TWENTY years ago this month I was in Israel, experiencing Eilat’s exceptional spring migration and writing about the destination for the first time in Birdwatch. It was an eye-opening experience, not only for the quantity and quality of migrating birds (which included the Western Palearctic's second-ever Diederik Cuckoo), but also because of the instructive field skills of Sunbird leaders Killian Mullarney and Steve Rooke, both already old hands at Eilat by then.
Tomorrow I will be back there covering it again, but in a very different way – by taking part in the new Champions of the Flyway event.
The Israel Ornithological Center and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel are hosting what may just be the Western Palearctic’s biggest-ever bird race, with teams from Britain, continental Europe, the Middle East and North America all competing on 1 April to record the highest number of species in a day.
It will be fun trying, but there is a serious purpose too. Just like its American counterpart, the World Series of Birding held at Cape May, New Jersey, each May, the Champions of the Flyway event is fundraising for conservation. This year’s chosen cause is the Eastern Mediterranean Flyway, along which millions of migrants are slaughtered annually, many of them illegally. BirdLife International needs funds to fight the problem, so teams are raising sponsorship to help fund practical initiatives on the ground.
|A Short-toed Eagle that didn't make it - thousands of raptors die as they undertake the hazardous journey north along the Eastern Mediterranean Flyway, a flight path which includes both Israel and Georgia.|
The birding public has backed this new initiative and the Birdwatch-BirdGuides Roadrunners – Ian Lycett, Mike Alibone, Morten Hansen and myself – are very grateful for all the donations we have received so far. We’ve not yet reached our financial target, however, so more help is needed – we only have until 31 March to get the total up.
If you would like to donate you can do so in just a few seconds by clicking here – there's no need to register, and any amount, however small, will help make a difference.
Thanks in advance for your support.