Europe and Central Asia
11 Apr 2016

Finnish team wins third 'Champions of the Flyway' race

The winning team: the Zeiss Arctic Redpolls from Finland (minus one member) with a member of Swarovski Optik Nature. Photo: Champions of the Flyway/Facebook
By Sanya Khetani-Shah

The third Champions of the Flyway Bird Race took place in Eilat, Israel on 29 March this year, and after an amazingly tense and exhilarating 24 hour race, featuring 190 birders from 40 teams, the winners were announced at an awards ceremony and rewarded with world class Swarovski binoculars donated by the company.

Teams combed the playing field from Nizzana and Yerucham Lake in the Negev desert, down to Eilat on the shores of the Red Sea, in a hectic attempt to log as many species of birds possible in 24 hours. In all, 243 species were seen during the 24 hours by all teams.

The international race of 16 teams was won, with an incredible 174 species spotted, by the Zeiss Arctic Redpolls team from Finland. In an extremely close second place were the IBRCE Flying Dutchmen, who recorded 172 species. Next Generation Birders finished third with 164 species, and joint fourth place went to the Birding Eco-tours Bandits and the Leica CMBO American Dippers with 163 species each.

The Israeli Champions of the Flyway race was also extraordinary: 25 teams, including nine youth teams participated. The winners were the J’s Chickens (Hoopoe Centre for Creative Ecology). The team finished with 169 species.

In close second, the Terns from Ma’agan Michael finished with 167 species and the CC Coursers came third with 160 species. An encouraging sign for the future of birdwatching and conservation was the fifth place finish of the youth team The Little Bustards, who spotted 154 species.

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The HOS (BirdLife in Greece received almost $70,000 in funds to prevent the illegal killing and trapping of birds in the country. Photo: Champions of the Flyway/Facebook

But of course, the real winners of the 2016 race are the birds of Greece, with almost $70,000 raised by the teams for the Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS, BirdLife in Greece) to help them tackle illegal bird killing and trapping that occurs there. A special mention must be made of the ZEISS/Bird Watcher’s Digest Way-off Coursers team who took home two awards, both Knights of the Flyway and Guardians of the Flyway (for raising the most money for conservation), having raised over $12,000 for the cause.

Organised by BirdLife Partner Society for Protection of Nature in IsraelChampions of the Flyway raises international awareness on the threats faced by migratory birds along their flyways by involving experienced birders, students and interested members of the public who follow the race live online (the official hashtag #COTF2016 lit up social media for days). It aims to celebrate the wonders of migration while raising money to protect the birds.

If you would also like to contribute to BirdLife Greece’s work preventing the illegal trapping of birds please donate online here.

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

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.