Date: 3/15/17 10:17 am
From: 'Bill Hubick' via Maryland & DC Birding <mdbirding...>
Subject: Re: [MDBirding] slow release, my 2 cents
Amen, Tyler! ;)  I was just joking with Matt Hafner that it was nice to sit one of these discussions out. But. I. can't. quite. do. it.
I'd encourage anyone who thinks it's obvious to take a turn at facilitating rare bird access and do their best. I suspect you'll come away with an appreciation for how complex it gets. Fairness isn't as clear-cut under field conditions, I assure you. The problem is that everyone has a different idea of what's fair and none of us have any actual authority in a specific homeowner situation. And Tyler didn't even touch on the horrifying cases, like when the bird leaves after its banded, the neighbors are complaining, or someone breaks something!  Experienced facilitators tend to be happy to share the job.

This community is full of good people doing their best for birds, people, conservation, and science. This is a tricky topic and I urge everyone to be polite. Big thanks to everyone who's hosted our wonderful and strange community or facilitated on our behalf. Like Tyler said, it sucks. :)
Haven't read enough on the subject? Here's a treatise I wrote a few years ago in a similar situation. I like it because it walks the reader through the thought process of how to handle the situation. It still makes my pulse quicken. By the way, a lot of good people worked together to put those MOS guidelines out there to assist (shared earlier by Kurt Schwarz). Another example of good people volunteering their time to help the community. I hope a few of you enjoy the MDOSPREY :) post below (10/20/2011).
Good birding!


----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Bill Hubick <bill_hubick...>
To: MDOSPREY <mdosprey...>
Sent: Thursday, October 20, 2011 12:28 PM
Subject: Facilitating Access to a Rare Bird on Private Property

Hi Everyone,
Facilitating access to a rarity on private property is an extremely delicate and stressful job. This topic will be raised annually in most states, and I agree with Maryanne that any discussion in this forum should be amicable and intended to be productive.
There have been a couple references to guidelines, and we should start by pointing out that neither MOS nor any club has formal authority in such matters. Not only is it inappropriate to try to assume authority in matters of private property access, each situation is so different as to render application of strict guidelines nearly impossible. The best anyone can do is make some general recommendations. Here are mine, based on involvement with facilitating access to several state-level rarities on private property. These concepts were applied, for example, to the Monrovia White-winged Dove, which I think was a rare 100% success.
First, remember that we are now enjoying the luxury of hindsight. In real time involvement, any mistake or slightly different set of circumstances could end with a very different story. We're dealing with the "More people should have seen it." ending, but it could have easily been a horror story where 200 people stormed a now-furious community, trashed a few lawns, and made the papers - a major black eye for the birding community. There are simply a huge number of variables involved. Please indulge me by walking through the process.
Please try to step back and put yourself in the position of someone who just became aware of a major rarity on private property. Start the clock. With every moment that passes, you are now somewhat responsible in the public eye for whether the bird is properly documented for science, who gets to see it, and the well-being of the homeowners, the neighbors, and the bird. Your instincts are probably telling you that you are socially and politically in a dangerous position, and you're totally right. And good news!  Your final responsibility in this stressful process will be to absorb a predictable, but untold volume of animosity from the community. The rarer the bird, the higher the stakes, and the more upset some of the first people who don't see the bird will be. Has your pulse quickened yet? Mine is picking up again even during my proofread.
So, let's come up with some basic guidelines. I'm sure we'll agree that the well-being of the bird, the homeowners, and the neighbors is our #1 priority. Everyone agrees with that, but stop and think what that means. We know in this case that the homeowners were awesome, friendly people, and that the layout could have PERHAPS allowed more people to park and access the site. This is certainly not always the case, and it takes time to make contact, communicate with the homeowners about what they're in for, and see how much they're willing to go through for a bunch of crazy strangers who want to stand in their yard. Some homeowners are not nearly as flexible and for various valid reasons want a much small number of visitors (or even no visitors).
OK, you have a name, number, and an address. Maybe you even have a photo of the bird. You think it's legit. There are two ends of the spectrum option-wise:
Option 1) Post it immediately to the list-serve. Risk: The house is stormed and chaos ensues. The homeowners are overwhelmed. A fence is damaged. The police are telling people to move along. The birding community looks terrible and you are publicly castigated for your insensitivity to the community and the well-being of the bird. This does happen regularly. How would you like for that to be considered your fault?

