Re: Taping bird calls and spotlighting.

Subject: Re: Taping bird calls and spotlighting.
Date: Thu, 20 Nov 1997 13:43:14 +0800

It appears that tapes won't lie down.  And now we have another perennial in
spotlighting.  I can't let Tony Russell's comments below go unchallenged :

He is talking about Phillip Maher and his tours from Deniliquin.  I think
that Phil has been very unfairly criticised.  He clearly cannot defend
himself without others saying that he a commercial interest.

I would be very surprised if anyone in Australia knows more about the
Plains Wanderer than Phil.  He conducted an extensive study of the species
that led to a far greater understanding of the Plains Wanderer and its
highly endangered habitat.  Much of what we know about the PW came from
Phil's studies.  He has done more to ensure the welfare of the species than
anyone else.

The Plains Wanderers are found in native grassland which is a habitat that
is in extreme danger.  Phil's studies were on (sheep?) stations north of
Deniliquin.  They are not in national parks or reserves.  Phil has attained
an excellent rapport with the station operators so that they now are very
aware of the species and its requirements and now help to preserve the
native grasses on their stations.

It is my understanding that Phil has shown that the birds are highly mobile
and not resident in one area, and so the preserving of one area would be
insufficient to ensure the protection of the species.

He discovered his study method of spotlighting.  Previously they were
virtually impossible to study.  This allowed him to pick up the bird and
band it and release it unharmed.  Recovery records show that the birds
survive for many years.

Personally, I feel that the more people that get the chance to see this
stunning species the better.  It is only through this wider awareness of
the need to preserve these habitats that action may happen.  In particular,
the high number of foxes in the area was very worrying.

There is simply no evidence to support the highly emotive hypothesis that
he runs over more PWs than he spotlights.  There is no evidence even that
the more common species such as Stubble Quail, the button-quails, Richard's
Pipit and Singing Bushlark are killed or injured.

And NO I have never seen a spotlighted bird such that they were in danger
of flying into trees or buildings.  In all the spotlighting I have done,
only once has there been a Rufous Owl on the Atherton Tablelands that was
aggressive.  The other birds either fly away safely, turn their head away,
or stay still.  Standard spotlighting practice ensures that the centre of
the spotlight is not kept directly on the bird or animal.

In summary, you need to know more of the bigger picture before you
criticise someone.

 on 20/11/97 07:39:44 AM

cc:    (bcc: Frank O'Connor/Argyle)
Subject:  Taping bird calls and spotlighting.

Now, spotlighting to my mind falls into an entirely different category. I
believe that this is a practice which definitely should be exercised with
great caution. Many Ecotour operators use this method of finding birds for
paying clients who expect a result for their money. Many of you will have
no doubt witnessed how spotlighted birds become temporarily blinded by the
light such that if they attempt to fly they are in serious danger of flying
into unseen tree branches, buildings, etc. Ground birds are in even greater
danger from the vehicles used by the birders. I once witnessed several
confused Plains Wanderers in Southern NSW ( so we all know who I'm talking
about)frozen to the spot in the blinding glare of light, while the vehicle
made tight turns around them, not giving them any opportunity to escape.The
birders then got out of the vehicle and stood in a 5ft diameter circle to
prevent escape for about 5mins. Goodness knows how many other PW's might
have been run over in the process, and maybe the spotlighted ones were the
lucky ones! Admittedly not many keen birders would ever see a PW without
this practice, but maybe that's the price we should be prepared to pay, and
just believe that they are out there even though we don't get to see them.
I am interested to hear other people's views on this.

Tony Russell.
Tony Russell
Ph: 08 82078470W
    08 83375959H
Fax:08 82078422
e mail: 

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