“Mr. Kastle” scores for Don Campbell

AU 13 Kastle 1396, who I bred and sent to Don Campbell to fly for me in the 2013 OCR, has finished up a superb season as an old bird for Don. I want to express my gratitude to Don for being such a wonderful handler.

Mr. Kastle, as Don calls him, ended up 4th ACE bird in the ABC Combine AND the Ohio-Penn Federation in addition to being the 6th AU ACE bird of Ohio in the Middle Distance category. He did this while flying in only 4 races. Mr. Kastle is a son of Eisenhower and Lucy in the Sky.

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Hens

Meet some of the homing pigeons in Kastle Loft that are the basis for our breeding and race team. Click on a photo to see a pedigree if one is available. 2013 brings a seismic shift in our breeding program that will impact us for years to come. We have introduced ten new birds from the M & D Evans Vandenabeeles.  Among them is a direct son of the world-famous Eisenhower, the #1 breeder for Myrtle Lofts of England. We will be breeding from multiple line bred grandchildren of Shadow and all of our birds will be influenced by the great Wittenbuik. Other greats in our birds will be Rolls Royce, Jester & Carrie, Benetton, Saffron, Devon, Nationaal Fideel & Belle, and The Perfect Pair.


M & D Evans Vandenabeele Hens

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Lucy in the Sky – AU 2012 GHC 1947 – Destined to be a foundation hen for Kastle Loft, this is a hen bred and flown by John Weeks of the Gulf Coast Homing Club. In her first year breeding for us, she had an Ace bird and multiple equal firsts against as many as 500 birds. Lucy finished 6th FSI band race vs. 432 birds and 119th vs. 2051 birds GHC Classic. Four 2012 siblings scored and lasted the season for Weeks, and a sister, #2, was 14th Champion YB GHC club and 9th in the FSI band race. Pure performance and down from Golden Gaby, Queen of Diamonds, Carrie, Wittenbuik, Limoges and Shadow (via The Perfect Pair).

2013 GHC 6067 and Mark Evans

Silvan Danica Need to Know – Mark Evans holds 2013 GHC 6067 at the loft in Spring Hill, Florida where he and John Marles selected this beautiful hen for Kastle Loft. She is a grand daughter of Pre-Olympic x Lady of the Rings and Lord of the Rings x Davina, four elite champions of breeders of champions.

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Lovely Rita – 2012 AU IHC 5734 – 100% M & D Evans. Grand daughter of Benetton, Lady Eisen, Rolls Royce and Super Girl 310. Great grand daughter of Champion Shadow and Wittenbuik. She raised 7 babies with two cocks in her first year and every one has shown tough grit to get home when others have not. She is destined to be a foundation hen for Kastle Loft.

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Michelle My Belle – 2012 IHC 5772 – Inbred to the famous super-couple Nationaal Fideel and Belle. This darling little hen is a granddaughter of the world-famous Rolls Royce, and her sire is a full brother to Rolls Royce. Her first babies will race for us in 2014.

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Dear Prudence – 2013 Dblj 17 – This is a beautiful recessive opal hen who is down from the greats: Eisenhower, Shadow and Jester and Carrie on both sides. Her sire is a multiple diploma and money winner in the Up North Combine flying for the Valente & Marles lofts. Her dam is a grand daughter of the famous Jester and Carrie. Dear Prudence will have babies racing for Kastle Loft in 2014 and we hope her beautiful color will show again in some of her babies.

 


Double Black Widow x Aviator

2011 AU TCL 20 – This is Widow’s 20, my double grand daughter of Black Widow and Aviator from Timber Creek Lofts. She is a beautiful, streamlined bird who, when crossed with my son of Kannibaal’s Gold in 2012, produced my biggest win of the year: A top 10% money winner in the Gulf Coast Classic. Flying in old birds, Kastle 11 finished at impressive 2nd place for handler Jim Combs in a 150-mile race 1084 birds.


Cocks

Meet some of the homing pigeons in Kastle Loft that are the basis for our breeding and race team. Click on a photo to see a pedigree if one is available. 2013 brings a seismic shift in our breeding program that will impact us for years to come. We have introduced ten new birds from the M & D Evans Vandenabeeles.  Among them is a direct son of the world-famous Eisenhower, the #1 breeder for Myrtle Lofts of England. We will be breeding from multiple line bred grandchildren of Shadow and all of our birds will be influenced by the great Wittenbuik. Other greats in our birds will be Rolls Royce, Jester & Carrie, Benetton, Saffron, Devon, Nationaal Fideel & Belle, and The Perfect Pair.

