Ethics, recordings and bird knowledge etc

To: Carl Clifford <>, Birding-Aus <>
Subject: Ethics, recordings and bird knowledge etc
From: Robert Gosford <>
Date: Sat, 13 Jan 2007 13:17:38 +0930
Dear all,

While I note the discussion about the morals or common sense of using
various techniques for attracting birds (and I agree with Ricki that it
shouldn't serve as a substitute for patience and good birdcraft), the
reason I want to put bird calls onto an iPod is for future work that I
will do with Aboriginal people on their bird knowledge.

A lot has been written about the difficulties that some indigenous
collaborators can have with identification of birds (and other spp.)
from photos, field guides and museum specimens - the images and
specimens are so far removed from how the animal looks in real life that
it can lead to confusion, misidentification and frustration.

It appears that among the best methods for species identification and to
elicit narratives is to look for birds etc in the real world - as they
are flying around or through country or in a reasonably large enclosed
space like a zoo - in my view this is one of the few valid uses for zoos
- and the Alice Springs Desert Park is one of the best examples -
especially the free flying raptor display.

Another good identification technique is to use sound - this makes sense
because, particularly where I work, bird calls are highly salient - in
the same manner a bird watchers with a high degree of skill and
familiarity in the field can readily identify birds from a call (or a
part of), so many indigenous peoples have highly developed aural bird
identification skills.

This is what I want to use the iPod for - plus to help, on occasion, to
bring some birds in for better photographs.

On this last point I note that while there is no Australian equivalent
nature photography group, the NANPA (North American Nature Photography
Association) has an excellent Principles of Ethical Field Practices: which, as a past member, I
follow as best I can.

For Birders both the American Birding Association
( and the Royal Society for
the Protection of Birds
( provide
versions of codes of conduct/ethics. I note that "In England, Scotland
and Wales, it is a criminal offence to disturb, intentionally or
recklessly, at or near the nest, a species listed on Schedule 1 of the
Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. Disturbance could include playback of
songs and calls. The courts can impose fines of up to £5,000 and/or a
prison sentence of up to six months for each offence."

I'm not aware of any Australian birding association which has bothered
with developing a Code of Conduct/Ethics - something that to me seems
well overdue - particularly in light of this discussion (wouldn't it be
good to be guided by a Code in these matters?) and also in relation to
the (reportedly) wide scale illegal bird trade.

That's all for this rainy Saturday afternoon in the desert ...

Cheers and best,

Bob Gosford

Carl Clifford wrote:

Dear All,

I have used my iPod for bird calls for a while now and have used
pictures of the different species pasted in as album art work, which
means that when you play a call the picture of the species is
displayed on screen. It will be interesting to see if the same is
possible with Apples new 'phone, though the storage capacity is a bit
small at 2-4 GB.


Carl Clifford

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