32 birding teams from all over the world are on their way to Israel this week. Their destination: the Champions of the Flyway bird race (COTF)!

The COTF is staged as part of the Eilat Bird Festival by The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (BirdLife’s national Partner in Israel) and is a BirdLife International Migratory Birds & Flyways Programme initiative.

Eilat’s strategic location at the tip of the Red Sea makes it a crucial stopover site for millions of birds on their way to their northern breeding grounds which is why it is one of the best places in the world to experience this spectacular phenomenon. The Eilat Mountains create a natural funnel for thousands of soaring birds. Every day, Black and White Storks, Steppe Eagles, Black Kites, Steppe Buzzards and 20 more species of raptors migrate over the mountains and up the valley. The salt pools and reservoirs near Eilat attract many species of waterfowl. Herons, crakes, rails and large numbers of waders are ever present.

So it’s no coincidence that here, the international bird conservation event Champions of the Flyway is organized to raise funds for the protection of migratory birds during their long journeys. Each participating team raises funds that result in direct conservation action for birds. In 2018, Champions of the Flyway will for the first time focus on two countries – tackling the illegal killing of birds in Croatia and Serbia.

Leica will be sponsoring five teams out in the field: Leica Sempach Snowfinches, Leica Welsh Red Kites, Leica Cape May Bird Observatory American Dippers, ABA-Leica Subadult Wheatears as well as Leica Ambassador David Lindo who joined the Croatian/Serbian team Quail Warriors.

The long weekend in Eilat starts off with some optional birding at Eilat beach or the Eilat Birdwatching Park and getting to know the area. On Friday evening, Leica is proud to host the „Future of the Flyways!“ event celebrating migration and the actions young birders can take to help protect our flyways. The event will feature some young conservationists from Israel that will present what they think can be done to ensure safe passage for birds on migration.

Now we and probably all birders are counting the days until COTF 2018! By the way: If you can’t join us, follow the race live on Twitter or on the website.


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