[CT Birds] Owls 'n schtuff!

julian hough jrhough1 at snet.net
Wed Dec 7 17:34:29 EST 2016

I try to avoid posting in matters such as this because it is the same rhetoric (and i am adding to it i guess). I am a birder and photographer and have, in the past in my photographic efforts, and probably also my birding efforts, inadvertently flushed Snowy Owls (and other birds). I have also flushed many wintering, cold and hungry sparrows, diligently searching for morsels of food in the grasses of farm and field, and hoped that I haven’t stressed them out too much (shhh… don’t tell anyone). 
I have to defend Frank Mantlik, and I do not want to speak for him, but I think his message was intended as a reminder to be respectful, not as blanket post not to allow people to enjoy these visitors. He has provided many sightings and is out in the field a lot and is incredibly generous with sharing his news. 
I think many experienced photographers here know when an owl is not cooperative or approachable and will leave them alone. As someone has pointed out, it is often the public or point n shoot brigade that get too close, or people that approach an owl from all sides which will flush it. I have seen an organized group all move together slowly to take pictures of a Snowy Owl without unduly spooking it - it is a matter of fieldcraft and a bit of organizing and educating other, less experienced photographers. The repetitive nature of visitors is to me the likely stressor, since over time more groups that disturb it will add up quantitatively. This is a real issue, but unless we all agree to stop enjoying birds, it’s unavoidable.
However, it is the PERCEPTION of the few that affect the many and that is the reality of the situation. I see knee-jerk reactions all the time and over-arching emotional responses. Owls are hardy and incredibly efficient hunters, adept at finding food - like many other winter visitors. Some migrate here as a matter of winter movements - some, in irruption years, are starving and not allowing them to rest (they are actively hunting at night ) is tough on them - but many survive CT’s birders just fine.
Owls and rarities attract visitors - many visitors. If people onsite can help police those few that may be obviously not behaving, or as is often the case, just over-enthusiastic - that will help a bird’s welfare and observer/photographer behavior.
But I ask for a bit of calm and common sense and a refrain from overreacting because it is owl season.
 Julian Hough New Haven, CT 06519 www.naturescapeimages.wordpress.com

More information about the CTBirds mailing list