More than ten thousand prized homing pigeons have gone missing during a race.
It’s feared the birds have lost their bearings following magnetic interference during a solar storm.
The weather phenomenon is thought to have knocked out their in-built ability to find their way home.
The birds belong to fanciers from all over Britain.
They were released in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, and were racing against the clock to return to their lofts.
Owners and race organisers realized something was wrong when as many as 10,000 birds did not make it back.
Ian Evans, 45, the chief executive officer of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association (RPRA), said:
“We became aware quite quickly that something very unusual was happening on Saturday.
“I have kept pigeons since I was nine years of age and I have never heard of anything like this.
“It was extremely unusual and is a real mystery.
“On the face of it, the weather conditions across the country were good, there was nothing to suggest that any birds would struggle to get home.
“In fact, in many parts the conditions were favourable, and you might have expected some good times.”
Richard Sayers, a pigeon fancier from Skinningrove in North Yorkshire, said 300 birds were missing from his village alone, with thousands vanishing across the North East.
He said: “We’ve seen one of the very worst ever racing days in our history.
But it’s the same story right across the country.
The birds set out from Peterborough and didn’t make it home – they have vanished.
“Most of the breeders I’m talking to are blaming the atmospheric conditions, possibly a solar storm above the clouds that created static in the atmosphere, but no one really knows.
“We’re asking anyone who comes across a racing pigeon to feed, water and let it rest, and there’s an 80 per cent chance the birds will get on their way after a few days.”
Each pigeon has an identification ring with a code and number.