A RACING pigeon faced with a return to Britain’s wet shores has flown off course and found himself a bit of sunshine 4,500 miles away in the Bahamas.
Eight of racing enthusiast Fred Lock’s birds had been shipped out to Lille at the end of May for the 286-mile race back to Leeds - but only seven turned up.
Mr Lock had given up hope of seeing Henry again but he was shocked to receive a call last week from a British PhD student, currently studying in the Caribbean, to say the pigeon had turned up on a small island.
Henry’s finder, Kate Barley, 30, hails from a town just 80 miles from Mr Lock 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 fiancé, Jason Kincaid, are now in touch with Mr Lock and are trying to come up with a way to bring him home.
Mr Lock, of Aberford, a catering firm driver, said: “When he didn’t arrive back from France with the rest after about six hours I thought that was that.”
But Mr Lock and his wife Lynda, 55, received a call from Kate, a marine scientist of Cleethorpes, who is currently studying on Eleuthera Island, to say she and her fiancé had found the globetrotting 16-month-old pigeon.
Mr Lock, 59, 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 fiancé 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 Mr Lock and has kept him updated on Henry’s progress.
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 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.
“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.”
She added: “I think he must have flown onto a ship. Eleuthera Island is the nearest to the Atlantic, and he must have hopped off then.”
Mr Lock is unsure 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.”