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Suppression vs reporting; birders’ obligations during lockdown.

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Old Thursday 2nd April 2020, 08:34   #1
JWN Andrewes
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Suppression vs reporting; birders’ obligations during lockdown.

I’ve seen in touched upon here and there, but not come across an in-depth discussion, hence this thread. (Apologies if it has been well covered somewhere and I missed it.)

The chances of me coming across a mouth-watering national rarity on one of my locked-down perambulations are vanishingly small, but these things can happen. And if you start considering regional and local rarities, frequent sorties and the spring season birders around the country are soon going to have to be asking themselves the question “is it responsible to share news of this sighting widely”.

I’d be interested to hear peoples’ views on this, whether news of twitchworthy birds should be disseminated, or whether birders who have traditionally relied on other peoples’ willingness to share news are now in a position where the most socially responsible thing to do if they find something good is to keep schtum.

My own feeling is that although most birders will be sensible enough to not go off twitching stuff at the moment, there will always be enough individuals prepared to bend the rules, with the unfortunate result of small groups gathering at reported rares. I also get the feeling that we are already seeing a lot of self-censorship going on eg on local WhatsApp groups, but hat could just as much be a function of fewer people being out looking. In all honesty, if I were to find something out and about, I would not automatically spread the news, and would almost certainly take the deeply unpalatable decision to supress.

What do other people think? Will someone, on finding the big one this spring, risk sharing the news? Or risk becoming an outcast after the event, when the crisis is over, or the bird moved on? Will we see a flourishing of omerta? Omertas? What is the plural of omerta anyway?

And no, this post isn't because I've found something good and don't know what to do about it. Chance would be a fine thing, although it would be just my luck to pick this spring to finally go out and find something worth bloody sharing!
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Old Thursday 2nd April 2020, 09:07   #2
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Hi James. Personally I’d keep quiet. Minuscule chance as well though of finding anything rare. I guess there’s the outside chance of Ring Ouzels going through. With them I’d probably personally message members of the local Whatsapp group that are within walking distance.

I’m basing this on an assumption that the individuals prepared to travel might not be taking the social distancing guidelines seriously enough. And I know they are open to interpretation.

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Old Thursday 2nd April 2020, 09:13   #3
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I’ve seen in touched upon here and there, but not come across an in-depth discussion, hence this thread. (Apologies if it has been well covered somewhere and I missed it.)

The chances of me coming across a mouth-watering national rarity on one of my locked-down perambulations are vanishingly small, but these things can happen. And if you start considering regional and local rarities, frequent sorties and the spring season birders around the country are soon going to have to be asking themselves the question “is it responsible to share news of this sighting widely”.


And no, this post isn't because I've found something good and don't know what to do about it. Chance would be a fine thing, although it would be just my luck to pick this spring to finally go out and find something worth bloody sharing!
Keep it to yourself, payback for some county recorders and 'bird information providers' who always seem to see suppressed birds.
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Old Thursday 2nd April 2020, 09:15   #4
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The birding community here also doesn't have nearly as many hard core twitchers as the US or UK, but there are a few.
I'd personally probably keep it pretty quiet, though highly doubt I'd get anything worth twitching here in the middle of the city especially a bird that would actually stick around. There's a small chance at some interesting passage migrants especially flycatchers eg Brown-breasted and Asian Brown Flycatchers, but those aren't likely to be birds the really hard core birders would still need.
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Old Thursday 2nd April 2020, 13:47   #5
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If you live in a region with a lot of twitchers and the region has a stay at home order, then yeah, you should probably keep it to yourself.

If the area is low population density with few people who would actually chase something, and more permissive rules are in effect, than sure why not.
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Old Thursday 2nd April 2020, 16:03   #6
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I see no reason to suppress flyovers, and I would be a little miffed if denied the knowledge that a garden watch might nail a White-tailed Eagle.

Birds on the ground might be another matter, though I enjoy knowing what's about without feeling I have to go for it.

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Old Thursday 2nd April 2020, 16:29   #7
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My slant on things is not to put out any info that might tempt the less-responsible elements to go driving off in pursuit, however close or distant.

