to go for water they are judged to have had enough until the next feed.
The main feed is normally made up from mixing two widowhood mixtures together - Versele Laga and Natural. However, this year they are trying a Beyers mix for a change. Red Band conditioning seed is also used for trapping but the partners are careful not give too much of this high energy mixture.
As the National races approach the feed is increased and, depending on the distance to be flown, this will dictate on which day the food quantity is increased. Peanuts are also fed in the build up to the longer National races.
The birds are routinely treated for cocci, canker and worms before the start of the breeding season and are also given a treatment for paratyphoid/salmonella during the winter months. Once racing begins the racers may get an occasional course of treatment against respiratory infections should the partners think it necessary. A multivitamin and garlic juice marketted by Pego is also used. Electrolytes are given in the water for the return from a race and in the evening of the race day protein powder is mixed in to the feed .
The main bloodlines housed at the present time are predominantly of Eijerkamp - Ponderosa origin. These are a mixture of the Van Loon lines going back to Silver Shadow and Chicago, with Janssen lines of different types crossed in i.e. Glamourboy, Wonderboy06, Jonge Polly, Lady Martine , Hamburg, Tornado. Chicago and Tornado are the grandfathers of the great champion Che. Also at stock are other Eijerkamp bloodlines such as Jackpot, Euro, Goochelaar, Lady Chrisje Tiesto, Bonfire, Abel, Kain , Don Leo , Fabio, Nick, Angela, Carly. These are either direct children or grandchildren , other lines have been introduced from Sangers , Veenstra, Curtis, Wall, Lunt and Green and Crehan & O'Connor. These are tested against the proven Eijerkamp lines and they have to prove themselves in two years of breeding or they will be replaced.
One cock out of the old family of Lefebre- Dhaenen x Verheye x Jan Aarden bloodlines remains and this cock has bred 1st National Carentan , 5th National Saintes 5th National Bordeaux plus a number of other section winners in the Fed, so he has certainly earned his place in the stock team.
Over the past couple of years distance stock has been purchased all these being direct children of National or International 600 mile plus winners. It is hoped in the next few years to compete at the longer events, with their progeny .
Gareth and Stuart presently fly in Cwmtillery Flying club and compete weekly against the likes of Preece Brothers and Sons , John and Pat Webber, Williams Bros, Son & Burgham, as well as Mark Sparey and a host of other multi National winning lofts, so the competition at club level is of the highest calibre to say the least!!! In 2011club racing the Treharnes won 9 x 1sts and their birds also topped the Centre section of the Welsh South Road Federation 8 times with many seconds thirds etc. They also topped the Fed twice with a number of seconds and thirds and other minor prizes. All averages were won at Fed level as well as being highest points in both the Open and Section in one of ,if not the biggest Feds in Wales with around 28 competing clubs.
In 2012 the old birds raced particularly well culminating in 1st and 2nd Open Saintes National with the winner also winning the Gold Cup following a number of other high National positions in the same season. He was subsequently retired to stock even though only a yearling.
In 2013 Gareth and Stuart joined the Gwent Greater Distance Club and enjoyed racing with the BICC for the first time. In the Welsh South Road National the partners clocked the winners of 2nd National Nort sur Edre , 4th and 5th National Saintes and 5th and 8th National Bordeaux , with the same cock winning 5th National Saintes and 8th National Bordeaux with the races being only a week apart, Saintes is 433 and Bordeaux 490 miles.
The young birds unfortunately contracted an infection which once again was very frustrating. However, they were brought through it to win 3rd Open Carentan National . Gareth and Stuart finished the season as highest prize winners in the Cwmtillery club for two of the last three years being runner up top prizewinner on that occasion, plus highest points winner in the Section of the Fed, and 3rd highest overall.
Leading up to this years racing programme the partners had planned to enter the Falaise race with the BICC. Although at one stage, with the forecast of quite strong easterly winds, Stuart was not so sure as the race birds would only have had one race from Salisbury which is only 76 miles. He wondered therefore if the jump to 238 miles after a race of only 76 miles would be fair to them so early in the season .
Nevertheless, the birds were exercising very well around the loft and the decision was made to send. However they decided to keep the yearlings at home until they had been entered in a few more races.
As previously mentioned, with a strong easterly wind forecast, Stuart expected the birds to be doing 1350 ypm . When the cock arrived Gareth and Stuart were unprepared and were busy doing little jobs about the lofts and mistook the BICC winner for a light chequer hen that was missing from the Lyndhurst race earlier in the day. The cock flew round for a while and Stuart was surprised at how fit the birds were for such an early channel race, as they all arrived pretty fresh. On checking with the BICC web site they could see that their bird was leading the field. A nervous two hours or more went by until the next update went on the BICC web site and it was then that it became reality that they had won the race.
The winning bird has an interesting history as he has had a number of testing times . He raced really well as a young bird winning 4th and 9th Open National. The fourth Open National is actually equal third as Gareth and Stuart had four birds on exactly the same time and velocity .He was badly hawked as a yearling but what is more astonishing was that in 2013 he raced steadily without any exceptional performances until the Saintes National when he went missing. He was reported a week later not too far from home by a non fancier in Merthyr Tydfil. Stuart went straight over to pick him up he had been there a few days and had suffered another nasty bump and was completely flown out. The people had however done a wonderful job in feeding him small bird seed and giving him water although he was still very thin and weak . He recovered well but the scars can still be seen on his primaries that he was growing at the time.
Pigeons are amazing creatures and we should never give up on them. Stuart remembers driving home from Merthyr Tydfil that day when he collected the cock and wondered if he would have a place in the team for the following year. He knew he had a good pigeon so he gave him a second chance which he duly took.
"Gareth's Surprise" was named after his dam which is called Surprise , as she was sent over to the partners by Eijerkamp as a replacement for an earlier hen which had a problem laying. The replacement hen has now bred the partners many good pigeons with two sisters to the cock winning 1st and 2nd Open Fed and a number of other brothers and sisters winning for Gareth and Stuart.
There you have it then. A loft report on the winners of the first BICC National race in the 2014 racing season. It is my intention, as in previous seasons, to complete loft reports on all the BICC race winners throughout the season. Obviously this will depend on the cooperation of the winning fanciers themselves.
Congratulations Gareth and Stuart on yet another excellent National winning performance.
Gareth Watkins

Gareth & Stuart Treharne 1st Open BICC Falaise 2014

1st Open BICC Falaise


Treharne & son lofts