Check back soon for updated photos of our other new additions of M & D Evans’ stock including a triple grandson of Shadow and two grandsons of Benetton, Lady Eisen and Rolls Royce.


Blue Check Racing Pigeon

Einstein 2012 GB C 39756: Direct from world-famous #1 breeder Eisenhower and Joint Venture of M&D Evans’s Myrtle Lofts. He is a full brother to 3rd place 2011 SCMDPR for Myrtle Lofts. Grandchild of Champion Shadow. 2012 was the last year that Myrtle Lofts sold any children off Eisenhower to the public. In Einstein’s first year breeding he bred an AU Ace Bird, race winners, diplomas, eq. 1sts with two different lofts and as many as 500 birds.

M&D Evans Gaby Vandenabeele Blue Bar Pigeon

AU 2012 IHC 5733 – Mr. Kite – This handsome Blue Bar Cock, who also graced the cover of our 2014 Photo Calendar, is a grandson of Benetton, Lady Eisen, Rolls Royce and Super Girl 310. He is also a full brother to one of our best hens, Lovely Rita. As a racer, he finished in the top 10% twice in the competitive IHC club (Cleveland) before being stocked.

Grandson of the Perfect Cock

This cock was bred by the exception Cleveland flyer Don Campbell and was donated as the prize for the 2012 Pigeon Talk Classic race. I didn’t win the race, but I did manage to come out a winner after acquiring this fellow. In his first year of breeding, I sent one of his babies to the Pigeon Talk Classic – a real “survivor” series – and his daughter finished 3rd. He is a grandson of the famous Perfect Cock (Shadow) and he is a son of Don’s exceptional 11-flight hen, also down from the M & D Evans blood.

AU 10 Baker & Sons 123 is a Janssen cockbird with Ultimate Miracle/Blue Miracle and Champion 969 throughout his family. He was a standout pigeon in the 2010 LRPC One-Loft Futurity, winning 1st in the 100-mile by 2 minutes and 2nd (Eq 1st) by 12 minutes in the 150-mile on a terrible windy overcast and rainy day. He bred diploma winners at the shorter distances in 2012 with his Kannibaal hen.

AU 09 PROTEGE 116 is a Kannibaal line-bred cock from Kenny Rhodes at Protege Loft. He is a gorgeous bird out of Kannibaal’s Gold and Michelle. He has Kannibaal in his pedigree four times, Golden Lady three times, and Kleine Dirk two times. He has bred multiple winners and his children have bred winners at multiple lofts. In 2013 he bred 2nd and 3rd Club Champion Young bird and is grandsire to 1st Club Champion Young bird. In 2012, he bred 2012 Kastle 11 who was a money winner in the Gulf Coast Classic and who later as an Old Bird had a 2nd place finish vs. 1084 birds 150 miles in the very competitive Gulf Homing Club. He is grandfather to a 2nd place Band Race bird for Angel Capote in the North Florida Combine.

2014 Pairings

Below are sample pedigrees of the birds we will be breeding in 2014.

Pair 1

Pair1

Pair 2

Pair2

Pair 3

Pair3

Pair 4

Pair4

Pair 5

Pair5

Pair 6

Pair6

Pair 7

Pair7

Pair 8

Pair8

Pair 9

Pair9

Sylvan Danica Need to Know: New M & D Evans addition to Kastle Loft

During my trip to Florida for the AU convention and GHC Auction, I spent a day at the partner loft of John Marles and Mark Evans of Myrtle Lofts. I asked them to help me pick out a hen to add to my breeding loft. Any and every hen on that property would have been an excellent addition. I asked to look at birds with Shadow in their blood in order to further compliment what I already have in my loft.

After looking at and handling a couple of beautiful hens, John took a moment to retrieve a hen from a different loft. He handed me a medium sized blue bar who was so strong I struggled with her for a few moments. She is a beautiful bird who I trust will make equally beautiful (and fast!) birds. When Don Campbell looked over and saw her and anxiously asked who she is out of, I laughingly told him that information was “need to know”. That’s also what I plan to tell my wife when she asks me what I paid for her.

I have plans to mate her with a cock who is a triple grandson of Shadow and also my Eisenhower cock (also a grandson to Shadow). The Lord and Lady of the Rings are nest mates who were fabulous racers and breeders and are down from Shadow via Solitaire. Pre-Olympic is a top performance pigeon and quickly turning into a world-class breeder for Mark Evans and his children commanded a steep price at the GHC auction, the top one pricing out at $9,100. A double-grand child of Pre-Olympic sold for $8,000 (Pre-Olympic x Davina / Pre-Olympic x Lady of the Rings). As you can see, I feel very fortunate to have a very similarly bred pigeon in “Need to Know”.

