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Champions of the Flyway 2019 - Introducing the SWAROVSKI OPTIK World Youth Birders

March 19 2019

#Conservation programs #Bird watching

Champions of the Flyway 2019 - Introducing the SWAROVSKI OPTIK World Youth Birders

How exactly did four very different youngsters, from four different corners of the globe, and all with varying interests, ages, and backgrounds, end up flocking to southern Israel to participate in the globally acclaimed 24-hour bird race known as Champions of the Flyway? It’s quite simple really. Birds find themselves unable to resist the urge to stop over in this scenic holiday destination in an attempt to replenish dangerously depleted food reserves. Us four young, aspiring conservationists, however, have been drawn to this Western Palearctic birding hotspot by a sixth sense of our own: a seemingly unquenchable thirst to make a difference in the world of avian conservation on behalf of our generation and those to come.

Personally, I feel very fortunate to have grown up in a part of South Africa where I spent more time running around barefoot and catching African Bullfrogs for “show and tell” than I did in front of a television or technology. I was lucky enough to have parents who shared an equal passion for all things birds. Thus, it was inevitable that a deep-rooted passion for nature would arise as I grew older. I use the term “passion” but do so lightly, for what it really is to me is an unquenchable desire to protect, conserve, love and cherish all forms of life on our planet. Fortunately, my incredible friends and team mates feel the same. This is the sole reason why we as a team cannot resist returning back each year to participate in the Champions of the Flyway and make sure to include our voices amongst the voices of countless others in support of those which have none.

“I got into birding when I was around the age of five and would spend time watching for raptors and seabirds on days spent out-and-about with my family. My overall passion for conserving birds and subsequent interest in ornithology started when I began regularly birding on my own and meeting other likeminded folk”, Dan Rouse (Wales) enlightens us. “Conservation and a love for children now finds me working tirelessly to educate youngsters about the natural world whilst trying to instill in them the global language of conservation: passion and enthusiasm”. But why the 24-hour bird race? “Champions of the Flyway is the perfect blend of amazing birding, a fantastic sense of community, an opportunity to interact with like-minded birders from across the globe, and all whilst in support of a great cause!“, says my fellow teammate, Jean-Michel Blake (Zimbabwe). “The event and its organizers have this incredible ability to identify a specific BirdLife International project in need of urgent assistance, and then to channel the energy, minds, and focus of what can be between 150-200 birders, wholeheartedly into making a difference where needed”, says John Kinghorn (South Africa), “and when you can instil that level of drive within somebody then those self-same characteristics of the global conservation language (passion and enthusiasm) shine brighter than ever and that, well, that’s a recipe for change!”

To say I am humbled to spend my time campaigning for BirdLife International conservation causes alongside these three remarkable young birders, would be an understatement. To see them share the same fiery passion that I do, throwing aside any differences based on age, background, religion or nationalities in a steamrolling movement toward the bettering of our world, makes me realize just why my initial love for birds developed into a whole lot more.

Find out more about the SWAROVSKI OPTIK World Youth Birders here.

You can make your contribution to the team’s bird conservation efforts and become a part of the movement by clicking on the “Donate here” button on the mentioned website.

About the author

Toni Geddes is a young South African naturalist and avid bird watcher who has spent most of her life growing up in the African bush. Her love for birds and their conservation is something she prides herself in as she does her level best to educate and inspire others on a daily basis throughout her travels across the globe.


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