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A highly plausible theory


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So I’m sure many if not all of you will have heard of the pigeon maestro Tom Payne. I’m an avid reader of his articles in shooting times and if any of you want to learn more, I strongly suggest reading his book.
 

Anyway back to the point, I follow his page on Instagram and today he put up a long post outlining his own theory and analysis on the current pigeon status in terms of numbers. I attach his theory below.

I’m a firm believer in what he has said and I just wanted to hear all your thoughts on it. Let me know!

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Plenty of food for thought in the above post , 75% reduction do seem a bit drastic , around my little area we still have a big acreage of rape , looking around our six rape fields today the pigeons must still be in other counties , or country's as they are no where to be seen , we have had the cold weather when all the rape was covered with snow and now it have all thawed out they are still absent , this could well be the first year where they haven't put any gas guns on the estate, this could well change in the coming days and from a shooting point of view , let's hope they do come to my little neck in the woods .

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amount of rape on my perms stays about the same but still a steady decline in numbers over the last three years we had no shortage of winter food yet still no birds i think better food sources abroad could be steadily draining numbers permanently or they would bounce back in summer 

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My perm has hardly any rape and that he does have is very very poor. Not a bird to be seen earlier today. 

The farm behind my house, the field immediately behind it specifically was due to be rape. Its still stubble and has been untouched since harvest. 

I think I'll finish some jobs in the garden. 

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Interesting points raised, but I'm not sure exactly what his message is?

Is he arguing that there is a decline in Pigeon numbers due to the reduced acreage of Rape now being grown, and that a good few birds clear off to France for the Winter where Winter food is more plentiful?

I believe there is no shortage of Winter food in most parts of the UK, but the birds are pre-occupied with foods such as Acorns, Beech Mast and Ivy berries, which they much prefer to Winter Rape.

They will generally only start on the Rape when these other food sources have been exhausted, and as of today, in my area, they still have not been feeding on Rape in any numbers.

I was pretty sure that this would be the case back in September when the extent of the bumper Acorn crop was evident.

Some folk on this forum say that hard weather drives the birds onto the Rape, if so, when it was minus 5 here last week, they should have been hammering the Rape, but they weren't, as air temperatures appear to make little difference to their desire to feed.

Some of my 100 plus days over Winter Rape have been in late October, when I've been shooting in a T Shirt, the birds would pour in simply because there were no Acorns or Beech mast to speak of that year.

In my area, there has been a steady decline in Pigeon numbers over the last 5 years or so, some folk say it's partly due to the vast increase in numbers of Kites and Buzzards who are taking the young birds, I'm not so sure that's the reason, but there is a definite decline in numbers.

Cat.😎

Edited by Catamong
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Not sure if the original post really has any more credence than a chap who claims he understands women!

It is a theory and as JDog states, most of us will be aware of what is going on regarding the lack of Wood Pigeons within our areas.

As to the answer, well I don't know how a Wood Pigeon knows to fly across a large body of water to get to better food stocks in France?

I am not saying they don't migrate, I am sure they do but in a regular pattern that is built in to their very being.

What I struggle to accept is that they might go just because there is less OSR planted due to the flea beetle changes.

Surely a bird or a flock of birds would continue to search for food within their normal area of feeding and if they failed to find enough they would then move on as they do during the established arable harvest period.

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2 hours ago, TIGHTCHOKE said:

Not sure if the original post really has any more credence than a chap who claims he understands women!

It is a theory and as JDog states, most of us will be aware of what is going on regarding the lack of Wood Pigeons within our areas.

As to the answer, well I don't know how a Wood Pigeon knows to fly across a large body of water to get to better food stocks in France?

I am not saying they don't migrate, I am sure they do but in a regular pattern that is built in to their very being.

What I struggle to accept is that they might go just because there is less OSR planted due to the flea beetle changes.

Surely a bird or a flock of birds would continue to search for food within their normal area of feeding and if they failed to find enough they would then move on as they do during the established arable harvest period.

TC, with the advent of cheap and lightweight GPS systems it seems all the Pigeons now have the ability to type in their favourite food under ‘POI’s’ and of they go 😂😂😂

Or.... since 2016 and Brexit segregation, that they feel more welcome in European climes, than the insular sovereign reclaimed UK????

