In response to a question posed by Andrew in another thread I thought it worth opening a thread on the ethics and techniques for photographing birds responsibly, Andrews Question:-
What happens if you are hiding well camouflaged and all that as I assume you do, and some birds gather round you. You have got the pictures you need. Do you get up and walk off or wait for the birds to leave first or reach a safer distance? This is not a dig, just a question as it interests me as I often rue disturbing birds accidently like today, I disturbed the same Common Sandpiper three times without meaning to.
It is always sensible to not leave cover and more particularly a hide until there is no bird activity around it, not least of all you may miss out on a stunning shot!
Some birds are quite able to connect the hide with human activity, Crows for instance can be very wary of a hide and I suspect that they can even count as it can be necessary to have someone ( or even two people) escort you to and from the hide when entering and leaving, the escort retreats as you enter the hide giving the impression to the birds that the visit has been a brief one. they then come to the hide and escort you away when you are finished.
When placing a hide it should be put up away from the intended photographing site and moved nearer little by little over a period of a few days, it is necessary that you watch the bird behavior from a distance and if there is any adverse reaction to the hide, remove it and cease atempts at photography in that area. Do not put a hide in a place that will draw unwanted attention to feeding or nesting birds THIS IS MOST IMPORTANT AT A NEST SITE. I think that you have to 'earn the right' to photograph nesting birds, it should not be atempted until you have some experience of photographing birds, try starting at places where birds are used to human activity, local town parks are a good starting place. In St Albans there is a Heronry at Verulamium lakes, the Herons choose to nest there depite the dogs and noisy kids and good close shots of their nesting activities can be had and your presence there is not out of the ordinary to them.