Nothing wrong with letting people know about things that will be of interest but not for chasing after.

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Old Thursday 2nd April 2020, 16:39   #8
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By suppressing news, you are suppressing it also to local birders, who can legitimately go.

In my opinion, it is better not to be a nanny to adults. Birders are grown people, they should be able to follow the rules and they themselves are responsible.

How would you react, if some birder said to a police officer - sir, it is not my fault but this guy who posted just too tempting news? Would you think he has given a legit excuse?

And, above all, twitching is very coronavirus-responsible activity. Birders are in the field, well separated from any source of infection.

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Old Thursday 2nd April 2020, 18:29   #9
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By suppressing news, you are suppressing it also to local birders, who can legitimately go.

In my opinion, it is better not to be a nanny to adults. Birders are grown people, they should be able to follow the rules and they themselves are responsible.

How would you react, if some birder said to a police officer - sir, it is not my fault but this guy who posted just too tempting news? Would you think he has given a legit excuse?

And, above all, twitching is very coronavirus-responsible activity. Birders are in the field, well separated from any source of infection.
I rather agree that with personal responsibility key to achieving the objective of breaking the infection chain, people should be encouraged to take personal responsibility for their own actions and others should refrain from being that car in the outside lane at 70 driving others' cars for them.

However, re your last sentence, cue photo of 1985 Black-billed Cuckoo twitch if anyone has one handy....

John

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Old Thursday 2nd April 2020, 18:34   #10
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I see no reason to suppress flyovers, and I would be a little miffed if denied the knowledge that a garden watch might nail a White-tailed Eagle.

John
Yeah, came to the same conclusion myself, leaning on the back door earlier today dreaming of Ospreys. Anything someone could pick up further along its flight path should be shared, and quickly.

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By suppressing news, you are suppressing it also to local birders, who can legitimately go.

In my opinion, it is better not to be a nanny to adults. Birders are grown people, they should be able to follow the rules and they themselves are responsible.

How would you react, if some birder said to a police officer - sir, it is not my fault but this guy who posted just too tempting news? Would you think he has given a legit excuse?

And, above all, twitching is very coronavirus-responsible activity. Birders are in the field, well separated from any source of infection.
Ok Jurek, some good points there, and I admit that I can't see a course of action that I would not feel uncomfortable with, for one reason or another. Birders are grown people, and shouldn't be nannied, but if I feel there is a high probability that my reporting a bird will bring even a small group together then it's not a question of other people having decisions made for them, it's about me living with my decision. It is a decision I would find very hard, because my default is to report as much as I can, and love those rare opportunities I have to share news and contribute to the community that has provided me with with so much enjoyment over the years.

Also, personally, I can't reconcile twitching as a coronavirus-responsible activity. It involves non-essential car journeys, and brings groups of people together from various geographic locations.

I hope we can disagree amicably, I appreciate your taking the time to contribute, and no discussion is interesting without people challenging each other's views. Everyone must do as they see fit, and hopefully my misgivings (I have so many at the moment, it's rather disheartening) are ill founded.

All the best

James
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Old Thursday 2nd April 2020, 18:37   #11
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though I enjoy knowing what's about without feeling I have to go for it.

John
It's all very well for you, you've seen more that me!! I think I'd rather not know till after the event!
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Old Thursday 2nd April 2020, 22:58   #12
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I have not left the garden during daylight for ten days now but do intend to get some walks in during daylight when the days have lengthened and I can get out at dawn with as few people around as there are after dark. I would not suppress anything & I would be gutted if something within walking distance on my patch was suppressed from me. I can imagine a passage wader on the flooded fields near my house. I have seen Upland Sandpiper, Black-winged Pratincole, Kentish Plover & various commoner rarities within walking distance of where I live.

