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Thread: Asking about bird locations & etiquette

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    Default Asking about bird locations & etiquette

    Hi everyone,

    I'm an avid bird photographer from the Twin Cities of MN, so the payoff for the long winter is many nesting warblers in our state for two months. I guess I'll take what I can get.

    In real life I'm a Roman Catholic priest, and my spare time is spent chasing birds. And paying off photo gear

    I wanted to run a question by the group concerning etiquette and what is kosher in terms of asking other photographers who are near you about where they took shots.

    Prior to Facebook, our state like many had news groups - a list would go out and anyone could post to it. This would be about sightings of birds; e.g., prothonatary warbler seen at...etc." It's still used and helpful. However with Facebook, people I would see locally would start posting photos of birds; sometimes on facebook groups. The only problem is no info was given on said bird. So it's not very helpful really, other than to the photographer who is angling for a lot of nice comments and likes. Sometimes I would in comments politely ask where the bird was shot - if it's local it's nice to know, and we aren't exactly making a lot of cash off of photographs of black and white warblers or herons.

    I had "friended" a few of these photographers, and thought I was on good terms with them. However, one went off on me. I asked him about a warbler he photographed, as I saw another photographer post it and he said he could not share as this other guy took him on an outing. The photographer than went off on me, claiming he has to "defend" me and was sick of it, and was messaged by others when I would ask them about where a photo was taken, implied I was pathetic, and that he was using "tough love" to tell me "how it is" like talking to a "child." He said I needed to help him more, and all I did for him was to give him the location of a long eared owl spot, but he had done "much" more for me. In reality, most all of my photos on my website, and that I post online were not from him at all, but from the listserv when a bird was reported, or from well known spots such as the Sax Zim bog, county parks, etc. Most of the time I'm just looking to make conversation with other photographers to learn about their favorite spots to go. As a priest I don't live with anyone other than my golden retriever, so found it nice to talk to photographers who were into birds.

    I was pretty annoyed, and promptly cut off communication with the guy. Inquiring to another photographer he said the person was kind of a jerk, and indeed this guy intentionally gave bad info to someone about an owl and caused them to drive 3 hours one way because he thought it would be funny.

    So, to make a long story short, what is the protocol if any? Is there some unwritten rule on social media? I have my local books, there are guides I can hire, and I just want to find good birds to photograph. I know where to go for the most part, but when I see something nice it's nice to know about it. I'd hope an adult would say simply they would rather not share and Id leave it at that and not ask anymore if they really do not want to share the bird but just post it for the photo. What I had been doing was simply making a comment to ask, or if a rarer bird, say I had sent them a message in private about the bird. Many birds are around and aren't that uncommon; some are less common but pretty regular. I guess it just seems more online its becoming not about finding birds but about posting a photo, getting compliments about what a great photographer you are, and that maybe some bird photographers are worried the photo will be taken or duplicated. Yet the last time I checked a chestnut sided warbler looks like another chestnut sided warbler.

    This could be a Minnesota thing too - Minnesotans are known for being very, very passive aggressive and fake nice - nice to your face, but then talking about you when you aren't around. Sad to say, but it's quite true.

    I guess this situation was compounded by the fact that I thought I had a good relationship with the guy online and it was via messaging. I guess from now on it may be best to just stick to online reports and guides, and that there are too many jerks online. I never thought it was pathetic to ask about a photo - with a full time job, I only get so much time off, and the bird may or may not be there when I go, so thought it might be helpful to ask.

    Thanks for any feedback on this. I look forward to posting and sharing with others in the forum.

    - Paul

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    I am perfectly happy to share information with other photographers about where I have made images. Sadly, many photographers, as you can attest to, feel differently.
    Andrew

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    Paul, it sounds like you ran into an a*****e. They're everywhere, particularly on FB.

    When I post images to FB, I do it via a Flickr function, that puts up the picture with a link to Flickr. I share geotag information on Flickr, so long as it's not a nesting bird, any kind of deer or elk buck or bull (hunters) or something endangered (unlikely for me). If I ask someone else if they'd mind sharing location, I do it by Message, not by posting in the Comments on their Timeline. Knowing that some are sensitive about all location information, I think it's potentially rude to ask about that where it's visible to others on their Timeline.

