A British pigeon fancier from Aberford was left dumbfounded when one of his birds, which had gone missing after a race from France, turned up 4,500 miles away – in the Bahamas.
Eight of racing enthusiast Fred Lock’s birds had been shipped out to Lille on May 25 for the 286-mile race back to Leeds, but one – ‘Henry’ – didn’t arrive.
Fred had given him up as lost but he was shocked to receive a call last week from a British PhD student to say Henry had turned up on the small Caribbean island of Eleuthera Island and was enjoying a “holiday”.
In an amazing twist of irony, Henry’s finder Kate Barley, 30, hails from a town just 80 miles from Fred and her father is another pigeon enthusiast who told her how to find the owner’s number on the feathered tourist’s wing ring.
Kate and her American fiance Jason Kincaid, 31, are now keeping Fred, 59, apprised of Henry’s progress and are trying to come up with a way to bring him home.
Catering firm driver Fred said: “When he didn’t arrive back from France with the rest after about six hours I thought that was that.”
But Fred and his wife Lynda, 55, received a call from marine scientist Kate, of Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, who is currently studying on Eleuthera Island, to say she and Jason had found the globetrotting 16-month-old pigeon.
Fred said: “When they told me they had got my pigeon I couldn’t believe it. He must have hitch-hiked on a ship to make it over there and get away from our weather.
“I’ve heard of people finding their pigeons in Belgium, Holland and Germany but never this far away. It’s unbelievable.
“They have sent us over pictures and he seems safe and sound on his holiday.”
Kate, who is studying for a PhD in fisheries conservation, divides her time between her university in Canada, her UK home, and the Bahamas, where she does her research and where her fiance is the boat house manager and dive instructor at the Island School.
She said: “Henry arrived during the week from June 18. He flew into the boat house. He looked in fine shape and I knew straight away he was owned by someone as he had the ring on, at first we thought it must be someone locally that keeps pigeons and that he would feed up for a few days then move on.
“He started running up to people and around people’s feet looking for food, and straight away flew onto people’s hand and shoulders for food.”
Kate then rang her father Tony, back in Grimsby, to see if she could track the owner.
She said: “I asked him about the tag on his leg as I noticed it had GB on it, and Dad said to check the wing for the phone number. That’s when we discovered he was from Leeds.”
Kate then got in touch with Fred and has kept him updated on Henry’s progress by documenting his adventures.
She said: “He seems really happy, and waits for Jason to come in and open up in the morning. He starts weaving in and out of legs and running after Jason until he gets out his food.
“Then he flies to Jason’s shoulder, and will sit there on on his hand to feed. Then he disappears for half the day, probably exploring, and comes back to relax under the boat house dock in the shade, and sits and watches everyone
loading boats. He gets lots of shouts of ‘Hello Henry’ now from the kids who are staying at the school.
“In the Bahamas many of the locals have never seen a pigeon like him who is tame, so showing them how he flies to you for food and how to stroke him is really exciting for them.
“There is a cat around but Henry seems to know when to fly up into the boat house rafters out the way. He also enjoys walking along the dock, but is scared of the seagulls.”
She agreed with Fred’s assessment of how Henry arrived. She said: “I think he must have flown onto a ship. Eleuthera Island is the nearest to the Atlantic, and he must have hopped off then.”
Dad-of-two Fred, who has been keeping pigeons since he was 11, isn’t sure if he will see Henry again due to expense and quarantine issues.
But he said: “Kate did say she is coming back to Grimsby in September so there is a possibility of getting him back then.”
Kate added: “We talked with the owners as I have a flight back to the UK in early September. We have no idea how this would even be possible, but if we can’t do it, it might be nice for him to live out his days in the sunshine on a permanent holiday.”