RACING pigeon fanciers on the Isle of Wight are gearing themselves up for another season, but ironically, as we begin to leave lockdown, a bout of avian flu in Europe is one of the main causes of delay to the programme.

Avian flu has restricted bird training — essential before racing — but as the situation begins to ease, the Royal Pigeon Racing Association now awaits DEFRA clearance before their next event, due to be held today (Saturday).

Isle of Wight County Press: Some of Geoff Watkin's 'babies' ready to race this season.Some of Geoff Watkin's 'babies' ready to race this season.

With new rules on transporting birds and animals into Europe, so these big races look as if they will be staged in the UK, with the pigeons flying south from liberation points as far north as Lerwick in the Shetland Islands.

On the Island, a new club as been formed, with the majority of existing members amalgamating from its two main clubs, to form the Vectis Flying Club.

They have subsequently joined two federations to give them the opportunity to race
much further afield in the UK.

Although the racing season finishes in September, there has been plenty to do in preparation for its start.

One of the club’s members, Geoff Watkin, said: “The pigeons go through their moult, which is essential in growing good, strong, healthy feathers before the fanciers pair their
best birds to breed the next generation of racers.

“These young birds will then take part in shorter races near the end of the season.”

If anyone is interested to find out more about pigeon racing — a sport followed keenly by the Queen — call Geoff on 07790-222971.