Will you take bird photos like this 你會這樣拍鳥嗎?

Things may not be as bad as they seem.
I am unclear on the absolute legality of approaching particular bird species in this particular tern colony, but that aside ones initial horror of the situation may not based on any real harm.
Terns breed in colonies as protection against predators from their open ground nests. Although physically intruding on their space, I am sure none of the photographers actually predated on the nests, chicks or adult birds in your photo on the ‘Tern Island’.

The relationship is complex between humans and these ground nesting birds.

Data from the Farne Islands in Northumberland where over 10000 visitors walk on  a boardwalk round a small island with Arctic Terns and Eider nesting inches from the path is interesting. Decades ago when the Eiders arrived in May to breed, they preferred the periphery of the island away from the main boardwalk. Now the first Eiders go for the nest sites nearest to the footpath. This is because the success rate of broods is better where the humans walk past frequently, as this deters other predators (mainly gulls).
I’m not saying this is the same situation here, but all may not be as bad as it seems.
Here are 2 photos for pondering.
One was taken on recent on Lady Elliot Island by my brother. A predator like this Sea Eagle would undoubtedly be deterred from snatching a tern near  a group of photographers.

The second pic is from Inner Farne, where in the peak season hundreds of people get off the boat daily and have to walk right next to many nesting Arctic Terns, with no clear detrimental effect.

I can’t really comment on people breaking twigs. I certainly have and would do so again. You can wait the rest of your life trying to see a Flufftail unless you do and I am happy to snap a few twigs in the process – I don’t think  it is a problem , no ones talking about taking half the forest. Mother nature snaps branches off tree as regular as the wind blows.


[ Last edited by EricB at 9/02/2012 05:39 ]


I’d like to take the opportunity to thank the person who brought this discussion to the forum, as it is an important one.

P1. We all know the only important thing is what happens next year and in the future, rather than what has happened previously.

P2.I think I am right in thinking that all those involved share the same ultimate goal. In this case a sustainable long term ‘Tern colony’.

P3.I believe I am right in thinking that if the Terns were left to their own devices they would prefer to be left alone without humans landing on the islands and the potential for the introduction of other predators – in particular rats.

P4.It is clear that people would prefer not to leave the terns to their own devices and would like to watch and photograph them. Here lies the dilemma.

P5.It is right that the HKBWS looks at the problem and helps orchestrate a considerate solution. Seabirds have a right to live and breed and share the environment with the rest of us. Unfortunately, they aren’t good at defending their turf against humans – but the turf needs to be defended. As far as I’m concerned they are on the brink of disaster from loss of safe havens to breed , pollution and the detrimental effects on their feeding grounds etc..

P6. The are some basic rules on what is legal regarding disturbance to nesting bird species, who owns the island and who makes the rules on who can land etc..
I haven’t got a clue, but clearly this is a key issue of any policy.
I assume the island is not privately owned and is likely to be government land. In which case probably the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation department are the people who are likely to have any real say on the matter.

P7 It would be nice to think that a decision would be taken to maximise the birds success in breeding so that the colony grew and that humans were allowed to watch and photograph the birds from land if possible.

P8. I think professional help should be sought i.e. there are conservationists out there who will have information from other seabird colonies which will guide you on how to manage this situation. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Large organisations like the IOU, RSPB or IUCN can surely help.

P9. From my naïve prospective, this is likely to result in organised limited access, restrictions on where people can stand to view and a fee for further development ( May be to produce Tern Rafts or extra land for breeding?)  

P10. A heavy handed total ban on landing may not be in the long term interests of the tern colony or conservation in Hong Kong in general.

I hope these thoughts help focus attention on a positive way forward rather than dwelling on events that cannot be altered.

Happy Birding.


[ Last edited by EricB at 10/02/2012 06:47 ]