Date: 4/21/19 6:27 am
From: Wayne Hoffman <whoffman...>
Subject: [obol] Re: Ferruginous Hawk Nest Malheur -- étiquette around nesting and roosting raptors
Hi - 

A few comments:

1. Jim undoubtedly took many more photos than the three he posted, but in my opinion (and I have a lot of experience too) those 3 show behavior that indicates a degree of comfort with Jim's presence.

2.  Raptors make decisions about risk when they establish nests.  If they nest near busy roads we can safely assume that they were aware of traffic when they did so.  If they have continued to use such a nest for multiple years, it is safe to assume that they are not overly bothered by cars stopping on the shoulder, and even by people getting out and pointing glass and metal objects at them.

3.  Between 2011 and 2018  I spent A LOT of time observing and photographing the Peregrine Falcons at Yaquina Head.  The original pair may have delayed nesting for a year before nesting on the quarry wall, right above the busy parking lot. Once they did nest, BLM developed some contingency plans - partial lot closures, closure of the trail to the top of the cliff, etc. but the birds became so comfortable with most peoples' behavior that these rarely had to be used.  There were exceptions- drones have bothered the birds (and the seabirds), and have been banned from the site.  Hang gliders have bothered the Peregrines, and their activity has been restricted, although I believe that is still being contested.  The two circumstances where the Peregrines were visibly bothered by people were during fledging,and if prey was inadvertently dropped into the parking lot.  During fledging BLM staff sometimes closed the trail above, if fledglings lit near it, and sometimes put up signs to keep people further from the base of the cliff.  I was there daily during 2 breeder replacements. In the first, an interloper male apparently killed the original breeding male as the female was beginning incubation, and then paired with her.  He reacted visibly to human activity for about a week, then became about as blase as the original pair.  Replacement of the original female was a slower process with considerable (non-human) disruption of the nesting, but the new female also became very accepting of human presence and activity.

4.  In my lifetime as a birder (and photographer) I have observed a change in diurnal raptors' reactions to people.  In general they are much more tolerant of approach by people.  I attribute this to the general decrease in peoples' propensity to shoot at them. Two exceptions:  For reasons I do not understand American Kestrels are considerably less approachable than other small raptors.  And, although I do not have personal experience, I doubt that Goshawks are any more tolerant of approach to their nests than they ever were. 

In Summary, I doubt that Jim caused the Ferruginous Hawks much anxiety, and I think we (particularly the older of us) need to re-calibrate our assumptions about how much or how little our presence disturbs these birds in an environment they are sharing with more and more of us, but hopefully with less reason to fear us.

On 4/21/2019 4:34:54 AM, David Irons <llsdirons...> wrote:

Suggesting that I made a judgment in this instance "without knowing the situation" is not accurate. I am quite familiar with the situation at the Ferruginous Hawk nest where you took your photos. I have stopped to look at the nest on a few occasions and driven by it on many dozen more. You said yourself that this was your first visit and that you spent an hour and a half at the nest site. Did I somehow misrepresent either of these facts? There may be some OBOL subscribers, perhaps many, who think that it's okay to spend that amount of time roughly 200 yards from an active hawk nest in the only tree around. Some may believe that it has no impact whatsoever on the birds, but I beg to differ. I would hope that we can engage in a civil conversation about issues like this. You didn't need to tell this very public forum that you spent as long as you did at the site of this nest, but you did. Apparently you didn't consider that this might invite questions about whether such a lengthy visit was prudent. I am certainly not the only one in this forum who knows about this well-known nest site, or the only person on OBOL who appreciates that Ferruginous Hawks are a "species of concern" as it relates to their breeding status in Oregon. []
Ferruginous Hawk - Oregon Conservation Strategy []
Blue Mountains. Located in NE Oregon, the Blue Mountains ecoregion is the largest ecoregion in the state. It provides a diverse complex of mountain ranges, valleys, and plateaus that extend beyond Oregon into the states of Idaho and Washington.
The report at the link above clearly states that Ferruginous Hawks are susceptible to human disturbances during the nesting season. If, as you say, the recent bird festival in Burns had "carloads of people unloading to observe this nest" that would seem to be problematic as well to my way of thinking. If that makes me a jerk, or the "bird police" I'm okay with that. We all enjoy seeing birds up close and personal, and many of us enjoy taking and seeing great photos of birds. Is it really so unreasonable to ponder how our behaviors and activities may be impacting the birds we profess to care about? It's a delicate balance with no simple answers. Have I strayed to close to a nest or lingered too long when a bird may have been agitated? Of course I have. Hopefully, I and others can learn from those missteps.  

