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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Back in the 80's, Cornell University, specifically Dr. Irene Brown and Dr. Charles Walcott, with the aid of several students, did some wonderful research into the mysteries of pigeon's homing capabilities.
By now, some of their conclusions are well known and they discovered that the birds homed using more than one of their senses. It was even discovered that a group of Italian racers used the sense of smell!
I remember one or more of their experiments which had proven at the time that there was a site of highly magnetic ore somewhere near the college from which they had disastrous losses when taking their birds to that spot.

I'm wondering if anyone remembers that experiment or can point me to the specific findings of it. Specifically, where was this spot?

This past weekend, I was talking to some of the flyers at our club about just such a spot from which a certain few of the flyers in our club had experienced such losses, myself included. The spot was near Cooperstown, NY, and over the years, if we released the birds anywhere near there, we would lose all or most of them, young and old.

The individuals that had experienced this had lofts located in the same general area, while almost everyone else in the club had no such problems. Some had routinely trained from that area with no significant losses.

Does anyone remember this location in the experiment?

Thanks

Now this has happened over several years and to a few flyers, so it kind of rules out just a matter of circumstance.
 

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I can understand how there could be a location that had some type of interference that could cause the birds to start in the wrong direction. However, why wouldn't they be able to correct themselves once they got away from that location?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thank you! I believe you are correct. Do you have access to the write up of the experiment?

Thanks,

Derf
I just found these articles- fascinating reading:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technolo...se-of-the-disappearing-homing-pigeons/272751/

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/...ng-pigeon-navigation-animal-behavior-science/

I believe that one of the spots talked about in the National Geographic article is near Cooperstown NY. The very odd thing, though, is that it only affects some lofts and not others.

If anyone has ever experienced similar problems from anywhere near Cooperstown, it would be very interesting to hear about it.

Derf
 

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Joining the thread late but.....

Derf,

I believe a cite that may help is "The Disorientation of pigeons at Jersey Hill" Walcott, C. and A.I. Brown 1989 In the Royal Institute of Navigation RIN89, Orientation and Navigation birds,humans and other animals.

For some interesting reading I would suggest Dr. Chas. Walcotts "Multi-modal Orientation Cues in Homing Pigeons", Integrative and Comparative Biology, 45: pages 574-581, 2005 (If you have not yet read it).

Check out figures 5 through 9 (especially 9). The text proximate to these figures relates to the Jersey Hill and Castor Hill release site disorientation and the Iron Mine Anomaly release site disorientation. In the latter (Iron Mine) situation 2 seperate lofts were established and controls were designed into the endeavor in the form of the lofts being stocked with sibling birds that were all trained together. Despite these stringent controls birds from one loft (Codman Farm) were well oriented while birds from the other (Fox Ridge Farm) were disoriented when released at the Iron mine anomaly. Incidentally when released at other (possibly nonanomalous ?) sites the birds from both lofts exhibited identical orientation. Dr Walcott found that the only difference between the two groups was the difference in the magnetic gradient that existed at the lofts location. The Codman loft had a relatively mild gradient of 80 nanotesslas per km while the Fox Ridge loft was almost 6 times that, 450 nanotesslas per km (see figure 9). Dr Walcott queires if the birds from the steep magnetic gradient Fox Ridge loft found the magnetic field provided them with useful navigational information while the birds from the shallow gradient Codman loft relied on other cues. It is now widely held that pigeons use multiple orientational/navigational cues in the process of homing. Dr Walcotts work seems to point up the possibility that homing pigeons have a toolbox of possible cues to use in navigation and further that the cues an individual bird selects may be influenced by the conditions around its loft.

I have about 100-200 nT/km gradient around my loft (not precipitous but not flat either). I personally see enough correlation between steep magnetic gradients at a loft and disorientation at anomalies to avoid releasing my young birds on first training tosses at sites with magnetic anomalies or steep magnetic gradients just to be on the safe side.
 

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To Granny Smith

There several very puzzling/interesting facts about the Jersey Hill release site:

1. The Jersey Hill site was a problem only for pigeons from the Cornell loft. Birds from other lofts even Cornell birds raised in other lofts flew straight home form Jersey Hill.