See the photos below of “Sylvan Danica Need to Know” 13 GHC 6067, a grand daughter of (Pre-Olympic x Lady of the Rings) / (Lord of the Rings x Davina)

John Marles holds GHC 6067 at his loft with Joe Ferreira in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson

John Marles holds GHC 6067 at his loft with Joe Ferreira in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson

Mark Evans holds GHC 6067 at the loft in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson

Mark Evans holds GHC 6067 at the loft in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson

Mark Evans holds GHC 6067 at the loft in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson

Mark Evans holds GHC 6067 at the loft in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson

John Marles holds GHC 6067 at the loft in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson

John Marles holds GHC 6067 at the loft in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson

Mark Evans, John Marles and Joe Ferreira with David Stephenson, right, look at a selection of their racing pigeons in the loft in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson

Mark Evans, John Marles and Joe Ferreira with David Stephenson, right, at the Marles and Evans loft in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson

Photos from the 2013 AU Convention and GHC Auction

John Marles, Don Campbell, Mark Evans, Joe Ferreira and David Stephenson in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013.

John Marles, Don Campbell, Mark Evans, Joe Ferreira and David Stephenson in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013.

At the 2013 AU Convention in Tampa, I had the pleasure of meeting some of the best pigeon racers in our country and a small handful from outside of the U.S. I have never attended a convention but I made a point of coming to this one to meet and listen to Mark Evans of Myrtle Lofts and his North American partner John Marles. I’ve been acquiring birds down from this world-famous stock and I knew this would be a rare chance to meet him them person. I also had the pleasure of meeting another Evans aficionado Kenny King of Kings View Lofts. This is a man who has made a significant “buy in” to this family of birds and will surely soon be hitting the top of the sheet in races around the globe.

The weekend did not disappoint, as I had the very good fortune of spending the majority of Friday at the John Marles & Mark Evans partnership loft in Spring Hill. Also there was the exceptional flyer Don Campbell from Ohio and Marles’ Canadian partner, Joe Ferreira. We spent the day looking at and handling birds and I went a little nuts taking photos. I knew it was a moment that would not soon be repeated. The birds were stunning, of course, but I was particularly struck at how John Marles moved through his loft and how his pigeons reacted to him. You can see in the photos how much he cares for the birds and how much they care for him.

Check out the two galleries below for pictures from the convention, including photos from the historic auction which garnered more than $164,000 for 78 birds from Jos Thone, Nikolaas Gyselbrecht and the Pipa Elite Breeding Center, Big Andy, and of course Mark Evans’ Myrtle Lofts.


The Loft of Marles and Evans – Images by David Stephenson



AU Convention and Auction 2013 – Images by David Stephenson

Featured in the Racing Pigeon Digest

The Pigeon Photographer was featured in the November 1, 2013 edition of the Racing Pigeon Digest. The story was written by a good friend and former Herald-Leader colleague, Maryjean Wall. Below you can see the pages as they appeared in The Digest.


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The cover of the Nov. 1, 2013 edition of the Racing Pigeon Digest

By Maryjean Wall

In the slipstream of a crush of rushing wings, the camera clicks. It’s going to be a good day. David Stephenson has caught the perfect light as he releases pigeons for a training flight.

You could call Stephenson a two-fisted pigeon guy. From the one hand he releases his birds, sending them along their way towards the rising sun. In the other hand he holds his photo gear du jour: today this might be a remote shutter release triggering a camera on a tripod. On another day his gear might be as simple as a camera phone.

Stephenson, 43, of Lexington, Ky., is a professional photographer who also races birds. When he combines his two pursuits, the results can be spectacular. He recently organized his best work on a new website, ThePigeonPhotographer.com, and began offering a photo wall calendar in October.

Among his reasons for creating the web site was to help people find his pictures better and allow anyone to license images of racing pigeons in an affordable – and legitimate – way. He also hopes it will deter people from taking photos without permission off the internet.

In the bigger picture, “I want to create a new way of seeing our racing pigeons,” he said. “I’m not excited by seeing the same type of photos over and over. They’re often not particularly flattering and the birds all start to look the same. I like to see beauty and character in my birds. We in the sport know our pigeons are beautiful. I hope others, by seeing my photos, may begin to see that beauty, too.”

Stephenson has stamped this site with the same creativity and energy that has brought him multiple awards for his photography – and for the racing pigeons that he, his wife, Angie, and daughter, Tory, raise at his Kastle Loft.

