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Europe and Central Asia

Cyprus is the big winner of international bird race

By Martin Fowlie, 31 Mar 2015

The second Champions of the Flyway Bird Race took place in southern Israel on March 25th and after an amazingly tense and exhilarating 24 hour race the winners were announced at a spectacular awards ceremony held at the Eilat Hilton and attended by Mr Amir Halevi, General Director of the Israel Ministry of Tourism.

The main winners by far of the 2015 race are the birds of Cyprus, with over $50,000 raised so far for BirdLife Cyprus to help them tackle the overwhelming scale of illegal bird killing and trapping that occurs on this small Mediterranean island.

Brilliantly organised by BirdLife Partner – Society for Protection of Nature in Israel - Champions of the Flyway is not only an important fundraiser, it also raises international awareness of the plight of migratory species by celebrating the miracle of migration and reaches out to millions of birders and other interested members of the public who follow the race live online.

Leading the international race field with an incredible 168 species were the “Cape May Bird Observatory American Dippers” who received prize binoculars from Swarovski Optik, the awards ceremony sponsors. They magnanimously donated these straight to BirdLife Cyprus who were delighted to receive them for their monitoring work.

In an extremely close second place were the “Arctic Redpolls” from Finland. The young Finnish team also executed a highly impressive race and ended up just short of the title with 167 species!

Winning team - The American Dippers with the BirdLife Cyprus delegates (Yuval Dax)Team “Reservoir birds” from Spain and the Finnish “Northern Lights” shared third place with 163 species.

The Israeli Champions of the Flyway race was also extraordinary, top Israeli birdwatchers competed alongside amateurs, retired doctors, army generals and over 15 children. The winners of the Israeli Champions of the Flyway race were the JBO Orioles from the Jerusalem Bird Observatory. The team finished with a huge total of 179 species.

In close second, the Pied Bushchats from the Yerucham center for creative ecology scored 176 species and the “Terns” from Ma’agan Michael took 3rd place with 170 species.

The “Guardians of the Flyway” award - the team raising the most money towards the anti-trapping campaign in Cyprus – was handed to the Birdwatch/Birdguides Roadrunners. The team raised over $7500.

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. The ‘Knights of the Flyway’ was awarded to the Next Generation Birders team that besides running a great race with 157 species, took the time to share valuable information before and during the race, put other teams on great birds (and mammals) and sacrificed their own time to help others. The NGB team won a pair of Swarovski Optik SLC’s that they will donate to a BirdLife project of their choice.

If you would also like to contribute to BirdLife Cyprus’ work preventing the illegal trapping of birds please donate online through the BirdLife team page here.

We’d like to thank the event sponsors - The Israel Ministry of Tourism, the Eilat Municipality and Tourism Board, the Hoopoe Foundation, Swarovski Optik and Carl Zeiss Sports Optics.  

More information about the race results, images and stories from the field can be found on the Champions of the Flyway official website