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owl pictures?


millipede

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I'm sorry I don't get on here as often as I'd like. I get distracted with other things...  I still wish there were more sections/options to this board... this topic for instance doesn't have an adequate forum to be posted in. ? 

Anyway... I run some facebook groups... the birding in Massachusetts group I'm running has blown up.  Back in November(ish) I had posted hoping to get to 100 users. The group had been there a while and I was just a member but then I noticed, there was no administrator... A click or two and, I took over. I changed the title, the images, gave it a description, etc... there's almost 2700 members now. 
Now if I can just do that with my Birding Arkansas group... 

anyway... when I started discussing rules and such for the group, someone made the suggestion(among other things) to say NO owl pictures... I discussed it with them, and their reasoning. They said a lot of groups have that rule...   It made some sense. Owls are a sensitive species...  though, I've never seen any act so sensitive as to abandon a nest because someone's taking a picture, as has been implied. But there are bad photographers out there that I know will do anything for a good shot... Then again, any photographers with a decent camera don't need to get THAT close in the first place.

So, I sort of made that a rule...  but then people started posting owl pictures and I kind of let it slide. I LOVE seeing owls...  and part of me wants to say... if it doesn't look like the birds are being disturbed, why not allow them. But, it's not like I can guarantee that by the looks of a photo right?  I wish I could force all the photographers to go through a birding ethics course before they're allowed to post pictures of certain species.
Someone reported an owl picture the other day and then messaged me asking if I was allowing them. And I'm just stuck on the fence... I have trouble making decisions... and I need input from others.
One of my thoughts was... perhaps I could make it a rule IF IF IF I allow owl pictures, people HAVE to describe the camera and lens they used, what kind of distance they were at, etc... 

What do you all think???  Can I allow people to post owl pictures and keep the owls safe and unbothered? Or is it just better to not allow those pictures AT ALL to avoid the possibility of encouraging others to go grab those shots at any expense???

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I find it difficult to see why such a rule would be limited to owls.  Almost all birds are aware of our presence, whether we are photographing them or not.  I can think of many instances where I didn't know a bird was there until it flushed from a probable nest and sounded its alarm call.  Compounding the problem by stalking it to try to get a picture is, of course, something different, but that's not at all limited to owls.

To me it seems like a strongly worded general ethics statement should suffice.  Perhaps using owls as an example would go at least some way toward satisfying that particular person's pet peeve.

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The idea, I've been told, is that owls, some other raptors, cranes, and a few others are "sensitive" and if bothered too much, are "known" to abandon their nests. Some groups wont let you share any photos or locations of such birds to protect them.
I'm not sure how true any of that is which is part of why I'm trying to get other opinions.
I don't want to go too far to one extreme, or the other. I don't want to allow EVERYTHING but at the same time, some groups make such drastic rules just to prevent the encouragement of those unethical photographers that will do anything for that perfect shot.
This is similar to why the migratory bird treaty is as strict as it is. It's "technically" illegal for you to pick up a bird feather and bring it home... Because killing birds to get feathers is illegal but if it wasn't worded so strictly, people could easily say they found it and be lying. People lie.  ? 
humans...

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I’m not sure I understand the logic of disallowing already-taken photographs of owls, as most of the time they are probably taken under appropriate conditions. Now, on the other hand, disclosing specific locations is far more problematic and probably shouldn’t be done in a forum with that many members. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I belong to the Facebook group Birds of the Eastern US.  (0ver 30k members) They have the following guidelines regarding Snowy Owls

"Any and all Snowy Owl photographs must include all of the following: Camera make/model; camera lens specifics including focal length, make, and model; and distance from the bird. Otherwise the post will be deleted"

 

and this one on baby birds in nests.

"Please refrain from posting baby birds in nests unless you took the shot from a good distance with a telephoto lens or zoom. We want to discourage disturbance of nesting birds and their young. Close-up nest shots of babies/eggs etc. will be deleted. Any shots of this type must have been taken with a zoom or long lens (telephoto), and you must include the information on what gear you used and the distance from the birds/nest."

 

I don't think that's too much to ask.

Edited by Spyonabird
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  • 4 weeks later...
On 8/13/2020 at 4:32 PM, Spyonabird said:

They have the following guidelines regarding Snowy Owls

Why just Snowy Owls?  What's the significance of the camera make, model, and focal length?  I guess i can see the significance of the distance from the bird but again, why just Snowy Owls?  

