Birding in British Columbia

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 Post subject: Owls
PostPosted: Mar 11 10:52 am 
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Location: north shore
I think it's time we took a step back in regards to our almost fanatical obsession with shooting owls.
the Long-eared owl was found dead the other day, and i can't help but think that the pressure put on it the last few days by photogs had something to do with it.
If the bird was injured as it's wonky eye suggests then it's last few days on this earth must have been stressful.
I don't blame anyone as the crowd (myself included) had no way of knowing it was injured at the time.
Having never come across a Long-eared owl i didn't know what was normal behavior, the fact that it never flew far when flushed by the kids on Sunday should have been an indication, something i found out after the fact.

I will no longer post specific info about any owls i happen across and i hope you all will do the same, there comes a time when we as photogs must put the safety of subject before our desire to "get the shot", if that means withholding info on a public form then that's a small price to pay.
The majority of people on this forum do think about the birds as more than just something to shoot but many other less ethical photogs cruise the forums looking for tips on where to shoot and i won't have anything to do with enabling that anymore.

Saddened and shocked that it has come to this.

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284 birds B.C. / 427 birds N.A. / 736 birds World (including NA)


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 Post subject: Re: Owls
PostPosted: Mar 11 11:12 am 
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Location: Edmonton
Hear, hear, Paul! I'm saddened by the news of LEO. On the Alberta bird listserv there has been a long-standing practice of not disclosing the location of owls, especially during mid-winter to late spring (mating and nesting season). Nor have I ever witnessed the spectacle I saw at Boundary Bay and on Westham in the vicinity of the Hawkowl -- the sheer number of photographers, stomping through marsh and hastening along the dike to get the Shortie to pose just right. Being a hobbyist myself, I write this note in the first place TO myself.

W. Braun, Edmonton


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 Post subject: Re: Owls
PostPosted: Mar 11 11:19 am 
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Location: Abbotsford
I agree with you and I didn't have any idea the Owl was injured either and didn't know what was normal behavior. If I had known It was injured I would have never approached it. Nobody else I had talked to knew that it was hurt either.

Mike.

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 Post subject: Re: Owls
PostPosted: Mar 11 11:34 am 
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This is very sad news. I was going to head out to see the LEO myself tomorrow :( - and yes I agree with you too Paul.

A few years ago when the Snowy's were all over boundary bay I was set up on one with a 500mm lens at a respectful distance when someone with an instamatic type point-and-shoot came charging down off the trail aiming for another snowy farther off. The idiot nearly stepped onto the one I was lined up on, then he chased it for quite awhile as he tried to get close each time it landed.

I think there is room for photography of these birds using long distance gear if people show some responsibility. On the other hand it doesn't seem to take much to get swarms of photographers whenever an owl is around and people seem to crowd in as close as they can get.


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 Post subject: Re: Owls
PostPosted: Mar 11 12:05 pm 
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Joined: Jun 18 8:20 pm
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Location: Nanaimo
Really sad news about the death of another beautiful bird and I agree with you completely. I learned my lesson earlier this year when I posted info on the Shorties in Nanaimo, before long they were constantly being chased by photographers. I will never post info on an Owl's location again.

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 Post subject: Re: Owls
PostPosted: Mar 11 3:02 pm 
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Location: West Vancouver, BC
I didn't go to see the LEOW for that reason. Thanks for your posting Paul. It's very sad news. I actually blogged yesterday about this subject and the issue of reporting rare bird sightings on public forums. I have seen some disgusting behaviour being displaced over the past few months by a few people that have given us all a bad name.

http://www.birdtrekkerbc.com Have a read and I welcome your thoughts and comments.

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Les Lee (West Van)

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 Post subject: Re: Owls
PostPosted: Mar 11 4:56 pm 
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Location: Vancouver
That is truly sad
I keep my distance and take my shots and go
I had a nice conversation with a birder and he was a bit hesistant to talk to me at first but was pleased with my actions in regards to shooting a bird he was watching
I need to get my big glass back so as to be less intrusive.....sigh
I love Owls and would hate to be the reason for a demise of these magnificent creatures!

