Champions of the Flyway - a major new international bird race has been taking place in Eilat, Israel - one of the world’s most spectacular migration hot spots and rewarding birding destinations.
Competing teams from around the world came together to identify and log as many species as possible – as they went head to head in an intense 24 hour contest to win the coveted title “Champions of the Flyway”.
The birders taking part in the inaugural 2014 event were of many different nationalities and represented a huge variety of businesses, conservation organisations and bird clubs. On April 1st 2014, they all lined up together in Eilat with a common purpose – to celebrate the miracle of migration in this spectacular part of the Great Rift Valley and to help protect its future throughout the Africa Eurasia Flyway as part of the famous annual Eilat Bird Festival.
The Champions of the Flyway bird race is staged by The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (BirdLife’s national Partner in Israel) and is a BirdLife International Migratory Birds & Flyways Programme initiative.
“While the race was great fun, the goal is serious – to raise conservation funding that will help BirdLife International tackle the illegal killing of birds in Southern and Eastern Europe.”
15th April, 2014
The Batumi Raptor Crew, representing Bird Conservation Georgia, receive a cheque for $30,000 presented by Angelo Caserta, BirdLife’s Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia. These funds have been raised by sponsors, participants and supporters of Champions of the Flyway and will help fund innovative conservation actions that will protect birds of prey migrating through the Batumi Bottleneck in Georgia.
April 2nd, 2014. After an exhilarating 24 hour bird race, the final results were announced during the superbly staged Champions of the Flyway awards ceremony at the Eilat Hilton. The teams had acheived something quite remarkable, a cumulative total of 249 species, representing more than half the birds on the Israel list and twelve more than during the entire Eilat Birds Festival in 2013.
Leading the field with an incredible 169 species were The Palestine Sunbirders, a crack team of collaborating Palestinian and Israeli birders. Recognising the advantage they held with their considerable local knowledge and experience, they magnanimously shared the coveted title Champions of the Flyway with the highest scoring international team - the outstanding Cornell Lab of Ornithology eBirders whose total of 165 was a quite remarkable achievement. The International team in second place was The Digital Stringers with a very creditable 159 species and, in third, the highly-skilled Birding Frontiers team recorded 155.
In addition to receiving their trophy, each winning team member also received a pair of superb new Swarovski CL Pocket binoculars generously donated by sponsors Swarovski Optik.
Champions of the Flyway honours were shared evenly by The Palestine Sunbirders and The Cornell eBirders. The triumphant team members, from left to right, Captain of The Cornell eBirders Chris Wood, Captain of The Palestine Sunbirders Noam Weiss, Jessie Barry, Jessie Schackermann, Marshall Illif and Sa’ed A-Shomal.
Champions of the Flyway is not just about racing, it is about celebrating the miracle of bird migration and raising funds to protect the amazing spectacle for generations to come. Every race team has contributed a tremendous amount and we thank them all. Nearly $60,000 has already been raised through the race and contributions are still arriving. If you would like to show your support too, please donate here.
The team raising the most funds - The Flyway Racers received the award Guardians of the Flyway for an outstanding contribution in excess of $12,000 – Thanks so much for your considerable generosity!
From left to right – Event Organiser Jonathan Meyrav applauds, Captain Colin Shields, Pat Shields, Stuart Elsom, Ruth Shields and Stephen Shields.
The third trophy presented at the awards ceremony was for the team enabling others to see the most species, enjoy the event and promote the cause. Knights of the Flyway was awarded to the highly popular Focussing on Wildlife Sprinters. In the spirit of the award they received one of Swarovski Optik’s brilliant new SLC 8 x 42 binoculars to donate to the BirdLife Partner of their choice. Of particular note is that the Sprinters also received donations from more individuals (96 and counting) than any other team, through their outstanding promotions.
Knights of the Flyway - The Focussing on Wildlife Sprinters – Gert Ottens, Ken Billington, Marc Guyt and Martijn Verdoes.