Dave Irons
Beaverton, OR   

From: Jim Leonard <photojleonard...>
Sent: Sunday, April 21, 2019 5:29 AM
To: David Irons
Subject: Re: [obol] Ferruginous Hawk Nest Malheur -- étiquette around nesting and roosting raptors
Don't you ever get tired of implying that someone is doing something wrong.  You make judgement's  all the time without knowing the situation.  Sometimes I think you think you can read  a birds mind.  You seem to enjoy getting a reaction out of people. Have you ever though of saying something nice on a posting.  You and a few others are why I don't post on OBOL very often.  We sat quietly in our folding chairs for most of the time but I don't have to justify what I do to you.  Maybe you should take a break from being the bird police all the time.  The recent bird festival in Burns probably had car loads of people unloading to observe this nest.  You are good at saying you are not criticizing a person but imply just the opposite.  Jim Leonard.

On Sat, Apr 20, 2019 at 10:07 PM David Irons <llsdirons...> [mailto:<llsdirons...>]> wrote:

I reluctantly wade into this topic, but in light of Jim Leonard's post and the length of time (1.5 hours) he says he spent in proximity to the Malheur NWR Ferruginous Hawk nest I think there is a worthy discussion to be had. Jim mentions using a long lens and staying on the road "as to not disturb the hawks," so I know that he is conscientious and that he believes his presence was having little or no impact on these birds. In thinking about how to best broach this topic it occurred to me that there are two ways for humans to perhaps negatively impact nesting birds. 

The first might best be described as "active" disturbance. On the least impactful end of the active disturbance spectrum birders and bird photographers might inadvertently get too close to a nest or roost site and causing the bird(s) to flush and/or perhaps dive-bomb the intruder if there are young in the nest. On the most impactful end of this spectrum there is the willful and intentional harassment of the birds. We all know what that looks like. Clearly folks in this forum are not of the ilk that actively harasses wildlife, but most all of us have probably overstepped the invisible boundary and flushed a nesting bird on occasion. 

The second sort of potentially negative impact is what I would call a "passive" disturbance. Although our presence may not flush a bird or give it reason to take obvious defensive or retaliatory action, is it safe for us to assume that our presence is having zero or negligible impact? Like Jim, I take lots of bird photos and it adds considerably to my enjoyment of birding. Over the years I've taken many photos of birds of prey, both flying and perched. When I look closely at those photos I notice that in most of my photos the hawk, eagle, or falcon is looking directly at me. Upon noticing this I came to better appreciate that my presence (which I would have thought was pretty benign) is actually giving hawks cause for concern. Given their apparent reaction, I have concluded that my presence is in some way altering their behavior and activities. I have since tried to modify my behavior accordingly, especially when I have a camera in my hands.  

From what I can see in Jim's photos, the Ferruginous Hawk nest that he was photographing is the well-known nest that is in a lone juniper off the west side of Oregon Hwy 205 a couple miles north of "The Narrows" and the Sodhouse Lane turnoff to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters. This nest is only a couple hundred yards off the road. It is in a tree that is maybe 20' tall. This sentinel tree is the only thing (other than utility poles) that is more than 4-5 feet tall in any direction for roughly a half mile. It is perhaps the best known and most accessible Ferruginous Hawk nest in Oregon. I've stopped and taken photos of it myself. When I have stopped, I've made a point of staying only a minute or two and I remaining in my vehicle. Even then, I have always felt pangs of discomfort over the potential impact that I may be having on these gorgeous hawks. 

It's impossible to know or assess how our presence impacts these birds. That said, being present in proximity (close enough to take photos) to this nest for an hour and a half would seem to qualify as a passive disturbance of this nesting pair. I suspect that the adult Ferruginous Hawks kept a watchful eye on Jim during most of the time he was there. There is no reason to believe that Jim's visit has inflicted any real harm to the birds, or caused any interruption or abandonment of their nesting effort. I raise these points not to point a menacing finger at Jim Leonard, or call his judgment into question, but to give all of us cause to think about how our presence around an active bird nest may be having more impact than we think. I can certainly appreciate Jim's excitement over having an opportunity photograph these stunningly beautiful hawks for the first time. Sometimes it's hard to walk away from a great photo opportunity, but walk away we must if we truly have the bird's best interest at heart and I believe that we all do. 

Dave Irons
Beaverton, OR  

From: <obol-bounce...> [mailto:<obol-bounce...>] <obol-bounce...> [mailto:<obol-bounce...>]> on behalf of Jim Leonard <photojleonard...> [mailto:<photojleonard...>]>
Sent: Saturday, April 20, 2019 3:46 PM
To: obol
Subject: [obol] Ferruginous Hawk Nest Malheur
We went to Malheur NWR Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week.  Took photos from a road of a Ferruginous Hawk Pair and nest.  We watched it for about 11/2 hours.  One flew in with a stick and exchanged places with its mate sitting on some eggs.  First time I had ever seen or photographed a Ferruginous Hawk.  What a treat.  Click on link for photos by Jim Leonard.  ( note: used a large lens and stayed on the road as to not disturb the hawks.) []

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