In 2016 a team of expert birders is being formed by members of Lonely Birder in conjunction with The Urban Birder. We are being sponsored by the Department of Tourism at the Regional Government of Extremadura (Spain) and suported by the Israel Ministry of Tourism and Leica to take part in the third 2016 Champions of The Flyway, a well-known bird race which takes place annually in Eilat (Israel). This year’s race is on the 29th March. Funds raised will go to the fight against the illegal hunting of wild birds on migration in Greece.
The Champions of the Flyway is not just a competition for passionate birdwatchers keen to observe the maximum number of wild bird species in Israel in one day. The real aim behind the project is to send a strong message to bird lovers and naturalists all over the world: while many birders peacefully enjoy their hobby, millions of wild birds are illegally trapped or hunted as they make the crucial return journeys to their breeding and wintering grounds. Birdlife International, the top bird conservation organization in the world, has recently published a report on the illegal hunting of birds in the Mediterranean basin that concludes a staggering total of 25 million birds are illegally captured or killed here every year!
Why is the event taking place in Israel? Due to its geographically strategic location as land bridge connecting Europe, Asia and Africa, making it one of the best places in the world to study and watch migrating birds. Millions of birds pass through the eastern Mediterranean every year from Eurasia to reach their winter quarters in Africa. The southern part of Israel, with its concentrations of migrating birds, is the perfect place for this project. The event’s structure is simple: the teams meet in Eilat (Israel) for a 24-hour bird race. The registered teams compete ferociously for the title of Champions of the Flyway but also collaborate to raise money for the Birdlife partner country’s fight against illegal hunting within its borders. Each year a different country is highlighted. This year it is Greece’s turn.
In the first Champions in 2014, US$ 30,000 were raised for Georgia, destined for projects involved in education in the region of Batumi, an important migration bottleneck where migrating raptors are being targeted by hunters. A further US$ 10,000 were donated to Malta. The US$ 50,000 donated to Cyprus were invested in schools on the Mediterranean island that lies in the migration corridor and where it is estimated more than 2 million birds are killed annually.
Action is urgently required and through the Hellenic Ornithological Society – BirdLife in Greece – the raised donations will be destinated to two important projects:
- The illegal shooting and trapping of Turtle Doves and other migratory species passing through the Greek Islands.
- The illegal trapping of small songbirds for the cage bird black market.
Read more about the situation in Greece and the work to stop illegal killing here.
If you’d like to collaborate in the fight against illegal hunting of migrating birds, please make a simple donation by clicking here. Many thanks for your help!