 

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1 hour ago, Jaymo said:

TC, with the advent of cheap and lightweight GPS systems it seems all the Pigeons now have the ability to type in their favourite food under ‘POI’s’ and of they go 😂😂😂

Or.... since 2016 and Brexit segregation, that they feel more welcome in European climes, than the insular sovereign reclaimed UK????

Look for my PM.

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We all have our own theories , mine is along the same lines, food and habitat are pretty stable right across the country, with large areas in cereal and lots of berries and acorns etc, 

To me the critical thing is the weather, I live right on the east coast, in summer we have a warm dry climate, wide open space and an abundance of arable cereal land and low growing willow and hazel style woods, ideal for nesting sites,

But come late autumn and through the winter the winds come predominantly from the east or north east, with the winter cold and wind chill the pigeons disappear late November and are absent right through to early March, I have been out this week watching the large areas of rape, and at last I'm seeing small but significant numbers beginning to build up around these areas. This winter has been particularly cold with some very strong and bitterly cold winds blowing straight in from the North sea, 200 yards from my door, 

The pigeons will already be pairing off for the breeding season, which in a good year will begin now , late February , with nests appearing even before the trees have any leaves showing , last week whilst out in the hide, I had a male calling for females right above my head in some dense fur trees, he managed to avoid my decoys and will be out there for the coming season.

Just as a footnote , I used to live in the Midlands near Melton Mowbray, and had pigeons in good numbers all year round, large well sheltered valley's and acres of thick mixed woodland, I never noticed any lack of birds through the winter there and always had plenty over the rape. (think I will move back)😄  

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17 minutes ago, TIGHTCHOKE said:

Look for my PM.

If you can’t be civil and place in ‘type’ , what you just PM’d, then that really shows your character well.

I didn’t appreciate it and will take it further! 

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On 17/02/2021 at 21:14, JDog said:

That article contains nothing that an experienced countryman pigeon shooter doesn't already know.

Observation is the key. 

I totally agree. I was reading all that, hoping I might be educated. I was wrong, sadly.

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I`ve observed before on here that locally the pigeon population has declined dramatically over the last 40 + yr on land that I shoot over .The huge flocks that roosted during winter in local woodland are no longer there,nor have they been for several years .I put it down to pressure from predation on the breeding stock plus more shooting pressure than there ever used to be.I often speak to an avid ornithologist when out walking in the local woodlands ,he has observed the same with all of the species of birds that he monitors ,saying that hardly a nest is successful due to predation ,laying most of the blame with the now large population of grey squirrels.These are one thing that has arrived in my lifetime and overun most habitats 

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4 hours ago, matone said:

I`ve observed before on here that locally the pigeon population has declined dramatically over the last 40 + yr on land that I shoot over .The huge flocks that roosted during winter in local woodland are no longer there,nor have they been for several years .I put it down to pressure from predation on the breeding stock plus more shooting pressure than there ever used to be.I often speak to an avid ornithologist when out walking in the local woodlands ,he has observed the same with all of the species of birds that he monitors ,saying that hardly a nest is successful due to predation ,laying most of the blame with the now large population of grey squirrels.These are one thing that has arrived in my lifetime and overun most habitats 

Few years back I read an independent study article on wood pigeon density in different parts of the UK, their finding were shooting has very little effect on numbers but predation does, the study named the three most prolific predators as Squirrels, Magpie and Jay, in that order, but may have changed since the study due to the big increase in raptors over the last 10-20 years, the other thing they mentioned that greatly effected their numbers was brood failure due to prolonged summer storms at the height of the breeding season.

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I was shooting large numbers of pigeon back in the 1960's and remember the tales of vast numbers of pigeon taking off for France every year. I seem to recall those tales AND the pigeon numbers seemed to stop 'going to France' after we joined the EU  ??

