Date: 4/21/19 3:42 pm
From: David Irons <llsdirons...>
Subject: [obol] Re: Bird Watchers and Photographer's
Wayne et al.,

OBOL is a large forum with well over 1000 subscribers at this point. Many of us are known, having a left a considerable footprint with our activities and postings. Others are far less known and by and large anonymous. When these folks see posts about experiences being had by those who are more conspicuous and known in this forum they often seek to duplicate our experiences. On many occasions I have posted mini-travelogues of a sort with a roster of locations that I visited, what I found there, and tips for where to look for certain birds, then subsequently had folks from OBOL sending me a note saying they followed my tracks and had a great birding experience. Similarly, I have noticed that folks on the Facebook "Birding Oregon" forum (which Jim also uses) go out to sites where prominent posters like Jim have gone in hopes of getting the same kind of stunning photos that Jim routinely takes.

Herein lies the issue. Jim is an experienced bird photographer who often uses his vehicle as a blind as he sits and patiently waits to get great photos, particularly at Baskett Slough NWR, where he has been a fixture for many years. With practice and patience it's possible to get relatively close to most birds without having much impact on them, but it is a learned skill not an innate one. I trust that Jim is conscientious about disturbing birds and I haven't seen any of his photos that suggest his subjects were overly stressed. In this case he stayed on the road, came prepared with chairs so that he could sit and remain still as he waited for photo opportunities.

But what happens when less experienced birders and bird photographers go out to Malheur in hopes of getting the same sort of close-up photos of the Hwy 205 Ferruginous Hawks. It is unlikely that most will have the sort of camera equipment that Jim uses, or an understanding of the patience and distance that must be maintained to keep the birds relatively calm. In order to get similar results with inferior equipment they are going to have to get much closer to the birds and lacking Jim's experience they may not be as patient about waiting for the birds to be in position for a desired photo. If they see that Jim spent and hour and a half on site they may be inclined do similarly, but perhaps in a much more impactful way. On more than one occasion I've seen birders/bird photographers jump the fence along Hwy 205 and go way out on the flat area north of the Narrows to get close to Burrowing Owl nests. It's not a reach to expect that others might do the same in an effort to get closer and get better photos of the Ferruginous Hawk on and around the nest.

None of us has the ability to control the actions of others and I'm certainly in no position to tell Jim or anyone else how to go about their hobby. What we can do as a community is try to help people new to birding and bird photography understand how their actions may be impacting the birds that they are trying to enjoy. Like Jim, I've stationed myself at water features and shorebird flats and other places where with patience one can get great bird photos with little if any perceptible impact on the birds. When it's just me I can sit still and be quiet for long periods, but when others join me they often struggle to stop fidgeting and moving about in an effort to get a better photo angle. They end up stalking birds instead of waiting for the birds to come to them.

I once sat at the edge of Yaquina Bay for over an hour waiting for the incoming tide to push two juvenile Hudsonian Godwits onto the last piece of exposed mudflat right in front of me. I was like driftwood, not moving and just waiting. In the end the entire mudflat was covered and the two godwits were on a small grassy raised area within 20 feet of me. One of the birds tucked its head under its wing and went to sleep about 12 feet from where I sat. These are magical experiences that I would hope all of us have the opportunity to enjoy, but they rarely happen by accident or without some degree of forethought and planning.

Dave Irons
Beaverton, OR

From: <obol-bounce...> <obol-bounce...> on behalf of Wayne Hoffman <whoffman...>
Sent: Sunday, April 21, 2019 9:13 PM
To: Tom Crabtree; Jim Leonard; <obol...>
Subject: [obol] Re: Bird Watchers and Photographer's

Hi, again -

Tom, your and Dave's comments are appropriate in the abstract, but my reading of Jim's description of his actions, and more importantly my reading of his photographs, do not support your conclusions that he was inappropriately stressing the birds.

Some birds species tend to be very shy relative to human contact and some tend to be quite tolerant. Some individuals within species are a lot more tolerant than others.

The responsible thing for photographers and birders to do is learn to interpret the behavior of the birds in your presence, and respond responsibly to that, rather than set arbitrary rules for how long is too long, or how close is too close. If he birds are showing signs of being bothered by your presence, back off, leave, or change your behavior. If they are not showing signs of disturbance, trust their judgment.

Jim uses a far larger lens than I will ever be able to afford, which allows him to get large images from quite a ways away. If, as he described, he sat in a lawn chair to observe, his lack of movement and presumably noise would have rendered him less threatening as well.

I was not their either, so I cannot know for sure whether he was "bothering" the hawks, but I see little in his description, and nothing in the three photos, that seems automatically out of line. Again, my experiences with the Yaquina Head Peregrines give me a different perspective than I used to have on birds' capacity to adapt to nonthreatening human presence.


On 4/21/2019 3:58:20 PM, Tom Crabtree <tc...> wrote:


That isnít what Dave is saying at all. I am a birder and a photographer. I like getting close to birds, too, But as a birder and being concerned about sensitive species, I recognize that it is important to keep my distance and keep any disturbances to a minimum. There is a line where we cross into being an inappropriate distance or staying too long so that we are affecting the birdís behavior. We had a discussion about this with regard to the Eastern Bluebirds last fall and a lengthy discussion about approaching the Linn County Snowy Owl a few years ago. Like Dave I think an hour and a half in close proximity to a Ferruginous Hawk nest is way too long. Unfortunately some people donít recognize when their own behavior crosses the line.

Tom Crabtree, Bend

From: <obol-bounce...> [mailto:<obol-bounce...>] On Behalf Of Jim Leonard
Sent: Saturday, April 20, 2019 10:51 PM
To: obol
Subject: [obol] Bird Watchers and Photographer's

After reading Dave Irons comments maybe bird watchers and photographers should stay in their homes and not go near trees because you might disturb a bird, Be sure you don't drive or walk through any wildlife refuges because you might disturb some birds Don't go walking through the woods because there might be a nest that you don't see and you might disturb a bird. I have seen car loads of bird watchers from Audubon field trips unload out of their cars near water and scare every duck and bird away within 100 yards while I sit quietly in my truck taking photos out my window not disturbing anything. If Dave is so nervous about disturbing birds maybe he should stay home and give up bird watching and quit criticizing other birders. Jim Leonard.

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