Women In Steppe


Copy of logo 3The Kowa Women in Steppe are the first international women’s team to be participating in Champions of the Flyway. Together we represent the East and West Coast of the USA, Trinidad and Tobago, Israel and Uzbekistan. We are excited and we are ready to bird till we drop! Get in Steppe and support us as we race to protect the endangered Steppe Eagles of the steppes of Kazakstan and Uzbekistan.


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Meet the Team:

Alena Kacal

Alena Kacal has been birding from age 10 when she caught the bug in her homeland of Trinidad while handfeeding Motmots from the veranda. After spending her teen years birding in Trinidad, she headed to New England to see some new birds while getting a degree in Wildlife Biology. 17 years ago she escaped the cold and moved to Israel where she started to work at the Jerusalem Bird Observatory. Starting as a guide for the JBO’s bird club, Alen is now the Director of the JBO. She loves nothing better than to introduce people to the wonder of birds and says that the best sound in the world is the “aah” of someone who truly sees a bird for the first time.

Although computers, budgets and meetings have claimed most of her time, Alen grabs whatever time she can to go birding and is looking forward to the Champions race. This is her 7th race and she is excited to be joining this great group of women for the race this year.

Amy Summerfelt

Amy Summerfelt has been a bird lover her whole life. Inspired by her father and grandmother, she began birding seriously as a Girl Scout in the Panama Canal Zone at the age of 12. After returning to the US for college, she birded as often as possible and joined field surveys with the resident ornithologist at Texas A&M. After changing majors from Wildlife Biology to Fisheries Biology, birding became a weekend pursuit. A brief move to California reignited the more serious birder in her and led to a compulsion to travel for birding, seeking more and more exotic species to add to her life list. The Neotropics are an especially favorite destination and she has made many return trips to Panama and Costa Rica, seeing many new birds every time. The Old World is a new frontier for this birder and Israel during migration brings the birds to her. After a trip to the Hula Valley Bird Festival in 2017, she was introduced to Champions of the Flyway and the Eilat Bird Festival. Instantly hooked, she knew she would return and attended the Eilat Festival in 2019 and formed a mini COTF team for a 12-hour race. She is thrilled to participate fully in this year’s race. COTF fulfills many passions, most importantly supporting bird conservation in any way possible.

Lisa Schibley

Lisa Schibley grew up surrounded by birders, but it wasn’t until a move from the East Coast to Tucson, Arizona that her interest developed into a passion. For the next ten years, she participated in all things birding: patch birding, county listing, rarity chases, field surveys, bird-a-thons, Christmas bird counts, and leading trips for Tucson Audubon. In 2003, she took a birding hiatus due to the arrival of James and then Edison (who both, alas, show no birding interest). In 2015, however, she returned to everything birds and birding with doubled vigor and enthusiasm to make up for lost time. She currently works at Manomet as the North American Coordinator for the International Shorebird Survey, plus she provides database and other technical support for various shorebird projects.

Bringing the excitement of competitive birding together with the goal of raising funds for important conservation projects is very familiar. She’s been participating in Mass Audubon’s spring Bird-a-thon and Manomet’s fall Bird-a-thon for a number of years, each year with greater results, both in monies raised and birds seen, and she looks forward to upping her game to the next level at the Champions of the Flyway in Israel in 2020.

Lidiya Naomi Jurborsky-Skhinas

Lidiya Naomi Jurborsky-Skhinas is a bio-ecologist. She was born in sunny Tashkent, in Uzbekistan. Her enthusiasm towards birding started with her family and their adventures. It all started with her mother, who asked her to photograph and identify a bird that turned out to be a European Bee-eater – still one of Lidiya’s favourite birds. She started Birdwatching seriously in University, where she became a member of the Uzbekistan Society for the Protection of Birds, in the Phasianus student club. Later, she and some friends launched the site birds.uz, which aggregates photos, information and data bases of Uzbekistani birds, with the help of crowdsourcing. Now, living in Israel, she studies bird-ringing at the Jerusalem Bird Observatory. This project is very important for the conservation and rehabilitation of Steppe Eagles and that’s why she’s particularly inspired to join the race, so that in the future (as in the past), this majestic species can again be seen above Tashkent.

Hannah Buschert

Hannah Buschert spent her childhood visiting zoos, aquariums, and tide pools every weekend, but only started birding after taking an ornithology course while pursuing a Natural Resource Management degree at Oregon State University. After university, she worked as an interpretive ranger with Oregon State Parks and Texas State Parks and more recently with Florida Fish and Wildlife as the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail Coordinator. Hannah has since received a Master’s in Parks, Recreation, Tourism, and Sport Management and works to combine her love of wildlife recreation and tourism management in her current life in Cannon Beach, Oregon, USA managing a family-owned motel and working with local industry leaders to promote responsible, sustainable ecotourism.

She and her husband, Erik, love to travel, bird, and share their adventures on their podcast: Hannah and Erik Go Birding. They have participated in Christmas Bird Counts, birding festivals, scientific surveys, volunteered many hours, and bird competitions, including the Great Texas Birding Classic in which they are the reigning champions of the Human-Powered Big Day!

Participating in this year’s COTF fulfills one of her birding dreams and she is excited bird a new area of the world and share this amazing opportunity and important conservation work with others!