It is not my intention to nitpick a thoughtful email. This is to those that are conflicted to our rights to view these magical birds. I have done my share of wildlife videography/photography and rescued and attempted to rescue many birds of prey from the smallest to the largest. Notwithstanding Julian Hough’s meaningful email I argue in the alternative regarding only the highlighted portion below.
As an example, red tails are not of the same temperament as coopers. But at the same time I find many variations of tolerance between the same species with some terrified, others (apparently) calm while others aggressive. As a rule they are sensitive to a human presence unless totally distracted. I have been able to approach a Great Blue Heron within a few feet in a Boston pond while others on the Naugatuck River scare at 1000 feet. Some Osprey’s, Peregrine’s and Eagle's are so sensitive you need to hide in a blind and others pose and could not care less. Including, but not limited to, other ingredients like where and what the bird is doing.
I wish to make clear I did not see first hand everyone “surrounding" this Snowy at "30 feet”.
I know first hand a goodly amount of these snow birds have had to be rescued, rehabbed and released and some have perished from starvation.
A common rule is if the bird of prey allows you to get pretty close and it is not mantling its prey - as I suspect this one was not (as many photos suggest) - and as A Place Called Hope suggested - it could be in trouble. Why take that chance?
When does one put down the camera and save the subject? That is a tough decision If you are not sure - consider taking your pictures at a greater distance and don’t surround it. Observe and call (A Place Called Hope?) if it causes you concern. Sometimes it is necessary to have someone with experience watch it. Binoculars go a long way.
If you are unaware of proper behavior there have been many links provided within these numerous ctbird emails. Hours can translate into life or death. The sad part is none of these photographers/viewers will ever know they contributed to the owls demise.
They are beautiful and mystical creatures making it hard to entertain critical self awareness and contemplate thoughts of backing off and watching at a distance.
If you can’t spend the necessary time to wait for it to fly team up with others and combine your observations. We all have ability to text and photograph privately for coordination and location.
Do I believe they are scared or agitated? Probably not. But that is not the critical question. Starvation is a reality - why mess with that if you are not sure. It takes a lot of energy to fly. If they are starving it is not going to fly away regardless of being scared or agitated. If it can’t get flight or stays on the low perch and is on the slow road to death this hunger is not a anthropomorphic human emotion mapped onto the bird. Yes, they are hardy owls and capable predators and will fly if capable and if you are patient enough to observe.
You can save its life or better yet - watch it fly.
> On Nov 9, 2021, at 11:11 AM, Julian hough
> "The simple lesson is one of fieldcraft and etiquette yet I often sense there is a lot of assumptions by people that the owl is scared, hungry, agitated, sick, dying, etc. This is of course often an emotional human aspect mapped onto the bird that often has no basis in a particular situation. Studies have shown many/most migrant Snowy Owls are hardy creatures, capable of hunting offshore for ducks and finding and dispatching various types of prey quite easily."
On Nov 10, 2021, at 3:30 AM, <ctbirds-request...> wrote:
When replying, please edit your Subject line so it is more specific
than "Re: Contents of CTBirds digest..." and also be sure to
*** TRIM OFF THE UNRELATED PORTIONS OF THE MESSAGE ***
1. Re: Rarities, crowds and behavior (Christina Cole)
2. Re: Rarities, crowds and behavior (Doug Wisneski)
3. COA’s Winter Waterfowl Workshop - Nov. 27 online & Nov. 28 in person
Date: Tue, 9 Nov 2021 12:52:42 -0500
From: Christina Cole <gooutsidect...>
Subject: [CT Birds] Re: Rarities, crowds and behavior
To: julian hough <jrhough1...>
Cc: Birds CT <ctbirds...>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=utf-8
<3 beautiful and logical!
> On Nov 9, 2021, at 11:11 AM, julian hough <jrhough1...> wrote:
> This topic of mindfulness in the field has become an annual one yet should exist year round.
> The simple lesson is one of fieldcraft and etiquette yet I often sense there is a lot of assumptions by people that the owl is scared, hungry, agitated, sick, dying, etc. This is of course often an emotional human aspect mapped onto the bird that often has no basis in a particular situation. Studies have shown many/most migrant Snowy Owls are hardy creatures, capable of hunting offshore for ducks and finding and dispatching various types of prey quite easily.
> Birders, photographers, dog-walkers, and joe-public disturb all manner of birds every day. This is true of any rare bird where crowds gather, and not just owls. The odd disturbance by over-zealous birders is unlikely to be detrimental to a healthy Snowy Owl and trying to impose specific distances and timed viewing restrictions, while well intentioned, is a seemingly idealistic crusade. Harassment, and stories where people have been seen flushing owls so there cohort can obtain flight photos is, of course, not what is being discussed here.
> I think what has changed post-Covid, is that there are more photographers and birders in CT with access to information. That many more people have found an enjoyable passion is great, but with that beginning of exploring something new, comes a learning curve of fieldcraft and awareness. Some photographers are not birders in the true sense of the word and don't carry binoculars so there will be different expectations of what the 'rules' are between different subsets of observers. More people will show up at Snowy Owls to satiate there own particular enjoyment. That seems an undeniable fact.
> I've seen good behavior from many people at the various Snowy Owls at Long Beach in recent years, as opposed to the opposite. Generally it is the camera phone and short lens brigade that often needs coralling who have no idea what 'too close is'.
> If there is a crowd 30' from the bird, is nobody there speaking up and asking the collective to move a few feet further back? Is nobody taking charge of the situation to help guide and inform? It doesn't have to be confrontational. I've seen people politely suggest a different course of action and most people of reasonable disposition will oblige if the request is valid, or if it helps everyone optimize their experience. Sometimes itcan be educational and perhaps avoid an after-the-fact post to CT Birds.
> I think it is more a matter of common sense and people speaking up and working together and having some patience rather than trying to shame and put limits on people's enjoyment whether they are photographers or birders. Obviously there's no one answer that fits every scenario.
> Good biridng
> Julian Hough
> New Haven