All the best
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Old Friday 3rd April 2020, 03:25   #13
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I don't see how you can see twitching as an okay thing if there is a shelter in place order. The idea is not to travel far from home...even places with looser restrictions than much of Europe (like my current abode) still advise people to visit places around there home, and not to venture far afield for hiking and birding. By all means, if you get a locally rare bird, pass the news onto your close friends or local information site. But anything else is pretty much encouraging people to break the rules (and put other people in harm's way or make this situation last longer for all of us good-behaving folks).
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Old Friday 3rd April 2020, 07:54   #14
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I don't see how you can see twitching as an okay thing if there is a shelter in place order. The idea is not to travel far from home...even places with looser restrictions than much of Europe (like my current abode) still advise people to visit places around there home, and not to venture far afield for hiking and birding. By all means, if you get a locally rare bird, pass the news onto your close friends or local information site. But anything else is pretty much encouraging people to break the rules (and put other people in harm's way or make this situation last longer for all of us good-behaving folks).
It doesn't work like that. In the UK, we do not know everyone who may be interested locally. There are maybe 10-15 active birders in my local town but I know maybe half of them well.

For me personally, you provide information. It is the way it is.

As always, birders are normally decent people and soul search but do the right thing en masse. A few behave poorly. A smaller minority than most social groups and a few delight in exaggerating that when it happens.

All the best
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Old Friday 3rd April 2020, 08:08   #15
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The real question is: what bird would really test your resolve to be a responsible citizen?!
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Old Friday 3rd April 2020, 08:11   #16
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The real question is: what bird would really test your resolve to be a responsible citizen?!
A Wandering Albatross on Farmoor Reservoir.

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Old Friday 3rd April 2020, 08:26   #17
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I'm with Paul. I'd put the info out, there are a handful of local birders who might get to see it, & I'd be very sorry to hear, too late, that I could have seen something on my doorstep through suppression.
Again, my chances around these parts are slim - the best so far since the lockdown being 2 Med Gulls
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Old Friday 3rd April 2020, 08:27   #18
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I have not left the garden during daylight for ten days now but do intend to get some walks in during daylight when the days have lengthened and I can get out at dawn with as few people around as there are after dark. I would not suppress anything & I would be gutted if something within walking distance on my patch was suppressed from me. I can imagine a passage wader on the flooded fields near my house. I have seen Upland Sandpiper, Black-winged Pratincole, Kentish Plover & various commoner rarities within walking distance of where I live.

All the best
That's all very well for you Paul but we don't all have a Butler to do the shopping........
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Old Friday 3rd April 2020, 08:39   #19
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I personally find the hiding of any sighting just ridiculous.

We have a stay-at-home (or better: stay close at home) order but can still walk and bike as far as we can physically go. Any suppression of information is, imho, childish and absolutely not in the spirit of birding (a spirit of sharing is caring).

I don't agree one jot with the argument that one shouldn't be seduced to go out when they have info about a rarity;

First of all, I am grown up enough myself to decide if it's within reach walking or cycling. Most rarities aren't, and I am not going to bother if something has been found further than 20K. If it is closer or really close, I am allowed (and even encouraged) by government to have a work out on my bike and a rarity can be very elegantly combined with that ride. Just one example: there is a Blyth's pipit currently at 15K from my home. I know the whereabouts, and if there is some spare time I could do the bike ride (which is really only half an hour), walk a bit next to the fields (where everyone is allowed to walk if you are walking alone or only in company of family members), see the bird and cycle back. All perfectly legal, even encouraged by government, but suppressed on our national sightings website.

Second, there are rarities that are on the move like fly-bys. If a Greater spotted eagle takes a flight path leading right over my backyard, what's the use of not being able to spread that info widely?

Third, if there is a wandering albatross at the coast too far to walk or cycle, I still have the very likely possibility that it's close to building sites I go regularly for work (in harbours along the coast). So with suppressing info, I could just miss that bird while it was literally on my route to work. If it's not close and I have no legal excuse (if I would have to drive around), I simply won't go ofcourse. Like every adult would do.

Fourth: it is interesting and inspiring to hear and read that some rarities or semi-rarities are showing up. This could mean there is an infux or at least it indicates and inspires what might be found and should be looked for in your local patch. Think about Dotterels, Ring Ouzels, Pallid harriers,...
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Old Friday 3rd April 2020, 08:57   #20
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I personally find the hiding of any sighting just ridiculous.



