Using call playback in bird watching and bird photography.

To: Philip Veerman <>
Subject: Using call playback in bird watching and bird photography.
From: Ed Williams <>
Date: Mon, 27 Aug 2012 17:44:28 +1000
My big concern on this would be the anti-conservation, anti-birdwatcher, 
anti-green, lobby (who are far too powerful) jumping on incidents like this to 
demonise a group of people who as a rule care more about wildlife than 
virtually anyone else.

I would think peer pressure and education is the way forward on such matters as 

A simple "No Playback" sign in the hide might be a helpful solution where this 
becomes a problem...

Good birders generally respect the rules of where they are... 

Cheers all,


On 27/08/2012, at 5:16 PM, "Philip Veerman" <> wrote:

> 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. 
> Philip
> -----Original Message-----
> From: 
>  On Behalf Of Carl Clifford
> Sent: Monday, 27 August 2012 3:41 PM
> To: Robert Inglis
> Cc: Birding-Aus
> Subject: Re: [Birding-Aus] Using call playback in bird watching and
> birdphotography.
> Robert,
> 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
> habitats;
>> - 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
> continuously;
>> - 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
> noises;
>> - Move around the hide quietly and slowly avoiding sudden and violent
> movements;
>> - Do not wave arms and/or camera lenses out of the viewing ports of the
> hide;
>> - 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:
> 9
>> 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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