Birdwatch-BirdGuides team crowned Guardians of the Flyway

The Guardians of the Flyway trophy.
The Guardians of the Flyway trophy.

After a week of intense preparation and reconnaissance work from the participating teams, the second Champions of the Flyway bird race took place in southern Israel on Wednesday 25 March. Some 135 birders were involved, with 31 teams – both Israeli and international – competing.

The day proved exhausting, exhilarating and competitive, yet as project co-ordinator Jonathan Meyrav pointed out, extraordinarily neighbourly. Bird races traditionally have a reputation for their suppressive nature, with teams routinely keeping the whereabouts of good birds quiet. Not so at the Champions of the Flyway – a busy whatsapp messaging group constantly rang out with news of quality sightings and their locations throughout the day, enabling many teams to see species they might not have otherwise. Such co-operation and positivity is unique among bird races and really helps to set this event apart from the rest.

The following day the results were revealed at the event’s closing ceremony. The Cape May Bird Observatory American Dippers were crowned ‘Champions of the Flyway’ after recording a mightily impressive 168 species during the 24-hour race. Their prize, three Swarovski Optik binoculars, were nobly donated to BirdLife Cyprus. The Birdwatch-BirdGuides Roadrunners weighed in with a creditable 154 species – a notable improvement on last year’s score after a change in race-day strategy and the second-highest total for a British team following a great performance from the Next Generation Birders, who tallied 157 species.

Jim Lawrence, of BirdLife International, announced that the combined fund-raising total had reached the $50,000 mark, with all proceeds going to BirdLife Cyprus in order to help combat the perilous levels of illegal bird trapping witnessed on the island each spring and autumn. It’s with great pleasure that we can reveal that the Roadrunners won the ‘Guardians of the Flyway’ award for raising the most funds of all the teams by race day – just shy of £4,700 ($7,000), fighting off stiff competition from both the Dutch Knights and Birding Ecotours teams, both raising well over £4,000 themselves. This simply wouldn’t have been possible without the remarkable generosity of the Birdwatch-BirdGuides readership, and Alan, Mike and Josh would like to extend their sincere thanks to all who have made donations over the past three months.

Roadrunners team
The Birdwatch-BirdGuides Roadrunners team of Josh Jones, Alan Tilmouth and Mike Alibone
receive the Guardians of the Flyway trophy.


The Next Generation Birders team won the ‘Knights of the Flyway’ award – a recognition of the valuable sightings information they shared throughout the day, not least the discovery of a Black Bush Robin that at least one other team consequently added to their day list before dark. The Israeli section of the race, with some of Israel’s finest birders racing alongside 8-year-old children, was won by the Jerusalem Bird Observatory Orioles, who recorded a sensational 179 species – by far and away the highest race-day total recorded so far. The team received 5,000 Shekels to put towards a conservation project of their choice.

The event concluded with the BirdLife Cyprus team receiving an initial cheque of $35,000 to put towards conservation efforts on the island. In the meantime fund-raising continues until the beginning of May, when another lump sum will be winging its way to Cyprus. You can still donate to this worthy cause at our Just Giving page: www.justgiving.com/COTF2015BBR.

Written by: Birdwatch news team