Why I wonder, do we have to talk about Ethics?

Not much of a subject really in a bird blog.  Is it?

For quite awhile I’ve had a disclaimer on this blog of our birding practice(s).

I’ve been challenged, (accused is too strong a word-but you have to sit in my seat to appreciate the difference), that we (EE and I) take ‘liberties’ with the birds we photograph.

Here is the summary of what I’ve said previously.

Addendum: Just to be very clear.  These birds are not baited, called in, or in anyway interfered with.   We don’t use: hides, camo gear nor setup stations.  We mostly sit, and work for acceptance. We are simply recording the activities of a very relaxed and completely confident bird.  We strive for connection and if a bird exhibits any ‘stress’, we leave it in peace.  No photo is worth stressing the bird.
Now you know!

Long term readers will be familiar with my quotes from Jon Young’s “What the Robin Knows!”.  Short version   Jon Young strives for and encourages “Connectedness”.
“One day I will see a bird and a thin thread will form between me and the bird. If I just see it and don’t recognise it, no thread is formed.  If I go again and again, the thread is strengthened each time. It will eventually grow in to a string, then a cord, then a rope. This is what it means to be a Bushman, we make ropes of connection to all aspects of the creation” Introduction, page xxv.

We strive to keep that connectedness, in some very special instances the birds respond in a most enchanting way.  For those, we are able to raise great stories.

Brad Hill, is a Canadian photographer, and I follow his work regularly.

He has posted recently posted a timely  “Code of Ethics for Bird Photographers”. Thought you might like a different perspective.  See it here  http://www.naturalart.ca/voice/photography_ethics.html


Oh, and here is a bird that had developed connectedness with me.
Her name was Primrose.  A lovely female Red-capped Robin at Woodlands. Most days as we walked past, she would deliberately come out for a visit.

Red-capped Robin
How close can you get? Now turn to the right, work it, work it.

The header photo is from the Kestrel Series and there are several blog posts back a year or two about that extended moment.  Her name was Elizabeth— Jane Austin fans will understand.

Keep takin’ photos.  We do.

7 thoughts on “Why I wonder, do we have to talk about Ethics?

  1. I’m amazed that anyone should question your ethics in terms of birds and other wildlife you photograph. It is very clear to me that you let the birds approach you and only work with them when they are comfortable with you. That relaxed and natural behaviour shows in every photograph.

    And that’s a totally charming (and relaxed) image of Primrose! Lovely.


  2. Hello Eleanor,
    Thanks for your support. I’ve been relatively free of harassment of late, but as Brad seems to have such a fine approach, I thought I’d share his sentiments and off course his work ethic. And off course it gets me a chance to quote Jon Young, never miss a chance.

    Bit different for Brad, as he runs a varied program of tours, and when your main subject is a great big Spirit Bear, I guess a few extra precautions are warranted.
    He points out the Snowy Owl episodes, and there are some real horror stories of the way the various tour operators go about their business to attract the owls just for photographers. Shame on them.

    Glad you like Primrose, her mate-Lockie, was even more ready to visit, and we’d often be talking to someone and he’d come in and land on a branch close by and seem to want to be part of the conversation.

    How quiet it is out there at the moment.


  3. Primrose is simply beautiful David. It is because we love the birds and observing their lifestyle that we photograph them, so if we are truly conservationists and not just out for selfish glory, we will put the safety and peace of the bird first.


  4. Hi AB,
    Thanks for the comment. I agree, and the vast majority of folk that I’ve photographed with over the past decade or so certainly show not only an appreciation for the creatures, but also their safety. A good thing.
    It hasn’t always been that way.
    The 1970-80s saw some dreadful acts of destruction all in the name of ‘A Prize Winning Photograph’, as a judge at National and International competitions at that time, some of the striving for that extra medal were disheartening.

    I have a copy of Boles “Robins and Flycatchers of Australia”, published in 1988, it contains quite a number of shots, where it’s clear to see the axe marks in the branches that were cut away to reveal the nest.

    Not all the birds we work with are co-operative, some are down right human intolerant, think Swamp Harrier, but none the less we try as you right describe, to put the safety and peace of the bird first.

    I rather liked the Brad Hill stand, as its his livelihood, yet he wants to maintain important guidelines.
    A good thing me thinks.

    Keep up the good work, each bird we meet builds a thread. 🙂


  5. Great writing Dave. I’m not sure why anyone would question your ethics and I can only assume that there is an element of jealousy involved. Personally, I know you have great respect and what’s more incredible patience in your attempts to get close to a bird, or birds. Keep up the good work, we all love your images.


    1. Thanks, Rodger, appreciate your support. It’s not currently an issue for me, but I rather liked the direct approach of Brad Hill, and thought it was worth sharing.
      I also suspect that by and large those of us photographing birds take a great deal of concern for the birds and their habitat, and that the work of the BirdLife Photographic Group and the Meetup Bird and Nature groups foster that even further.

      It is a hard thing at one level as the very things we love and enjoy are challenged by our desire to get that little bit closer. The Hobby yesterday was interesting in that it was willing to stand its ground. 🙂


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