A pair of pigeon enthusiasts in South Tyneside are flying high after winning a prestigious bird race.
John Soderlund and John Maddison are celebrating after their hen Parkside Lillian took first place in the North East Homing Union Classic Open contest.
The yearling beat 26,000 other birds in the race from Eastbourne.
The bird flew 301 miles, 1,092 yards in four hours, 43 minutes, 28 seconds – for a velocity of 1,872.71 yards per minute.
Mr Maddison, 60, who has been breeding and racing pigeons since he was a teenager said: “We race pigeons every week, but this particular race involved pigeons from around the North East from Berwick to Cleveland.
“It’s the third time we have won the event over the years. It’s the equivalent of winning the Grand National for the pigeon world.” The pair, who breed their pigeons from Parkside Lofts in the West Park, South Shields, were told of the probable win within hours of the race finishing.
“We’ve won plenty of club races but this is the ultimate one.”John Soderlund
However, it wasn’t until the following day when the news was confirmed.
Mr Soderlund, 67, said: “I’ve been racing pigeons for 56 years now and this is one of the biggest competitions.
“In the 1980s I won the Queen’s Cup, so it’s taken a long time to win another big contest.
“We’ve won plenty of club races but this is the ultimate one.”
The race, which took place on Sunday, May 10, is the first big event in the annual pigeon racing world calendar.
Pigeon racing is the sport of releasing specially trained racing pigeons, which then return to their homes over a carefully measured distance.
The time it takes the animal to cover the specified distance is measured and the bird’s rate of travel is calculated and compared with all of the other pigeons in the race to determine which animal returned at the highest speed.