I moved house about 6 years ago from a location where I stepped through my boundary hedge onto some of my er 'Perms', to a smaller property in quite a densely populated area. Since living here I have seen more wood pigeons than I saw in the 12 or so years at my previous home. I watch large flocks of pigeon heading out from nearby woodlands every morning. They used to fly over my house and out to farmland some 4 miles away (I know because I have watched them from various points on their flight path). In the last 3 years some of these large flocks are landing on every TV aerial, chimney pot and tree among the many houses in the area. I suggest that those birds have come to realize that there is an abundance of food to be had in the surrounding gardens, so why travel any further afield  ?  From my one upstairs window, at any time during the day, I can count upwards of 20 birds sitting on rooftops in the immediate vicinity. Taken over the entire area, that must amount to an awful lot of pigeons that are happy to feed away from farmland and crops  ?   I recall a stubble field of some 4/5 acres, surrounded by houses and thus unshootable, having around 500 to 600 pigeons on it every day for over a month last year.

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6 minutes ago, Westley said:

I was shooting large numbers of pigeon back in the 1960's and remember the tales of vast numbers of pigeon taking off for France every year. I seem to recall those tales AND the pigeon numbers seemed to stop 'going to France' after we joined the EU  ??

I moved house about 6 years ago from a location where I stepped through my boundary hedge onto some of my er 'Perms', to a smaller property in quite a densely populated area. Since living here I have seen more wood pigeons than I saw in the 12 or so years at my previous home. I watch large flocks of pigeon heading out from nearby woodlands every morning. They used to fly over my house and out to farmland some 4 miles away (I know because I have watched them from various points on their flight path). In the last 3 years some of these large flocks are landing on every TV aerial, chimney pot and tree among the many houses in the area. I suggest that those birds have come to realize that there is an abundance of food to be had in the surrounding gardens, so why travel any further afield  ?  From my one upstairs window, at any time during the day, I can count upwards of 20 birds sitting on rooftops in the immediate vicinity. Taken over the entire area, that must amount to an awful lot of pigeons that are happy to feed away from farmland and crops  ?   I recall a stubble field of some 4/5 acres, surrounded by houses and thus unshootable, having around 500 to 600 pigeons on it every day for over a month last year.

When we joined the E U a lot of pigeons did continue going to France but not by flying across the English channel , these went all stacked in grates on the back of a lorry heading for the restaurants .

I agree there are a lot more suburban pigeons now than there was when you and I first shot pigeons , we have far more Wood pigeons come to our bird tables than any bird , and the same as you , I can look out of our back or front and see pigeons throughout the day .

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Hi all thanks for your replies to my post. Sorry for the delay, I thought I had posted this to the “talk from the field” section of the forum and when I couldn’t find it on there I thought my post had been taken down. Anyway, good to hear people’s own theories, I think a lot of it is down to the weather as many of you have said. What I don’t understand is why pigeons have decided to go awol when they’ve been living off OSR ever since their population began to boom. Despite the reduction it’s not like rape has totally disappeared. Plus there is tons of natural food about. The fact that they aren’t feeding on rape in many areas suggests there is no shortage of food. 
 

There is no rape in my area and due to the warm sunny weather we had today I saw a very small flock of 30 birds feeding on clover. Is this unusual for this time of year? Has anyone had any good bags on clover this early? Obviously 30 is nothing to set up on but at least there are signs of woodpigeon returning albeit slowly!

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I think judging pigeon numbers is a very hard thing to do because we are only able to assess numbers when they are congregated on fields. As others have already said pigeons haven't fed on rape much this year at all, or last year for that matter. I am a farm manager and dead keen pigeon shooter so watch for pigeon activity constantly.

This is my best guess as to what is happening. People have replied to this thread correctly stating that the pigeons disappear from the fields when there is a heavy acorn or beech mast harvest and have also said the birds have been on ivy berries as well. I totally agree, and would go further to say maybe in a drought year or more importantly a year with a lot of sunlight the ivy berries, that in most years pigeons will only feed on when other food sources are not readily available, are packed with protein and instead of being a fall-back food become the most attractive to them as their primary food source.

Further more, if your local population is thinly spread over the vast number of trees/hedge rows that support ivy then you do not notice the total numbers easily. I know when I have launched scaring rockets over rape fields to move on a small gathering of pigeons thousands appear in the sky from all around.

When the ivy berries are exhausted I predict you will see thousands of birds from apparently nowhere.

It is just my opinion and probably wrong and that wouldn't be the first time.

 

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