My observations on your points below are based on experience in a part of
the US where lots of rare birds are seen, Central and South Texas.
San Antonio TX
From: Minnesota Birds [mailto:MOU-NET@LISTS.UMN.EDU] On Behalf Of Bill
Sent: Thursday, November 03, 2011 6:52 PM
Subject: Re: [mou-net] My Request Reply
I don't usually jump into these things but this time I feel compelled to. I
would offer the following for your consideration in no particular order:
1) I believe that what constitutes disturbance is somewhat arbitrary. If a
bird looks at you is it disturbed? If it flies to the next power pole is it
disturbed? I'm not sure what disturbance is when its not nesting season.
When it comes right down to it only the bird "knows" when its been
*** Disturbance of a given bird can be very real. In 1987 the main reason I
saw the Crane Hawk while I was standing on the dike at Sta. Ana NWR was
because people walking through the brush flushed the bird. In the early
1990s there was an Eared Trogon nest in the Huachuca Mountains that failed
because of birder harassment. Given the fact that the things can be heard a
quarter to half a mile away, it used to be alternately amusing and annoying
to watch birders chase each other's Elegant Trogon calls in SE Arizona. The
fact was that a friend and I had one right above our tent one morning. There
have been a number of rare birds that have been chased out of the area if
not out of the US by overeager birders. The City of San Antonio flat bans
the use of bird calls to attract Golden-cheeked Warblers on its natural
areas. In that case I will have to admit that I have been amused to watch
power runner after power runner on the main trail on the site run by
entirely oblivious to a Golden-cheeked Warbler screaming its lungs out at
Government Canyon State Natural Area. --SH
2) Ethics are a personal thing. We have guidelines and I fully support them
but some things are in a gray area. I think baiting owls is one of them. In
this thread we have had assertions that disturbing owls causes an energetic
drain that could result in death AND the argument that feeding owls is
wrong. If the energetics argument is true wouldn't baiting be a good thing?
Is it ok for banders to use bait but not photographers? If so why? Is
banding somehow a more noble purpose? I respect Mike's personal sense of
ethics when it comes to baiting but personally I'm much more ambiguous on
I think we run into problems when we try to impose our personal ethics on
others in gray areas. In my opinion that's what the Great Whooping Crane
Debate was all about. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying there should be no
rules and I think egregious violations should be sanctioned through peer
3) Some people have no sense of ethics and will violate what others consider
ethical without remorse. I think it diminishes us all if we quit cooperating
with each other for the benefit of the many because of the behavior of the
**** Agreed. For example one fellow I spoke with at a famous birding site
in South Texas was proud about spot-lighting Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls below
Falcon Dam. This was especially egregious because the things are diurnal in
the first place, ie: Active during daylight hours--SH
4) Minnesota has always had a strong cadre of dedicated expert birders who
willingly share information. I've had birders from other states specifically
point that out to me with envy. I hear tales of secretiveness, cliques,
unfriendly competition, hard feelings and even vengeance. Lets not go there.
***** All of the birder I have met from Minnesota have been fine, honest,
5) As a wildlife biologist I'm trained to think that population level
affects are where we should be concerned. I flat out reject the animal
rights argument which is what we're dangerously close to here. Frankly, I
have a hard time getting worked up if an individual bird is disturbed
(whatever that is). I think that the educational potential, camaraderie and
sense of a friendly and cooperative community are more important than a
theoretical disturbance to an individual bird. I also think that in the long
run its better on the population level because happy birders are politically
active birders (or should be). Voting in support of actions that protects
and improves habitat is far more important in the end.
6) Personally I'd rather not know about a rare bird if the directions given
are so vague that there's no hope of finding it. It just frustrates me and
I'd rather read about it in the Loon in six months. To post or not post is
your decision but I'd rather not be teased.
****Agreed entirely! Going back to 1970 when I got into this stuff I have
been assisted by many means. I have learned while on the job on a banding
crew in college. After college I learned from field trip leaders with
various birding groups. In the heyday of bird alert tapes I spent a good
deal of money calling and recording messages from places I was going to bird
at. Books like Kim Eckert's, the various "Lane" guides to this place or
that place and other similar books have had good enough details to get me a
much better chance of finding given target birds. The various Internet
birding bulletin boards around the US have aided virtually everyone in their
quest to see new species of birds. People just need to use some common
courtesy in that quest--SH
To paraphrase what Mike said after offering his opinions on a controversial
topic last winter: "let the flaming e-mails begin".
On Thu, Nov 3, 2011 at 5:00 PM, Michael Hendrickson <firstname.lastname@example.org
> Spent the day at NRRI listening to 6
> hours of power point discussions on a various topics related to
> applying herbicides and fertilizers on turf and landscape areas. I
> sat and listen to a half hour power point discussion on how to choose
> the right pair of rubber gloves! So while listening to these
> fantastic presentations I was able to read a lot of replies to my
> posting I made on the MOU listserv regarding giving out exact owl
> locations on the net.
