The Zeiss Yorkshire Terriers are:
Mark Pearson, Filey-birder, blogger, speaker, wildlife guide, musician and team captain.
Rich Baines, former Flamborough stalwart, ecologist with Wold Ecology, co-owner and leader of Yorkshire Coast Nature, North York Moors Turtle Dove project manager.
Darren Woodhead, incredible bird artist – need we say more?!
Jono Leadley, York birder and naturalist, bass player tour guide and north region manager for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.
Have you ever had a good view of a Quail? These little summer-migrants are quite enigmatic, sometimes turning up in numbers in Britain, in other years, indeed most years, they are much rarer.
Whenever I encounter one, it is their repetitive, liquid call that fills me with excitement: ‘wet-my-lips’. But of the dozens of Quail I have heard over the years, I can count on one hand the birds I have actually seen well. The first, and most memorable, was in Cambridgeshire, when a calling bird wandered on to the bare tracks left by a tractor that ran through the crop that otherwise concealed the bird. Amazingly, it was joined by a second individual, perhaps a female. I was elated.
Sadly, these little gamebirds have long been a popular dish and in the Mediterranean they are still hunted in their thousands as they pass through on migration. Despite a Europe-wide ban on spring hunting, much illegal trapping still continues, with tape lures being used to attract Quail, passing over in the dark. In Serbia and Croatia, at least 50,000 Quail are trapped illegally each spring. Would some of these birds have been destined for Yorkshire? Maybe not, but the pressure from illegal hunting on Quail and other species, most famously Turtle Doves, is unsustainable and is undoubtedly having a grave impact on the European populations of these and other species. Many NGOs and concerned individuals are lobbying governments and the EU to try and tackle this, but progress is slow. Direct action to deal with illegal activities in Mediterranean countries is essential whilst the frustratingly slow wheels of bureaucracy turn. For the last four years, the Champions of the Flyway bird race has raised money to support local BirdLife International partners to tackle local persecution and raise awareness of this desperate situation. This March, the fifth race will take place, centred as before, at Eilat, that famous bird migration hotspot in Israel.
I have taken part in all sorts of bird races before, but always in Britain and always in areas I have known well. I have generally had a pretty good idea of where to find particular species and what I am looking at, or hearing – which always helps when under pressure to see or hear as many species as possible in a set time period (the essence of a bird race). So, taking part in a bird race in a region I have never birded before presents in additional challenge! Fortunately, the team captain of the Zeiss Yorkshire Terriers, Filey birder, Mark Pearson, took part last year and so we have an inside track on tactics, locations and what to expect among the arid landscapes and lush wetlands in and around Eilat. We are joined by renowned bird artist, Darren Woodhead, another Yorkshire lad, and Yorkshire Coast Nature’s Richard Baines. And we are determined to win!
You may think our chances of winning this bird race are slim. And you would of course be quite correct. However, there is an additional prize for the most money raised to support the cause, and this is the prize we want to win, because this is what it is about: raising money to stop the illegal persecution of migrant birds. It is the most important thing for us.
Our fundraising campaign is going well. Mark secured the support of Zeiss early doors and we have managed to add several corporate sponsors to this since, and we are very grateful to them too: Ark Display Graphics, North York Moors National Park, Indus Experiences, Evoluted, Filey Vets and Rackham’s Accountants. But we want to raise more. We are grateful to the many individuals, wildlife societies and others that have contributed to our Justgiving page so far.
If you can help the Zeiss Yorkshire Terriers be Champions of the Flyway and help support those dedicated and passionate individuals working with tiny resources to try and stop ‘our’ migrant birds from being illegally hunted, then we would be very grateful. You will truly be a Champion of the Flyway yourself too, and the next time you are lucky enough to hear a Quail singing unseen from a summer meadow, or a Turtle Dove purring from the middle of a Blackthorn, you can smile, knowing that you may well have helped these beautiful birds pass safely through the Mediterranean.
You can follow our exploits on our Facebook page – search Zeiss Yorkshire Terriers. Go on, give us a like! Also, from 1st February, we will start our ‘Flyway Sale’ where you will get the chance to buy exclusive items that have been donated to the team, to help our fundraising campaign. These include original artworks by team member Darren, whale watching trips off the Yorkshire coast, guided birding sessions around the Lower Derwent Valley, cases of Yorkshire Terrier and Wold Top beer, and much more. See the Facebook page for details!