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 Post subject: Re: Owls
PostPosted: Mar 11 5:11 pm 
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I wonder if there is room for a "responsible birders members only" forum to get the benefit of collaboration without these detrimental factors.


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 Post subject: Re: Owls
PostPosted: Mar 11 6:43 pm 
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Location: Vancouver
I hope that this discussion is not the reason for the Yahoo Group shutdown...

I did review my photos (but am generally about 6 weeks behind in processing) and now think that when I took some photos of the LE Owl on Sunday at 72nd Street, its left eye may have been injured. I had noticed that the colour of the left and right eyes seemed to differ, but believed that the difference was due to one eye being in the sun and the other being in the shade. Now I'm not so sure. The underside of the left eye looks swollen.

Based upon my observations and my reading of the short article in NatGeo's Complete Birds of NA, my best guess would be that perhaps in pursuing a vole in the grass, the bird may have had some of the stiff grass stab it in this area.

It's not implausible that after sustaining the injury, the Owl was less willing to fly and hence more approachable than it would normally be. Close approaches may have further stressed the bird. However, such approaches could have been made by photographers, watchers, walkers, dogs and competing birds.

I have seen irritating behaviour WRT to Owl photography. I think I know who tore away the protective cover for a Saw-Whet at Reifel. I have encountered photographers who literally ran down the BB Dyke when someone had spotted a SE Owl. (I just encamped where I was, guessing that such people would simply flush the bird and hopefully it would come my way.)

But, unless injured, birds can fly away if they dislike the approach of humans or others. (Of course the uncovered Saw-Whet appeared frightened to me and I just looked at the fellow who was seemingly unwilling to leave it alone and walked away.)

I agree with the principles that others have espoused, but am uncomfortable with the qualitative nature attached to them. What is "too close"? What is harassment? I think in general birds live in a much more stressful world than we do and they are adapted to it. Not only do most have to watch for predators, but when they find a tasty morsel, they are immediately beset upon by their own kind and must flee and gobble it down while being chased. I've watched RW and YH Blackbirds chase after Crows when nesting. The Eastern Kingbird was also very aggressive towards other birds when nesting. This must be stressful too. Nature is not idyllic as in fairy tales, but full of fangs and claws.

Hopefully Common Sense can prevail. I hope I never encounter a self-appointed arbiter of wildlife photographic standards.

Below is a close crop of a photo of the LE Owl. Judge for yourself. I suspect that the left eye is injured. Taken last Sunday after some children had flushed it and it had flown into the grassy area by the dyke. After this photo was taken the Owl tried to flatten itself down as if seeking to hide. A very elegant looking bird.

Image

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 Post subject: Re: Owls
PostPosted: Mar 11 7:42 pm 
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Joined: Apr 10 6:28 pm
Posts: 30
Location: Victoria
Hello. I only wish I could say that I'm surprised to hear of the demise of this bird.

While there are undoubtedly many ethical photographers out there, I have to say that my own observations all too frequently contradict that theory. I have been on the receiving end of some criticism in the past for pointing out the unethical behaviour of some owl photographers at the Nanaimo River estuary, and I'll make no excuses for continuing to do so.

I'm sure that none of the paparazzi that chose to chase this particular owl, and others, around would have thought for one minute that their selfish actions could potentially result in the death of their quarry, but they must surely see how this could have come about.

To say that 'we didn't think it looked ill' and 'I have no experience of this species therefore I didn't realize that it was behaving unusually' is no defense whatsoever. It simply demonstrates a total and fundamental lack of knowledge, or interest.
Perhaps this bird's death wasn't directly attributable to disturbance, but I find it hard to believe that it didn't have significant impact on the owl's ability to feed, rest etc.