On 8/1/2020 at 4:48 PM, millipede said:

The idea, I've been told, is that owls, ... are "sensitive" and if bothered too much, are "known" to abandon their nests.

How many people come within range of a Snowy Owl nest?  They breed in the least populated (least accessible?) part of the continent.  I suspect most photos are taken during non-breeding irruptions.  Macaulay Library doesn't have any rules about owl photos.

And what evidence do people have for this postion?  Scientific evidence, not 'Somebody else on FB said ..."

On 8/1/2020 at 10:29 AM, millipede said:

So no thoughts on owl pictures???

I agree completely that location should be omitted or deleted for endangered species, but not all owl species are in that group.  Unless someone produces solid, scientific evidence of a threat to raptor nesting, I see no reason to treat pictures of owl any differently from any other threatened / endangered species.  Post the ABA's ethical Code of Conduct and link to it.

Edited by Charlie Spencer
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On 8/1/2020 at 4:48 PM, millipede said:

The idea, I've been told, is that owls, some other raptors, cranes, and a few others are "sensitive" and if bothered too much, are "known" to abandon their nests. Some groups wont let you share any photos or locations of such birds to protect them.
I'm not sure how true any of that is which is part of why I'm trying to get other opinions.

@Tony Leukering; opinion, please.  Is human presence / photographic activity a greater threat to the listed birds than to other species?

Edited by Charlie Spencer
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If Macaulay doesn't have a problem, I don't know why anyone else should.

https://search.macaulaylibrary.org/catalog?taxonCode=snoowl1&q=Snowy Owl - Bubo scandiacus

https://search.macaulaylibrary.org/catalog?taxonCode=spoowl&q=Spotted Owl - Strix occidentalis

https://search.macaulaylibrary.org/catalog?taxonCode=grgowl&q=Great Gray Owl - Strix nebulosa

And other endangered:

https://search.macaulaylibrary.org/catalog?taxonCode=whocra&q=Whooping Crane - Grus americana

https://search.macaulaylibrary.org/catalog?taxonCode=calcon&q=California Condor - Gymnogyps californianus

 

Edited by Charlie Spencer
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18 hours ago, Charlie Spencer said:

If Macaulay doesn't have a problem, I don't know why anyone else should.

https://search.macaulaylibrary.org/catalog?taxonCode=snoowl1&q=Snowy Owl - Bubo scandiacus

https://search.macaulaylibrary.org/catalog?taxonCode=spoowl&q=Spotted Owl - Strix occidentalis

https://search.macaulaylibrary.org/catalog?taxonCode=grgowl&q=Great Gray Owl - Strix nebulosa

And other endangered:

https://search.macaulaylibrary.org/catalog?taxonCode=whocra&q=Whooping Crane - Grus americana

https://search.macaulaylibrary.org/catalog?taxonCode=calcon&q=California Condor - Gymnogyps californianus

 

The thing is, the Macaulay library does put protective measures on most of these species. First, most of the people that use the Macaulay Library are mostly Birders and not photographers. Most people who would be posting through ebird onto the Macaulay library would know safe practices with endangered species. You can see all reports of Snowy Owls because they really aren't too rare. There are around 100,000 of them in North America. In the winter, when most people would be reporting them, they are often found through scopes far out in fields, rarely allowing for a good picture.

Spotted Owl and GGOW are sensitive species, not showing where they were seen any closer than the counties they were seen in. From My expirence, living right in the middle of the SPOW breeding range, The reason why they are disturbed the most is often photographers. Im not saying photographers are all bad, there are just a few that will run up to the bird, get really close, use flash, and other harmful practices to the bird. Those people would probably be more likely to post on facebook than through eBird in my opinion. I would go deeper into this subject,  but I have to start school right now. 

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44 minutes ago, Connor Cochrane said:

From My expirence, living right in the middle of the SPOW breeding range, The reason why they are disturbed the most is often photographers. Im not saying photographers are all bad, there are just a few that will run up to the bird, get really close, use flash, and other harmful practices to the bird.

I agree for the most part, but this behavior isn't limited to photographing owls.  What makes Snowys so special vs. other owl species, or other endangered species?  What's the logic in groups having an explicit policy for one species? 

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49 minutes ago, Charlie Spencer said:

I agree for the most part, but this behavior isn't limited to photographing owls.  What makes Snowys so special vs. other owl species, or other endangered species?  What's the logic in groups having an explicit policy for one species? 

