About 5,000 pigeon disappeared in what has been called “one of the worst racing days of all time.”
Thousands of carrier pigeons are released from the Kilton Forest Show Ground in Worksop, Nottinghamshire (file image)
– OLI SCARFF / AFP via Getty Images
About 9,000 birds have departed from Peterborough en route northeast on Saturday, in what would normally have been a three-hour race – but more than half have yet to arrive.
“We have had one of the worst racing days in our history,” said pigeon fancier Richard Sayers. The sun.
“Most of the ranchers I talk to blame the weather conditions – maybe a solar storm above the clouds that created static electricity in the atmosphere – but no one really knows that.”
Carrier pigeons use the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate, but their sense of direction can be distorted by a geomagnetic storm.
The breeders have seen hundreds of pigeons not returning to their clubs. They asked whoever sees the pigeons, who have identification rings, to give them food, water and rest, before allowing them to continue on their way.
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Ian Evans of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association told the newspaper: “We realized quite quickly that something very unusual was going on.
“I’ve never heard of anything like this.
“At first glance, the weather conditions were good. But in this case, thousands of birds simply did not return.
“Something happened that interfered with their navigation abilities. We believe it may have something to do with solar wind activity.”
He said there had been similar reports of heavy casualties in Portugal and Belgium.
The running association is in talks with the Met Office to see if unusual solar activity could have caused a geomagnetic storm.
“We obviously hope that the majority of these birds will find their way home over time,” said Evans.