dinsdag 18 maart 2014

The magic of migration

Dunes of Katwijk, Netherlands. Marc Guyt / www.agami.nl

The magic of migration has always attracted me. Living at a coastal migration hotspot in the Netherlands, I spend my birding childhood glued to a small hill just north of Katwijk. This small hill overlooked beautiful dunes and this was our theater in autumn – the site for 100,000’s of migrating birds to pass through, heading south each year. Memories of massive migration of Meadow Pipits just flying inches over your head, or thrush and starling migration in numbers beyond comprehansion. Where did they come from? And where do they go? Questions in your head when you watched in awe looking at the birds flying to unknown destinations. And there was always the chance of something odd or something rare between the big numbers of migrants. An extra dimension in an already exceptional phenomenon. A diamont in a jar of pearls.

When I grew older I spread my wings as well. I wanted to see where those birds breed, I wanted to see where the spent their winter and who they meet in their wintering quarters. I wanted to see where our rare migrants came from and see their migration in real life over there. I wanted to see and experience it all!

Siberian Flycatcher, Happy Island, China. Marc Guyt / www.agami.nl
Memories etched in my mind include massive falls of eastern warblers on Happy Island off the east coast of China. Numbers beyond comprehension of species that are extreme rarities in Europe. A bird covered Eilat with migrants at every green patch. Or the unexpected migation of 10.000’s of Pacific Swifts over Taman Negara in Malaysia. A darkend sky by swifts, flying low over pristine lowland rainforest. It couldn’t get any better.


But as you grow older, and when you spread your own wings, you see and hear also the dangers these beautiful birds face. Both natural and unnatural. Life as a free living bird is not without dangers. Some they have to face because they are a fact of live but other dangers, the unnatural ones, are just so unfair. Millions of birds are ilegally killed each year for food, or even worse, fun. Lime sticks in Spain or France, mist-nests for migrants at the coast in Egypt, or waders in Bangladesh, millions of hunters in Europe alone waiting for a tired migrant to come into range. And for what? Because it is tradition? Because there is demand for it? Because they happen to be there in huge numbers?
A few examples of what the birds face during their migration can be seen here or here. It is heartbreaking.

That is why I partipate in the Champions of the Flyway in Eilat (Israel). To celibrate the magic of migration, instead of shooting at it. On April 1st this year more then 15 international teams will be looking at birds competitively, and raise awareness and money for protecting the migrating birds in the process. I am in one of those teams; the Spinters. Please help our cause by donating TODAY! You can do this via this link. Every Euro counts!

Thanks for your help!
Marc Guyt

Information about Champions of the Flyway:
Champions of the Flyway is a major new international bird race taking place in Eilat, Israel - one of the world’s most spectacular migration hot spots and rewarding birding destinations.
Competing teams from around the world will try to find, identify and log as many species as possible – as they go head to head in an intense 24 hour contest to win the coveted title “Champions of the Flyway”.

The birders taking part are of many different nationalities and represent a huge variety of businesses, conservation organisations and bird clubs. On April 1st 2014, all will line up together in Eilat with a common purpose – to celebrate the miracle of migration in this spectacular part of the Great Rift Valley and to help protect its future throughout the Africa Eurasia Flyway.

The race teams will initially meet in Eilat on March 28th and then spend three days familiarizing themselves with the course and birds, in preparation for race day. Champions of the Flyway is a focal event during the famous annual Eilat Bird Festival.

The Champions of the Flyway bird race is being staged by The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (BirdLife’s national Partner in Israel) and is a BirdLife International Migratory Birds & Flyways Programme initiative.

“While the race will be fun, the goal is serious – to raise conservation funding that will help BirdLife International tackle the illegal killing of birds in Southern and Eastern Europe.”

A few images of the migrants that face these threats and that we hope to see in Israel. More images on www.agami.nl.

Cretzschmar's Bunting, Eilat, Israel. Marc Guyt / www.agami.nl

Egyptian Nightjar, Israel. Marc Guyt / www.agami.nl 

Black Stork, Lesvos, Greece. Marc Guyt / www.agami.nl

Whiskered Tern, Lesvos, Greece. Marc Guyt / www.agami.nl