Sunday, 2 April 2017

A Visit to the Jerusalem Bird Observatory - First of April, 2017

Morning! Xx

Yesterday a visit to the Jerusalem Bird Observatory was suggested. To be honest I wasn't aware that there was one but as my daughter, Rebecca, was at a synagogue for Shabbatt, I took the opportunity to visit.

Situated within a large parkland area west of the Old City, the observatory was easy to find and after stopping to look at a few terrapins in a nearby pool, I entered the Observatory's reserve.
Immediately it became apparent that this was no ordinary bird observatory. To the right beside an open hatched building a group of around thirty people, obviously not birders, were seated watching Observatory staff members ring a procession of various passerine birds. 

Sitting with them, listening to the commentary given as bird after bird was processed and handed to to a young girl to release, was fabulous as the visitors were obviously massively enjoying the ringing and the close views of such incredible small migrants. 

The talk was prolonged and by the visitors' reactions, must have contained amazing facts about the birds' journeys and humour too for they responded with laughter and exclamations of surprise and shock. Questions were asked and answered. All of this was in Hebrew and I didn't understand a word but really didn't need to.

Lesser Whitethroats, Blackcaps, Eastern Olivaceous Warblers, they all came one by one to be measured, rung and released.

Meeting with one of the birders met at The Champions of The Flyway, Ron and on receiving a wave from another net there also, the Dougal carrier from when our team, The SpokesFolks, was filmed at KM20, I was introduced to Gideon, the wonderful bird ringing man and his delightful eight year old daughter, Shira.
Given a Jerusalem Bird Observatory t-shirt, I became a member and went birding.

A superb two hour visit to an incredible place, the thrill of being there was in witnessing the visitors to this urban reserve obviously enjoying their close to nature encounter and one can see how the vitality of the staff engages the visitors so completely.

Thanks to everyone there. 

Thursday, 30 March 2017

The Green Birding Champions of The Champions of The Flyway 2017.

Morning! xx
Thanks to the wonderful Nicky Heeley for her donation. Still time to do so everyone. xxx

It is 6:00 a.m here in Eilat. Rebecca and I head off for Masada today on a short tour of Israel and Jordan.
Meanwhile just a few photographs from yesterday of the presentation of the Green Birding trophy and the other winning teams, as a white-spectacled bulbul becomes the first bird singing. Still dark but the sky is lightening for dawn over the Jordanian mountains and the Red Sea.

Thank you Viking Optical.
Not everyone can afford the higher priced binocular make and we need the variety of price ranges in order for the birding community to diversify and grow. The binoculars we used on our exciting adventure here have been excellent. Thank you so much to everyone at the company.

Anyway, thanks everyone for your continued support. It has been the most wonderful and amazing journey and experience, one that will stay with every team member and participant for the rest of our lives.
The Green Birding section may have been small, seven teams, two cycling and five walking but The SpokesFolks has set a high benchmark for the future. 122 birds seen and 55 kilometers cycled . . . it felt like a lot more with the latter! I feel that the Green Birding contingent will get larger year on year and become a much more important part of the sport.
The amount of money raised for Doga Dernegi - Birdlife Turkey will have a significant effect on saving birds in that region and i particularly love the project involving the Syrian refugees there. Turkey is sheltering three million Syrians.

Many thanks to Yoav Perlman for his initial suggestion of there being a Green Birding team at the Champion of The Flyway event. His request came out of the blue while I was attending the Norfolk Bird Fair last year. Thanks Yoav.
Thanks too to Jonathan Meyrav. His patience, dedication and gentle sense of humour has been so inspiring and for everything we thank you. I hope you enjoy returning to your family, especially your children. they have a very special father; one that they can be so proud of. A man who is making a real difference. Thanks Jonathan.

