Date: 1/12/18 10:56 am From: Joel Geier <joel.geier...> Subject: [obol] Handling and sharing reports of sensitive species
Dave Irons has commented on the particular type of situation where a birder finds a rare and sensitive species due to their own skill, luck, or combination of the two. I tend to agree with Dave that in such a situation, the birder who found the bird is under no obligation to share it with the whole birding community, particularly if they think there is risk of disturbance.
There is a different type of circumstance that comes up regularly for those of us who have some kind of status that gives us public visibility, whether as Audubon field notes compiler, CBC compiler, eBird editor, or researcher. Some of us wear several such hats.
In these roles we may receive reports from random members of the public who've found something unusual, and are looking for someone to report it to. They might be aware of the conservation significance of a particular bird, or they might simply be looking for an "expert" to confirm it. But usually the idea of helping you or me or 15 or 150 of our buddies get a state or county tick isn't why they made the effort to contact us.
Each one of these reports requires special consideration. For example, last month when I received a report of what the observers were fairly sure was a male Black-chinned Hummingbird visiting a private feeder in Corvallis (alongside of their usual Anna's), I understood this as a report for field notes purposes. I shared it with the local CBC compiler because that seemed consistent with the intentions of the people who reported it to me. They did not respond enthusiastically to my hint that one of us might be able to come by to help confirm their sighting, so I didn't push further on access.
If I had received permission to come stake out their feeder, and I was able to confirm this report, then I would have asked about whether they would be interested in allowing other birders who were interested to come and look for it.
Not everyone is welcoming of having gobs of birders showing up in their yard, and sometimes gobs of birders can cause disturbance to the birds. But it's often possible to "meter" access in such situations, without being exclusionary. Charlotte Hottmann provided a good example of how to do this on her own, with the Yellow-throated Warbler near Ankeny NWR a few years ago.
If you're in a position that enables you to receive reports from the "random public," I encourage to kindly read the monthly Birding Community e-newsletter by Paul Baicich and Wayne Peterson, at:
Just about every month, Baicich and Peterson describe how communities have dealt with tricky access situations. There are some good ideas that could have worked for recent reports of rare and sensitive species in our area, with less disturbance of the birds, and fewer bad feelings by people who were left out of the loop.