Using call playback in bird watching and bird photography.

To: "'Birding-Aus'" <>
Subject: Using call playback in bird watching and bird photography.
From: "Philip Veerman" <>
Date: Mon, 27 Aug 2012 17:16:10 +1000
I suggest that Carl's comments are over extreme. Yes the behaviour is better
not done (I wouldn't do it - I don't have the equipment or the motive). I
pretty much agree with the suggestions from Robert Inglis but there are
bigger problems than that. Habitat loss is a far greater concern. Do we
actually know if these activities have a significant impact on various
species or that one in particular? And if so, how do we know it, unless the
experiments are done? Not that I am suggesting it is a worthwhile
experiment. Government bureaucracies administering wildlife conservation,
surely are already stretched beyond capacity, doing just the basics to
achieve minimal species conservation activities. Notwithstanding Section 139
of the Protected Areas Management Regulation, I suspect prosecuting a case
like that would be regarded in the community as rather silly. It would be
hard to prove if denied by the person responsible. Given what politicians of
all sides are proposing on nature conservation these days, I suspect at
least 2 out of 3 of the appropriate Minister, the shadow minister and local
member of Parliament would get a laugh from the suggestion. 

I always think of the writings of J.J. Audubon in USA who was a famous
ornithologist who wrote about how many of the birds he painted with great
skill tasted and, for example, how he had a captive Snowy Owl that he wanted
to paint in a particular pose so he killed it for the purpose of putting it
in the right pose. 


-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of Carl Clifford
Sent: Monday, 27 August 2012 3:41 PM
To: Robert Inglis
Cc: Birding-Aus
Subject: Using call playback in bird watching and


I would have cheerfully have asked the photographers if they would mind
posing for a photograph, with all of their gear and noted down their car
registration numbers. I would then send the images and rego numbers,
accompanied by a statutory declaration setting out what I had seen, to the
appropriate Minister, the shadow minister and local member of Parliament. In
the covering letter, I would politely ask if the Department was going to
take any action against the offenders. 

I think that this type of behaviour is utterly unconscionable and should be
dealt with to the full extent of the law. 

Carl Clifford

On 27/08/2012, at 11:34 AM, "Robert Inglis" <> wrote:

> I know this is a topic which has been discussed here before and that 
> it can easily be classed as "controversial" but an incident I 
> witnessed recently has prompted me to believe the subject needs to be 
> revisited.
> Bird-photography is my principal birding interest and recently I 
> visited a bird hide I have used on numerous occasions and where I have 
> spent many hours quietly photographing some of the quite uncommon and 
> wary species which, from time to time, visit this wetland situated in 
> a Conservation Park. Some of those species are extremely wary and shy 
> and are liable to react immediately to any movement or loud noises 
> coming from the hide. Generally they dart back into the thick 
> vegetation around the wetland and often do not emerge again for hours.
> On this particular day, on entering the hide, I was confronted by a 
> spectacle which I found quite disturbing and which has left me with a 
> feeling of bitter disappointment and despair.
> I won't go into the finer details but suffice it to say I found a 
> small group of photographers excitedly and vigorously attempting to 
> photograph birds from the hide while using continuous and very loud 
> call playback to encourage the birds to come closer. A very brief 
> conversation indicated that the target species was the jacanas I had 
> just seen fly past the hide, undoubtedly the same pair of jacanas 
> which had been breeding with mixed success in that location for the 
> past couple of years.
> Rather than confront the photographers (I have learnt from experience 
> that confrontation, gentle or assertive, is invariably met with 
> aggression) and because I was being deafened by the volume of the call 
> playback I immediately left the hide and returned home.
> Over quite a number of years I have taken many thousands of 
> bird-photos but I have never used call playback to attract my 
> subjects; that doesn't mean I am totally against the use of call 
> playback but I do believe that, when it is used, it should be used 
> very carefully and sparingly.
> For that reason I offer for the consideration of all birders, 
> including bird-photographers, the following suggestions for guidelines 
> on using call playback as well as how to conduct oneself in a bird 
> hide.
> Call playback: (keeping in mind that the welfare of the bird is 
> paramount)
> - Never use call playback in areas where breeding and/or nesting is known
or could reasonably be expected to be actually or likely to be happening;
> - Use call playback sparingly in all locations and particularly in
locations which receive high levels of birdwatching/photography traffic;
> - Never use call playback in bird hides as these are locations
specifically intended to cater for high levels of birdwatching/photography
traffic and are invariably located in significant and, often, sensitive bird
> - Stop using call playback when: the target bird has been identified; the
bird appears upset; the bird becomes aggressive;
> - Do not simply turn the call playback on and leave it running
> - Use a moderate to low level of volume and not the maximum level the
player equipment can manage;
> - Never use "aggression" or "alarm" calls for playback.
> Bird hides: (keeping in mind that the birds can see and hear the 
> occupants of the hide)
> - Avoid loud noise inside the hide, e.g., loud conversation and mechanical
> - Move around the hide quietly and slowly avoiding sudden and violent
> - Do not wave arms and/or camera lenses out of the viewing ports of the
> - Enter and exit the hide slowly and quietly.
> I am sure other people can think of more possible "rules" but these 
> are the ones I think to be most important.
> I should also point out the following extract from the (Qld) 
> Department of Environment and Resources (DERM) Operational Policy 
> document on visitor management:
> "Section 139 of the Protected Areas Management Regulation states that 
> a person must not use a radio, tape recorder or other sound or 
> amplifier system in a way that may cause unreasonable disturbance to a 
> person or native animal in a protected area."
> The whole document can be found at
> "Penalties do apply to infringements and details of those penalties 
> can be seen in the document "Proposed regulations under the Recreation 
> Areas Management Act 2006". The document can be downloaded from this 
> web page:
> Note page 16, item 129. The penalty appears to be usually $175 but
possibly up to $3750."
> I should point out that I did not recognise the people involved in the 
> incident described above and I am not in any way suggesting that the
behaviour I witnessed is typical of that of all birdwatchers or
> bird-photographers.
> Bob Inglis
> Sandstone Point
> Qld


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