Date: 2/27/17 8:49 am
From: Richard Harris Podolsky <richardpodolsky...>
Subject: Re: [Maine-birds] Great Grey

Let's all keep cool heads and not go down the low road. We all love
wildlife and bird and all agree that no one wants to bring harm.

But the reality for these northern visitors is that they are here
specifically in search of food. Presumably because food is scarce at home
*or* there is more competition from more owls having survived the warmer
recent winters with low snow cover - or both may be operating. Bottom
line though is for these birds it is all about finding enough food to
survive the winter and breed this spring.

The Code of Conduct posted for nature photographers are a great start but
they don't integrate the huge literature that exists on safe buffer
distances for birds. I have written to author and offered to help with

Three hundred feet is generally considered a MINIMUM distance to keep as a
to allow birds like owls, shorebirds and waders the distance they need to
keep a semblance of their natural behavior. Birds at feeders should be
given a minimum 100-foot buffer. My own personal feeling is that it is
best not to even enter the fields and habitats where the birds are feeding
- even if you are honoring a 300-foot buffer from its current perch. Best
to stay on the road and leave the entire field to the bird to forage within
as it sees fit. Under the those conditions the bird may or may reveal
itself to you. But when it does it more exciting than tramping into the
habitat on a stake out of the bird.

No one can easily say if this or any other bird is finding enough food to
offset energetic expenses. Even a bird without a throng of observers in
its view can fail to find enough food and starve let alone a bird burdened
with having to respond to human presence.

This isn’t being overly protective or an owl hugger. When birds are kept
from feeding by human intruders or the crows and ravens they may attract,
it results in a double whammy;

a). they are feeding less, and

b). they are burning calories fleeing intruders.

Flight is the most energetically expensive behavior birds do. So,
replacing foraging time with flying is a bad equation for birds –
especially those birds like owls that may be right on the edge of
starvation. Don't you agree? No lie, this could lead to starvation or in
the bird realizing they cannot optimally forage and depart *otherwise good
habitat *if not for humans.

Indeed, we are experiencing *higher than normal mortality of owls this
winter* from starvation - especially barred owls and saw whets. Even a few
days of heavy snow cover can put owls at risk of not finding enough food to
maintain. My neighbor brought me a dead, emaciated adult saw whet she
found during the blizzard. I have heard that barred owls are also having
trouble too. Call and ask Avian Haven if you don’t believe me.

Photographers need to be reminded that their awesome long lenses are for
capturing images of birds IN THE WILD. By relying upon their long lenses
and blinds and being patient - photographers capture better action shots
because the birds have sufficient room to behave naturally. When you
approach a bird to within a few feet you only get pictures of stressed bird
starting blankly at you.

The upshot of entering owl hunting habitats and approaching closer than
several hundred feet is that the birds may simply depart otherwise
sustaining habitats or, they might fail to get the meals they need to
survive the next snow storm. Let’s stay all try to stay the right side of
this issue and give these visiting birds *even more than you think they
might need*.


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