2.Some of the lost birds were followed by plane. It was found that they wandered over the countyside most never getting closer to home.

3. Why the birds that were followed failed to corect their incorect paths is astonishing because they flew over areas from which Cornell loft pigeons had homed normally.
 

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derf

Dr Walcott had a problematic release site at Castor Hill. From this site most Cornell loft birds exhibited a release site bias and initially flew in a wrong direction. He found that a few of the Cornell loft birds showed no bias and were able to fly straight home from Castor hill. He also found that the progeny of these "no-bias" birds also showed no bias and were able to fly straight home as were their parents. He suggests that this ability might have a genetic basis in that it could have been inherited.

Did you or your club members seem to find that the offspring, of those few birds you sucessfully homed from cooperstown, could also home from that site successfully?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Cornell Research

Dr Walcott had a problematic release site at Castor Hill. From this site most Cornell loft birds exhibited a release site bias and initially flew in a wrong direction. He found that a few of the Cornell loft birds showed no bias and were able to fly straight home from Castor hill. He also found that the progeny of these "no-bias" birds also showed no bias and were able to fly straight home as were their parents. He suggests that this ability might have a genetic basis in that it could have been inherited.

Did you or your club members seem to find that the offspring, of those few birds you sucessfully homed from cooperstown, could also home from that site successfully?
Thank you for your replies Al. I'm sorry I didn't catch them sooner, but I hadn't looked at this thread for a few days.
I know where Jersey Hill is, and this is close enough to our club's other nemesis site -Watkins Glen. However, all of our clubs more southerly located lofts have no problem from WG and we in the North have disastrous results.
I can't answer your question about the birds that had trouble with Cooperstown, because out of approximately 50 birds in one training flight, I only had 1 return. I don't know how he would have done subsequent to that and that was a long time ago. I will look through my records archive and try to answer that question.

Al, you are obviously an individual trained in science. It's been many, many years since I studied magnetic gradients et al. How did you measure the gradient at your loft and also the release sites?

Thanks,
Derf
 

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I haven'y been in the club too long, but my first year Watkins Glenn was horrible, last year it was fine, but all of our races were minimal on losses for the most part except the last race.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Cornell Research

I haven'y been in the club too long, but my first year Watkins Glenn was horrible, last year it was fine, but all of our races were minimal on losses for the most part except the last race.
Sho,
I am fairly convinced that our success or lack of success from WG is first dependent on the location of your loft. See my comments on the Southern vs. the Northern lofts, and secondly the route they fly home. Remember, that they will generally sweep down around the Finger Lakes, and I am further convinced that if they sweep too far, they get close to Cooperstown
OR
Keep in mind that WG is relatively close to Jersey Hill. Cornell proved that birds don't home consistently well from there.

Derf
 

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My first year I lost half the birds I sent to WG others had losses too, I think we need to look for a new Southern 150 mile station for next year, but good luck convincing everyone.
 

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Derf/First Hatch

The traditional way to measure/map magnetic fields is to fly an air route and collect data using a magnetometer. The data then is used to produce a areomagnetic map. Fortunately, these maps are available for most areas. I used/use such a map to determine relative magnetic field intensity at my loft and at the sites I release young birds for their first few training tosses.

USGS, State Geologic/Geodetic agencies and college Geology departments are possible sources of such maps. Here is an address that makes these maps available www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/StateGeophMaps/NYorkGphMap.HTM If you send me an email address I will send you a shortcut to the site. When you open the site for NY there are several maps in the set. The last 2 (magnetic anomaly map and the noncontoured Magnetic anomaly map) are the ones you want. They display the same info but illustrate it differently. The first uses contour lines like USGS topo maps the second uses colors Red = high intensity blue = low. These maps are smaller scale and you may wish to use larger scale maps available from the previously listed sources.

Dr. Walcott's efforts looked at a # of things including at least 3 sites with various problem conditions. These included: 1. Castor Hill-- with a release site bias that varied over the years, most birds eventually got home from here. 2. Iron Mine--where birds from 1 of 2 lofts were disoriented. The principal difference appeared to be the Magnetic gradient at the lofts. 3. Jersey Hill-- which was described as an otherwise unremarkable site except that < 10% of the birds from the Cornell loft homed from here.

