Date: 12/5/18 7:19 pm
From: Andrew Bankert <abankert2007...>
Subject: [cobirds] Gyrfalcon
Let me start off by saying that the Gyrfalcon was not refound anywhere this
morning that I am aware of with people looking along Trilby Road and at the
landfill.

After thinking about it, I do not regret the 15 hour delay between
identifying and posting the Gyrfalcon to CObirds. I try to get the word
about rarities out as quickly as possible, but this Gyrfalcon was a special
case with both being a charismatic species drawing attention from a wider
number of people than your average rarity and being found in a restricted
area where we could easily lose access if there were any incidents
involving birders not following protocols at the landfill. As birders, I
understand how exciting it is to chase a rare bird and add a new tick to a
list, but I do wonder whether during our pursuits we forget about
considering the impacts we might have on the birds we chase and the areas
we visit.

Considering these impacts, including consulting with other birders, is what
happened during that 15 hour delay. Just last week while watching the
Grandview Cemetery Eastern Screech-Owl from a safe distance across the
canal, a group of us witnessed two, probably well intentioned, birders walk
right up to the tree the owl was roosting in while searching for it without
seeing it. Cases like this seem to occur somewhat regularly with
charismatic species that draw attention from more than just listers. There
has previously been suboptimal behavior and breaking of protocol from
chasers at rarities even within the same CBC Circle as the Gyrfalcon
(American Woodcock and Streak-backed Oriole come to mind). Normally, I
would trust in the birding community's ability to help educate this small
number of people, but the situation at the landfill is different with large
equipment with the potential to cause serious injury to someone not
following the landfill protocol. Such an event would surely ruin access to
one of my favorite birding spots in Larimer County, which we luckily have
the privilege to bird at unlike some other landfills in the state. One of
the gatekeepers at the landfill today did say that there were some problems
with birders not following protocols yesterday, which verified my concerns
about posting this sighting. Finally, the Gyrfalcon did not show up on any
eBird alerts because they have been deemed to be a sensitive species, and I
thought this was worth considering before plastering this sighting for
everyone to know about. It seems that in other states birders and
falconers have run into problems over Gyrfalcons, and it was not until
Tuesday morning that I was confident that it is illegal to trap a wild
Gyrfalcon in Colorado.

I still think we, as a birding community, should be excited when rare birds
show up and try to share them with everyone when appropriate, but I think
we do need to consider the impacts of both reporting rarities and chasing
birds. If you find a Red-faced Warbler at a city park there probably won't
be too much need for hesitation, but if you find a Snowy Owl that is best
viewed from an active construction site you might want to consider the
impacts of informing more than just a small group of people you know well.
I also hope we can appreciate birders who do consider the impacts their
hobby has on the birds they see, the places they visit, and the environment
as a whole. Finally, I do encourage anyone interested to visit a landfill
that allows access to look at gulls because you are often rewarded with a
good study of difficult-to-identify birds, just make sure you always follow
their rules and are constantly vigilant of your surroundings.

Andy Bankert
Fort Collins

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