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Bird photography Ethics (1 Viewer)


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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.
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Wow, I have started sumat here. Here's another. When the elements work against you such as sun, wind and whatever do you sit and wait for it to improve if the better position means disturbing or causing uneccessary interference. I assume the answer is yes, but what if you only needed to be in the 'better position' for say two or three minutes?
This is never a problem because I always take into account the sun position when siting a hide, and work from it at the time of day best suited to the angle of the light.
So if the sun is not 'friendly' enough and there are no suitable positions do you wait or do something else more productive. I suppose it woould depend on the species.

Another thing, what's the angle on flashes?
Hi Andrew
The short answer to this is that when siting a hide you put it in a place where the light will be good for photography, there is no point puting one in place otherwise.

I frequently use flash, more often just as a fill light to give a catchlight in the eye, It rarley gives a reaction in the bird, as glinting light reflected by water and passing cars etc is quite commonplace and birds are used to these sort of flashes of light as an everyday occurance.
Thanks for another set of great answers. This is a good thread. As usual I am learning quickly like others because of your keeness to kindly share out your expertise.
Without being a kill-joy: since the Wildlife & Countryside Act you need a licence for photography of birds on the nest, it is illegal to do otherwise.
There is a huge difference to a nest site and actually on the nest Simon, I've never seen a harrier nest but I've been to a number of nest sites! Not that I'm pedantic or anything8-P
Hi Simon,
It is only illegal with schedule 1 species, however with all species if you do not work with uttmost respect for the nesting birds you could be guilty of wilfull distubance, If however you went to Minsmere for instance and Avocets, a schedule 1 species, were nested outside one of the public hides and you photographed them you would not be commiting an offence.
I was planning to ask Nigel a similar question to this at some point anyhow, as with Digiscoping it would be possible to photograph nesting birds/Birds on the nest, from some distance with no disturbance to the bird.

So are you saying it’s perfectly legal as long as the birds are not disturbed?
As you say Avocets or Ospreys at Garten could be photographed on the nest from public hides.

This is indeed the case, there are a number of sites in the U.K. where Schedule 1 species can be seen at or near the nest from public viewing points, at these sites it is possible to photograph them with no disturbance to them at all so therfore you will be within the law. Note the point about at or NEAR the nest, because it is also illegal to photograph schedule 1 species when near the nest site, this in particular is when they have dependent young, i.e. still being fed although they have left the nest.
But with all species whether sch.1 or not great care should be excersized with respect to their welfare, if in doubt, don't!
I personally feel that as photo technology has advanced so much in recent years and these laws were passed prior to this advancement, there is a case for redefining many aspects of what can or cannot be photographed, and the circumstances that make it legal or not.
Oooo heck…

Well I have no plans to photographs rare breeding species at the nest anyhow, but I am interested in the law covering this. I have always tried to avoid disturbing birds at all, on the nest or otherwise, moving of if my presence appears to be agitating the birds. I often see birds with food in there mouths in the summer clearly waiting for me to disappear so then can go to the nest, in this situation I might go for a couple of shots but then move off. I certainly think this is good practise for birders in general not just photographers.

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