Author: andrewwhitelee

Viking Optical Sponsorship

This year we are proud to have Viking Optical as a corporate sponsor of the Bird Race Challenge. Viking do lots of great work for conservation already so having them on board is a real bonus. Myself, Ian and Penny visited their HQ on Wednesday where we met Scott from Viking who was incredibly helpful and have loaned us binoculars and a scope for the race, along with pin badges, caps and lens cleaning kits and also a generous donation to the sponsorship funds. Additionally, it turns out that Scott is a keen birder and has given us some local gen that may come in handy and give us the edge over the World Land Trust team.


The Bird Race Challenge team are incredibly grateful to Richard, Paul, Scott and Stuart for their support, let’s hope it’s the start of a conservation-benefiting partnership.


Thank you

Andrew Whitelee and the Bird Race Challenge Team

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.

The Blue-throated Macaw

This year’s race will raise funds for World Land Trust and their Bolivian partner Asociación Armonía.  All funds raised will go towards a project focused on the Critically Endangered Blue-throated Macaw population in Barba Azul, Bolivia. It is thought that there are less than 300 of these beautiful birds left in the wild. With your help, this project will plant a range of Aliso Trees (an important food source for the macaws) as ‘natural fencing’ around the Barba Azul reserve.

Every penny will help make a difference, if you would like to help please visit our donations page.

The Big Bird Race Trophy

They say never meet your heroes, well today it happened to me and it was a humbling experience. As those of you that have followed the story of the Norfolk Bird Race over the last 18 months will know, the original inspiration for the race was the seminal Big Bird Race book written by David Tomlinson and Bill Oddie back in the 1980s. The concept of the race captured my imagination as a teenage boy and so 30 years later I decided to create a charity bird race of my own.
A few weeks before this year’s race I received an email from David Tomlinson himself. He had read an article about the race written by Jack Baddams in Birdwatching magazine and had got in touch to wish everyone taking part all the best. I was utterly stunned to hear from him and thrilled to say the least. Over the next couple of weeks leading up to the 2016 Bird Race I corresponded with David, getting little bits of trivia and gems of insight about the 1980s Big Bird Races. Eventually I plucked up the courage to ask him if he would present the trophy to the winner of this year’s race at the Norfolk Bird and Wildlife Fair and he said yes. However, not only would he come and present the Norfolk Bird Race Trophy, he would give me the original Big Bird Race Trophy complete with Hawaiian Goose egg signed by Peter Scott. Now if you are of a certain age and into birding you will know that this is a piece of birding history. The thought of even seeing this trophy was amazing, never mind becoming the custodian of it.

So on Sunday at the Norfolk Bird and Wildlife Fair, I finally met David and his lovely wife Jan (she of the fantastic picnics in the Big Bird Race book). He handed the trophy to me, which I tried to unwrap whilst shaking, signed my copy of the Big Bird Race book and dutifully let us boss him around as we took photos of the whole event. Unfortunately, none of the winning Tit Flock team captained by Jake Gearty could make it to the event so I accepted the Norfolk Bird Race Trophy on their behalf in the presence of Rick Simpson from Wader Quest. The Norfolk Bird Race Trophy will be handed out to winning teams annually, but like The Ashes stay at Lords, the Big Bird Race Trophy will stay with the Norfolk Bird Race team. However, having spent 30 years in David Tomlinson’s house, it would seem a shame to hide away the Big Bird Race Trophy and Peter Scott Egg, so we are planning on giving it a tour of the country, raising money for the bird race and giving wide-eyed, middle-aged men like myself the chance to see it in the flesh.

More details of this will follow in 2017.

Norfolk Bird Race 2016 – Results

On 30th April 2016, five teams took part in the second Norfolk Bird Race, all intent on seeing or hearing as many species of birds as they could in the allotted 24-hour period. Some teams such Northern Raiders, Fellowship of the Wing and Norfolk Home Guard decided on a midnight start, whereas the students of Tit Flock decided to start a little later. Wader Quest, who were this year’s recipient of monies raised also entered a team and went for an even more leisurely start.

Although the race was held two weeks earlier than in the previous year, the weather on the day was much better so hopes were high of some respectable scores. By midday the Northern Raiders had a clear lead with 117 species, second were Tit Flock (103), then Norfolk Home Guard (88) closely followed by Fellowship of the Wing (86) and Wader Quest (77) bringing up the rear. The Norfolk Home Guard captain Ian Dearing was feeling unwell so their team finished early, but not as early as Wader Quest who enjoyed their day and put in what can only be described as a matinee performance. A lack of local knowledge (of the traffic not the birds) caused the Northern Raiders some mighty problems in the afternoon and Tit Flock caught up and came past by late afternoon, leading until the end.

The final scores were Tit Flock (142), Northern Raiders (136), Fellowship of the Wing (127), Norfolk Home Guard (124) and Wader Quest (105). Congratulations to Jake Gearty, Drew Lyness, Alex Berryman and Michael Murphy on their deserved win.

On a sad note, two days before the race Chris White’s dad (David White) died, meaning Chris had to withdraw from the Norfolk Home Guard team, with Nigel Packer stepping in as a late replacement. Chris and his sponsors still kindly donated their money even though Chris couldn’t take part, and this year race is dedicated to his father, our thoughts are with him, friends and family.

Even though Wader Quest came last on the day, they were the biggest winners in the end with total funds raised by the Norfolk Bird Race 2016 being £1664.10. Rick and Elis Simpson of Wader Quest will be presented with a cheque by race organiser Andrew Whitelee on Sunday 22nd May at the Norfolk Bird and Wildlife Fair.

Thank you to everyone who took part, raised money, donated money, tweeted, liked, followed and promoted, without you this wouldn’t have happened.