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2015 Champions of the Flyway: American Dippers and Songbird Trapping

Each year, birders flock to Eilat, Israel to enjoy a migratory spectacle unlike any in the world. Millions of raptors stream over in mixed kettles funneling through as the migrate between Africa & Europe / Asia each spring and fall in flights that boggle the imagination. Keen-eyed observers have to separate 10 different species of Eagles, 9 possible Falcon species, and four types of Harriers mixing with the large flocks of Buzzards. Also joining the fray are other soaring birds like Pelicans and Storks. For the uninitiated, identifying these birds is a daunting task. Surrounded by water shorebirds can be numerous, the area plays host to 9 different Wheatear species, 7 Pipit species, 11 Larks, and don’t get me started on those amazingly drab “Old World Warblers”…

raptors israel
Last year, birders from around the globe descended on the region for the first ever Champions of the Flyway bird race for conservation and this year, including the ABA’s George Armistead. Organizers hope to match the success of that inaugural event. The International Big Day draws teams from around the globe to this amazing area for the 24 hour competition. These teams of bird experts from all corners of the globe will of course be treated to the amazing bird spectacles the region is famous for, they will share amazing camaraderie with new international friends, and all will do their best to make their teams, their sponsors, and themselves proud on race day! But the real story and the main reason to attend is to raise dollars and awareness for the annual sponsored conservation cause.

cotf teams
This year it’s to try and combat the growing issue of illegal songbird trapping on the Mediterranean Island of Cyprus. Like so many islands along migratory paths, Cyprus can be absolutely crawling with migrant birds in Spring and Fall, and trappers using sticky “limesticks” can catch unbelievable numbers of migrants bird species. It is estimated that as many as 2.5 million were trapped last year alone. The reason for the trapping, a dish known as Ambelopoulia which has been illegal on the Island since 1974, but fetches a high price (upwards of $90 per plate) making the poaching ever more attractive causing the numbers of birds killed to rise each year!
RBSH limestick
This year, only one American team is crossing the Atlantic to join the Champions of the Flyway. The Leica / Cape May Bird Observatory’s “American Dippers” consists of Michael O’Brien, Doug Gochfeld, Glen Davis, and Jeff Bouton. and they could use your support. Find out more about the conservation cause they will be championing, and be part of the team by pledging support and living the experience vicariously by monitoring the live Twitter stream and looking for Facebook posts during the scouting process and on race day. 100% of the money raised goes to champion the cause of ending bird poaching on Cyprus. Not a penny is for team expenses and incidentals. So rest assured that every cent is for a good cause.

The Dippers left late night on Thursday, March 19th, arriving late in the afternoon of the 20th. They will have only 4 days to familiarize themselves with the sites and birds and the race proper begins at the stroke of midnight on the 25th.

Find out more about the Dippers, the event, and the conservation cause here: http://www.champions-of-the-flyway.com/american-dippers/