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. 

Wednesday 8 February 2017


A sleepless night because of a string of thoughts going through my head, Peru and Israel coming up soon taking up most of it. Yet there is also my procrastination over doing a foreword for the book about last year.
All of the day by day pages of the book are done. All of the meetings, the birds, the cycling and the locations are detailed, maybe not in a Mark Cocker way, sadly I am not a literary writer of such poise and intelligence, yet in my own fashion it is done. 

The foreword though is so difficult because I have to get down to emotion and reason, relationships and outcomes. Hence the delay.
The affect on me as a person I feel is important to share and the struggle against the turmoil of inner thoughts touched on occasionally during the year also.
Then there is the question of validity. Mine is not a pure Green record. I used ferries to get to the remote islands of Scotland. Ponc Feliu Latorre of Spain didn't use ferries during his Big Green Year and is therefore he is the Green BIGBY champion. I beat Ponc's total of birds and had the most fabulous time doing so but his record is the Green one to beat.

There are rules written down for Green Birding. They can be found in the book by Richard Gregson, Green Birding and also on Jim Royer's blog – World Green Birding records.

Back in June last year, whilst staying at the fabulous new Spurn Bird Observatory, I talked with Paul French about this. Paul suggested that I would reach 300 by just staying at Spurn. I said where's the fun in that compared to birding on North Ronaldsay and fair isle? Maybe 300 plus by pure Green means is possible in England. I don't know and I sincerely would love someone to do it one day. Me? Never say never.

As for my 318, well I just hope that taking ferries, and boy did I suffer on a few of those, won't detract from my achievement. 6,900 cycled miles in 2016, every RSPB and WWT nature reserve visited both in 2010 and in 2015, around £15,000 raised for charity. Maybe a new Green Birding category should be produced for my type of Green Birder; The European Green Biking Birder record (F)*.
So how does this sound?

  • European Green Birding record – Ponc Feliu Latorre

  • European Green Biking Birder record (F)* - Me.

Whatever you may think, I will be back on the bike next year, Peru!

(* F denotes use of ferries)     BCNU xx

Sunday 5 February 2017


Long time no post so a catch up is required.

Today is Sunday the 5th of February and I am sitting with my Mum and Dad at their home in North Worcestershire, UK. It is foggy and cold outside and the conversation is all about sport with Dad, while Mum is on Planet Kindle. I am trying to show Dad how brilliant tonight's Superbowl is going to be. A video of ten of the best Tom Brady plays this season doesn't grab him. Oh well, I will watch it alone tonight.

It is said that American Football's popularity is declining in the US. Soccer is ascending. I hope this isn't another case of attention span deficiency, as with cricket. The move away from Test Matches to the 20:twenty format is sad in my opinion but audience figures show that the short format is the future. I need to get to Australia for The Ashes as soon as possible. Maybe I can get there this Christmas!

In just over six weeks time The SpokesFolks will be heading off for The Champions of The Flyways competition in Eilat, Israel. 

The Champions of The Flyways is :

  • A Big International Birding Event

  • Takes place in Eilat on the 28th of March, 2017

  • The main aim is to raise money for Birdlife International

  • Fourteen Teams - PLEASE support The SpokesFolks 

The four of us in the team; Erin, George, Samuel and I will be the first International Green Team to take part in the event and very proud of this we are. We have been informed that because of our presence there are a few other Green teams from Israel participating. Bring it on!
Green Birding teams are not allowed to use fossil fuels for transport so we will be cycling. My hope is that we can get camels for the hottest time in the day.

Now I will take the opportunity here to say a massive thank you to our team sponsor, Viking Optics. It is a real boost to have such a big company behind us.

The competition is a twenty four hour bird race, Midnight to Midnight and it is going to be extremely tough on the four of us with the weather going to be hot and the terrain dusty. 

The inclusion of a Green Birding team in such a major event is a sign that this sport is growing. The more awareness of Green Birding and of it's aims can only be a good thing.

The COTF event is designed to raise money for Birdlife International, supporting projects that fight the illegal murder of millions of migrating birds through the region. This year the event is supporting Doga, the Turkish branch of Birdlife International.

Click on logo for more details.

Over the coming weeks I will be posting updates on here and on our SpokesFolks - Champions of The Flyways blog, detailing our hopes, our preparations and growing confidence.

We would love you to support our team by donating to Birdlife International. Please use this link to do so.

Please click on the link to donate. Thanks.

OK, now to watch a video of some Eilat birds to swot up on . . . 

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