First of all, I am grown up enough myself to decide if it's within reach walking or cycling.
But it's not just about you.

People will drive to a rarity (many won't but some will). If there is a plan in place to stop people's movements (to aid in minimising the spread of the disease), then either the idea is for everyone to follow the rules, or to allow some exceptions and the assumption that thus anyone can break the 'rules' and the whole thing breaks down.

The easiest solution is to consider that under current circumstances (whether you really believe in it or not), year-listing and twitching as we know it are out the window for now. If that means you miss out on the odd rarity then tough.
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Old Friday 3rd April 2020, 09:15   #21
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But it's not just about you.

People will drive to a rarity (many won't but some will).
But no part of the blame for somebody driving to see a rarity should be attributed to the person putting the news out, it is 100% the fault of the person who choose to act on that news.

I completely agree with temmie, I would happily put news out if I find something scarce in the next few weeks, as that allows any birders within 10km or so to legitimately walk or cycle to see the bird themselves. If anybody from further afield decides to break the rules and drive to see the bird, that is completely their own decision and I won't feel any guilt for any fines etc that they get imposed with.
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Old Friday 3rd April 2020, 09:26   #22
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But no part of the blame for somebody driving to see a rarity should be attributed to the person putting the news out, it is 100% the fault of the person who choose to act on that news.

I completely agree with temmie, I would happily put news out if I find something scarce in the next few weeks, as that allows any birders within 10km or so to legitimately walk or cycle to see the bird themselves. If anybody from further afield decides to break the rules and drive to see the bird, that is completely their own decision and I won't feel any guilt for any fines etc that they get imposed with.
No sense of moral responsibility at all? People are dying ... not as a result of twitches perhaps, but the whole thing is interconnected (sounds melodramatic I know.)

The government handling of the whole thing has been woeful overall, and indeed the police haven't helped.

Take Ringouzelgate ... then move onto a bigger twitch at which a number of birders get caught (whether highly local or not) and it hits the headlines (which it quite likely would), and everyone gets tarred with the same brush ...
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Old Friday 3rd April 2020, 09:26   #23
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But no part of the blame for somebody driving to see a rarity should be attributed to the person putting the news out, it is 100% the fault of the person who choose to act on that news.

I completely agree with temmie, I would happily put news out if I find something scarce in the next few weeks, as that allows any birders within 10km or so to legitimately walk or cycle to see the bird themselves. If anybody from further afield decides to break the rules and drive to see the bird, that is completely their own decision and I won't feel any guilt for any fines etc that they get imposed with.
I entirely agree with this position. People should stop imagining themselves being responsible for things they are not, and that doesn't just apply to the current situation: conversely nobody at all should imagine that they are not ultimately responsible for their own actions. It is ridiculous to suggest that people are "encouraged" to break the rules - indeed, it's that kind of talk that legitimises them, not putting news out.

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Old Friday 3rd April 2020, 09:53   #24
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Take Ringouzelgate ...
Only you could come up with that Dan

As for ‘suppression’, in the current climate, my moral obligations lie with the wider needs of society not a ‘minority’ group within it (the old utilitarian argument - what produces the greatest good for the greatest number). I see no harm in putting out flyovers - everything else I would submit to RBA and let them decide (since they already have adopted a public interest position on this). By submitting rarities in this manner (as confidential report), the record will still find its way into the books even if not onto anyone else’s list - likewise other people’s rarities will stay off mine. There are however, a few very local professional birder colleagues/friends that I count on one hand, whom I would absolutely trust, that I would inform, knowing their responsible attitude to such matters and that the news would go no further.

On a lighter note, don’t we have a responsibility not to tempt addicts nor enable their addictions?
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Old Friday 3rd April 2020, 10:01   #25
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On a lighter note, don’t we have a responsibility not to tempt addicts nor enable their addictions?
No: but you could argue that without providing temptation, they are not enabled to prove their self-control to themselves and others!

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