By Adriana Stuijt

PRETORIA, South Africa — “Radio Pretoria” reports today that thousands of valuable, experienced homing pigeons have been lost all over South Africa during racing flights on May 19 and 20 due to unusually powerful solar outbursts called sun-spots which interfered with the earth’s magnetic fields. All pigeons home in on these magnetic fields and many valuable racing pigeons lost their way that day, many are lost forever. Similar problems were also experienced by European pigeon-flights.

Anyone finding distressed, ringed pigeons anywhere in South Africa may contact Mr Willie Venter in Pretoria (27) 012 377-2055 because he has the telephone numbers of all the ‘ring-masters’ and will be able to track down their owners very quickly. Tame training pigeons often approach human passersby for help and they are healthy: they can be handled safely and easily.

Solar spots appear in eleven-year cycles, and are now in the upwards trend towards the next major eruption in 2012.

Pigeon fanciers all over South Africa report that many of their loft dwellers also were temporarily confused and upset, with many young birds also not returning from their daily exercise flights that day. It will take South African and European pigeon fanciers quite some time to train up valuable new speed-champions again, it is being reported.

The pigeon fanciers in South Africa report today that their weekly racing flights in Pretoria and Bethlehem are now clocking the birds returning normally again with arrivals clocked after an average speed of 11km per hour, and very few lost birds being reported.

Predicting solar spots is very difficult. One can phone the “SpaceWeather.com” information to find out how much they are flaring at the moment.

San Antonio scientist Arik Posner of Southwest Research Institute has only recently found a way to forecast solar radiation storms about one hour in advance — using the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).

The new method offers as much as one hour advance warning, giving not only astronauts time to seek shelter and ground controllers time to safeguard their satellites when a storm is approaching — but also allow pigeon fanciers worldwide to keep their birds home.

http://www.radiopretoria.co.za

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2007/25may_costep.htm