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Subject: Conduct near nests [Print This Page]

Author: cgeoff    Time: 25/02/2010 10:23     Subject: Conduct near nests

The following was recently posted on the Oriental Birding Forum. I copy it here not with any ulterior motive, or, like the author, with any objective of criticising bird photographers. Like him, I am very appreciative of the value of good photographs. However, I thought it might be of interest. I found the data on breeding success of forest birds particularly interesting.

It also reminds us that, while as humans we may feel a certain distance is acceptable and doesn't cause disturbance, this may not be the opinion of the bird, especially a breeding bird. It's not just a question of whether the bird still visits the nest with food for young, but whether it does so at the same frequency. Reduced feeding of young will impact breeding success.

"I have been following with interest the various messages, and the soul-searching among birders about what techniques, devices, etc., should or should not be permissible.

Undoubtedly, there are occasions when birds are disturbed by (e.g.) tape playback and there is always a danger that repeated use of playback by increasing number of birders on well-known forest trails could disrupt behaviour of birds in those territories that abut trails. Like most of us, I have myself used tapes to bring in birds, both for my own benefit and for the benefit of those I was attempting to show particular birds to. But I use them sparingly. Also, in the case of rare or sensitive species (e.g., Gurney's Pittas in Krabi) there is a voluntary moratorium on tape use which all the reputable bird guides observe.

I see no reason why laser pointers should not be used when birding with others, provided they are used carefully, sparingly, and are not shone on the bird itself. Judicious use of a laser pointer can be a massive aid when attempting to get someone else on to a bird. They don't always help, though. I have, on at least one occasion, inadvertently flushed a bird by use of a laser pointer. On another occasion, a Brown-throated Treecreeper that I had pointed out by shining a green laser on a large mossy trunk, just below the bird, dived down the trunk in pursuit of the bright green dot, presumably thinking it was an insect.

But surely, as has been pointed out by other correspondents, as long as we use common sense, there is no need to agonize unduly over the reasonable use of such aids?

I would argue that bird photographers (and in particular, nest-photographers) cause much more disturbance to birds than bird watchers. There are a large and increasing number of bird photographers in Thailand, and when a nest of a sought-after species is "on the go" there can be a constant stream of photographers of varying levels of expertise jostling for positions around the nest from dawn to dusk. This undoubtedly causes incubating birds to be off the nest more than they would be normally, rendering nests more susceptible to desertion or predation. Even when the chicks have hatched, bird photographers in search of that perfect shot may prevent adults from delivering food to nestlings as often as they would otherwise do.

In general, bird photographers can be a lot less preoccupied with the welfare of the bird than bird watchers: they may know a lot about lighting, F stops and depth of field, but they usually understand a whole lot less about basic bird biology.

In Thailand, and particularly in Thai national parks, bird photography has some insidious knock-on effects. Locating bird nests, and divulging news of their whereabouts to bird photographers in exchange for payment, is becoming an important (illegal and undeclared) source of income for the underpaid park staff. The very people who are paid to supposedly protect nature are inadvertently damaging it.

Much of the information I relate here has been confirmed to me by the more conscientious and skilled Thai bird photographers, who are themselves concerned about the bad behaviour of their peers. One of them has told me that he estimates that 95% of all nests that are visited by bird photographers in Thailand fail. This compares with an already high average "background" failure rate of c. 70-80% for most smaller birds in the tropics, where most nests (even ostensibly undisturbed nests) are predated (based on data collected by researchers in Khao Yai National Park).

I would never openly and directly criticize bird photographers in general, especially as I recognise that photographers perform an important service, particularly in documenting records of rarer, controversial or difficult-to-identify species, and in general recording plumage and structural features (and variability in the same) from which we all learn. But, nonetheless, it would be really good to see bird photographers engaging in a similar soul-searching to that carried out by birders here on OB as to how they should promote adherence among their number to a code of conduct aimed at minimizing disturbance."


[ Last edited by cgeoff at 26/02/2010 08:36 ]
Author: Jonathmartinez    Time: 25/02/2010 22:10

Seen last week in Dong Ting Lake in Hunan, a photographer using his car's horn to frighten the geese to catch pics of large flock of flying bird!!!
Good solution and allready applied by many website is to prohibit pics of bird at nest, and not publish them.


