On return to the loft I was not surprised to see no birds home. About 10 minutes after getting home a group of 4 brave birds shot over the house and onto the loft. They were closely followed by another. They all sat there for 5 minutes before going in. They were seriously spooked and not keen to move at all despite being hungry and food waiting in the loft. I had 2 yearling cocks then arrive together about 10 minutes later. By now it was getting a lot darker. I had 2 or 3 groups of 2 and 3's arrive over the course of the next 10 minutes. I was upto 17 when it had become totally dark and on standing by the back door thinking over my mistake another pigeon landed on the loft and trapped. Unbelievable as it was pitch black!! On checking which bird it was, it turned out to be the bird that broke its leg in at least 3 places and whose leg now juts out to the left as he damaged his hip joint. Brave little bird this is turning out to be!
So in the end I have ended up with 18 out of 47 and that is all my fault and nothing to do with the birds. I suspect a hawk strike on top of the weather and darkness as the birds were totally on edge on return. One of the worst decisions I have made with the birds to liberate so late from so far away. The weather was unknown to me but that is no excuse. I have a feeling most of the missing birds are not far away and expecting a large number to be hitting the loft early in the morning. I believe this experience despite my stupidity, will do the birds that return the world of good and will prove to be invaluable experience for them. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the majority of the birds make it back tomorrow!