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Champions of the Flyway 2019 – a bird race to save the vultures of Africa

March 14 2019

#GoBirding #Bird watching

Champions of the Flyway 2019 – a bird race to save the vultures of Africa

After spending winter in warmer regions south of the Mediterranean, millions of birds migrate back to their Northern homelands in spring. On their way home, many pass by the desert plains and Wadis near Eilat, Israel.

For this reason, every year since 2014, The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (BirdLife International in Israel) has invited birders from all over the world to join them for the Champions of the Flyway bird race.


The blooming Wadis provide resources for a large range of migrant songbirds. Yet, also the local bird life is intriguing. After a rainy winter, the desert plains hold good numbers of Larks, Sandgrouse, and Wheatears. Birding fans may witness the incredible raptor migration, local specialties as well as some good quality rarities. In the days leading up to the race itself, however, teams will typically be racing between Nitzana and the Negev desert, the lush oasis of Yeruham Lake, the gardens of Ben Gurion’s Grave and the salt pans around Eilat. While trying to focus on birds and serious route strategizing, the teams invariably get distracted by great localized birds and a variety of mammals, including Nubian Ibex and Onaga, but always hoping for a Caracal, Striped Hyena or Arabian Wolf.


Still, what makes Champions of the Flyway truly special is that it has never really been about the bird race. The event’s focus lies on raising both funds and awareness for major conservation challenges along the African-Eurasian Flyway. So far, the competition contributed over $350,000 to bird conservation, mainly for projects tackling the illegal killing of birds migrating along the flyways.


In 2019, Champions of the Flyway is supporting Nature Kenya (BirdLife in Kenya) to help tackle the rapid and catastrophic decline of Africa’s vultures. This year, SWAROVSKI OPTIK will be giving a special treat to the team crowned the “Knights of the Flyway”, the team who does the most to promote the conservation cause. They will be visiting the vulture conservation project in Kenya courtesy of SWAROVSKI OPTIK in order to be able to tell the story of the incredibly important conservation work happening on the ground.

Africa’s vultures are disappearing at an alarming rate – find out more about the species and challenges they face: www.birdlife.org/african-vultures

Please also consider contributing something to this incredibly worthy cause – you too can make a difference!



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