Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Hunting birds: respectfully

I have come to a decision. We had planned to visit a particular spot on Amherst Island (population 450) to spot some owls. It is a famous place to view owls. I'm not going into their woods. I have visited the island, but we did not go into them. I found out, later, that they permit visitors, for now.
I have written about it before: Amherst Island Birding Ethics. A perfect habitat for them in our wicked winters. There is food, shelter, and few predators, until now. The landowners have permitted people to visit and photograph owls on their property. The road leading to the woods is rough. I'm sure it is deliberately so.

There is a wide amateur photographer community, who sometimes use professionals to lead tours to the island. It is ubiquitous, and increasing. I understand the need for professionals to earn a living leading tours, and they can teach ethics, one hopes. You cannot teach respect, however. It's not limited to Ontario:

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.
Amateurs, and professionals alike have been owl baiting to lure the owls towards their cameras. This is bad for many reasons; I'm sure I need not explain it, others have.
By the way, there is a difference between short-term baiting birds with live food, and putting out backyard bird feeders [Audubon Society, Jul. 13, 2017]
We have many owls in care in rehabilitation centres in the province. Birds hit by cars are quite common. Not that taming them is an issue here, but road speed and distracted driving means there are quite a few animals hit on our highways. Hubby found this one on the road. I took the opportunity to photograph this fine creature, then set it in the forest to let nature take its course.

Baiting owls has been an issue for a few years, now. With Social Media, people share photos and locations. This should stop. It won't, however. Ethical birders have been mum about owl locations lately. I only share a location with trusted photographers.

These are the behaviours people have witnessed on Amherst Island:
  • people climbing into fenced, out of bounds areas
  • people climbing fences to shake them and make snowy owls to fly
  • trespassing at night, with lights, to get photos
  • another man picked up a saw-whet owl, a wild owl, and put it in his coat
  • landowners are kicking people off of private property as they are trespassing
  • a man with a cooler full of mice, to lure the owls.
And now: drones...

This is a collection of my owl photos. The joy of photographing them and the luck of finding one, is sheer joy.


Yamini MacLean said...

hari OM
Wonderful post, Jenn... I have seen some idiocy in pursuit of 'the shot' too. As you say, respect is the first sacrifice in this behaviour. I bet those same folks would be livid if it was their property being invaded, privacy and peace bombarded. YAM xx

Jenn Jilks said...

That's a good point, Yam! I agree.
When I get a dinner-time spam phone call, I usually ask for their home phone number so I can call them at home during dinner!
That said, I sent a calendar to the folks who have Daisy in their kennel (only $16.50 a day, but peace of mind, for now!) and they phoned just as I was raising my fork to my mouth at dinner. I didn't mind, at all!

Nancy J said...

The owls are among my favourites, and I hope that in places where they go to winter over, or nest, they are given respect and privacy, not invaded and lured down with food.You have a great set of owl photos.

William Kendall said...

Some poor behaviour on the part of certain people, it seems.

Christine said...

Interesting post, we have to respect the owls. Lovely photos.

Lowcarb team member said...

There just doesn't seem the amount of respect in many areas of life these days, and I do find that I quite often shake my head in amazement of peoples bad behaviour.

I did like your photographs.

All the best Jan

Red said...

We have the same issue here when it comes to photographing owls. They seem to be obsessed with getting owl photos. I'm running a bird sighting activity this year and we are not putting in locations for owls.

Anvilcloud said...

Since I am not a wildlife photographer I trust that I can escape censure. Not that I wouldn't love to get some owl shots if the opportunity arose, but I don't think I would go crazy.

italiafinlandia said...

What a fantastic series of shots! I like the claws of the owl very much!

Olga said...

Impressed with all the owls. I love to hear them hooting at night.