Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Photographers Please Note!!

During the last few weeks I've come across several would be bird photographers. I can say with some believe that they are readers of this blog as they seem to be visiting the same areas that I've written about, so on the face of it I should be pleased! Nonetheless their activities have caused me some angst. If your going to involve yourself in this pursuit there is a need to understand it comes with some "rules". If you use playback, use it sparingly, not for extended periods. Don't sit near birds that are nesting for extended periods--in this day of digital imagery, it's quite unnecessary anyway to photograph at nest sites and impinges on the activities of the birds. Don't unnecessarily disturb roosting birds. One photographer returned to the same nest site for at least three days, and was surprised that the birds had apparently "disappeared". In talking to a few of them, they appear to have only a rudimentary knowledge of birds, so I suspect they lack the understanding of the need to learn the skills that pertain to bird friendly photography. Too many appear to only be interested in their photography with no concern for the birds.
The welfare of the birds should be paramount in your approach to photography.


Duncan said...

Right on Alan, well said.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Duncan,
With the increasing ease of photographing birds, I hoped that I might generate more understanding and interest in them. But increasingly the people that I mentioned only have one goal and the welfare of the birds is either deliberately ignored or just not considered. It's brought me to the issue of whether I want to continue the blog. I spend much time birding and carry a camera and take shots as and when. I have over 60 years birding experience to help me. It pains me to watch others who have no "rules" or experience to guide them. I have no "ownership" of the birds that I blog about, but I do have a proprietorial interest in them, and feel pained when I see that it has brought out the "cowboys". They probably won't identify with that comment, but it has left me in a bind!
Photographing birds is a perfectly good interest, but it comes with obligations, whatever your motives are for pursuing it. Don't bring it into disrepute by your actions.

Thanks Duncan for your support, you obviously have come across the same problem! I trust you're in good health.

Mona said...

Dear Alan

Thanks for your post and for showing us all how important it is to put the birds' welfare first. I have learnt a lot about Tasmanian birds from your blog and your photos and it would be a shame to lose it.

I have some 20 years of birding experience, although I have never taken photos, and I still feel like a novice and like I have more to learn about bird conservation. What I have picked up has often been from other experienced birders, and I appreciate any and all wisdom from such sources!

I've come across my share of inconsiderate birders, or just the unaware public, and it feels like it wasn't so long ago that I was one of them. At least nowadays I can explain to people that it is NOT a good idea to walk right up to that mottled egg on the beach for a closer look at it, and what impact their actions might have.

Perhaps a post with some do's and don'ts would be helpful to those who don't have experience to guide them?

Thanks again

BirdingTas said...

Hi Mona,
Thank you for your comments and I agree there is a learning curve for us all. Unfortunately I'm talking about photographers who have only one aim and birds are just another "target". The end product has become more important, and there is seemingly, no desire to know or care about the "target".
In part I'm actually feeling somewhat guilty about 'adding and abetting' the practice! Certainly facilitating it.
There is a lack of understanding by the general public about appropriate behaviour towards our birds. I was recently told that roosting beach birds "seemed to enjoy being chased by their dog" and they were quite convinced of this.
I'm really more concerned here about photographers who have an agenda far removed from an interest in birds and birding. By their actions I can see that they are only concerned with getting a "result". Somehow that seems to mirror today's society

Penny said...

I totally agree with your comments Alan. Following the fortunes of the Forty-spotted Pardalote at the Peter Murrel Reserve for research purposes I have found vegetation severely trampled and clothing left around nest sites. Some pairs have been almost constantly observed (hounded) since October - no wonder their numbers in the reserve are decreasing! It is a timely reminder that although one persons actions alone may be O.K. accumulatively we could be doing harm.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Penny,
Others have emailed me saying they haven't found any 40spots in the Peter Murrell Reserve this season, and I haven't since last Autumn. Most of the people that I'm referring to (taking photos) have no or little birding knowledge--that's quite evident from talking to them. Since some have revisited and photographed individual birds that I've mentioned in my blog, I do feel some responsibility. While birders should play by the rules and generally do, others have no such guidelines and it's open slather--seemingly, the end product is all that matters.
I feel that perhaps a moratorium on photographing 40spots in the PM reserve should be instituted. The only problem is, who is going to control it? When was the last time you saw a Parks officer (other than works staff) there? In all my many visits over many years, I've yet to see one there or almost anywhere else come to that! By the large number of other activities that go on in that reserve, it's hard to think that it's a conservation area--more like a public recreation zone!

