[CT Birds] White owls vs white lenses

Mark Szantyr birdinggeek at gmail.com
Wed Dec 7 13:34:31 EST 2016

I write this as I was contacted personally by an out of state birder about the blight of bird photographers ruining birding and birding opportunities for others. He cited a few instances of photographer misbehavior.   I thought I would publish this reply to the list because it looks like Snowy Owls might be showing up and with them the inane beleaguerment of bird photographers and accusations of harrassment 

This is my reply to him.

"...And i can cite as many examples of birders without cameras acting irresponsibly and, in fact, harmfully to birds. You might say no real birder would do that and I would say that no bona fide bird photographer would do that either.  You say it is worse now than ever. And i guess i agree, about birder harrassment as well.   It was easier on birds in the 70's because there were only 50 (for comparative purposes) birders in New England that would go after reported birds.  There were fewer reported birds because there were only 50 birders in New England actively in the field. 

To me, the real issue is that everybody with binoculars and internet connectivity is considered or considers themselves an expert birder and everybody with a point and shoot digital camera is a bird photographer. 

The huge numbers help when it suits the birding community in legislative or fund-raising needs and hurt when this assembled mass believes it is their right to monopolize every bird and it frustrates other birders, the land-owning public, or state and local police. 

There has not been enough time for the new school of  birder or bird photographer, to gain the years of practical field training that long-time birders and bird photographers have acquired in practicing the art and craft of bird study and identification, knowledge of bird behavior, habitat, timing of occurence, etc.  I fear that  because of the instant gratification of the internet, this work may never be done.  The internet does it for them.  The opportunity to learn and develop good habits never arises. 

I share your frustration but I don't aim it at bird photographers broadly. Too many of us work very hard and spend too much time and money getting good and important, let me re-state IMPORTANT, images in a responsible way to deserve being lumped in with the guy with a point and shoot chasing a bird down a beach. 

My frustration lies more with not being able to be out studying birds without carloads of loud and marginally interested "birders" noisily "occupying" every reported bird and using the event for a social gathering rather than for bird study. It lies with some of those that insist on posting a bird's occurence every minute of its stay and thereby taking the searching and learning out of the pursuit for the masses. It lies with those that assume authority over a reported bird without actually understanding what or how any birder behavior will or won't bother the bird.  It lies with birders usurping the dignity and autonomy that comes with being a bird because the birders (given credence by the internet) know better. 

And just because we are looking through a lens and documenting the study rather than through a scope or binoculars, doesn't mean we are any less serious. Many of us have done this for too long and have contributed too much to the knowledge of birds to have our motives or behavior impuned."

Mark Szantyr

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