A photographer
Author: hmartin    Time: 26/02/2010 08:22

Good post Geoff. I don't know that we have much of a problem with bird photography at the nest in Hong Kong, but a timely reminder that, if you are fortunate enough to locate a nest, especially of one of the rarer breeders, then consider whether photography at the nest is really necessary, and certainly keep the location secret. The idea of not allowing publication of such pictures is an interesting one.

Re. the deliberate flushing of birds for flight photography, we definitely have (had?) a problem with this one, especially at Mai Po. I would like to see anyone caught doing this banned from Mai Po and expelled from HKBWS.

My prediction is that bird photography will become a growing problem (for the birds) in Asia, as the middle class expands and more people can afford the serious costs involved. At the nest photography of rarer species has long been regulated in many Western countries, and will ultimately have to be in this part of the world.

[ Last edited by hmartin at 26/02/2010 08:37 ]
Author: tomatofamily    Time: 27/02/2010 11:06

Fight and flight is the survival mechanism of all species.  Just like us startled by a car when crossing the road without noticing a car coming by, we learn next time more alert when crossing the road.  And I do not think personally capturing the flight of a bird or a flock of birds is big disturbance to the welfare of the birds.  They just fly away no matter how far distance me and the birds when I walk pass by them in Mai Po.

[ Last edited by tomatofamily at 27/02/2010 11:07 ]
Author: Jonathmartinez    Time: 27/02/2010 15:28

In winter, every birds fight for food and energy, to pass throught the cold winter and to find the power to flight over the fiew thausend kilometers back to their breeding range! A tit in Europe after a really cold night loose at least near all his fat reserve.... What to said as a flock of 5000 geese fly away just because a egoist guy use his car's horn to catch flock on flight without thinking about the consequence this act could have if 20 people everyday were doing same things...even one time is allready bad for the birds...
I do not said that i never scared bird by attempting approach them, In Dong Ting lake the bird are so shy that they often fly away just by seing people approching 1 km faraway! But i really always feel guilty when i do scared large flock of birds just by attempting to approach them just to catch a acceptable distance to identify them!!! In this kind of place like Dong Ting lake, human's disturbance is allready a hugge problem because of the human's activities on the lake, with the birds continually scared all the day, by fishermann, people working on cuting the reedbeds, taking care of the buffalo, wandering dogs... I do believe that birds there do not need any additional disturbance. I saw there thausend of greater white-fronted geese in winter for 3 years ago ,this time i maybe count only one hundreed on the best day!
Last week always in Dong Ting lake, a group of birdwatchers from Mainland stay one night sleeping on the dam in tents, with great party on the evening using fireworks !!!! unbelievable!
I do not blame them, since they maybe don't have any idea about the consequence of their act, but i really hope that they can learn about more experienced birdwatchers and changing their comportment in the future...If we do not show the exemple who will do it?
The same week i saw a guy hunting birds from his car on the dam of Dong Ting Lake with a rifle! The situation is really so critical in China to not add any additional mess...


Author: sdavid    Time: 1/03/2010 10:34

I found this "Nature Photographers' Code of Practice" on the UK website of the RPS.  Obviously, more focused on wildlife in Britain, but may be of interest to people here.
Author: tomatofamily    Time: 2/03/2010 18:40

Thanks for the link.
Still, it is difficult to measure the disturbance unless it obviously is abusive, like those using car horns and rifles.  For instance, I once walked closed to one of the ponds inside Mai Po; and it happened that there were a couple of Cormorants ducking their heads in the water for food, when they headed up and found there was someone, me, there.  They were just scared of h and flipped their wings hysterically trying to fly away.  So, should I feel guilty.  I think even expert bird watchers came across such experience.  What would they do?  Can someone who is really an expert on bird's behavior tell what consequence such act would cause.  Some birds, as said in previous reply, are more sensitive to people (wonder if they can differentiate human to their predators?) than others.  Cormorant should be one of those.  As said before, my wife and I once walked at the trail and saw few hundred meters away a large flock of cormorants in the middle of wetland resting, and they (maybe only several) probably sensed our appearance and the whole flock starting from a few to whole lot flew away.  Such some called empathy behaviour could be caused by one or two or three very sensitive (I should not use neurotic).
BTW, Britain does enforce very touch law against photographers after  terrorists' acts against some of the cities in Britain.
Author: Jonathmartinez    Time: 3/03/2010 19:19

I just want to denounce people who intentionnaly scared birds to catch pics of large flock of birds flying. Even my english not so good, i guess was easy to understand.
I suppose that people who want to understand, will!

