Sunday, February 15, 2015

Champions of the Flyway

I awoke this morning to our very own little piece of the Arctic! The thermometer on the front porch was reading 9F (that's -12C in new money!) and my phone told me that, with the wind chill factor - for it is blowing at around 30mph out there with stronger gusts - that it feels like -16F (-26C). Now I know there are a lot colder places in the world, but I don't like this, so it seems a perfect time to stay indoors and pen a few lines on something taking place very soon in a much warmer part of the world.

The Champions of the Flyway is a relatively new event, but one which follows a tried and tested model - CMBO Director, David La Puma writes:

"32 years ago Pete Dunne pitched the idea of a World Series of Birding to the New Jersey Audubon Society. In short order, the WSB became the premier birding competition in North America, fueling bird conservation nationwide through the unique format of allowing teams to raise money for a variety of conservation organizations. Since then many competitions have been modeled after the WSB, and we celebrate their success as our own since collectively all of our competitions raise millions of dollars to conserve birds around the world. 

Today New Jersey Audubon's Cape May Bird Observatory has teamed up with Leica Sport Optics to participate in the Champions of the Flyway birding competition in Israel. On March 25th our team, the CMBO AMERICAN DIPPERS, will compete to see or hear the most species of bird in 24-hours. More importantly, we will be raising money for critical conservation projects in the Middle East: To halt the illegal slaughter of migratory birds passing though Cyprus each year.

You can help, and I hope you will, by supporting our team in their fundraising efforts. Please follow the Champions of the Flyway link to read more about them (and find out who they are!!), and from there follow the link to the JustGiving site and pledge your support for our team, and for birds worldwide.

Thank you in advance for your support."

Having led many bird trips to the Mediterranean region over the years, I am all too aware of the appalling, unnecessary and senseless toll taken - illegally - on the region's birds. The senseless killings on the Mediterranean islands of Cyprus and Malta are especially targeted by various media campaigns to highlight this travesty, but they don't stand alone. It's hard to find a country in the region that is not involved and places such as Corsica and Sicily, as well as mainland regions from Spain all the way to Turkey have to admit to their part in the madness. The southern side of the Mediterranean takes its toll too, and the huge take of songbirds in Egypt, for example, was highlighted recently in National Geographic.

This is not an attack on legal hunting; the European Birds Directive and many other ordinances allow for sensible levels of hunting, based on population levels and sustainability and collected through due diligence and process. Despite this, staggering numbers of birds continue to be killed illegally and often - seemingly - with little fear of reproach from local law enforcement and it has generally been international groups of conservationists who have taken the lead in bringing this to the public eye and in making efforts to uphold justice.

If you care about birds, follow the Champions of the Flyway link and have a look - we would love you to support our team - and so would the birds.

How do you like your dinner served? The European Bee-eater is still a widespread bird, breeding from SW Europe, eastward into Central Asia. But, as a trans-Saharan migrant it faces many battles in life, and illegal hunting accounts for large numbers of them each year. This is a truly spectacular harbinger of spring in many countries - and long may it remain so [photo by Mike Crewe].

As a breeding species, the Cyprus Wheatear is confined to its eponymous island. Birdlife International currently puts its world population at around 18,000 individuals and it is not currently considered threatened. Wintering largely in Sudan and Ethiopia, these birds have to pass through the Middle East then run the gauntlet of Cypriot's illegal bird-killers; fortunately, its life-style largely seems to keep it away from the 'killing fields'. Let's hope that, with your support, the CMBO team add this one to their list next month! [Photo by Mike Crewe]

Lest we forget: We live in a global economy and we all share responsibility for the welfare of our wildlife, wherever it may occur. There is currently a legal hunting season for songbirds in a number of countries, which means ammunition specially designed for killing them can legally be manufactured and sold. This empty, used box (one of 20 found that day) was lying on the ground - yes disgarded litter! - in Corsica. The product was manufactured in the USA [photo by Mike Crewe].

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