Thursday, March 20, 2014

Racing to Save Birds!

Thursday, March 20, 2014
Dear Birding Friends and Friends of Birds:

There are many, many worthy conservation causes vying for your attention these days. Birdathons, appeals to save habitat, funding for field work on endangered species, even bird club scholarships to send young birders to nature camp. All of these are wonderful causes, worthy of your financial support.

To this chorus of causes I am adding another—and asking for your support. My friends at BirdLife International and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel are hosting a new event on April 1, 2014 with the goal of raising money to help stop the shooting and trapping of birds in southern and eastern Europe

The event is called Champions of the Flyway and while stopping the slaughter of migrant birds is its focus in 2014, the long-term goal is to support bird and habitat conservation efforts all along the major flyway that connects Eurasia with Africa—funneling millions of birds right through Israel.

Bird Watcher's Digest with financial support from some conservation-minded folks, is fielding a team for the Champions of the Flyway event! We're called The Way-off Coursers and our team members are George Armistead, Michael O'Brien, Ben Lizdas, and yours truly. We're not only planning to have fun whilst birding in the Eilat region of southern Israel on April 1, we're hoping to raise $5,000 to contribute to the Champions cause.

The event is a bird race (similar to a birdathon). All the teams will be birding within a limited geographic area, around Eilat in southern Israel, all day on April 1. Various awards will be given to the winning teams the following day, but the real winners will be the birds that we help to save through this very special conservation initiative. And the people all along the flyway who will get to see, hear, and delight in these birds in future years.

Why is Bird Watcher's Digest involved in a bird race on the other side of the world? Because bird conservation is a global challenge. And birding is a universal language, right? There are teams from England, the Netherlands, Finland, the USA, the country of Georgia, and a joint Israeli/Palestinian team! Truly international!
Palestine sunbird

Another reason I am committed to this project is thanks to the efforts of my dear friend Jonathan Meyrav, who is one of the event's creators and leaders. I met Jonathan in the Hula Valley of Israel a few years ago. We later spent time together when he came to visit my farm in Ohio. Jonathan is a world-class birder and a dedicated conservationist. When he asked me to put together a team for the Champions of the Flyway event when it was just an idea, I was determined to do so because his enthusiasm and dedication are contagious. And our friendship is something I cherish.
BT3 (left) and Jonathan birding in Ohio.

Won't you consider a contribution? Even a small donation counts toward our goal. As I write this, we're already at 32% of our fundraising goal! Wow!

Little green bee-eater.

You can follow the progress of The Way-off Coursers on the COTF website, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. The event's Twitter feed is @flywayschampions. Our team hashtag is #cotfwayoff and we'll also be posting when we can on our personal social media accounts.

Thanks so much for your support! On behalf of the Bird Watcher's Digest Way-off Coursers, we'll see you (way) out there with the birds!