(Clock is still ticking. Did you e-mail anyone yet?)
Option 2) Keep it nearly entirely secret and arrange only enough access to photograph it once and band the bird. Risk: Personal, permanent animosity from birders who believe it was unreasonable to not try to help some people see the bird. After all, in most cases, SOME visitation is easily arranged. Many homeowners love sharing their visitor. Some have gone on to become active birders and members of their local bird club. Are you going to default to keeping it a secret?
I'll give you a hint. Don't do either of those. There's a galaxy of compromises between those two bad options. Someone should go out there and feel it out. Keep in mind that any tiny step in one direction increases risk on the other end. The more people you tell, the higher the chance of disturbance. The fewer people you tell, the more animosity from the community.
Are we having fun yet? Enjoy the start of the 150 e-mails you'll be sending over the next two weeks!
You've made contact. The homeowner seems nice and excited for you and perhaps a couple others to come over.
During the initial visit, good facilitators should do all of the following:
- Be pleasant and informative
- Ensure the bird is documented with photo/video to establish the record
- [If applicable] Bring up the subject of banding, explaining the huge benefits to science, but also ensuring they know there's a small chance the bird might depart after the banding
- Prepare the homeowner for the level of interest and discuss options for how to control the flow of information.
- Look for logistical goldmines such as a public place to view the bird. Suggest possible options based on homeowner's interest.
Note: I recommend trying to have one main facilitator to avoid confusion and undue stress to the homeowners. This is unofficial, of course, and the homeowners should do as they please. However, imagine what a mess it could be if you had competing forces disseminating information. One main POC is best for a variety of reasons.
Sometimes, as in the case of the White-winged Dove, an ideal viewing location exists. This is a gold mine, and is the best chance that the word can be spread quickly. There are other special cases when the word can go public immediately, but this is the exception. And of course, the rarer the bird, the more chance of a nightmare situation. Even with a limited release of information, this can quickly snowball into public knowledge. For a bird like a Green Violetear, it would be chased not only by locals, but from visitors from throughout (at least) the Mid-Atlantic and New England.
So some sort of "Slow Release" process is what we as facilitators settle on, often with much discussion with the homeowners. This is more manageable overall, and makes it easier to cut it off if there is disturbance to the homeowners, the neighbors, or the bird. The concept is that you tell an initial list and explain to them to tell a few people after they've seen the bird. In many cases, the bird sticks around and everyone who cares to see the bird hears about it over a week or two. It's a shame if the bird doesn't stick around long enough, but no one can predict how long it will stay, and there might be no way to increase the volume of visitors. You don't want to be the one who causes these nice people to be over-run.
So, the "Slow Release" process emerges, and it's probably the best thing we're going to get. You should start by getting some people over to get good photos and fully establish the ID, and the banders should be alerted as early as possible. Everything after this is a service you and the homeowners are doing for the birding community. By the way, the banders here in Maryland are Bruce Peterjohn (<bpeterjohn...>) and David Holmes (<musiclbndr...>). Any hummingbird from this point forward this year is likely to not be a Ruby-throated, and I'm sure they'd like to know about it. Keep those feeders up!
Who gets told beyond that is up to you, and this is where you won't win. I am 100% confident that there is no system that will satisfy even a narrow majority of people. It will also please approximately 0% of the people who don't get to see the bird. You might personally establish criteria based on being a photographer, being a local, making regular field birding contributions, membership on the records committee, being your friend, being a serious lister, or others.

Now that you have your hopeless subjective criteria, try making a list of people. If you are told to start slow (let's say 15-20 people) and let the word spread, even the people who didn't hear about it directly from the initial message might resent you. I typically get "why was I left off?" e-mails even from the people who heard about it word of mouth within 24 hours. (I tell them that's just how it has to work.) The best you can do is explain the situation, be sincere, and have thick skin. You're doing the best you can. I will say that the local bird club can be an invaluable team mate, and you might even choose to try to pass the facilitation to them. When Tyler and I were working with Esther and her community in Monrovia, we tagged in the Frederick club early and they helped a lot. When questioned on "our" decisions, it was nice to say that everything in place was in accordance with the homeowner, the community, (and the church!, in this case), and the local bird club. We were covered, and I might have slept well again after that.

There are no golden rules, however, and saying that locals should ALWAYS control the situation is probably not correct. Many rare birds have been suppressed locally over the years, probably to greater detriment to science (i.e., documentation) and maximum possible access. Does a casual local birder have more "right" to a bird than a passionate field birder who contributes 100s of eBird reports and extensive rarity documentation regularly? People will argue about these things forever, and this is the part that will not be solved to everyone's satisfaction. Please avoid this topic, discuss it off-line, or do so with great care. (This is the key danger in starting a flame war.) I am typically exhausted by the end of the process. In some cases I have ended up sending about 200 e-mails.
Wrapping up:

Whew! OK, it's over. Final steps.
- Recognize the homeowners for being awesome. Personally, I like to send a print of the bird even if I was just a visitor. In other cases, we have recognized them with MOS awards or gifts like bird club membership, a hummingbird guide, and so on.