I have heard about "bad" photographers baiting the owls with mice to get the perfect shot.  This is just a bad practice in general. 

The rules I listed above were put in place when there was in irruption of Snowys showing up in the lower 48 during the summer.  People would chase them in the daytime when they are trying to sleep. The reason for the camera information was to make sure the photographer was far enough away to as not to disturb the owl.  Although... people can lie.

I guess they have continued the practice in an effort to give them some special protection.  Snowy pics are coveted by photogs as most people don't have the opportunity to experience them.

Edited by Spyonabird
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  • 3 months later...

I haven't been back to this in a while... I'm going to weigh the thoughts here... along with the thoughts of a local birder that is doing research banding norther saw-whet owls... and hopefully fix the rules for that FB page... 
It is a tough thing to think about...  There are SOME reasons for people being strict in some groups.  Why owls more? I think they're coveted more and people go to great lengths to get something they don't have. And, I've not personally witnessed one of the reasons...  I was walking a field and accidentally flushed an owl... it was resting, sleeping, nice and hidden during the day. But then I came along... it flew to another tree. Then it had to fly to another and then, I don't know where after that because it was being chased by crows. ?  It had a nice and cozy, well hidden spot and I ruined his nap. ?  

It's funny snowy owls are being mentioned... There's been quite a few photos of them in that group lately as there seems to be some good spots for them in MA.  And, unlike one of the replies above, some people have been getting awfully close to them... not from far far off.
I probably will allow most if not all photos and then just insist on photo details for certain speices and, nesting birds. 

What about something like cranes? Swans? Good camera and good distance is good... but, how do you know who's honest and who is ethical? I mean, the whole migratory bird act is written SO strictly(so you legally can't even bring a feather home) because humans lie...  ?  Humans...   
I TRIED to propose something to eBird a while back... there are online classes you can take... I suggested they make a free one on the ethics of birding photography. They told me they already have a photography one that mentions ethics... but, that's a paid class. ?  My idea was that with some FREE eithics class, I could insist that people posting questionable photos can take that course and show me they completed it... or something...
eh... oh well.

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7 minutes ago, millipede said:

I haven't been back to this in a while... I'm going to weigh the thoughts here... along with the thoughts of a local birder that is doing research banding norther saw-whet owls... and hopefully fix the rules for that FB page... 
It is a tough thing to think about...  There are SOME reasons for people being strict in some groups.  Why owls more? I think they're coveted more and people go to great lengths to get something they don't have. And, I've not personally witnessed one of the reasons...  I was walking a field and accidentally flushed an owl... it was resting, sleeping, nice and hidden during the day. But then I came along... it flew to another tree. Then it had to fly to another and then, I don't know where after that because it was being chased by crows. ?  It had a nice and cozy, well hidden spot and I ruined his nap. ?  

It's funny snowy owls are being mentioned... There's been quite a few photos of them in that group lately as there seems to be some good spots for them in MA.  And, unlike one of the replies above, some people have been getting awfully close to them... not from far far off.
I probably will allow most if not all photos and then just insist on photo details for certain speices and, nesting birds. 

What about something like cranes? Swans? Good camera and good distance is good... but, how do you know who's honest and who is ethical? I mean, the whole migratory bird act is written SO strictly(so you legally can't even bring a feather home) because humans lie...  ?  Humans...   
I TRIED to propose something to eBird a while back... there are online classes you can take... I suggested they make a free one on the ethics of birding photography. They told me they already have a photography one that mentions ethics... but, that's a paid class. ?  My idea was that with some FREE eithics class, I could insist that people posting questionable photos can take that course and show me they completed it... or something...
eh... oh well.

We flushed a Great Horned owl today around noon.  I felt bad, too.  ? 

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My two cents is this. 
I guess owls are much more of a draw for people, and news can travel outside the birding community fast. We’ve had problems in VT with people getting way too close to Snowy Owls, even walking out onto active runways or going on private property. I’ve heard stories of people throwing dead mice to get an action shot. We’ve had to put out suggestions to not report sensitive owls, or report them without giving an exact location. I think not allowing pictures to be posted doesn’t solve the problem, it just means those people who disrespect wildlife to get the perfect shot have one less place to post their pics. I think the only way to discourage such practices are to educate people on why it is a problem to disturb the owls, as they are sensitive. I’ve banded Saw-whets, so I’ve seen up close what a distressed owl looks like and acts like, and with the local snow us I’ve seen similar behavior when people are walking within 10 feet of it.
If the bird wants to be close to you, it will fly towards you. 

