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Thread: Using Audio for Photographing Birds: The Basics.

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    Super Moderator Daniel Cadieux's Avatar
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    Default Using Audio for Photographing Birds: The Basics.

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    One of the best kept secrets in bird photography is the use of audio to lure subjects closer and onto attractive perches. I've toyed with this method for about two years and the results have been much better than expected. Some of my recent postings using this technique has created some interest from various members; here are the basics as well as my take on the ethics of using audio to attract our avian friends.



    I use a 20 foot wire to connect an mp3 player to external speakers. Folks using longer lenses would likely wish to use 40 foot wire. I use small inexpensive "clamshell" speakers that are light and easy to carry. With the 20 foot wire I can set the speakers near a selected perch (or group of perches) and be able to change species' songs or stop the current song from my mp3 player while staying hidden in a blind. I keep the volume on the speakers at high, and only use the mp3 player's volume controls to set the volume from my position as you may need to raise the volume higher if the birds are far away or if there are other noises from high winds or from heavy vehicular traffic. After a bird approaches, I can turn the volume down to a more "natural" level without leaving the blind.



    I can usually tell very quickly if a bird will cooperate. A subject that will come close is usually looking relaxed and more "curious" than distressed in it's behavior. It will gradually come closer, turning its head trying to figure out where the "song" comes from. It may fly from tree to tree but in relaxed and calculated manner, and usually comes closer each time it flies until it is right next to the speakers. Some will bee-line straight toward the speakers immediately and then leave after a few seconds while others will provide minutes of excellent opportunities. Some may change behaviour and become distressed...If and when a bird becomes distressed (see the symptoms of distressed below), it is time to stop. With birds that refuse to come near the speakers or are distressed from the get go, it is best to turn off the speakers and try another species or another location.

    Distress signs include, but are not limited to: a fluttering wings or low drooping of the wings when perched (usually too far for photos); having the bill agape even when the bird is not singing; the bird continuously and nervously flying back and forth from tree to; the distress call is being used instead of regular (territorial) song. These are worst case scenarios and are usually immediately visible as soon as the audio is turned on...a bird that is stressed will usually not come close, and even if it does you will only be making photographs of obviously stressed birds. Pay close attention to each bird’s behavior; if in doubt, do not continue.

    Not all individuals from the same species behave the same way toward audio. You may encounter one individual that responds well to tape in one area and then try it on another of the same species elsewhere and get an obviously distressed individual. Try the audio and judge each bird’s reaction...you will find out very soon whether or not you have a cooperative subject.



    You may get lucky just staying out in the open and close to a perch, but the success rate goes up dramatically when audio is used in conjunction with a blind, especially when you are using shorter lenses. I like the light "pop-up" type blinds. Some birds won't approach adequately without the use of a blind, but will readily come in when you are concealed in one. In either case the success rate is often quite low, but when the jackpot hits, it hits like no other opportunity can!



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    BPN Member Paul Lagasi's Avatar
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    Very well written and great advice....One more thing to add, when small birds are on the nest or feeding their young....stop using calls for a few weeks...taking them away from their duties as parents can leave young at risk....
    I know lots of people who use calls, once the birds start nesting, they stop using audio...
    Paul

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    Forum Participant Tell Dickinson's Avatar
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    Hi, just my opinion and not trying to start an argument, but I believe using audio stops a bird from doing what it should be doing e.g. looking for food, defending its territory against real birds, looking after its young, finding a mate etc etc I just think it should not be used JUST to get a photo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tell Dickinson View Post
    Hi, just my opinion and not trying to start an argument, but I believe using audio stops a bird from doing what it should be doing e.g. looking for food, defending its territory against real birds, looking after its young, finding a mate etc etc I just think it should not be used JUST to get a photo.
    Hey Tell, What do you think of bilologists using calls for breeding bird censuses?

    Also, there are those who would argue that playing a tape only serves to sharpen a bird's territorial defenses. And do understand that it is recommended that folks do not use auido with the same bird day after day.
    later and love, artie......... Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

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    Forum Participant Tell Dickinson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arthur Morris View Post
    Hey Tell, What do you think of bilologists using calls for breeding bird censuses
    Hi Art, I tried to cover other things that may be acceptable by saying...

    Quote
    "I just think it should not be used JUST to get a photo"
    Unquote

    ...to my mind there can be a small number of justifiable exceptions to the above and yours may be one example where I believe it may be acceptable.

    So I am really directing my comment where using a call/audio is for the benefit of the person (eg Photographer) and NOT for the benefit of the subject :)

    I think its good to bring issues like this out for discussion :)

    Tell

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    Hi Tell,

    re:

    I tried to cover other things that may be acceptable by saying...

    Quote
    "I just think it should not be used JUST to get a photo"
    Unquote

    ...to my mind there can be a small number of justifiable exceptions to the above and yours may be one example where I believe it may be acceptable.

