The LEICA Sempach Snowfinches

Leica Sempach SnowfinchesBesides our passion for birds, bird conservation and nature in general, our team members also have their employer (past or present) in common. But the “Vogelwarte” (Swiss Ornithological Institute) is not just an employer like any other. It represents and fights for what we love and we stand for: birds, their habitats, everything related to them. In a word: nature. Conveniently and very generously, the Swiss Ornithological Institute is also The Sempach Snowfinch’s sponsor.

As a non-profit foundation supported by the public, it focuses on studies of wild birds and acquires the scientific basis for the conservation of birds and their habitats. It monitors the populations of breeding birds, migrants and winter visitors in Switzerland, and investigates changes in the populations of wild birds. To achieve as much as possible for the birds, the institute closely works together with authorities, planners, nature conservancy organisations, farmers and foresters.

One main goal of the Swiss Ornithological Institute is to disseminate information on birds and their conservation, and so arouse interest and joy but also raise awareness about problems.

Birds know no boundaries. Our team and our sponsor LEICA and Swiss Ornithological Institute are dedicated to them all! Let’s raise some money to support the migrant bird conservation in Turkey!

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Martin Spiess

Martin Spiess

Martin Spiess

Swiss Ornithological Institute; Team Captain

Martin started out as a birder in early childhood by explaining differences between grebes and ducks to his family members and by witnessing an impressive influx of Bohemian Waxwings into his native Switzerland in the mid-1960s. He was finally hooked to birding in the mid-1970s by observing a wonderfully singing male Common Redstart on the top of a spruce tree under a deep blue spring sky. Engagement in a local bird protection society opened his eyes for conservation issues. Long days in the field provided him already as a youngster with good knowledge about the birds of Switzerland – from its lowlands all the way up to the high alpine habitats. A first escape by bike towards the Mediterranean Sea at the age of 16 considerably widened the number of observed species. Soon he got infected by the travel virus and started exploring Europe – from Gibraltar to Istanbul and from Italy to Norway.

Guided by the interest in all forms of life, the decision to study biology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology was easy. After he got his masters degree in ecology, further studies of cellular biology followed and were concluded by a PhD thesis in virology, applying various techniques of microscopy. Moving on to Austin, Texas, for a postdoctoral fellowship, not only unleashed his cowboy soul and his love for loud Rock’n’roll and Texas music, but Martin also started to discover the fascinating birds of another continent. This nourished his wish to continue to explore the world of birds in other places.

Back home from Texas, Martin got the chance to start working at the Swiss Ornithological Institute, where he works to this day. There, Martin first participated in projects protecting farmland birds and studying red listed species. The work involving the capture of kestrels with bal-chatri traps provoked his nickname “Enzo Balchatri”. Nowadays he is involved with bird monitoring in Switzerland and he works together with his colleagues on the new Swiss Breeding Bird Atlas project.

The information of the great public about birds and nature protection takes a big part of Martin’s spare time, whereby he especially likes to open the eyes of youngsters to the beauty of nature. Continued travelling led him in the meantime to explore many more countries and their birds and thus his list of birded countries now stands at 57 on 5 continents and his life list has passed 3,000 species.  As long as there are birds in all colours and shapes, wild places to explore, plenty of adventures to be had and nice new birding friends around, Martin is a happy birder. Bird racing involves all of this – and – when he can contribute to sponsoring bird protection by doing it – how lucky a Swiss Sempach Snowfinch is he!

Peter Knaus

Swiss Ornithological Institute; Ornithological Editor,“Der Ornithologische Beobachter”

Peter is leading the Swiss Breeding Bird Atlas 2013–2016 and is editor of the scientific journal “Der Ornithologische Beobachter”.

He is fascinated by birds and nature since he was about 10 years old. In 1999, he graduated with a study about dragonflies in the Alps. Peter was ten years member of the Swiss Rarities Committee (SRC) and then another ten years its secretary. Since 2000 he works at the Swiss Ornithological Institute. In 2007 Peter co-authored an illustrated avifauna of the bird of Switzerland. Four years later the “Historical Breeding Bird Atlas of Switzerland” was published, illustrating the breeding distribution in the 1950s.

Peter has also been for many years a tour leader for birding tours in Europe, Greenland and Northern Africa. Since three years, Peter is president of “BirdLife Lucerne”, a regional society of BirdLife Switzerland.

Peter Knaus

Peter Knaus

Dominik Henseler

Dominik Henseler

Dominik Henseler

Biologist, Student, Environmental Engineering at Waedenswil

Dominik is currently studying Environmental Engineering in Waedenswil, a college specialised in urban greening and urban ecosystems.

The beautiful countryside in Switzerland where he grew up formed his character. He used to spend his time with friends discovering different places and animals that live there. That is why he took up birding as a young boy and joined the local bird club, where he now organizes and guides tours for kids and adults.

Lately Dominik has been expanding his knowledge of dragonflies, reptiles and amphibians but his heart is still beating for the birds. His biggest goal today is to show people how breathtaking nature can be and help reveal the entire unseen miracle of nature that we actually live in.

Livio Rey

Conservation Biologist, Bird Educator

Since childhood, Livio has a deep passion about the natural world and all the species that dwell therein. This interest led him to the University of Bern, where he studied biology with a focus on conservation biology. After a stay in the federal office of nature conservation, he works now for the Swiss Ornithological Institute as press officer and communication person and guides international bird excursions.

He not only travels around the world to see birds and other animals but is also active in conservation and education in Switzerland. He is head of a birdwatching youth group, helps in bird monitoring, gives bird identification courses for beginners, guides bird excursions in Switzerland and founded together with other students the Society at the University of Bern for Sustainable Development (BENE). In Livio’s philosophy, it is important to inform and educate the public about nature conservation and pass on the passion for nature. Then, hopefully, future generations can as well enjoy all the wonders surrounding us.

Livio Rey

Livio Rey

 Sophie Jaquier

Sophie Jaquier

Sophie Jaquier

Bird Ringer; Press Officer, Swiss Ornithological Institute

For as far back as she remembers, Sophie has always been into birds. Running around her father’s ringing station helped her interest grow further, and she started birding by herself as a young teenager. Very much into little brown birds, she spent a lot of her twenties travelling to birding places and hopping from ringing station to ringing station around the world, with a special fondness for Heligoland, Germany and Long Point Bird Observatory, Canada.

As a biologist, Sophie worked for a bit on bioacoustics projects and then in bird conservation for BirdLife Switzerland. Now more sedentary, she enjoys ringing with colleagues in their Constant Effort Site at Lucerne, as a course leader for BirdLife Lucerne bird ID class and getting up very early for bird monitoring. She believes informing and sensitizing people about the bird world is one of the keys to its conservation.

Sophie tries to do her share in this respect as a press officer and communication person for the Swiss Ornithological Institute.