Saturday, 25 March 2017

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.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Tomorrow We Fly . . . Champions of the Flyway .... The SpokesFolks are on their Way

The Spokes Folk team are less than 24 hours away from departing the UK and we are bound straight for Israel! Excitement and anticipation are at a high, only dampened by the disbelief that we are really REALLY about to participate in the legendary Champions of the Flyway! 

 Follow all the teams’ progress and success on twitter with the hashtag #COTF17

Let me take this opportunity again to thank Viking Optic for their extremely generous support by providing us with some class optics. Also a massive thank you is due to everybody who has kindly donated to BirdLife Turkey through our just Giving page to support migratory birds through Turkey.

If you can make a donation, and every donation is a massive boost to the team, then PLEASE follow the instructions on our page. Thanks.

On arrival in Eilat tomorrow, we plan to meet with other teams competing in the race to share and update our birding gen and get out in the field ASAP! A rough plan of action involves scouring various scrubland habitats on the northern edge of Eilat for migrant passerines, heading to the beach for gulls and seabirds, finding a spot in the mountains to the NW of Eilat for a raptor passage vantage point, scan the K19 and 20 salt pans for waders and sandgrouse at dusk and most importantly to familiarise ourselves with the International Birdwatching and Research Centre of Eilat which boasts an impressive diversity of riparian species, a welcoming start to our visit.

The team . . . . 

Samuel . .  the Bird Encyclopaedia

Erin . .  the ever smiling enthusiast 

George . . .  the heart of the SpokesFolks

Gary . . . The Biking Birder

As you may already know we have taken on a green aspect to the race as well as the time leading up to it as we will be exploring the area as best we can by bike and foot. This will be a physical challenge too as we will have to manage our time out in the sun sensibly, find areas of shelter during the midday heat and make the most of the early morning and later afternoon period. Our ambition to conduct all this by green methods has the added benefit that we will be spending an even greater proportion of the time in the field than would be the case if we were sat in the seat of a car simply hopping between hotspots. Who knows we may even stumble on a great hidden gem that we may have simply bypassed had we driven by it, personally I’ve seen and found some great birds simply whilst sat on the saddle.

Things to work on in preparation for the big race day will include genning up on raptor ID, particularly those in flight, calls of commoner species so that we can at least recognise when we are hearing something scarcer, familiarise ourselves with the landscape, birding sites and what time of day to visit each, push our physical limits and see how much we can achieve but most importantly we all want to have a load of fun. Whatever happens, I’m sure that’s guaranteed!

From North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory, Orkney, UK to Eilat, Israel . . . 

Bring it on!!! 

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The SpokesFolks . . Team Member - Samuel Perfect

With exactly one month to go before we set off for Israel it is time to meet the team. The next few postings will be about each team member and their thoughts on birding and The Champions of The Flyways event.
We start with Samuel Perfect.

It’s amazing to look back and see what birding has done for me and how it has literally changed my life. I would never have imagined that it would dominate my time in such a positive way and be so enjoyable, diverse and challenging. I’m currently making the most of this opportunity by volunteering at North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory in Orkney for my third consecutive year, pursuing a hobby which I am truly fortunate to indulge myself in. Surrounding me are a group of equally enthusiast friends, some of whom will be joining me in Eilat for The Champions of the Flyway!

I started out like many with back garden birding, finding and enjoying the common birds frequenting my patch in Hertfordshire, little did I expect this simple process of observing and learning would encourage me to travel to Israel. It will be a great privilege to bird with our team the SpokesFolks as we will be competing entirely by green methods (i.e. by bike and foot). Having never traveled this far east in the world before I’m looking forward to seeing spring migrants I’m unfamiliar with and equally species I am familiar with from back home but belonging to a variety of different subspecies. These are famed for offering some extremely exciting identification challenges which are only recently coming to light.

I’m currently living on North Ronaldsay, Orkney, were auroras and northern varieties/subspecies of birds are a regular occurrence but there is still a fascinating link between the island and our adventure to the far south eastern Western Palearctic. Common visitors such as hirundines, pipits, wagtails and warblers will all feature on the island in a matter of weeks following their surge through Israel. This phenomenal undertaking is humbling when proof of their passage to and from these two countries is linked by ringing recoveries. By switching points on the compass I’m hoping to gain a greater appreciation of the diversity and spectacle of migration from the south and see how it compares with that in the other corner of the continent. This will hopefully give me ample opportunity to put my knowledge of common British birds to the test as I’m relying on this to offer a starting point around which I can attempt to figure out what I’ll be looking at whilst abroad. Am I watching the same birds passing through Israel as those arriving in Britain or am I looking at something very different, a far eastern subspecies that would otherwise have evaded my radar back home? Either case, I’m really looking forward to welcoming their return, having migrated successfully through the hostile environment of the Middle East all in order to breed in our lush green countryside that now sits so well ingrained in our phonological clock.

As previously mentioned, we’ll be competing in the event by bike/foot with the intention of minimising our carbon footprint. Given that this is particularly topical and that our excessive consumer habits are negatively impacting the very birds we enjoy to watch, I feel it is only moral for us to appreciate them in a way that brings least harm. This method of birding tests physical and mental abilities and one's level of commitment  and the huge feel-good factor that comes with this is testimony to really working to find and see birds.

Samuel Perfect   

Friday, 10 February 2017

Doga Dernegi, Turkey, The Project supported by The Champions of The Flyway

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.

Now the event is in aid of Doga Dernegi, Birdlife International, 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, 1 February 2017

Meet The SpokesFolks


We are The SpokesFolks, the FIRST International Green Birding team to take part in the Champions of The Flyway (COTF) competition.

We are a group of four birders taking on the Champions of The Flyway Challenge 2017 by Green Birding methods; by bicycle, by foot and maybe by camel. Our team of four include three young birders from North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory, Orkney, UK. They are Erin Taylor, George Gay and Samuel Perfect. The final member of the team is the new European Green Birding Year list champion, Gary Biking Birder Prescott.
Erin Taylor

George Gay

Samuel Perfect

Gary Prescott

By taking part in the event using Green Birding methods we hope to show others that the future of Birding can be incredibly rewarding, as well as more environmentally friendly and practical, especially now that a switch towards a low carbon lifestyle is of ultimate importance.

The Champions of The Flyway is a charitable event raising money in aid of Doga Dernegi, Birdlife International in Turkey, to help protect and support the safe passage of migratory birds through the country. As birders who experience the wonder and splendour of bird migration through the Northern Isles of Britain, we fully support the aims of this incredible organisation.

Showing others that Green Birding provides an excellent alternative to carbon birding and carbon twitching is a valuable message we hope to share with others. Being the FIRST GREEN TEAM, we aim to set the pace for others to follow by setting a tempting and challenging example. We are an extremely enthusiastic young, or young at heart group and are very proud to be taking part in COTF.

Eilat, Israel is a new birding location for all of us. We all typically bird the UK, so birding Eilat will give us a intense change of scenery. We will be competing with many other teams also competing in The Champions of The Flyway Challenge, exploring and finding birds around the city. Eilat is a famous passing point for hundreds of thousands of migrating birds every year due to it having a unique location at the top of the Red Sea.

Many thanks to Viking Optics for their support of our group.

Please support our group and support the work of DOGA through our efforts. 

Please help us raise as much as possible by sponsoring us on the Just Giving Link.

The SpokesFolks with North Ronaldsay Supporters

We hope that you will follow our adventures over the coming weeks. Thanks to you and to the organisers of The Champions of The Flyways.