    Are you saying that it is OK for biologists to use tapes (but not for photographers to use tapes)?

    So I am really directing my comment where using a call/audio is for the benefit of the person (eg Photographer) and NOT for the benefit of the subject :)

    I would think that whomever is using the tape is not using it for the benefit of the individual bird. But I do believe that audio can be used without stressing the bird and/or without having a negative effect on either the bird or its breeding efforts.

    I think its good to bring issues like this out for discussion :)

    On that we agree 100%. Europeans tend to be much more conservative with these types of issues and many birders here consider the use of tapes to be a criminal activity.

    From where I sit, we need to consider the bigger picture (and I have made these two points before):

    #1: We are and have been for decades trashing the planet, destroying the habitat, and polluting the land and the water.
    #2: When folks see good images of various types of wildlife they are more likely to get involved in environmental issues.
    later and love, artie......... Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

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    After logging hundreds upon hundreds of hours in the field with Daniel I can assure you that the birds and there well being are his prime concern. No shot will or has ever been worth stressing the subject. Tomorrow will always be another day. Great advice here Dan and an excellent learning tool.

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    Forum Participant ChasMcRae's Avatar
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    Nice discussion of a "backroom" subject.
    We all(at least a large number) do it and I have been doing it for several years. I advoid heavily birded areas and limit the use otherwise.
    I am glad "we" are discussing this.
    Results do vary as stated in the discussion.
    Chas.

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    Forum Participant Tell Dickinson's Avatar
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    Hi Art,

    "Are you saying that it is OK for biologists to use tapes (but not for photographers to use tapes)?"

    I believe using audio stops a bird from doing what it should be doing like looking for food, defending its territory against real birds, looking after its young, finding a mate etc etc and if this is JUST for the sake of a photograph then I believe it is wrong. If there are other valid reasons (and that could possibly include photography) which benefits the species then it 'may' be acceptable to use audio to attract the bird/animal in my opinion, however I do not believe that using audio JUST to take a photograph of a species that has been photographed millions of times before would normally come into this category. In a similar way I also think that capturing and ringing birds MUST stress them but in this case the information we gain that helps the whole species hopefully outweighs this and is therefore acceptable or perhaps even essential.

    "But I do believe that audio can be used without stressing the bird and/or without having a negative effect on either the bird or its breeding efforts."

    I think we will have to 'agree to disagree' on that one Art :) but I am sure that the vast majority of people that use audio honestly believe with what you said also and would stop using it if they thought otherwise.

    #1: We are and have been for decades trashing the planet, destroying the habitat, and polluting the land and the water.
    #2: When folks see good images of varous types of wildlife they are more likely to get involved in envoronmental issues.

    We are in complete agreement of both of your points there Art :) and I think your #2 is essential and without it the world would be in even more trouble than it already is.

    Tell

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    Super Moderator Daniel Cadieux's Avatar
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    Some good points and concerns have been raised, thank you all. One thing to remember is that bird photography has taken a tremendous leap in popularity in recent years. With that comes more and more people using such techniques as using audio (it may be a "best kept secret" but it is rising in its use and more widespread than it seems). Most people have no malicious intent and do use audio in good faith, but many of these also probably unwillingly abuse, or push the ethics enveloppe and stress out birds without realizing it. If we can point out some concerns through discussions such as these then we can certainly prevent some people from abusing such techniques.

    Using audio is not going away any time soon (if ever), therefore educating photographers about the proper use of such tools, and pointing out stress signals to avoid causing them from our beloved subjects can only be a good thing towards nature. Audio is certainly not for everyone, but for most of us who do choose to employ it openly we do so the most ethical way possible (I understand everyones' ethics vary)...and hopefully educate others along the way.
    Last edited by Daniel Cadieux; 06-16-2009 at 02:06 PM. Reason: typos.

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    BPN Member Paul Lagasi's Avatar
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    Default Well Put...

    I have been away on a trip....first time, I've been on line....I agree completely with Dan's comment ...

    "Using audio is not going away any time soon (if ever), therefore educating photographers about the proper use of such tools, and pointing out stress signals to avoid causing them from our beloved subjects can only be a good thing towards nature. Audio is certainly not for everyone, but for most of us who do choose to employ it openly we do so the most ethical way possible (I understand everyones' ethics vary)...and hopefully educate others along the way.

    Paul Lagasi...

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    Bravo, bravo!
    later and love, artie......... Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

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    Default Iphone ap also

    There is an iphone ap for birding that claims to be able to attract them as well with songs. It is called iBird.

    I dont have it, and therefore, havent tried it, but find it interesting that I never heard of this before and now see it twice in a week.