Penny said...

I'm all for limiting access to the 40spots by photographers and observers in all areas where the birds viability is on a knife edge,at least until the populations stabilize. Unfortunately the word 'endangered' has made a sighting or photo more necessary to some, and I do believe these actions are seriously endangering the Peter Murrell colonies. I continue to do a bit of citizen policing, but ofcourse that relies on peoples good will.
On another note I am sorry, but totally understand your quandry about continuing this blog. Your photos and accounts are nothing but enlightening,positive and responsible, and have taught me so much. Unfortunately bad side effects seem commonplace these days, however I believe this forum still remains an opportunity to educate others in the ways of responsible birding.

BirdingTas said...

Thanks Penny for your comments on continuing the blog, I'm still 'working' on that. As far as limiting access, I agree and understand your sentiments, but think that the practicality of enforcing it seems problematic. Photographers aside, the Peter Murrell reserve faces many other issues relating to increased use, and often sighting 40spots isn't and doesn't have to be intrusive. I have managed, albeit over many visits, to photograph them with little or limited intrusion on their space and never at or near (knowingly) their nest sites.
Your comments about trampled vegetation etc. do not suggest 'genuine' birders, and that was my original point. There are numbers of photographers wanting to photograph birds who have little or no understanding and interest in them aside from getting a "result". They tend to be more persistent in that goal than birders, who are often content just to get a 'record' shot--not something useful to these tyros. For some, nothing less than tripod and flash--the full works, which often needs or causes trampling of vegetation.
There are 'rules' from various birding organisations that can be found on the internet, but a little plain common sense would help. I think we would all put up with someone briefly entering our front garden, but if they 'parked' themselves there for an extended period, we would get very 'agitated'--so do birds!

David said...

Hi Alan,

Having become a frequent follower of your excellent and highly educational blog, I was distressed to read the suggestion that you are considering discontinuing it, and I hope to help dissuade you from doing so. I write from the point of view of someone who has had a 40+ year interest in conservation and an accompanying passion for nature-wilderness-wildlife photography, but for whom a particular interest in birds and their welfare has evolved in more recent years. From my viewpoint, your aims of generating more understanding and interest in birds have hit the spot exactly.
Naturally, with my interests I also find myself photographing birds, but even without the benefit of decades as a birder, commonsense (and observation over the years) has dictated to me that extra care is needed for these particularly sensitive subjects - as one of your correspondents writes, putting the birds' welfare first. Certainly in my case, avoiding both close approach to nest sites and the level of intrusion on space that can radically alter behaviour were first assumptions, the same that I would apply to other wildlife as well.
Some of the human behaviour reports are worrying - trampling of vegetation to 'get the shot' not only suggests the culprits are not 'genuine' birders, but that they have no respect for the environment in general. Such behaviour would be just as unacceptable in capturing a landscape. Education can be a key to reducing such behaviour - you could place a set of behavioural guidelines prominently on your front page. Other educational ideas could arise and be included if you continue, and could become an important part of the function of your site.

Best wishes,

BirdingTas said...