“David is turning the flight of the pigeon into art,” said Charles Bertram, chief photographer for the Lexington Herald-Leader. “He is seeing pigeons in a way the naked eye would never see. Of every photo of a pigeon ever taken, his work is going to be up there at the top.”

Five years ago, when Stephenson was well established in his photojournalism career, he returned after a long hiatus to pigeon racing. He had never really lost interest in birds throughout that time; he just never felt that any of the places he lived were suitable for building a loft.

He recalls his initial interest in birds. He acquired his first birds – doves – when in junior high school because a neighbor kept doves. Then he discovered that still another neighbor kept racing pigeons. Stephenson took to the pigeons right away. “I was enamored with fact that you could let pigeons out and they would come back,” he said.

Stephenson’s family moved from Lexington to Berea, Ky. (home of Berea College) when he began high school. His late father, John Stephenson, was president of the college and so David was able to build a small loft behind the President’s House. “I worked and paid for my birds and loft,” he said, citing the late Loftus Green of Lexington as his pigeon source. Following high school in Berea, a baccalaureate from Western Kentucky University, and stints as either a photographer or photo editor in Connecticut, Wyoming, Chicago, and finally, as a staff photographer for the Lexington Herald-Leader, Stephenson returned to the racing pigeon world.

Once again, 25 years later, he acquired some pigeons from his original source, Loftus Green, a lifetime member of the Lexington Racing Pigeon Club.

“What happened was I took my daughter to a children’s movie called Valiant,” he said. “The movie was about homing pigeons and their effort to deliver life-saving messages during World War II. That totally reignited my interest.”

He built a starter loft in his back yard. Two years later he replaced it with a larger loft, measuring 8×15 feet with 3 sections. He flies with two families: Koopman’s and the Wittenbuik and Shadow lines of M & D Evans Vandenabeele’s. Among his most recent awards are a club Champion Bird and the club’s Average Speed for both the 2013 Old Bird and Young Bird seasons. One of his birds finished second in a Gulf Coast Homing Club 150-mile race while handled by Jim Combs. The same bird was in the money in last year’s Gulf Coast Classic. He has a new son of M & D Evans’ Eisenhower he has high hopes for and is already seeing great results and in more than one loft. He has nine pairs of breeders and raises 30-40 young birds. He sends six to 10 birds annually to out-of-area races. Stephenson is now the President of the Lexington Racing Pigeon Club and designed and manages the club’s website, www.lexingtonracingpigeonclub.org.

In 2009 Stephenson left his staff position at the Lexington Herald-Leader to pursue freelance photography and take the position of Photojournalism Adviser for the University of Kentucky’s student newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel. Since then, he has expanded his range of photography and multimedia work. This has complimented his innovations in bird photography.

He has constructed a mobile studio for photography inside lofts. His Facebook page reached more than 2,000 “likes” in just a few weeks, and his Twitter and Instagram accounts likewise are becoming substantial, allowing him to share his work across the globe. He organized his work “to help people find me and the pictures easier” and “hopefully to make a little money to help pay for feed.” His work paid off quickly, when Audubon magazine published one of his pigeon photos in the March-April 2013 magazine. He also had a photo selected for the popular NBCnews.com Week in Pictures slideshow. He’s had university researchers and book publishers also license his photos.

Stephenson’s increasing presence on the Web, whether it is his own work or designing sites for other pigeon flyers, is taking his own pigeon ownership into a new dimension. Every time he goes to his loft he now has some kind of camera with him, even if it is only a camera phone. He always has a professional camera on hand when he releases his pigeons to train. Most recently he is shooting slow-motion video of his birds with a Go Pro.

As Bertram said, “His work transcends pigeon photography and becomes art.”

The pigeons bring their wings together in Stephenson’s photos and you can almost hear the clap.

You can find David’s photos and 2014 Pigeon Calendar on the web at The PigeonPhotographer.com. If you want to follow him on social media, you have many choices, including Facebook (The Pigeon Photographer), Instagram (@thepigeonphotographer) and Twitter (@ThePigeonPhotog). His website for his racing loft and birds is KastleLoft.com.


Photo Tips

Here are David Stephenson’s tips for photographing your pigeons on a training flight: There are two good options for getting photos: One is upon release and the other is of the birds flying overhead. Set up your camera on a tripod with a remote shutter control release.

Anticipate where your birds will fly upon release and prefocus on that spot. Set the shutter speed on a fast setting, at least 1,000 or more, which will be necessary to freeze the motion in the image. The fast shutter speed will require a lot of light, which means the f-stop will be set at a low number, 2.8 or 4.5. After the birds leave the baskets, you will need a zoom lens, because the birds won’t fly close to you for very long. Follow the birds and hope they cross into a spot with a good background. And practice, practice, practice.

