Champions of the Flyway Bird Race (CFBR) is actually a Big Day, held the first of April, during the peak of spring migration in southern Israel. This inaugural event has attracted teams comprised of some of the most notable birders from all over the world, coming together to raise funds for bird conservation. This sort of competition isn’t that unusual–until you consider the stakes: the funds raised by these teams will help BirdLife International tackle the illegal killing of birds in Southern and Eastern Europe.
Birders in the U.S. probably think of conservation funding as money that will create, restore, or protect bird habitat, or to fund education and research. In the case of CFBR, funding will be instrumental in preserving the miracle of migration in one of the most critical flyways in Eurasia: the Batumi Bottleneck in Ajara Province, Georgia. Here, each autumn, more than one million migrating birds of prey are funneled through a narrow area between the Red Sea and the high mountains of the Lesser Caucasus. According to the CFBR website:
Research has shown that around ten thousand birds of prey fall victim to illegal shooting here each autumn, as Honey and Steppe Buzzards, Montagu’s and Pallid Harriers, Eurasian and Levant Sparrowhawks and various eagles and other raptors pass low through the gorge, unwittingly presenting themselves as easy targets.
Therefore, funding is needed to continue efforts which have begun to be implemented by Bird Conservation Georgia. This type of conservation involves strategies which are perhaps much more delicate and less tangible: changing the hearts, minds and traditions of those people who have been hunting these migrants for decades. Understandably, this takes time. Yet, it’s a story of collaboration and awareness-raising that touches the heart: read about these efforts here. These efforts involve mutually beneficial outcomes of increased ecotourism for these communities, and safety and preservation of birds who make the passage through this crucial flyway. Monies are critical for continuing these programs! Here’s how you can help.
Eagle Optics is proud to have an active role in Champions of the Flyway Bird Race: our sales manager, Ben Lizdas (a dang fine birder in his own right) is a member of the team dubbed the WAY-OFF COURSERS. The team is sponsored by Bird Watcher’s Digest, and consists of ace birders Bill Thompson III, Michael O’Brien, and George Armistead. Learn about these individuals and how to donate to our team here. To say the competition is stiff would be an understatement–read about all the illustrious teams who will be gathering in Eilat, Israel on March 28 for a few days of scouting. Then, the teams go head-to-head in the 24-hour count on April 1st! To get an idea of birds in southern Israel, watch this stunning video:
There will be funds raised, and a winning team chosen–but in the spirit of doing the most good, the race rules are akin to all for one and one for all. Because according to the organizers, the ultimate goal of this competition is to celebrate the extraordinary miracle of bird migration.
A half-world away, we learn, we understand, and we support this effort. Will you? Please give today, as generously as you can. No amount is too small. Thank you!
Eagle Optics Staff
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