Thank you Israel and especially Eilat. The birding has been superb, the people incredibly friendly and the stunning mountain scenery away from the cosmopolitan city and seafront is magnificent. We look forward to seeing more of this wonderful country, especially Jerusalem!
Our team, I hope will be back next year and hopefully there will be more Green Birding teams taking part (hint . . Howard Vaughan)
Maybe the purest Green Birding Champion of Europe, Ponc Feliu Latorre, will be here with a lycra-clad team of real cyclists from Spain. That would be fantastic. What a place to meet such an incredible man.
Maybe Chris Mills will be here, similarly clad as Ponc. Maybe. I hope so.
International Green Birders, such as Jim Royer or Dorian Anderson from the USA, will be here. To have such Green Birding megastars would be .... (favourite word!) phenomenal.
As for The SpokesFolks, maybe we will be the Finland team in the next couple of years and retire after three races. Who knows.
To the teams . . please spread the word of Green Birding to your nations. persuade, cajole and threaten (nicely!) birders who you know are Green in their approach (or semi-green) to consider bringing a team. Now wouldn't that be good if there were as many Green teams as carbon teams?
The event has been fabulous and for so many reasons is so important to the region and to all of Europe.

Finally to the birds that pass by Eilat and to those that live here. Your journey is awesome, the stories you tell are so mind-blowing as to defy belief. The moment when Erin found a Bonelli's (Balkan) warbler stuck to a short plant with sticky leaves was insightful. The bird had no fat reserves, probably weighing less than ten grams and yet it will still now, after it's lucky rescue, be heading north. Thank you birds.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Champions of The Flyway Day 4 - The SpokesFolks Stand Tall and Proud

Morning! xx

Day 4 of The SpokesFolks at the Champions of The Flyway event in Eilat, Israel.

Erin Taylor                 George Gay              Samuel Perfect

So very proud of the team todayafter a wonderful day yesterday! A perfect day!
The birding was as fabulous as ever with lifers for us all, yet t was the way the North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory purported themselves in the evening at an al fresco that really stood out.

Having to introduce ourselves in front of all of the other teams taking part, the NRBO trio were fantastic. Taking the microphone, each in turn gave their name and purpose for taking part. To do so in such elevated birding company, to do so with eloquence and humour, even if we may have been a bit worried that Samuel wasn't going to stop, was inspiring.
Proud of them, you bet!
A sign of how they are inspiring others with their superb birding and cycling efforts could be seen by the reception they had on rising to take the stage, especially from the British contingent. For the support of British birding luminaries attending the COTF, we can only say a sincere thank you.

Proud of them, you bet!

A sign of how they are inspiring others with their superb birding and cycling efforts could be seen by the reception they had on rising to take the stage, especially from the British contingent. For the support of British birding luminaries attending the COTF, we can only say a sincere thank you.

Speaking of thanks, I want to say a massive thank you to our team sponsor, Viking Optical. Many of the nineteen teams taking part are sponsored by Optics companies, ours is Viking. A privilege to use their binoculars and wear baseball caps with their distinctive logo upon them. Superb, Thank you so much.

OK, race day is just a day away. Today we are off to the Eilat Cemetery and pumping station to hopefully find a few species we haven't seen yet. 

In the afternoon all teams have to get together at the event HQ, the Amamim Hotel, to share all birding gen and then it is early to bed early to rise tomorrow. Twenety four hours of cycling bird racing. Piece of cake!

Sunday, 26 March 2017

The SpokesFolks - Champions of The Flyway event, Eilat Israel

Morning! xx

We are a team of four intrepid birders taking art in this phenomenal birding event.

So rushed for time so please to see details of where we are go to the following links.

Please have a look at our Facebook page to see the fabulous bird photographs we are taking, especially George Gay, during our participation at this incredible birding event, Thanks.

Also Please support our team by making a donation to Birdlife International to help stop the slaughter of over 25 million birds that occurs every year as they pass migrate north from Africa. Thanks so much.

Friday, 10 February 2017

The SpokesFolks - Supporting Migrating Millions, Doga Dernegi, Turkey

Good morning, good afternoon, good night.

Less than six weeks to go before we, The SpokesFolks team and I, set off for the Champions of The Flyway event in Eilat, Israel.

We have a blog which will keep you up to date with how our team is doing.

What follows is today's SpokesFolks Champions of The Flyways blog page with a few more photographs.