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I've never flushed an owl but I doubt I'd feel any worse about it than flushing any other bird.  I might even feel worse about flushing a smaller bird that might potentially become prey as opposed to flushing a predator.

People aren't the only thing that flushes birds; there are plenty of natural distubances.  Large herbivores come to mind.

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20 minutes ago, Charlie Spencer said:

People aren't the only thing that flushes birds; there are plenty of natural distubances.  Large herbivores come to mind.

True, but people would be more likely to pursue the bird, further disturbing it and bringing attention to it, making it harder for it to rest or hunt. Myself, I would certainly want to follow the bird, but I wouldn’t stray off the path/road wherever and get super close to it. 

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25 minutes ago, Avery said:

If the bird wants to be close to you, it will fly towards you. 

A few years ago we had a very "friendly" Barred Owl who stayed in our neighborhood for a few months.  It often flew into trees nearby to get closer to us.  One night I spotted it in the beam of my flashlight.  I turned off the light and stood there and it flew right by my head and landed on a branch a few feet from me.  It briefly looked at me, but then continued to look at the ground for voles and stayed on the branch when I slowly walked away.  It was the most amazing bird experience I've ever had.  I wondered why an owl would want to be near humans.

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21 minutes ago, Avery said:

True, but people would be more likely to pursue the bird, further disturbing it and bringing attention to it, making it harder for it to rest or hunt. Myself, I would certainly want to follow the bird, but I wouldn’t stray off the path/road wherever and get super close to it. 

I'm back to what I recall was my original point in this discussion: why are there restrictions only on photos of owls?  Did I miss or forget the scientific reasons why photos of other large raptors are allowed, or of species far more endangered than Barred Owls?   I'd like to see the reasoning for banning an entire family regardless of the abundance of many of the individual species.

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7 hours ago, Charlie Spencer said:

why are there restrictions only on photos of owls?  Did I miss or forget the scientific reasons why photos of other large raptors are allowed, or of species far more endangered than Barred Owls?   I'd like to see the reasoning for banning an entire family regardless of the abundance of many of the individual species.

Straight from eBird. "many owl sightings can attract undue disturbance through unethical behavior." As @Avery has already pointed out, owls are a HUGE draw for people, and photographers in particular, and are sensitive to disturbance. Since most owls are primarily nocturnal, they are often stationary in a day roost and can be disturbed and flushed. Smaller owls are subject to predation and with larger owls, being flushed from a roost or nest is a disturbance to their natural patterns of behavior, etc. There is so much to go into here, but the main reason is for the protection of the owls themselves. I know that most birding listserves don't allow for the posting of any type of raptor nest for many of the same reasons.

eBird has ways in which they can control the information and metadata. For example, you cannot search for the locations of a Spotted Owl sighting, and you can search for media of one, but you can't find the county, location, and date the sighting associated with that media occurred. 

I am not familiar with Facebook birding groups, but my best guess would be that they adhere to the same logic outlined above. In a public group, it can be hard to control how much is shared about the location of an owl or other sensitive species, potentially causing people to chase the bird and cause it undue disturbance. Photographers covets owl photos, but birders covet seeing them as well. Both have a responsibility to ensure their protection and safety, and my guess is that many Facebooks groups and local listerves instill these guidelines or rules to do just that. And rather than having to dictate which birds you should and shouldn't post about (if they were to say Great-horned Owls are okay but Saw-whet Owls or Spotted Owls aren't for example), they just make it a blanket policy of all "owls" which is easier to monitor and less confusing.

https://support.ebird.org/en/support/solutions/articles/48000803210-sensitive-species-in-ebird

I am not associated with any Facebook birding groups so if someone is and has a different idea or opinion, I'd love to hear it. 

 

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2 hours ago, DLecy said:

Straight from eBird. "many owl sightings can attract undue disturbance through unethical behavior." As @Avery has already pointed out, owls are a HUGE draw for people, and photographers in particular, and are sensitive to disturbance.

Thanks.  I regard eBird / Cornell as a more credible source than Facebook (or any other 'general purpose' social media site).

As to the attraction, I don't get it but at this point I'll accept y'all's word for it.  Just because I don't get it doesn't mean it doesn't occur.

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