Perhaps getting to know a bit about birding and fieldcraft should be a prerequisite for those who fancy becoming bird photographers?
If you can't afford the sort of lenses that allow good shots to be taken at a distance, stick to landscapes, flowers, or the things on your bird table. And if you really must have close ups of owls, go to a zoo.

If serious birders, genuine wildlife watchers, nature lovers and such are denied the opportunity to enjoy seeing wild owls as a result of a wholesale suppression, then we will all be the poorer for it. How can we nurture a wider interest in wildlife conservation if some of the most visible so-called 'birders' are engaged in such appalling behaviour?

Just my opinion. But I think birding in this Province has taken several steps backwards this week.

Jon

http://britbirderinbc.blogspot.com/

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 Post subject: Re: Owls
PostPosted: Mar 11 8:52 pm 
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Posts: 83
MDB8 wrote:
I hope that this discussion is not the reason for the Yahoo Group shutdown...


You never know. Some of the birder's replies, both on bcvanbird and here, suggest that some birders have decided to blame photographers ( or anyone with a camera) regardless of what actually happened (which seems to be anybody's guess at this point) to the birds.

From this incident, two things came to mind:
1. Photographers (or anyone with a camera), for everyone's or everybird's sake, watch your behavior.
2. Some birders are unreasonable.


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 Post subject: Re: Owls
PostPosted: Mar 11 10:08 pm 
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Posts: 263
I'm not an expert on owl behavior, but I'm having trouble rationalizing this conversation. From what is being said, people are suggesting that taking a photo of a caged owl in a zoo, is less disturbing to the bird than in the wild, where it has the option of flying away if bothered. Wouldn't all the zoo owls be dead by now.

Also an owl is only disturbed by a person(s) with a camera at 50 plus feet but not by a group of people with binoculars exhibiting the exact same behavior.
And has it been confirmed that the subject owl's demise is a byproduct of adverse human behavior or natures way.


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 Post subject: Re: Owls
PostPosted: Mar 11 10:49 pm 
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Posts: 1156
Thank you. That was well said Jon. Unfortunately, I think you may as well be speaking Swahili. It doesn't seem to matter how often one says it, or the manner in which the message is delivered, there are simply too many people that refuse to listen to well intentioned advice.


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 Post subject: Re: Owls
PostPosted: Mar 11 11:59 pm 
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Joined: May 26 12:43 am
Posts: 19
Location: Sidney
I have been following this forum for over a year. I do not post much, but I have been shocked and generally appalled at the multiple stories of sheer destruction and harassment caused by photographers. Be it the Great Grey awhile back, the Hawk Owl, the Saw-Whet, and now this?

Yes, of course, there's no, and never will be 100% proof that it was or wasn't photographers, but this picture below is shocking.

Image


If you were injured, and in pain, and had this massive monster following you around, how could you NOT be stressed out?

I really think parks like Boundry Bay, like Reifel, should really look into considering banning photography from their parks. It seems like Photographers are so focused on getting "that shot" as opposed to just sitting back and enjoying the sight of the moment. As someone that loves to go out and watch birds, and admittedly, owls are always the most exciting find, I never bring anything more than a pair of binoculars and a reference book. I wish more would do the same.


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 Post subject: Re: Owls
PostPosted: Mar 12 12:07 am 
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Joined: Nov 04 11:43 pm
Posts: 484
Location: Abbotsford
It sounds like Joncbirder will be the next Hitler birder, Saying if you can't afford long glass stick to landscapes or pictures at zoos. Someone who doesn't have much to spend is punished and never allowed to take shots of Owls or any bird for that matter cause they don't have $8000 to spend. Give your head a shake. You are an embarrassment, I never heard such ridiculous ideas. Hope you never make it to office, will all have to have licences to own a camera take a course on what bird we are allowed to take shots of with our setup, have birding police drill us if we know about the habits of the particular bird we are shooting and fine us if don't know. All I can say is WOW WOW. I don't get fired up real easy but this sounds unbelievable.

Mike

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