Saturday, 3 February 2018

Amherst Island Birding Ethics 7

lots of birders on the ferry
We've often visited Wolfe Island to spot some owls,  Topsy Farm said they had over 20 snowy owls on Amherst Island, nearby. Now, normally, ethical birders do not give away the location of owls, but this is fairly common knowledge. Sadly, birders on Amherst Isl. can be thoughtless and reckless, this is what I have heard from residents and fellow birders. Unlike Wolfe Isl., there are no businesses in winter, other than Topsy Farm. There are just residents, farmers, and construction workers (Wind Farm Construction) for the wind farm.

Birding ethics

The Migratory Convention Bird Act (1994), an agreement across North America, says we're not to kill, harass, or bother the birds in any way. This covers owl baiting, and handling critters. Sadly, there are those who hunt down owls, trespassing, and interfering with their feeding habits.
Ferry across to Amherst Isl.

This is what we can attest to on Friday, Jan. 26th. We got onto the ferry, and took off to Amherst Isl., the guy working on the ferry boat told us that the owls have been on the ice in the morning. On the ferry we met two birders.
This pair had driven down from Ottawa, to photograph owls. We chatted.

Later on, I was furious. We passed them a couple of times. The 2nd time, we stopped to chat as they asked us if we'd seen any. We had not. They'd spotted two, they told us they'd seen the first one by a particular house, and had walked into the field to find a rabbit warren (trespassing). Prime hunting for the owl. They obviously chased the owl off, as they are conscious of photographers. Next, they were going to walk on owl road. I saw two cars parked, and obviously there were people walking along this road looking for birds. Scientists know that studying something changes it. Even if they were collecting data for eBird, they are changing the behaviour of the birds.

Even in educated groups, people are stupid. Imagine large groups on owl road, an area replanted by the landowners to encourage the birds. I had a research question: how many are visiting each weekend?

How many tour leaders are visiting these locations?

RED are weekends
I did some research from Ontario Field Ornithologists   eBird reports, as well as, as well as other birding tour guides.

For January I managed to determine that there were 67 reports. Islanders report up to 100 birders on a weekend. This is the tip of the iceberg.

I think that this area should be regulated. Someone needs to collect some data and figure out who is going there. Some sort of sign-in.

Code of Ethics - Ontario Field Ornithologists

And this, specifically, for Owl Woods:

Amherst Island - Owl Woods - New Rules (2010)
"These days, it is not uncommon to have well over 100 people visit the Woods on
a weekend day. "
  • The reserve is open only from sunrise to one hour before sunset.
  • Do not spend more then two hours in the reserve per day.
  • Absolutely no dogs are allowed.
  • Keep a minimum distance of five metres from owls. 
  •  Be silent; speak in whispers. 
  •  Do not linger in front of an owl more than a couple of minutes. 
  •  If you cause an owl to fly, do not pursue it. 
  •  Do not bait owls with rodents. 
  •  No flash photography allowed. 
  •  No sound devices allowed. 
  •  Do not remove branches or vegetation. 
  •  Stay on the existing trails. 
  • Persons entering roped-off areas will be prosecuted. 
  •  Report harassment of owls to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).

Many organize tours:

Org. Tours Fees Acronym Group
$40- 75 AWA Always An Adventure
OFO Ontario Field Ornithologists Caps at 20
$500 FL Fred Lemire
Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory
data submission eBird eBird Sightings on Amherst
$40 - 70 EOB Eastern Ontario Birding Caps at 12
Proj. Snow Project Snowstorm transmitters
$279 Toronto Nature Lovers 9

 Ontario Field Ornithologists 

Ontario Field Ornithologists are collecting data
They don't appear to charge for the trips

Eastern Ontario Birding 

-posts trip reports:

Friday, December 29: *Owls on Amherst Island Trip Report (6 participants)
Saturday, January 20: Wolfe Island & Kingston Trip Report
Sunday, January 21: *Amherst Island & Kingston Trip Report
Sunday, February 4: *Amherst Island Trip Report , another trip planned.

Protect Amherst Isl - protesting the wind farm


Olga Hebert said...

I am not a bird watcher in the sense of having a lifetime list and all that but I would have thought that anyone who had that hobby would be super respectful of and sensitive to the ways of Nature. I should have known better!

DUTA said...

I would say to people: leave the birds alone; find yourselves another hobby, another topic of interest. Birds ,animals, and other God-made creatures have the right to live peacefully, without visitors and photo flash.

Of course, if birds do damage, then by all means the matter has to be studied, to find solutions. There are birds that damage power lines, plane wings, and this requires human intervention.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
The conditions here are a bit different, but there is still the need to be 'thinking' twitchers! Always there are a handful of nit-wits who cause problems and result in causing trouble for those who act responsibly... sigh... the eternal human problem. YAM xx

Nancy J said...

I think for those who are really serious "birders" they would understand the practices, and keep their distance, keep quiet, avoid areas where the owls look for food, and behave as any good and respectable photographer should. others do not have the idea of a principle that should prevail. Do they pay a levy or fee to be there? What a wonderful story behind the link to Owl Road.

Red said...

I'm not sure how big this island is? Yes, there are many thoughtless birders who are overly aggressive in trying to get heir photo. they don't care about other people or the critters.

William Kendall said...

That is bothersome. I agree with you.

carol l mckenna said...

Again ~ another informative post and good to know ~ am not a birder but great info!

Happy Weekend to you,
A Shutterbug Explores,
aka (A Creative Harbor)

Thanks, too for visiting my blog ^_^ and commenting.

Authors with Advice said...

That is not good. I'm with you. I hope they know when to keep their distance.

Lady Fi said...

Gosh - that is a huge influx of visitors just to see the owls!

Phil Slade said...

It happens just the same over here Jen. We don't have Snowy Owls but most owls are now targetes for birders and toggers. "Toggers" are people who have no real interest in birds just photography. It's all become a huge problem.

What ever happened to the notion that a bird's welfare is the most important consideration?

Powell River Books said...

I just found a bird nesting in the condo garage. The droppings gave it away. I wonder what the ethic is about nest removal. Fortunately it is a few feed behind where I park, but if the other car behind me pulls too far forward I'm sure they would get hit. We have an avid birder living here. I'm sure she'll make sure we do the right thing. - Margy

Jenn Jilks said...

They don't pay a fee at all. That might make them space themselves out. I don't know how locals can be so friendly!!!!

troutbirder said...

For certain. We have a nearby junkyard in our rural woodsy neighborhood. Unaware of its colony but aware of many of our neighbors allowing their pet cats to room free and feeding the feral ones I gently voiced my concerns about the drastic decline nationwide of many native birds I got zero support in my suggestion to declaw or at least put identify collars and bells on their skilled bird killers. No response. Choosing not to involve my retired 12 gauge upland game and waterfowl gun I borrowed a raccoon trap from a dairy farmer friend. I have no objection to working cats who catch rats and mice in barns. So after witnessing several murder of birds on our deck and around our bird feeder my wife asked to think of something to do about it. My two year summer total of trapped feral and domestic cats is now 47 humanely drowned in our local pond. btw We had a beloved house cat named Simba who passed on peacfull at ag 18

Jenn Jilks said...

troutbirder, I am totally shocked. How can drowning be humane?
You couldn't have simply taken down your bird feeders? I am always amazed at the arrogance of those who think feeding birds is a human right.
I shall not visit your blog again. This is criminal.

Jenn Jilks said...

It's teeny, Red:
Area: 70 km²
Population: 450