Champions of the Flyway – Team “Dutch Knights”

It is perhaps the most fascinating phenomenon in the birding world, but unfortunately not without dangers – bird migration. And Eilat in Israel is one of the best places in the world to experience this spectacular phenomenon.

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It should therefore come as no coincidence that here, again for the third time, the international bird conservation event Champions of the Flyway is organized to raise funds for the protection of migratory birds during their long journeys.

On 3/29 2016, a passionate group of birders from different nationalities compete in teams for the title of Champions of the Flyway (COTF) in an intense 24-hour Big Day. This race is not only organized to celebrate the miracle of bird migration, but above all to raise money to support a national BirdLife partner in the fight against the illegal killing of migratory birds along a major flyway.

Vogelaars bij Yotvata Eilat Israel; Birdwatchers at Yotvata Eilat Israel

Vogelaars bij Yotvata Eilat Israel; Birdwatchers at Yotvata Eilat Israel

Previous editions of the COTF supported conservation projects by BirdLife Cyprus & Bird Conservation Georgia (protecting raptor migration in Batumi). The revenues received for this year’s event will be supporting the Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS) – BirdLife in Greece. Annually, in Greece alone,  a million of birds get shot, poisoned or caught in nets and glue sticks and never reach their wintering or breeding areas, contributing substantially to the decline of species populations and thus the ecosystems where these species live. This is where the Dutch Knights step in.

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After having received the much-coveted title ‘Knights of the Flyway’ in 2014, for being the most helpful team during the race and generating the greatest exposure, we succeeded in raising (even more) significant funds – as well as awareness – during last year’s event!

How can we top this? Well, we keep trying!

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Once again, team captain Marc Guyt managed to convince his fellow Knights to dust off their shining armour, as well as their binoculars, and to give it another go: one for all, and all for one! Knight Martijn Verdoes was game, but unfortunately our one-and-only-navigator Gert Ottens can’t make the journey to the Holy Land and he will stay behind in the Low Countries, safe in his castle, as our one-and-only communicator: covering our back and making sure that the fundraising machine stays up-and-running!

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We found two very eager Replacement Birders for Gert. One person is not enough to replace him – he eats for two! Our good friends Leo Heemskerk and Ferry Ossendorp will now join our ranks and complete the Dutch Knights in this year’s Champions of the Flyway. Eager, keen, fun to be with and founding fathers of the highly acclaimed Deception Tours that has as a winning motto: No guts, no glory! Just our kind of people. What can possibly go wrong now…

So here we are, the Dutch Knights are back in the arena (and with the help of major sponsor Leica Sportptics), to raise even more funds and awareness for the protection of migrating birds! The editions of 2014 and 2015 were mere dress rehearsals: this year we’re in it to win it!

Dutch-Knights-2016Support us in our quest to stop the widespread illegal killing of migrating birds in Europe, and in Greece specifically, by raising awareness and funds for the protection of migrating birds along their amazing flyways. Birds need to fly, not die!
Please follow us on Facebook or Twitter to stay tuned with the Knight’s quest.  If you want to make a donation to help our quest, please do it here. The birds need it.

So who are the Dutch Knights? Allow us to introduce ourselves:

MarcMarc Guyt
Owner AGAMI Image Library

Marc is director and owner of AGAMI, an image library offering premium wildlife and nature stock photos.
Besides, Marc is tour leader for BirdingBreaks.nl and is helping Dutch Birding as a project manager for their Species Champion commitment to the Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Three-time veteran for the Champions of the Flyway, Marc is the designated driver during the day, trying to give Jos Verstappen a run for his money. And he tries again to avoid hitting Wild Asses during the night, the local Donkeys that stand at the side of the road in the Ramon Crater during the night.

 

Martijn-243x300Martijn Verdoes
Scientist & Photographer

After obtaining his PhD degree in organic chemistry at Leiden University, Martijn Verdoes continued his career at Stanford University (CA, USA). He is now in charge of his own Research Group at the Department of Tumor Immunology in Nijmegen (NL). Martijn has a fondness for seabirds and he likes Big Days as well. Martijn’s Team “The Dippers” won the Golden Gate Audubon Birdathon in California in 2012, and he holds the Big Day record in his new local patch Nijmegen. So lack of experience is not an excuse if we lose!

Ferry-attachment-voor-DK-paginaFerry Ossendorp
Scientist

Ferry Ossendorp studied Biology in Amsterdam a long time ago and obtained his PhD in the Netherlands Cancer Institute. Currently he is employed in Leiden, leading a research team in the University Medical Center. Which keeps him indoors most of the time. Ferry is interested in birds since he was young and birdwatching is his primary hobby. He is one of the godfathers of “Deception Tours”, a very popular event for Dutch birders to collectively find rarities on the Dutch Waddenisland Vlieland, this year celebrating 25 successful years of rarity hunting. Which of course fails most of the times, but with a motto ‘ No Guts, no Glory’ every failure is fuel for another try. A warm welcome to our own Don Quixote!

vbn_banner_bergeend_350x20029750aLeo Heemskerk
Project Manager
Leo-Salton-Sea

Leo Heemskerk was born in Amsterdam and has, since childhood, been an avid birdwatcher. He works as a consultant and technical project manager at CIMSOLUTIONS. Like Ferry, Leo is one of the founding fathers of Deception Tours (www.deceptiontours.nl) at Vlieland. Organizing weekends specially for finding very rare birds for the Netherlands. Including some first for the Netherlands (Myrtle Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Pallid Swift, Caspian Stonechat) and other goodies (Paddyfield Warbler, Booted Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle) and of course species he and Ferry missed because they were stuck on the island (White’s Thrush, Upland Sandpiper) – the ones that hurt…
Besides birdwatching, Leo is also keen to spot Mammals and into banding birds on a ringing station with (surprise, surprise) a very high percentage of rare birds in their nets. Leo is our ace for this year COTF edition with 22 years of competitive Big Day listing. Member of the Dutch dream team that held the Dutch Big Day record from 1993 till 2015 – year after year! Like Martijn, lack of experience is not an excuse if we lose! A warm welcome to our Big Day Ace!

Gert Ottens
The Dutch Dark Knight
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Gert Ottens
..he’s the hero the Dutch Knights deserves…
but not the one to join the COTF this year.
So we’ll leave him to watch our back, because he can
take it. Because he’s our hero…
…he’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector… our one and only Dutch Dark Knight!
Fighting against injustice in the shadows, Gert will be our main communicator back home during the Dutch Knights claim to fame. Gert will try to keep the donations coming and running the base from back home.

So that is it. Five Dutch Knights, one goal. Helping Birdlife to stop the illegal killing of our migrating birds! One for all, all for one!

The Dutch Knights are proud to be sponsored by Leica.