- Submit details to the MD/DCRC and eBird. (eBird reports should be postponed until the bird is public knowledge.)
I really wish there were a perfect solution, but I think we've arrived at the best possible approach through hard work. Yes, it would have been awesome if more people had gotten to see the bird. That said, I believe that this one was handled extremely well. Anyone facilitating access is volunteering a lot of time to carefully share something special with the community. I would encourage everyone to be supportive and empathetic. Someday you might be hoping we are!
Good birding,

Bill HubickPasadena, <Marylandbill_hubick...>://

From: 'James Tyler Bell' via Maryland & DC Birding <mdbirding...>
To: Maryland & DC Birding <mdbirding...>
Sent: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 12:42 PM
Subject: Re: [MDBirding] slow release, my 2 cents

OK, let's think about this. You either find a rare bird or hear about it somehow. How do you spread the word? Here are two scenarios. Kelp Gull shows up on the pier at a seafood restaurant with adequate parking. The folks at the restaurant are notified and are fine with the word going out publicly. Emails go out about the location and a full color photo shows up on the Saturday Washington Post Metro section. The bird sticks around for 6 years and literally thousands of people come to see it, many eating at the restaurant. Easy peasy.

Second scenario. Jim Stasz finds a Calliope Hummingbird at his house. He says to come by and even has chairs set out for people to sit in while waiting. There's tons of parking nearby. In this case, the homeowner found the bird, posted the location and is fine with unrestricted access. Problem solved.

Next scenario. Rufous Hummingbird shows up at your neighbor's house. The feeder is only visible from their backyard. They don't want lots of people to see it but are fine with a trickle. Now what? First, county birders get to see it. Then what? How do you control access when the homeowners specifically restrict the number. Seriously, how would you determine who next to allow to visit?

There's no simple answer to allowing access to a rarity. Every situation is different. Being a contact person for a rarity sucks. I don't wish it on anyone.

Tyler Bell
California, Maryland

From: Barbara Sollers <dbsollers61...>
To: Rick Borchelt <rborchelt...>
Cc: Patricia Valdata <pvaldata1...>; Maryland Birding <mdbirding...>
Sent: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 11:53 AM
Subject: Re: [MDBirding] slow release, my 2 cents

I agree with Rick's comments completely!  Especially with his final sentence.  In general I find the Maryland birding community to be extremely helpful in sharing information.  I have ALWAYS gotten an immediate reply either in person or through email when I have asked a question.

That being said, I find it interesting that the "elite" members of the MD birding community always get early access to rarity species while those of us who are not among the upper echelon of birders have to wait significantly longer for announcements.  I would match my birding ethics with anyone else in the state!  This does cause a bit of frustration at times.

Just my thoughts!

Good Birding,

Duvall Sollers
Hereford, MD

Sent from my iPad

On Mar 15, 2017, at 10:51 AM, Rick Borchelt <rborchelt...> wrote:

I think Pat's point -- and one made well in the posted guidelines -- is that the process of selecting who finds out and when needs to be transparent and transparently fair.  Having much experience with rare and local butterflies along the same lines, this is easier said than done, but having the commitment to fairness and transparency and communicating that commitment often and widely goes a long way to soothing hurt feelings of disenfranchisement.  People need to feel they have some reasonable expectation of being informed at some point. 
>On Wed, Mar 15, 2017 at 10:29 AM, Patricia Valdata <pvaldata1...> wrote:
>As a homeowner I understand the need for slow release of a rare bird's location, but I think it should be done so that local birders get the news first. In the case of this Painted Bunting, I would hope that members of the Harford Bird Club were the first to be notified about this bird.
>>When the Green Violet-ear Hummingbird was in Elkton years ago, there were a lot of hard feelings because that bird's location was given to only one member of the Cecil Bird Club. It seemed unfair that birders from other states were told of that exceptional rarity when birders who lived within a few minutes of this bird were not told it was there until after it had left the area.
>>Pat Valdata
>>Crisfield, Somerset County
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>Rick Borchelt
>College Park, MD
>preferred personal email:  rborchelt |AT| gmail |DOT| com
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