If tripods and remote shutter releases aren’t in the cards, you can still get good photos even with a cell phone. Try to anticipate where the birds will be going and put yourself at the best angle to capture it. Get low to the ground and have an interesting, clean background. Get closer.

“Shoot a lot,” Stephenson said. “I’ve shot hundreds of photos (on a single training flight), liking only a few. Take your camera every time you train. If you don’t like what you get one day, try it from a different angle next time. I change perspectives all the time, often lying on the ground. I rarely get it on the first try. Some sunrise silhouettes I shot for an entire season before I got one or two I liked.”

Also, spend some time outside the loft with the birds. That is when they will show their true character and in a more natural setting. The light is almost always better and stronger outside the loft, too. A longer lens helps in this setting.

Stephenson is often asked in emails about the type of camera he uses. Stephenson uses professional models of Canon camera bodies but he said any DSLR will work, as long as you have enough light. He currently uses two Canon 5D Mark III’s. The lens range he works with is from 14 mm to 600 mm. If you don’t have a DSLR, a camera phone will work in the right circumstances, he said. You just need good light, good timing and a willingness to learn from your mistakes.


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2013 Young Bird wrap-up

pigeons_loftflyWe tried a few new training and feeding techniques this year which resulted in some significant changes in our returns. During the summer, I single-tossed every bird out to 30 miles before they were ever group tossed. No bird was lost. We also changed our feed regiment which I believe gave our birds much more fuel on race day.

The returns on race day were fantastic. In the first 5 races, we didn’t lose a single bird. Better yet, we had 95% -100% of our team on the drops in each race. Almost all of our birds stuck together in the race and they came home ahead of the other birds with a couple of exceptions (congrats Fred!).

Unfortunately our season ended when most of our club lost most of our birds in a smash race at 200 miles from Columbia, Tn. We had birds coming in for days and weeks but we are still missing some fine, fine birds. Perhaps they are safe and sound in another loft.

Our Kannibaal family continued to perform well for us and also for others in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida. We are starting to see great results now from our new M&D Evans Gabys not only in our loft but also in lofts in Ohio, Atlanta and the Gulf Coast Homing Club. We had multiple diplomas at home and away and many equal 1sts, top 2%, 5%, and 10% finished in competition with 500-1100 birds. Don Campbell raced some of our Gabys and earned one of them an AU ACE distinction.

At the club level, Kastle Loft earned:

Top 12 Champion Birds
1st Average Speed

4 firsts
5 seconds
4 thirds
6 fourths

Some highlights of our birds’ performances in other lofts includes:

Flown by Don Campbell:

Earned Ace Pigeon status with 13 GNEO 2662: 35th vs. 443b. 100 miles (8%) | 20th vs. 543b. 170 miles (4%) | 49th vs. 443b. 170 miles (11%) | 22nd (eq.1) vs. 338b. 200 miles (7%) | 66th vs. 442b. 200 miles (15%)

Also earned: 11th vs. 443b. 100 miles (3%) | 8th vs. 545b. 100 miles (2%) | 33rd vs. 357b 175 miles (9%) | 30th vs. 275b 100 miles (11%) | 7th (eq.1) vs. 338b. 200 miles (2%)

Flown by Jim Combs, GHC:
Kastle 1321: 159th vs. 1321b. (12%) 120 miles GHC | 77th place vs. 928 b (8%) 150 mile Option Race (2nd to loft). 46 seconds to win | 96th vs 933b (10%) 200 miles ghc option race.

Others:
3rd place Pigeon Talk Classic flown by Damon Sylve of the North Atlanta RPC (M & D Evans family)
Multiple diplomas over ten races flown by Gene Miller of Ohio (Kannibaal family)
3rd place Combine for Larry Brock of Cincinnati.
Top 10% finishes in the North Florida Combine and 2nd place Band Race down from our Kannibaal family for Angel Copote.

I am heading to Florida for the AU convention in November and plan to add another hen to our arsenal of M & D Evans Gabys from the John Marles / Mark Evans partner loft in Spring Hill. Breeding season is just around the corner and brings another year of opportunity and growth with it.

Success in the 2013 Old Bird Season

We wrapped up another old bird season and had a great and fun time with our club. Our birds performed very well and very consistently for us. We finished out the year with the following awards:

Champion Bird: 2012 AU Kastle 77

Average Speed Award

3 first place diplomas (100, 100, and 300 miles)

2 second place diplomas (100 and 250)

2 third place diplomas (100 and 100)