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Monday, January 30, 2012

Birders Vs. Photographers; WHY?

The recent irruption of snowy owls in Illinois and other areas throughout the country has brought birders and bird photographers alike out in droves to see the majestic, beautiful snowy white creatures.

Certainly not a great photo ~ reasons follow below

What the irruption has also brought to the surface is the familiar and what seems to be age old feud between photographers and birders.

What I can't understand is WHY? Why two groups who obviously love birds, obviously love seeing and photographing birds, have to work at such cross purposes? Photography forums, nature forums, and birding forums abound with hateful, snide and snarky attacks , all of which I feel serve no purpose.

I was the object of one of those attacks by some over zealous birders over the weekend.

Let's get it straight right now; 

I follow the nature photographers code of ethics. I don't push, harass, bait, or any other manner of activity that could be detrimental to the subject or the ecosystem. I'm fairly quick to point out to other photographers  where they may be making a less than positive impact.

However; the fact that I was wearing full camo and carrying a long focal length lens this weekend  seemed to be enough to make me a target to  the birding community. Maybe it was the fact that I had taken the time to contact the landowner, request permission to access the property where the owl was found, and to also ask where the land owner preferred I parked. In essence giving me a closer look at the bird in the wild was what had the birders  a little pissy. I'm not totally sure, but soon there was yelling and gesturing and less pleasant comments being tossed across he field at me.

While my assumption is that the birders were well intentioned, and perhaps thought I had no clue about how to approach this easily stressed bird, the shouting and arm waving were having exactly that effect. The bird was frightened, expended a large amount of energy and flushed over the hillside.

again an obviously poor photo as I hold myself to the rule of not approaching too close to stressed animals

Once reaching the waterway on the other side of the hillside I sat quietly, watched the bird, noted that several red tail hawks and crows were beginning to mob it as well, and decided that my part in this birds stressful Saturday was over. I would come another day. I will not be a part of stressing a bird or any other type wildlife for that one good "killer shot" especially when it might well be a killing shot.

Upon returning to the property owners home to extend my thanks I enjoyed a friendly conversation with the landowner and another birder.
The other birder was a fountain of information, much of which I found useful and interesting, and friendship of sorts was fostered.

In general over the years that has been my experience with birders and photographers- although I will admit I have encountered a few overzealous birders who felt that photographers should either be banned, tripod mounted cameras should be banned (but not tripod mounted scopes?) and in an in general hateful attitude towards anyone carrying a DSLR and heaven forbid a lens of 400mm or over.

Yes, there are thoughtless photographers out there mingling with the birders, but there are also thoughtless birders deliberately ruining  photographers shots, equipment, and issuing what almost seem like wanted posters for photographers through the extensive  birding list serves and forums.  Vitriolic postings that including a photographers license plate number, vehicle description, a physical description etc. This latest trend truly disturbs me as I find it harassing ,a certain invasion of privacy ,and perhaps a bit libelous. I say perhaps libelous because sadly there are photographers out there who do practice such bad habits.

But through none of this have I been able to answer the question why the animosity between birders and photographers? We all enjoy the birds, nature, wildlife, we can learn from each other, we should be working together, not standing on opposite sides of the fence cursing each other.  What say you dear readers Why does this occur and what can we do to stop it?

Stay tuned for my next and related post - Sightings of Rarities in Nature; Don't Ask- Don't Tell; where I discuss the difficulties encountered when a rarity in nature is shared throughout the masses.

Happy Birding this week  and Happy Snapping!

1 comment:

  1. Who would be better and smarter than The Wild Woman to get close to an amazing bird without disturbing it?! Maybe they should have sat still and watched you in action. They would have been amazed AND gotten to see you photographs later. Maybe next time.