Champions of the Flyway 2017

On 28th March 2017, Birdwatch magazine and BirdGuides’ team The Birdwatch-BirdGuides Roadrunners – of which I am a member – will take part in the third Champions of the Flyway bird race, a major international event which is now being staged annually in Eilat, Israel – home of one of the world’s most desirable birding destinations and famous migration spectacles.Last year, nearly thirty teams raced in the event attempting to find, identify and log as many species as possible in an intense 24 hour contest to win the coveted title ‘Champions of the Flyway’. While the racing might be light-hearted, the goal is serious – to raise conservation funding through sponsorship and donations that will help the BirdLife International Partnership tackle the illegal killing of birds in southern and eastern Europe. At least 25 million birds are illegally slaughtered in the Mediterranean every year and some estimates have put this figure much, much higher.

This Eastern Olivaceous Warbler is just one of the millions of illegally killed birds in the Mediterranean basin each year (Photo: BirdLife Cyprus)

Although the event commences and finishes in Eilat, it covers a well-defined ‘field of play’ extending north-west to Nizzana in the western Negev Desert on the Egyptian border and north-east along the Jordanian border in the Arava Valley.

Champions of the Flyway Playing Field

Again, this is not just a bird race, but a massive fundraising campaign to support conservation work and the proceeds will be channelled this year into action to prevent the illegal annual slaughter of migrant birds in Greece

In 2015 The Birdwatch-BirdGuides Roadrunners (Josh Jones, Alan Tilmouth and myself) won the award ‘Guardians of the Flyway’ for raising the most funds – just over £4,700 – of all the teams entering and in 2016 the team (David Callahan, Mark Avery, Andy Clements and myself) raised a similar amount but we could not compete with the American team which raised $12,000! We would like to better the total in 2017 and the event hopes to raise $70,000 in total.                                                                                          This year the team (Dawn Balmer, Mark Pearson and myself) is looking for individuals and corporate sponsors/donors to support our fundraising efforts. We are nearly halfway toward our minimum target. If you care about the perils which are faced by ‘our’ birds as they migrate to and from the UK and elsewhere in northern Europe then please consider visiting our donation page and pledging even a small amount. The link to the Champions site is  (this gives all details of the scheme), our team’s page is at from which there is a ‘Donate’ link to our fundraising page at

More about Champions of the Flyway in my Birding Israel talk at the Northamptonshire Bird Club’s AGM, 1st March, Pitsford Res Fishing Lodge.

Many thanks in anticipation of your kind support!