I am not very familiar with NY State. However, the maps from the site abovementioned seem to show N NY as having considerably more numerous, complex and intense magnetic anomalies than S NY. It appears that there are a # of sites in the N showing gradients of > 1000 nT. As you remember Dr. Walcott described the 450 nT gradient at the Fox Ridge Farm as steep. His work established the existence of relationships between degree of disorientation at anomalous release sites and the age of birds as inverse and the relationship between degree of disorientation and the intensity of the magnetic anomaly as direct.

If I was a member of your club and having the problems you describe I might consider:

1. Looking at maps to see if anomalies exist at the N and S lofts and at the various release sites.

2. Seeking more detailed maps.

3. Procuring a few just weaned youngsters from the S lofts that have no problem at my problem sites. Settling and training them at my loft and then flying them from the problem sites.

4. If I had a few birds that homed from problem sites; mating them and flying their progeny from the problem sites.

I'd appreciate hearing about anything you do in relation to this, even if it is just that you looked at maping and determined if your clubs N and S lofts are in high and low gradient areas and if there are magnetic anomalies at any of your problem release sites.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Cornell Research

I am not very familiar with NY State. However, the maps from the site abovementioned seem to show N NY as having considerably more numerous, complex and intense magnetic anomalies than S NY. It appears that there are a # of sites in the N showing gradients of > 1000 nT. As you remember Dr. Walcott described the 450 nT gradient at the Fox Ridge Farm as steep. His work established the existence of relationships between degree of disorientation at anomalous release sites and the age of birds as inverse and the relationship between degree of disorientation and the intensity of the magnetic anomaly as direct.

If I was a member of your club and having the problems you describe I might consider:

1. Looking at maps to see if anomalies exist at the N and S lofts and at the various release sites.

2. Seeking more detailed maps.

3. Procuring a few just weaned youngsters from the S lofts that have no problem at my problem sites. Settling and training them at my loft and then flying them from the problem sites.

4. If I had a few birds that homed from problem sites; mating them and flying their progeny from the problem sites.

I'd appreciate hearing about anything you do in relation to this, even if it is just that you looked at maping and determined if your clubs N and S lofts are in high and low gradient areas and if there are magnetic anomalies at any of your problem release sites.
Thank you for the great info. I will send you my email address.
In response to some of your points: shortly after I determined that Cooperstown was a disaster for me and a few other lofts within a few miles of my own I simply stayed away from there, although as I stated to First to Hatch, I firmly believe that some of our losses at Watkins Glen are due to our birds sweeping around the finger lakes and getting nearer to Cooperstown- perhaps.
However, I trained at that time with another gentleman who was about 7 miles north and 2 miles west of me. He routinely trained from the Cooperstown area because he made frequent trips to Family in Binghamton- Never any losses. Well, we used to trade youngsters for flying quite a bit and, I never trained anywhere near Cooperstown, so I don't know how his birds would have done, BUT the birds I gave to him had no problem training from Cooperstown with his birds. I suppose they could have been following his, but, as I recall, there was a significant number of my birds.
So, the mystery continues and I have learned quite a few things from you -thanks again.

BTW- Why doesn't our club scrap the Watkins Glen Race Station?
Unfortunately the more southern lofts in the club outnumber the northern lofts and believe that WG gives them an edge.
If you look at a map of NY State, we fly from the west, southwest from the Capital District area. Our front of lofts is from the foothills of the Adirondacks to the Catskills. Our Combine goes all the way down to near the city.
YB Race stations include Syracuse, Cortland, Arcade, Watkins Glen, Gainsville,Northeast PA.,Westfield, etc.
The birds have to contend with two major mountain ranges to the north and the south, at least three major valleys, all of those finger lakes, which they will not fly across so it seems etc. Then you look at the depth of the front of close to 150 miles from the northern-most to southern-most loft- Then you look at average Spring and Fall temperatures ranging from 20's to 90's over the course during a race-This is IMO one of the toughest places to fly in the country - and I know I just lit a fuse on a huge dispute.
derf
 
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