Q&A with Andrew Whitelee

A quick question and answer session with Andrew, one of the co-founders of the Bird Race Challenge.

What drove you to create the Bird Race Challenge?

My obsession with the original The Big Bird Race is well documented. It took me 30+ years to organise my own race, but I have been overwhelmed by the support myself and co-founder Ian Dearing have had for the race. The original really struck a chord with lots of birders my age, if we could do a tenth of what they achieved I’d be happy.


Are you worried about the environmental impact of chasing around the countryside counting birds?

Yes of course. I worry about my environmental impact each time I get in my car! However, I hope that the benefits outweigh the downside and each time is offsetting its carbon using the World Land Trust’s carbon balancing scheme. One day I hope we can do the race in carbon neutral cars, but I think that day is still a long way off.


Sounds like you’ve put a lot of effort in, you must want to win?

Ha, yes, well sort of. I think we owe it to our sponsors to put in a good performance and to try as hard as we can but ultimately, I care more about how much money we raise than how many birds we count. If I had to chose between winning and not raising much money or coming last and raising loads of cash I’d chose the latter one every time. Each team has to stick to strict rules including avoiding “out of bounds” birds that are sensitive to disturbance so we wouldn’t jeopardise their welfare just for an extra bird on the list.


Why did you pick the World Land Trust?

When we decide on the nominated charity for the year it has to come from the heart. The first year we chose the BTO’s House Martin Appeal as I have fond memories of house martins nesting on our house when I was a kid. Last year, we picked the wonderful Wader Quest, who quietly get on with helping wader and shore bird conservation organisations across the world. World Land Trust are an amazing organisation, doing such inspirational work that it was easy to decide on them for this year. The hardest bit was deciding which project we should support but with the advice and guidance of Dan at WLT we picked the Critically Endangered Blue-throated Macaw conservation project by Asociación Armonía in Bolivia.


So how can we help?

It’s easy to get involved. If you fancy taking part you can do so as an individual or team by joining our Virtual Bird Race. If you would prefer to be an arm chair supporter you can help via our donations page.

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