I purpose you if you have any doubt on the consequence of your act during your last excursion, that you opt for crawl for your next time:-) Joke, only joke!


Author: tomatofamily    Time: 4/03/2010 11:36

I should have crawlled if I knew my consequence of that act.  And I should have not entered the Reserve and I advise no people should have entered the Reserve.
And I should advise:

(those listed above are my come-across things happened inside the Reserve)

I am not trying to defend those intentionally offending the birds; but I want to say birds and human can be live peacefully together in the world (there is a common kingfisher happily habbiting inside Hong Kong Park no matter how noise and phototaking there).  Birds can be much stronger than we thought.  Just like some people here worrying putting GPS to some of the birds for research purpose; and the subsequent reports said Ok to them.  We protect the birds but not over-protect them and not trying to intervene a bunch of enforcement to stop people enjoying the birds.

Best regards.
Eric TO

[ Last edited by tomatofamily at 4/03/2010 11:44 ]
Author: Jonathmartinez    Time: 4/03/2010 12:32

Just a link to show you how humans and birds may leave peacefully! Just have to be known that this island have the greatest world's population of Masked booby! ... threaten-ecosystem/

The captain of this boat, for sure may think that it's not a big problem for the birds that his boat leave in the middle of this atoll!

Just take a look of any endangered birds species list that also have lived peacefully with humans!

Just common sense, please!
Such reserve as you go is usefull for people who want to see birds, but such quiet area as Deep bay for example is vital for birds who need peace and quiet to feed. I cant'imagine what should be the Deep bay with so many human's activities, and how many birds would be there (or if you want to know, just go on  Deep Bay Shenzhen's side a Sunday morning...)

Author: tomatofamily    Time: 4/03/2010 21:19

Hi, Jonathan.
I think we are both nature lovers; and as a nature lover, I would not do harm to nature, including birds.  We family like to be in around nature.  When my son was young, we always took him to walk around the country parks.  I taught him catching small fish and shrimps from the streams (don't tell me that is harmful to the nature).  He has grown up to like being in nature.  What I am driving at here is those who are close to nature love nature.  And those who never or seldom go and when go says to BBQ, they would not care about how to take care of the environment, littering around.  Therefore, I would suggest to take another approach to educate people to love nature or to love birds in our interest.  We advocate how migrate birds can fly hundred miles for food or for living (and some of our young people could not bear failure and end up suicide); how birds can fly through the brushes without being hid; how birds can fly and land precisely on the thin wire and stand there without falling; how eagles see their preys from high above, how male of swifts take good care of the mothers and the babies, etc.  We glory them and learn from them and not pity them, over-protecting the and segregating them from human. As we should not over protect our young one by providing a lot of safe zones, and would not have chances to encounter any failure.  There are great programmes regarding animals extraordinary behaviour/actions (videos and photos) in National Geography channels and we used to love watching them and from there we became nature lovers too.   Therefore, do not ban them or denounce them; instead educate them, bring them to the nature and let them appreciate the nature.  I bet majority of bird photographers love nature and love birds.  Don't you think so!

Eric TO
Trained School Psychologist
Life member of HKWWF
Father of a 19 years old son, who just entered university
Author: Jonathmartinez    Time: 4/03/2010 23:18

Dear Eric,

Glad to see that we're back to the original subject of this post : educate people. I know, not exactly the same as you mention on your mail, but finally it's quite the same.
No doubt that we are both nature lovers, and no doubt that most of photographers are too, but it does'nt mean we can do everything. This was the original message.
I know that sensitize people on environemment care is one of the key to change the situation, and lot of work still have to be done. Ofcourse i prefer see photographer scared some birds just to do some pics, than a guy poaching Golden pheasant in Hunan's montane, but i will be less lenient with the first one since he know he is doing something bad compare with the other one who have no idea that he just accelerate the reduction of an endemic bird just to win 40 yuan! What i just want to underline, is that we, all nature's photographers and nature's lovers, just have to be responsable on what we are doing...
I do thanks my father to have accompagnied me caught fishes when i was young, and i will do it with my son too....Maybe just to learn him how we have to respect the nature!



PS : i join a pic to show what nature give to patient photographer, and that perched birds  are so nice than on flight!

Image Attachment: [Oriental Reed Warbler] _MG_0768TBD.jpg (4/03/2010 23:18, 108.39 KB) / Download count 522

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