Champions of the Flyway – from dream to Game Changer?
In the editorial of our August newsletter, Jonathan Meyrav from SPNI (BirdLife Israel) looks back on five stunning years of Champions of the Flyway – the friends made, the money raised and the birds saved.
Sometimes big things evolve by themselves. As a birder and a conservationist I strongly believe in evolution. That mysterious process of nature, where trial and error develops into the perfect result, is something that we live by but we never truly understand. Champions of the Flyway started with a disorganized draft of an idea for a bird race in Eilat to highlight the beauty and magnitude of migration. The idea was just another one of those “bright idea” initiatives that sometimes come to be, and other times end up in some forgotten "projects" folder.
After juggling with the idea for a few years – trying to figure out how, when and where – the "Eureka" moment finally came in May 2013. That spring, I was invited to participate in the World Series of Birding in Cape May, New Jersey. This amazing event, staged by Audubon (BirdLife in the US) New Jersey, is the biggest bird race in the world and besides bringing dozens of teams to take part in a "Big Day" it also raises money for conservation. My visit was very fruitful and despite the fact that we did not do so well in the race itself, I came back to Israel with my head spinning with ideas. This visit started a massive brainstorming session with Dan Alon (Director of the Israel Ornithological Center) in which we both felt we finally cracked the idea and we were on our way. In August of 2013, we met with then Birdlife International CEO Marco Lambertini and presented our idea: a bird race in Eilat and southern Israel where teams of birders from all over the world will come together and raise money and awareness to stop the illegal killing of birds along the Flyways! Marco and his team were very supportive and we were on our way.
The first race in March 2014 was small but raised a nice amount of money and was a great start. From year to year, we grew smarter, and with gained experience we chose more challenging projects. Slowly but surely, we established the spirit that is the Champions of the Flyway. This past March, we held our biggest race yet and managed to pass $100,000 in funds raised for a joint project in Serbia and Croatia. I am truly proud of the fact that we have managed to raise close to $350,000 in five years, but even more proud of the huge and supportive "Flyway family" that has developed out of our project. We now know that when people come together in the name of conservation we can do great things for birds. Champions of the Flyway is truly a game changer in the tragic story that is the illegal killing of birds and we believe that we can make a real difference, as we speak out for birds.
Champions of the Flyway Coordinator, SPNI