Please have a look at our page and make a donation on our behalf. Every donation received is a massive boost to the team. 

Thank you to Ade Cooper and Tim Cleeves for their fabulous donations.

Now the event is in aid of Doga Dernegi, a project of Birdlife International in Turkey. 

Taking the text from the Champions of The Flyway website :

We are proud to announce the new conservation cause for 2017. This year we have chosen to work with Doğa Derneği (Birdlife in Turkey) focusing once again on the illegal killing of birds on migration.Doğa Derneği have proposed several projects all aiming to deal with illegal persecution of migrant birds. Because of its geographic location Turkey is a natural choice and it give us great pleasure to be able to work together to protect birds that share the East Mediterranean flyway. In the upcoming weeks we will provide more information on the specific projects, our goals and the actions that will be taken to hopefully make a change on the ground.

Doğa Derneği has proposed some very exciting projects to be implemented on the ground, which we believe can make a real difference in the battle against illegal trapping and killing.

Doğa Derneğiis already doing significant things on the ground both through education and enforcement. With the help of the 2017 Champions of the Flyway campaign they intend to “step up” the actions especially in the Anatolia region. The region is a very important bottleneck for migrating raptors and other soaring birds and sadly large numbers of these are killed illegally as they migrate to and from the breeding grounds.

Doğa Derneği have some important projects lined up for the areas of Urfa, Birecik, the Hatay Amanos mountains and “lakes region” to ensure safe passage for migrants. The actions will be mainly educational, helping the people of the region to understand the importance of keeping the flyway safe. The projects will include youth activities to train the young generation to become birdwatchers instead of hunters. Doğa Derneği already has significant success with similar programs in the Urfa region involving local conservation groups and volunteer game wardens.
Another interesting goal we aim to achieve is to deal with the changing approach to nature with the arrival of huge numbers of Syrian refugees. The welcome refugees have no awareness and knowledge about Anatolia’s nature and conservation laws. Doga will be in the field working with the newly arrived refugees in order to educate and “open the eyes” of the newcomers to the beauty and importance of nature. Doga already has concrete action plans to reach 3000 families in the region through the children, to ensure the safe passage of migrating birds.
We believe that the 2017 Champions of the Flyway campaign is one of the most exciting and important projects to date. Through birds we will once again transcend political boundaries to work together for the protection of nature. Birds indeed know no boundaries, and it is up to us to speak up and protect them because they deserve to fly in peace!

Back in 2011 I went on a holiday for two weeks to Anatolia, Turkey. Sleeping in the car most nights, I visited any bird and ancient historical sites. I remember one night particularly vividly as I was awoken by a group of a dozen or so heavily armed soldiers! They wanted to know why I was asleep in a car far from a main road and asked whether I was trafficking guns. My notebooks, field guides, binoculars and telescope proved my real intention and I ended up having breakfast with them at the barracks.

This was in Northern Anatolia, near to Dalyan Golu, east of Bandirma. Black storks, lesser spotted eagles, nightingales and hawfinch were seen here and a large tortoise.

From here I went to Turkey's first ever National nature reserve, Kus Cenetti. I fell in love with the place. A tall tower overlooking an immense lake, birds were everywhere, Dalmation and White Pelicans, Pygmy Cormorants, egrets and herons, crakes and waders, ducks and gulls and lots of migrating warblers, in facts hundreds of migrating warblers. Every tree and bush had them together with woodpeckers and shrikes. The woodland adjacent to the lake was full of passerines.

The reserve had a visitor's centre which was in need of a little tender loving care. The gardens around it though were immaculately kept.

Exploring the reserve and nearby village with its fields full of wagtails and pipits, I saw lines of large birds arriving from the west, silhouetted by the setting sun; white pelicans, hundreds of them. Lines of undulating large pelicans came past me at head height as I watched from the high vantage point of the tower hide.
What I saw there during a wonderful two weeks has left me with a passion for Turkey, not just the birds but also for the Turkish people. To support them via the sponsorship and taking part in the Champions of The Flyway event is a pleasure and privilege.

Please donate via our Just Giving page.

Please support our team in any way you can.