WE HAVE BEEN CLUMSY AND GUILTY OF SOME OF THE ISSUES BELOW. AFTER MANY YEARS IN THE FIELD, WE WOULD LIKE TO SHARE OUR THOUGHTS ON THE SUBJECT.
1. When we are out birding, we consider where we are. Are we in a neighborhood where the birds are used to people? One thousand miles from a coffee shop where the birds won’t see another birder for months? Or, are we at a spot that draws other birders?
The last type of spot is probably the most sensitive and needs the most care. A spot that draws other birders usually has exhausted, hungry migrants passing through on their long journey. These birds need to rest and eat, but have many people coming to see them. We should take special care not to disturb them as we watch them. If birds breed in such a spot, we would all like them to continue doing so. One should be very careful with the birds in these places and not use playbacks.
2.Out in the field, we are asking ourselves: Are we doing this for the betterment of the birds or for our own interest and pleasure?
If you are a biologist/naturalist in some banding program, please think about how scared the little critters are. We have seen people selling photographs (using flash!) of petrified birds being held for banding. If the bird is not being used for teaching or scientific measurement, let it go as quickly as possible! If you are out in the field for your own pleasure, we urge you to think twice about using tapes or calling. If a bird hears a territorial call in his area over and over again, is it a surprise when he doesn’t come back? We have heard so many tape users wonder why birds USED to be in a spot and aren’t now. We have seen this happen with local owls and warblers in two states. With more and more birders joining the ranks, it’s important to ask whether you are there for an official bird count or just out for a day of fun, a Big Day, or one of the many Bird-A-Thons.
3. Are we being careful where we walk?
Hiking will always cause some disturbance, of course; but we can be careful. Ground nests and low tree nests are especially vulnerable to large groups passing through. We should all try and be careful with the vegetation, dunes, and habitat; and we should certainly not try to flush birds. Group Leaders have the responsibility to pass on good ethics and not be too concerned about bird listing.
4. Have we exhausted the 3x rule?
As photographers, we like the 3x rule. If the bird is too shy, we leave it be. We also know that we have to be prepared to settle down with the skeeters for hours and let nature get comfortable around us, especially if we are near a nest. There have been many times where we DID NOT take the picture because a bird was distressed about his/her young.
WALK LIGHTLY; MAKE NO NOISE; DISTURB NO CREATURE; TAKE AWAY ONLY MEMORIES.