Has eBird made people selfish with sightings?

To: "" <>
Subject: Has eBird made people selfish with sightings?
From: Philip Veerman <>
Date: Sat, 7 Sep 2019 08:46:36 +0000

During the COG Atlas period (so about 1988) I recall one incident. I did a one day bird survey along I think Williamsdale Road (that goes between Smiths Rd & Burra). I stopped at one spot about 100 metres along the entrance driveway to a rural property beside a nice looking farm dam, to observe the ducks and whatever and eat my sandwich lunch. As I recall I did not get out of my car. After a few minutes I noticed that there were people at the house about another 150 metres off the road. I believed they saw me and I heard some loud talk. They did not approach me which I thought was curious, so I thought little of it. I thought should I go up and talk to them but decided that all was fine and I didn’t wish to bother them. I thought I should stay for about 10 minutes more because if I immediately left that may look suspicious and deny them the opportunity to come and talk to me. My car back then was very distinctive (a BJ40 Landcruiser with wrap around heavy black bull bars). About an hour later after I left the property, I had a police car zoom up behind me with sirens, on the dirt road. Of course I stopped and asked what the problem was. Apparently the home people had called the police out. I just said I was only looking at the birds on the dam and having lunch. On me showing the police the bird stickers on the car and the COG datasheets and a couple bird books they believed me. I apologised for the waste of their time and asked the police to tell them what I was there for and say sorry for any worry but I was quite harmless and asked what was the issue. The police told me that the owners alleged that there had recently been people passing by and shooting at their horses……..Or that is their story. So they had called the police on fear that might have been me.


To clarify on my earlier message. In most cases of going through a fence onto a property it would only be a ten minute look and somewhere along a country road and no particular way of knowing where the relevant house would be, often a long distance away.


David wrote of “these days” but I was referring to decades ago. I know we can all see others as guilty but I suggest we should be aware but not be overly harsh.


From: Mark Clayton [
Sent: Saturday, 7 September, 2019 1:27 PM
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Has eBird made people selfish with sightings?



An interesting comment about farmers not being hostile to birders. When i was working at CSIRO we were doing regular vegetation studies and bird counts on private properties around the Boorowa to Grenfell area. Many land owners were very reluctant to let us on to their properties as they were concerned that we would find a "rare" species and the the "government" would take their land off them. It took a bit of discussion to allay their fears and we were reluctantly given access. I have found this is becoming more and more the case these days but there are exceptions, our Painted Honeyeater banding site at Ungarie northwest of West Wyalong for example. The owner of the property adjacent to where we were banding in a roadside easement that has Acacia pendula growing on it, stopped to see what we were doing. He was very impressed with what we were up to and in discussions told us that he had an environmental sciences degree and happily gave us permission to band, and camp, on his property.

In this day and age where radicals elements of society are illegally accessing private property, I can see why farmers are growing more reluctant to letting people onto their  properties.


On 7/09/2019 12:33 pm, David Rees wrote:


Just remember, these days many farmers have biosecurity protocols in place either of their own or requested by customers (domestic and International), industry accreditation and or by legislation. That means that they need to regulate coming and going of visitors to their property, and prove they have done it.  There are also the new NSW laws on farm trespass to get at 'Animal rights activists'. Birdwatchers are not the target but they could get tangled up in this

I think its best to be cautious and behave decently and not enter private property without permission.  Personally in my time in Australia bird watching I have never encountered hostility from a land owner/lessee and on many occasions the exact opposite.  The vast majority of such folk don't see us as a threat relative to other sorts that may be out and about, illegal hunters,  'unauthorized 'borrowers' of stock, fuel and equipment, dirt bike riders come to mind, let us keep it that way.

The situation in the UK is bad because of the number of obsessive bird watchers, esp 'twitchers' who go after off-course vagrant birds, which the UK gets lots of due to it geographical location midway along a major flight way and not too far from the eastern US one. 


On 6/09/2019 3:43 pm, Philip Veerman wrote:

Many years ago (like in my teens and 20s) when out bird watching in rural areas, I recall myself and others (maybe even frequently or regularly) climbing through fences to look at birds if something was seen say in a paddock. This was not done to just explore something on the off chance, in that circumstance I would walk along the road or wait to encounter a suitable site. The thought I had back then was this was OK for plain wire fences that could be easily climbed through without any adverse impact on the fence. I would not walk through and over crops or do any damage. Now I am more aware and I have not done this for a long time. It is now much better protocol to have changed that habit. So yes I may have in Martin’s words sometimes seriously annoying the landholder but I rarely had that impression. Yes in all the years I recall a small number of interesting interactions. One place that I regularly assisted in the survey with someone else (this was 1980 to 1982 in SE Qld and there was a big farm dam with many waterbirds about 100 metres inside the farm gate), the land holder did approach us one time and say they had often noticed us and wondered what we were doing. When Graham explained it was for the national bird atlas, the guy said “We always thought you were Uranium prospectors”. Thinking back I now think it strange that seeing Graham had been surveying around that route every season for some years that he had not actually asked or informed that landholder. Yet in the context of then I did not see that activity as overly bad.  I wonder how many other readers would be honest to admit to this.


From: Martin Butterfield
Sent: Friday, 6 September, 2019 11:55 AM
To: Ryu Callaway
Cc: COG Chat
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Has eBird made people selfish with sightings?


Geoffrey said 

"When the painted-snipe were reported at Lake Road I met one snapper who had driven a considerable distance, and had to be dissuaded from climbing the fence, something that would certainly have caused anxiety to the birds.  "

Not to mention seriously annoying the landholder!   This is a HUGE problem in the UK.  Read p111-2  of Mark Cocker's book "Birders : Tales of a tribe - especially for the odoriferous consequences.








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