> First lets be very clear about one
> major item, I never made one comment about NOT posting owls on the MOU
> listserv. I made a request to MOU listserv subscribers of refraining
> to not post exact locations where that owl was seen. If you see a
> wintering owl post the county, township or what park it was located
> but refrain from giving GPS coordinates or mileages or where on the
> trail you saw the owl. Again I never asked anyone to stop sharing owl
> sightings in your posts to the MOU listserv.
> I read replies about "what about rare
> bird sightings" and how it's a double standard by me or birders in
> general to one but not the other. This is a ridiculous statement!
> First of all, accidental birds found in Minnesota are mostly found in
> residential yards, lands under management, state parks, sewage ponds
> or on large lakes. These places are in controlled environments.
> Meaning the home owner has set up guidelines for birders/photographers
> to follow on their property and the same goes for parks, managed
> properties and sewage ponds. Accidental birds found on lakes have
> very little disturbance from the birders because these birds are seen
> from shore. Also in the last week there were several good species
> found and like most accidental sightings these birds moved on very
> quickly. Tropical/Couche's Kingbird was sighted for about 8-10
> minutes tops and only two observers, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was
> seen on private land but viewable from a public road and that bird was
> seen 5 times in two days and the Scott's Oriole was found in the Grand
> Marais neighborhood and that bird was seen for 30-40 minutes by 15
> people or so. Majority of accidental/casual bird sightings in
> Minnesota are found in controlled locations where
> birders/photographers have to follow guideline set up by the homeowner
> and property managers.
> The Northern Saw Whet Owl found by
> Paul Egeland in his yard was in a controlled environment where
> photographers and birders kept a good distance from the owl as to not
> scare it off his property and I am sure Paul had some guideline as to
> where to walk and approach the owl in his yard. This does not happen
> in Sax-Zim Bog nor other locations in northern Minnesota.
> I assume correctly that the MOU
> electronic committee who over sees the MOU listserv request to all MOU
> listserv subscribers to NOT post roosting owl locations and Bob
> Russell explained reasons for that in his post today. Also Jim Ryan
> is dead on for my reason as to why I am asking this request.
> Thanks Jim for the great reply!
> Then I read about the Whooping Crane
> in relation about sharing rare bird sightings on the MOU listserv. Yes
> the crane was reported on the listserv and the original post tells
> people where to find the exact field it was foraging in and everyone
> was happy until some photographer was seen in the field despite
> posting about guidelines on how to approach the crane. Regardless if
> the person knew or did not know about the rarity or the guidelines the
> bird was approached in a fashion that went against the wills of Crane
> Foundations in S. Dakota and Wisconsin. I made a request that in the
> future that all Whooping Crane sightings be omitted ( like nest sites
> or roosting sites topics ) from the listserv and all observations
> should instead be sent to one of these foundations and people sent in
> links on how to find them.
> So back to winter owl postings and
> locations, I have reasons and one of these reason is this (
> e=message) This owl photographed by a regular contributor to the MOU
> website "Showcase" mentioned he baited this owl to achieve that photo.
> There is no laws against baiting but it's a controversial topic. Some
> photographers bait and others do not. This owl was photographed last
> year in Sax-Zim Bog as stated. This owl was baited numerous times by
> many photographers. I got a report from a friend who gotten some
> information from good sources that in one afternoon sitting some
> photographers threw out 50 mice to this particular Northern Hawk Owl
> to achieve many flight photos or perched shots. This owl was reported
> to me many times on how tolerant and habituated it was towards people.
> I myself noticed on how this particular Northern Hawk Owl would
> consistently follow me and my group of birders on a path in the bog.
> This not only happen to me but I got emails from people saying this
> owl was acting very domesticated. This owl did not need to be baited
> because it was easily approachable without all the baiting it received
> all winter season. This is what happens when owls are continuously
> baited by overzealous photographers. Ok I expect to hear this "well
> what is the difference between setting up bird feeders to feed
> songbirds and tossing mice to owls?" Well IF there was not an issue
> with feeding owls live mice then why doesn't Wild Bird Store or Wild
> Birds Unlimited Stores offer hopper feeders that can hold mice. That
> way you can buy that hopper feeder and load it with live mice to feed
> the owls! This sounds ridiculous because comparing baiting owls to
> backyard feeding is ridiculous! There are some photographers who toss
> fish on the ice to attract Bald Eagles.
> Should we now develop along with the new hopper owl feeder some new
> fish tossing equipment to feed eagles too? In my opinion baiting owls
> is just plain wrong and tossing fish on ice to attract eagles is also
> wrong as well.
> Also Jim Ryan was correct in his post there are many lurkers who do
> not share the same values as we do about owls or about birds in
> general. They are using MOU subscribers like hunting dogs.. we find
> the subject they are looking for and we announce where exactly they
> can find it and off they go with mice in the cages, fake mice lures
> and fishing poles, axes and hand saws to make perches. I experience
> it and witness this a few times and I am not going to share my owl
> exact locations on the MOU listserv. The unknown is out there and I am
> not going to take risks. Yes it would be nice if birders could police
> ourselves and photographers do the same amongst their peers but it is
> not happening and bad stuff happens when no one is looking.
> Well I said enough about this topic.
> Do what you want because I know what I am not doing.
> Good birding all
> Mike Hendrickson
> Duluth, Minnesota
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