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2020 was an unusual year with many unexpected events taking place beyond our control, but something that did not change was the spectacular phenomena of millions of birds taking to the skies to migrate between their summer and wintering grounds.

By Shane Sparg, Conservation Partnerships Manager.
Image credit: ©Czech Society for Ornithology, CSO/Jiri Vondracek

As migratory birds are frequently spotted in quarries, it was a natural step for HeidelbergCement to incorporate migratory birds into their 2020 biodiversity actions. By initiating a global quarry bird survey, HeidelbergCement set out to gain a better understanding of which species could be observed in quarries and to create an awareness of their presence. Supported by BirdLife International, the survey was conducted as a citizen science initiative where staff recorded their bird observations on supplied regional check sheets.  

Coinciding with the Global Migratory Bird Days, the “Bird Race” was launched practically in the middle of the global lockdown. While adhering to national lockdowns and other country-specific regulations, HeidelbergCement staff were encouraged to take part wherever they were – quarry or home office. Nine countries across three geographic regions; Northern America, Europe and Asia-Pacific participated, recording close to 200 different bird species of which almost a third were migratory species and more than 20 different types of birds of prey.  

Prizes in the form of pairs of binoculars were awarded to enthusiastic contributors who managed to record the most observations and the rarest bird which turned out to be the vulnerable European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur), a migratory species spotted in a Romanian quarry. Understanding that this was a fun activity to get employees involved in biodiversity surveys, the results have already shown there to be a variety of birds that favour a range of habitats provided by quarries. These findings would need further monitoring, and based on the support of its staff, HeidelbergCement want to continue the “Bird Race” as an annual event of which we as BirdLife will actively support. 

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