    I recently went shooting with a professional photographer friend (five covers on Field & Stream in 12-mos.). He's working on a long-term project and potential book, so I didn't share his name, the location of the private land we were shooting on, the brand of decoys we used, etc., etc. My friend is in constant competition with other wildlife photographers and his financial well being is dependent on the uniqueness of his projects and being first. Most posters on FB do not have this same need for secrecy, but it's understandable why some have real or imagined needs for privacy. My own relates more to protecting the subjects from too many observers and possible ignorant damage to wildlife by inexperienced or uncaring behavior.

    I don't disclose geo if the subject is particularly vulnerable (nesting), rare (birders go crazy when something "special" shows up) hunted (the trophy bucks are particularly endangered by geo information, even in sanctuaries) or on private land (unless the owner invites me to invite others to request proper permission).
    Last edited by Daniel Cadieux; 06-03-2016 at 06:14 AM. Reason: Understandable sentiment, but edited to keep the language cleaner.

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    Super Moderator Daniel Cadieux's Avatar
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    People are less and less inclined to divulge locations of species or opportunities "of interest". Most of our local birding groups/listers no longer report owl sightings, and most local and regional FB groups have banned images of owls and any nesting bird in the hopes of reducing "photographer" impact (rarely do we see "birder" impact although it is just as applicable). Of course this has caused photographers to no longer divulge info on things they've found by themselves. It's a vicious circle. Try asking for a location of a rare bird online and you will be scorned and told that such info is not to be shared, quite rudely at times too, then with all the birder buddies adding to the conversation. I know I am generalizing here, but I've seen it many times. People are more inclined to point out a location if asked privately, or if it is a known area that has been "outed" already. The unfortunate part is that some decline to divulge in a nasty way, making the askee feel like he/she did something wrong. Diplomacy is a difficult thing for some, especially with sensitive species are involved.

    Having said this I also usually keep quiet save for a general area mention, except if asked by private message I will always be friendly and tell where, or politely offer a reason why if I decline (which is very rare: e.g. private property). Dave has some good reasons too.

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    Like Daniel, I think that private communication is the way to go. When you ask someone on their FB Timeline, it demands an answer and they may feel awkward, or worse, about revealing online.

    I think that the secretiveness about great horned owls has gone too far. I had a guy read me the riot act about shooting a GHO nest from 40-yards away. He said things like, "Guys like you ruin it for everyone, etc., etc." It disturbed me enough that I sought unbiased guidance. A doctor of ornithology wrote me to say that he'd been weighing GHO eggs and owlets for over 30-years and never had a nest fail. He said, don't chase a branching or fledgling owlet and move back if any owl clicks its beak. Still, I limit my GHO sharing to photographers that I know will not stress the birds.

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    Thanks for the thoughts on the topic. As it is, I'm moving more to just using EBird, and our local news lists for the state of Minnesota. As I said, what was frustrating with this guy is we'd talked for quite sometime, so it was a private message, and the bird in question was not particularly rare (prothonotary warbler) for southern Minnesota.

    I could see if we were competing more for clients - e.g., a wedding photographer, but I guess people are even possessive about birds. It goes without saying private property I get, or if a bird is very rare it's best to share if you want through private communications.

    I did run into another forum about 4 years ago on FB of a local group moderated by what I'd call self appointed conservation officers. Birders and photographers it seems can sometimes not get along too well, and you may find a self appointed owl expert who wants to save the species from evil photographers. I left the group, but I was scorned for even asking - which to me seems a bit ridiculous, especially if the bird is in an area that is opened to everyone such as a public park reserve or on a trail. I had hoped someone would message me or handle it through back channels but I just got grief from the moderators who liked to run the group so decided I wanted nothing to do with it. Thankfully with owls such as snowy owls especially, locations are still shared on the listserv, and for the past few winters the owls have done just fine. One had hundreds of people show up constantly, was given a radio ID eventually, and flew off up north after being photographed again and again and again.

    Anyway, it is frustrating that FB seems less and less helpful for finding birds, and seems to be more of just photo sharing, in which case I'm not sure what the point is of a local birding FB page. It is what it is. Thanks for the input!

    Paul

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    Good suggestion by David about using FB Messaging. Otherwise the protocol is be nice to those who are nice to you. And stay clear of the dick-heads...

    artie (who has been sharing just about everything I know and have learned over the past 33 years...) :)
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