In March, Adrian Jordi will travel to Israel with his team Birders without Borders. At the birdwatching competition Champions of the Flyway, they will have the opportunity to not only win the champion’s trophy, but more importantly to promote the conservation of Africa’s vultures. And of course to see a broad range of other rare bird species. A conversation with the nature lover.
‘It’s really my passion – much more than a hobby,’ says Adrian. ‘The nature, the birds and even predatory cats. I’ve been exploring and observing nature since I was 10 years old.’ Adrian has been one of the most prominent bird watchers and rare species spotters in Switzerland for many years. He is the founder of the Swiss birdwatching platform CH Club Dem and the app-based bird notification service Swiss Bird Alert. He has also travelled extensively in Europe, Asia and Africa, and always enjoys visiting the Middle East, particularly Israel.
A fun challenge
This afternoon, Adrian is meeting his colleagues Daniel Gebauer, Manuel Schweizer and Paul Walser Schwyzer by Lake Neuchâtel to discuss the Champions of the Flyway competition in Israel. In March, it gets serious. That’s when Adrian and his team Birders without Borders will head to the Red Sea. There, the four team members from Switzerland will have 24 hours to spot as many bird species as possible. They now need to plan the trip, discuss a strategy for the race and above all have fun. ‘We’re all very motivated,’ says Adrian.
Of course, there’s only one winner at the Bird Race. And this winner will have the opportunity to take home a trophy – like any competition. While victory would be sweet for the Swiss team, it is not their main focus. The competition is about much more: protection of Africa’s vultures, which are critically endangered. For Adrian, the species protection project is the main focus: ‘We want to help the world. That’s the most important thing. The fact that we’re able to accomplish this while doing what we love is a gift.’ All the teams participating in the race share this attitude, which means it’s more about collaboration than competition. ‘Exactly, we support and help each other. We share information with one another through a WhatsApp group – for example, when a team spots a rare bird species or finds a particularly interesting location. It is important that all the teams perform well.’
Helping the world with Leica
The teams, including Birders without Borders, are financed by sponsors. But sponsor funding does not go to the team members themselves, but is instead donated to the species protection project. ‘Our most important partner is Leica. We are very grateful to be able to count on it, not only because its products are of such great quality, but also because the partnership allows us to better support protection of the vulture.’
So it goes without saying that Adrian and his colleagues are travelling to Israel with Leica equipment, which he considers an absolute privilege: ‘When it comes to visuals, Leica is the best product on the market. The fact that it functions so well in low daylight is particularly important to us, since we depend on the lens speed; for example, when we want to document a bird species we’ve spotted at dusk. You also see other teams from across the world with Leica equipment. There’s definitely a reason for that.
In March, it gets serious. That’s when Adrian travels with his team to Israel. Participants have four days on site to familiarise themselves with the conditions and develop a final strategy for the competition. Finally, they have 24 hours in which to spot as many bird species as possible. ‘The Arabah is a hub for migratory birds from Asia, Africa and Europe, which means we can see many different species, including some very rare. Some bird species, such as the red-backed shrike and the honey buzzard, then fly to Switzerland,’ explains the amiable Bern native. He wants to see one bird in particular: the Caspian plover. ‘It’s even part of our logo. It will be tricky, but we might get lucky.’ We wish the Swiss team a lot of luck and are crossing our fingers for both a victory trophy and the conservation of the endangered African vulture.
Introducing Adrian’s teammates:
Daniel Gebauer – Daniel is a passionate birdwatcher who began spotting birds at the age of 12. When he is not at work, he looks for rare birds or supports local nature conservation causes. He visited Israel twice during the 1990s. With an eye as sharp as an eagle, he helps the team to find migrating birds of prey.
Manuel Schweizer – Manuel has been an enthusiastic birdwatcher since childhood and enjoys looking for rare species along Lake Neuchâtel. He is the curator of ornithology at the Natural History Museum of Bern and president of the Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Vogelkunde und Vogelschutz – Ala. He has travelled extensively in Asia and is the co-author of a field guide about birds in Central Asia. He particularly loves spotting birds in their natural habitats, and feels at home in the steppes and deserts of Israel.
Paul Walser Schwyzer – Paul is something of a late bloomer when it comes to birdwatching, but that makes him no less passionate. He lived in Thailand for four years, during which he became an expert in birdwatching in the rainforest. He currently works as a biology teacher and regularly leads birdwatching tours for the Swiss company Liberty Bird, with Borneo and of course Thailand his favourite destinations.