Europe and Central Asia
30 Mar 2018

'Spring Alive' casts its spell with real magic

Juvenile barn swallows
By Gui-Xi Young

Spring has officially sprung and so has Spring Alive – BirdLife International’s annual campaign to introduce children across Europe, Central Asia and Africa to the joys of spring and the wonder that is nature.

Harry Potter – beloved by children around the globe – may be a wizarding wonder but he has nothing on the ‘real’ magic in store for us over the next number of weeks: the magic of migration. And every year, to coincide with this natural spectacle of the skies, BirdLife partners across Europe, Central Asia and Africa come together to cast a spell over young and old alike – and that spell is called Spring Alive!

This is our annual campaign to encourage children (and their families, friends and teachers) to understand, engage with, and take action for birds and other wildlife; and to understand the particular need for international conservation for migratory bird species. Young birders are invited to record their first sightings of five iconic migratory birds on an interactive, real-time migration map on Barn Swallow, White Stork, European Bee-eater, Common Swift and Common Cuckoo.

European Bee-eater © Cezary Korkosz

The website also has many excellent educational resources for teachers, with information on school-appropriate topics like ‘what to do if you come across a fledgling?’, ‘why do birds sing?’, ‘how do birds use their ‘inner compass’ to navigate?’ There is also an international calendar of local Spring Alive events and activities for the whole family: from direct conservation action for children, such as beach clean ups, building bird boxes and nature trails, to activities designed to get the creative juices flowing, like drawing competitions, poetry and plays.

White Stork © Ken Kinsella

So many of the people who work for BirdLife and their national partners would tell you, without a moment’s hesitation, that their favourite project is Spring Alive. And it’s easy to understand why it feels so special – this is the only BirdLife initiative that focusses on children and education. Bird-watching has got a reputation for being, shall we say, ‘a mature’ pursuit and many of us bird lovers will be used to explaining how our hobby isn’t all dusty books and binoculars but something truly exhilarating – who knows on what adventures that flash in the corner of your eye will take you? But when you see a young child point up the sky and cry out ‘White stork!’ in sheer, innocent delight, the look on their face speaks for itself – could this be the next David Attenborough?

Cuckoo © John Carey

This youthful enthusiasm is nature’s best hope. So many of the threats that confront migratory birds are man-made – from illegal killing and power-lines situated along at migration bottlenecks to habitat loss caused by climate change and environmental destruction. And so many of the challenges confronting the people trying to protect these birds are cultural and generational. Fun educational outreach is the key to ensuring that the next generation dreams big when it comes to protecting nature and the environment.

 Winner of 2016 LOB Spring Alive Drawing Competition © LOB/BirdLife Latvia

Spring Alive is also special because it is a partner-led initiative, coordinated by OTOP/BirdLife Poland on behalf of BirdLife partners. Its success depends on collaboration. Indeed, it’s the ultimate showcase of how the BirdLife International partnership harnesses the power of many across continents. Last year, as many as 118,445 children, and almost 56,000 adults – including over 2,300 teachers – personally participated in more than 718 Spring Alive events in countries across Europe, Central Asia and Africa. And that’s just the start, the Spring Alive story was picked up in the local and international press some 650 times – with a combined reach of over 8 million people.

This year, the 12th annual Spring Alive promises to be no different. The 2018 theme is ‘Preventing Bird Collisions’. Children will discover what happens when two worlds collide – the urban world and the natural world. Collisions with transparent glass surfaces such as windows is one of a major cause of bird deaths, especially migratory birds. But though this may sound upsetting, children will also hear inspiring stories of how bird-lovers and builders can work together innovatively and effectively to make bird-friendly buildings. Fun, as always, is the spirit of Spring Alive – so let the magic commence!


Gui-Xi Young - Editor & Campaigns Officer, BirdLife Europe & Central Asia


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.