Thank you David for your kind thoughts and comprehensive comments. Human behaviour in our natural environment is a vexed question which, because I often do my birding in shared areas, I get to see rather more first hand than I would like. I find a close correlation between that and driver behaviour! When confronted about their driving most people are very defensive, and don't see any need for them to change their habits. They know it all and conform, don't they!
I realise that over the years I've broken the 'rules', particularly when wader counting. Like most pursuits, we justify our behaviour according to our perceived need for doing it; we needed to know how our waders are doing? Over time I have learnt the nuances associated with wader watching. When is an acceptable time to approach waders, as regards tide, species and season. Not an easy 'rule' to convey, which could change from venue to venue. Much the same applies in the bush and it's not a skill learnt overnight. I still at times find myself in situations where I'm compromising birds, and have to move.
Several birding organisations have their guidelines available on the internet. Most are generalised and common sense. One that may surprise some, is that photography at nest sites (with a few exceptions) is now frowned on, and most birding sites won't publish them. I say surprising since such images were once the mainstay of bird photography, back in the pre digital days.
Because it's so easy to photograph birds, relatively speaking, it has become increasingly popular and decent images can give great personal satisfaction. It has a correlation with hunting, bringing back an image instead of a dead animal! However, like hunting, we might stop and think about our rationale for doing it. I publish images with information on the blog for other people to (hopefully) read and enjoy. I have invaded a birds' 'space' to a greater or lesser degree to get it and I do write from a position of some knowledge and experience. So when some just see the blog as an easy way to locate and photograph birds with no great interest in their welfare, I ask myself whether I want to continue to facilitate that. The question is posed entirely for me to answer! Perhaps it's time to move it in another direction. All said and done, blog writing could be seen to be entirely egotistic in nature.
[In my defence, I should mention that many of the images end up in a myriad of brochures, pamphlets, books, signs etc. and used in talks]

Iain D. Williams said...

Phototgraphy is not similar to shooting where your target species is killed. The photograph is always secondary to the actual welfare of the animal no matter what animal species. As for using recordings - well I disagree with this activity

BirdingTas said...

Hi Iain,
From personal experience, (I have shot a number of feral species in the now distant past) , I do see a correlation between hunting and bird photography. The difference is that an image is brought back, not a dead body.
I was at pains to say that the welfare of the birds was always paramount. Perhaps that point was lost. The general thrust of the blog was that there are people about photographing birds that don't stick to the "rules'. Many have only rudimentary birding skills, and the birds' welfare suffers accordingly.
I understand your sentiments on using recordings, but as you know it's widely used for a variety of purposes. My personal view is again, it should be used sparingly and with an understanding of its' affects. Again a good grounding in birding is required.

Iain D. Williams said...

Perhaps it's a good idea to post a thread with the rules that birders and photographers should follow. Personally, I dislike getting too close to animals to obtain a photograph - afterall that is why we use telephoto lenses! Iain

BirdingTas said...

Thanks for your thoughts Iain. I have seriously considered doing so, and may yet. I don't want to give the impression that I have an approach to photographing birds that is beyond criticism. I actually go birding with a camera, and sometimes find a situation that allows photography. I often return with only a few record shots, but have still enjoyed being out there. My point is that photography is secondary to my birding, but I do go out birding a lot. My criticism is mostly aimed at people with little experience around birds who obviously are more interested in the end product and not in how it was obtained. I suggest that they practice on common birds in local bush, and not in reserves and other sensitive areas, (such as Lauderdale Spit). I started by walking round the neighbourhood and photographing magpies and galahs etc.. But we live in an era of instant experts, hence my critical post.

Joey Beatrix said...

oh my goodness... I wonder if I'm guilty of all those. I'm a student at UTAS and one of my assignments was to create a bird list and to be honest, I get pretty excited vry easily and try to get near to be able to identify.

I wouldn't mind being told rules and stuff but all my lecturer said was to be at least 50m (or was that feet) from them (not sure if just applied to the shorebirds at Waterviews at a recent excursion).

Hope you can compose a do and don't list for amateur birdwatchers like me :)

Iain D. Williams said...

I think a list of do's and don'ts might make a good blog post, Iain

BirdingTas said...

Hi Joey,
If you're using the usual visual aids--binoculars, I doubt that you will need to break the 'rules', at least in the bush. When it comes to waders, you particularly need to avoid unduly harassing flocks of roosting birds, like those on Lauderdale Spit. Migrant wading birds are particularly vulnerable, as safe roosts allow them to use the energy gained by feeding to initially moult into new feathers, especially flight feathers, and later to increase fat deposits.These birds typically increase in weight by 50% or more. Both of these are necessary for successful migration. Flight uses energy--less fat deposit. This can be avoided to some degree, by surveying as the tide goes out.
I don't think that there any issues at Waterview Reserve and causing birds to take flight is inevitable in a range of situations, just be aware of not doing it