Once again, we have been humbled and inspired by the passion, energy, and success of the annual Champions of the Flyway bird race.
Each year, the event uses funds raised by sponsors, participants, and supporters to help prevent the illegal killing of birds in the Mediterranean region. In 2014, the first year, Champions raised nearly $60,000 for a raptor-protection project led by Bird Conservation Georgia. Last year, the race benefited BirdLife Cyprus, which used the proceeds to raise awareness of illegal trapping and create a banding station on the island. The proceeds of this year’s race — over $70,000 — will go to the Hellenic Ornithological Society, in Greece, where more than a million songbirds are killed illegally each year.
The society will use the money to focus on two major projects.
The first is the shooting and trapping of European Turtle Dove (pictured above) and other migratory species, especially on the tourist islands of Santorini, in the southern Aegean Sea, and Zakynthos, in the Ionian Sea.
The second is the trapping of finches and other small songbirds for the cage-bird market. Collected in great numbers all over Greece, the birds are sold online and in markets throughout the country, including in the famous underground market in Athens and even in pet shops. The Hellenic Ornithological Society will target poachers on the ground and work with city officials in Athens to stop the black-market trade.
One of the 16 teams that made this year’s Champions race so successful was the Leica Cape May Bird Observatory American Dippers, consisting of crack New Jersey birders Don Frieday, Doug Gochfield, Tom Reed, and Ben Barkley. Freiday is the observatory’s program director. His lively insider’s view of the race will appear in our August 2016 issue, which will go on sale at Barnes & Noble and on other newsstands July 5.
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