I remember the first time I was able to see those birds, my first looks at a species of owl, through my old Bushmaster spotting scope and I took a few photos using my only zoom lens - a 75-300mm on a Minolta SLR camera (yes, the days of film when I didn't know a darn thing about wildlife photography).
In reflection, I am less upset with the ladies as I am with myself - I said nothing to them. Maybe they were not doing this to purposely cause harm. Maybe they didn't realize their close proximity was upsetting the adult birds. Maybe they didn't care. However, I walked away not saying anything. I was just as guilty due to my silence and fear for what they might say back to me since I didn't know any of them. I could have put on my educator's hat and told them they were too close. Maybe the next time I see this, I won't be silent.
Some birders hesitate to share locations of owls with anyone due to a deep desire to protect the birds. Yet, there are also those who hold out on revealing locations but have no issue sharing their photos online or elsewhere almost like a trophy or "ha ha look what I saw" kind of thing. I myself feel bad because I feel am one of the good guys who would go and not deliberately cause harm to the birds. I would go to commune with them, observe them and capture images to later tell a story. I myself have seen a "professional photographer" feel he was entitled to get in close to a flock of birds thereby resulting in them fleeing the area completely. But, he got his wonderful flight shots that got all kinds of accolades. If only he bothered to be upfront with the means by which he got his shots. I could have tattled on him and blown him up for the fraud he was.
No one has a right to infringe or harm just because they feel they can. So, do we share the locations of these beautiful creatures? Is education enough or should we all refrain from participating on list servs that give out real time information to hoards of people we don't know? Do we only share with our trusted "friends" and thereby create an atmosphere that we "own" a bird or other animal, as the article implies? I do not know what is truly the right answer to this question. I know for myself I deeply cherish the opportunities I am allowed to see wild animals in their own habitats doing their own thing and it does hurt if only some are allowed to see them and others not, unless those others just refuse to do so in the right way. How do we weed out the "bad apples" who continue to break the "rules"?
There are indeed those that just don't care to abide by birding ethics or to educate themselves as to the animals they are seeking to observe or photograph, or who do whatever possible to get particular kinds of photos. And there are those that could absolutely care less about anything nature has to offer. In their opinion, they see no value in the trees, birds, and other creatures. These things are in the way of progress.
However, our wildlife needs us to speak up for them and it seems there are fewer and fewer people today who genuinely care. Wild things need us to take greater responsibility for their well-being and continued survival. As someone in the education field, who has used my photos to educate, and seeing time and time again tracts of land being taken away from wildlife, the air and water poisoned, and even the unfettered need of some to kill for the sake of killing, I tend to lean towards the sentiment that even with owls - we need to find a way to educate people to at least find it within to care enough to protect them. Maybe every person has to decide for themselves on what is right as long as it keeps the welfare of the animals in mind. Education of a broad scale will mean a lot of work - it is definitely going to take a lot of careful thought. But, how else do we get folks to understand and care if we don't share? If we cannot, then perhaps it should mean stopping list servs and online photo sharing of any and all delicate species. Some online groups are doing just that. And that in and of itself seems like a tragedy and counterproductive to the desired need of having people actually develop a caring for all creatures. Isn't getting more people on board to wanting to save our wildlife vital to their survival, and ours?
He said, “If we can teach people about wildlife, they will be touched. Share my wildlife with me. Because humans want to save things that they love.”
I hope we as a community - as part of the circle of life - can find a way to be able to educate all in appropriate ways how to properly to observe and enjoy, and most importantly, work to save these and all our magnificent wild things. We need to learn that it isn't about the selfish needs of humans - but that we are part of something much bigger - much broader - the circle of life. We are part of an immense interconnection and we are for the most part the cause of so much tragedy that we must be the ones to correct it and embrace the idea that we share this planet - we do not dominate it and the inhabitants that are beneath us. It is a small and arrogant attitude to have. We own this planet in that we should be stewards of it and we must own our actions now and into the future.