Tag Archives: Champions of the Flyway

Champions of the Flyway - Winner 2017

Imagine being in one of the world’s best spots for visible migration, in right time, surrounded by talented and inspiring birdwatchers and doing this for good cause – doesn’t that sound good? Well, this is what Champions of the Flyway is about. It is a fund raiser against illegal killing of the migratory birds around the Mediterranean Sea and a famous bird race, which takes place in southern Israel each March. The Zeiss Arctic Redpolls is one of the teams that Zeiss Sport Optics has supported during many years.

We are a group of 4 birdwatchers from Finland. We had scored the 2nd place on 2015 and 1st place on 2016, so the burden of winning had worn off. We aimed to have a nice intensive day of birdwatching and lots of good time. We were also putting the new Gavia Conquest spotting scope on a hard test.

Will it be an asset in the game or should it be dumped? Well, we got what we aimed for and more – here is how it all rolled out.

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The race

Champions of the Flyway is an international bird race for conservation. All teams are competing to raise the greatest amount of conservation funding. Its primary purpose is to celebrate the extraordinary miracle of bird migration. The teams arrive in Eilat a few days prior to the race day.

There is one full day of touring the best sites in the Negev and the Arava Valley enabling all participants to get a good feel of the “playing field” and practical and logistical issues, led by Israel’s top birders. The following days, the teams explore the field on their own to plan their route for the race day.

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Eilat, in southern Israel, is one of the most exciting birding sites of the western Palearctic region. The only overland bridge between Europe, Asia and Africa acts as a bottle-neck hosting hundreds of millions of migratory birds. Moreover, the birds passing through Eilat, are preparing themselves for the strenuous task of crossing the foodless and hostile Saharan desert.

The first sight you will probably get here in spring is the steady stream of Raptors hovering over the beautiful desert mountains that surround the town of Eilat. Raptor counts conducted here in the spring documented up to 20,000 Steppe Eagles, 50,000 Levant's Sparrowhawks (almost all the world's population), 500,000 Steppe Buzzards and 850,000 Honey Buzzards.

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A Champions’ account

The Zeiss Arctic Redpolls was one of the three teams sponsored by Zeiss Sports Optics in the famous Champions of the Flyway bird race and conservation event, on 29th March in southern Israel. Our team of four enthusiast birders and ornithologists (team captain Roni Väisänen, Jarkko Santaharju, William Velmala and Vilppu Välimäki) from Finland,

at the northern end of the Eurasian–African flyway, hooked up for the second time in this year’s race. With silver medals in our pocket from last year, some pressure for winning was put on our shoulders by other contestants.

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By Bill Thompson, III

The Zeiss/Bird Watcher’s Digest Way-Off Coursers came back to the Champions of the Flyway after a year’s hiatus. But this year we had a new strategy in mind: less driving, more birding. After being the only team to do a north-to-south route for the 2014 race—a strategy which won the

2015 Champions event for the Leica/Cape May Bird Observatory American Dippers—the Coursers, with a revised line-up, decided to do a green big day at the Eilat Birdwatching Park, also known as the International Birding & Research Centre, Eilat.

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