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Subject:Re: My Request Reply
From:Jim Ryan <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Jim Ryan <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 3 Nov 2011 21:13:32 -0500

My comments below (in blue)

On Thu, Nov 3, 2011 at 6:52 PM, Bill Penning <> wrote:

> 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
> disturbed. While this is true, we do have to start somewhere. And the
> other side of this equation  (from the affect on the bird) is the affect of
> one lousy observer (note I didn't say birder) and on the potential *for
> there to be *other observers. Whether or not an observer is aware enough
> to realize it, their actions and even their intent can and will disturb
> birds (and animals).

> I have seen birds flushed due to selfishness and/or ignorance too many
> times to think it is an uncommon occurrence. Ignorant people can sometimes
> be willing to learn and be taught by more effective observers. Even the
> selfish can learn to protect the resources they exploit if they can be
> taught to see the benefit to themselves....that is where we should focus
> our attention and effort.

> 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
> the subject. Actually, for us dedicated birders, Ethics are not personal
> - they are posted by the ABA and Audubon and we are strongly urged to
> adhere to them for the good of not just the birds, but future birders!

> Hunters are encouraged to follow a set of ethics, varying by the quarry
> sought. I don't know what set of ethics wildlife photographers follow, but
> in any case, *Adherence to *a set of ethics is a personal thing, not the
> ethics themselves.

> *And you know what happens when enough people fail to adhere to a groups
> ethics?  The result is called LAWS...often BANNING previously legal
> activities. See comments for point 3 below*
> 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
> pressure.  Most of us are busy imposing our way of life on others whether
> we know it or not. Just your mere existence means you are using resources
> and forcing me to deal with your presence or the effects of your presence
> to some degree.  That seems to be the human condition (and the condition of
> all other creatures on a planet of limited size and resources). The best we
> can do is be aware of our impact and try to minimize it if we care to.
> 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 few.  Almost ALL laws are created for this very reason.
> In every field of human activity I have ever pursued, the actions of a few
> dictate the rules for us ALL. As the song says, That's just the way it
> is...

> All birders are ambassadors for birding - whether we want to be or not.
> Others are forming opinions of us based on our behaviors whether we realize
> it or not and whether we care or not! I am always mindful of this when out
> and about, whether in town eating lunch, on the road or in the field. I
> want to create as good and respected an image of birders as possible in the
> public eye.

> 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.  While there are plenty of cooperators here in Minnesota (maybe
> more here than elsewhere), don't kid yourself into thinking there isn't
> serious competition as well.  Review the MOU records carefully and you will
> note there are PLENTY of very good bird sightings recorded that NEVER make
> it on to the list-servs. Competition is likely one of many reasons why.

> And of course there are always those non-ethical, non-birding lurkers.
> What will they do with that information? Wasn't that the reason this whole
> thread got started?

> 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.  No,
> I don't think animals should have rights similar to humans either and
> individual sacrifices sometimes need to be made for the benefit of many
> (only with very good reason), but populations *are made up of *individuals
> and actions on individuals over time affects the behavior and
> characteristics of an entire population.
> 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.  While I have benefited from
> being given precise directions to see a "good" bird more than once, I have
> found over time this becomes a very boring way to bird.  A big part of the
> excitement of birding for me is the adventure and mystery of the unknown,
> along with the joy of personal discovery, not just filling up a checklist.

> Do you really want birding to be more like grocery shopping? Boreal owls?
> Ah, yes: Aisle 4, left-hand side, top shelf.  Got it. NEXT!

> What about rediscovering the bird yourself?  Here on the MOU list we even
> have a category for *personally found* birds, as opposed to *stake-out*birds. Yes, that's harder and takes more time, but as the saying goes, if
> it was easy, everyone would do it! And if it's that easy and merely a
> matter of time (retirement) and money to afford to travel to see all the
> stake-out birds, then maybe I need another hobby.

> As an aside, personally I have found that, since birds have wings, they
> often MOVE and are NOT in the exact location that was posted anyways.
> (especially if some self-absorbed and or unethical observer got there
> before me!), so If get in the vicinity, I can take it from there. Keeps it
> a bit more exciting than filling out a shopping list for me.
> To paraphrase what Mike said after offering his opinions on a controversial
> topic last winter: "let the flaming e-mails begin".
> Bill

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