When I was ask to represent Leica Camera as their Birding Ambassador for South East Asia in the Eilat Bird Festival and Champions of the Flyway, I was half expecting the usual bird festival and race. How wrong I was.
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, a Birdlife International Partner use the spectacle of the spring migration of raptors and songbirds from Africa back to Europe to attract birders from all over the world to come to Eilat to raise awareness and funds for Doga Dernegi to stop the killing of migrating birds across Turkey. A Bird Race truly for conservation!
Thousands of Steepe Buzzards passed through the mountains of Eilat in a day.
Every year 25 millions birds were shot and trapped for game and food across the Middle East. Illegal killing is also happening across Asia and we can certainly sympathize with this.
The International and local teams taking part in the Champions of the Flyway 2017. Photo courtesy of the Doga Network.
This was how the Championships of the Flyway started four years ago. This year 18 teams from the US, Europe and Africa got their sponsors and friends to donate and support their participation. Leica Camera AG was one of the corporate sponsors answering the call by sponsoring three teams this year. They are the Leica Cape May Bird Observatory American Dippers, Leica Sampach Snowfinch and Victorious Bird Nerds.
The American Dippers brought along the latest interactive tracking CCT Live technology where everyone can follow their race in real time.
The Golden Pheasants from China taking part for the first time. Chen Ting, Terry Townsend and Tong Menxiu did a great job for first timers. Photo courtesy of the Golden Pheasants.
The first team from China, The Golden Pheasants flew over from Beijing to take part in this year’s race. They came in the top ten with a credible 143 species in 24 hours. I was amazed that a team from Palestine The Palestine Sunbirders came and took part too. Just shows that nature conservation is above politics and beyond borders. For me the heart warming moment was when they came on stage to accept the pennant of participation. For the all ladies team “Orioles Team” presenting EU Partnership for Peace, this is their fourth year. Great advocate for women power! Three teams, walked and cycled 30-40 km bringing a green message to the race. I got tired out just driving around the arid habitat, so hats off the these guys.
The Palestine Sunbirders participation in the Bird Race shows that Nature Conservation is above politics and beyond borders.
During the briefing that night before the race, Jonathan Meyrav our host, MC and mastermind actually went through the checklist and locations where to find some of the difficult species. I thought that was brilliant, something we can adopt. All the teams get up to date news on what rare species were seen on whats app. The American Dippers went one step further with the live broadcast of what they saw during the whole race. Now that is what I call sharing and having fun.
The Youth Africa Birders from South Africa winner of the Guardians of the Flyway. Photo from Jessleena Suri facebook page.
The Arctic Redpolls came in first with a record of 181 species. Congratulations!. The Guardians for the Flyway went to the Youth Africa Birders from South Africa for raising the highest amount 8,900 Euros. Well done guys! In total a cheque of US$62,000 was presented to Doga Dernegi of Turkey who will use it to implement projects to stop the illegal killing.
I am really amazed at how Jonathan Meyrav, Dan Alon and a few members were able to pull off such a big international event all by themselves. I don’t think they remembered when they last slept. Many thanks for your hospitality. My thanks also to Leica Camera Asia Pacific for sponsoring my trip to Eilat to experience the wonderful work that they are doing in that part of the world. It was truly an eye opener for me!