    George

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    Daniel,
    the practice has now become widespread not only for photographers but bird observers as well. the problem is not with education but the practice itself. Stress on a particular bird is not the problem. Alteration of the species behaviour is. There are now a number of examples of particularly secretive species where this technique has been over-used to the point where the species will no longer respond to its call.
    There is as yet no evidence as to its effect on population numbers but then it will be difficult to collect the evidence!

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    Hi Ray,

    I am glad to see that this thread woke you up!

    the practice has now become widespread not only for photographers but bird observers as well. the problem is not with education but the practice itself.

    I disagree there.

    Stress on a particular bird is not the problem. Alteration of the species behaviour is. There are now a number of examples of particularly secretive species where this technique has been over-used to the point where the species will no longer respond to its call.

    Are you referring to locally rare or out of range birds and pairs of birds, or to populations of specific species in general? (I strongly suspect the former.)

    Either way, please share an example or two with us and let us know where we can find the documentation.

    There is as yet no evidence as to its effect on population numbers but then it will be difficult to collect the evidence!

    We do agree on that.
    later and love, artie......... Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

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    Hey George, It is a good product and is cheap, cheap. The guy got all the photographers to donate their images, quite a few decent ones in fact, and has sold a zillion of them by undercutting all of the other products, the ones that paid photographers fairly. Shame on all of those who gave this guy their images for nothing. Hats off to the guy for being smart enough to get good, free images and make boatloads of money.
    later and love, artie......... Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

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    Quote Originally Posted by Arthur Morris View Post
    Hey George, It is a good product and is cheap, cheap. The guy got all the photographers to donate their images, quite a few decent ones in fact, and has sold a zillion of them by undercutting all of the other products, the ones that paid photographers fairly. Shame on all of those who gave this guy their images for nothing. Hats off to the guy for being smart enough to get good, free images and make boatloads of money.
    On one of the other nature sites, a couple of photographers openly discuss how they donated, not just a few, but hundreds of images. It is mindboggling to think that someone can develop a product, and have an essential component given to you so you can make money with it.

    It is difficult to prove one way or another if taping is harmful or not. I haven't done a great deal of it, but one thing I have noticed is that it only works for a very short time. In areas that are taped heavily, the birds ignore the call. I suspect they learn the dialect and recognize it for the "phantom" that it is.

    I think it falls in to a similar realm as baiting owls. Difficult to prove any harm, but not everyone's cup of tea, and it generates strong emotions on either side of the debate.

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    BPN Member Ilija Dukovski's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arthur Morris View Post
    ...The guy got all the photographers to donate their images, quite a few decent ones in fact, and has sold a zillion of them by undercutting all of the other products, the ones that paid photographers fairly. Shame on all of those who gave this guy their images for nothing. Hats off to the guy for being smart enough to get good, free images and make boatloads of money.
    Hm, although not related to this topic, it is interesting to know. You said in several occasions that bird photo sales
    are down recently. Don't you think a similar thing is happening as in the music industry. They are struggling to invent a
    new business model that will include the free flow of information and music products on the internet.
    The band Radiohead for example offered their latest album on the internet with optional and voluntary fee.
    I think it worked for them. If I gave you voluntarily a cent each time I look at one of your photos....

  19. #19
    Ákos Lumnitzer
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    I think that discussing this subject is a fabulous idea, but at the end of the day people will do whatever they want in nature and to some unscrupulous characters obtaining an image at any cost is unfortunately the norm. Those people will be far less likely to inhabit discussions on the topic such as this, or any photographic topic for that matter, as they just want to be better than all others around them. These people will sadly also happily suck every bit of useful info for their needs from any sources without giving anything back.

    I began using calls about a year ago, and though sparingly, I found that yes, they are a good thing in a way. I do unfortunately (perhaps?) have a real sense of caring for these birds and even more so now as I am a licensed wildlife carer and found that in the past six or so months, I use calls less and less - though didn't entirely cut their use out. I 100% agree that certain times the calls should not be used such as in breeding season or times when distress is identified in the bird(s). It is more challenging sans audio for sure, but the efforts are as satisfactory if not better.

    On that iBird thing, if I read right. I cannot believe that someone has the audacity to obtain free images to make a profit. that is disgusting. I wouldn't take my hat off to that tosser Artie, but give him a stern uppercut! Scumbag as far as I am concerned and those that were stupid enough to donate images, well..... I rest my case Sir. :D

    Best regards folks. :)
    Last edited by Ákos Lumnitzer; 06-17-2009 at 04:07 PM. Reason: added icrap bit

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    Art,
    I think the issue as with all ecological / evolutionary issues is that they take time. If we wait until all the evidence is in, its probably too late. Pollution, melting ice caps, rising sea levels, habitat destruction, are issues that if we take a snapshot are irrelevant but take a time lapse and its a different story.
    Similarly here and probably with greater difficulty, as I pointed out, not only because the very practice may make evidence difficult to obtain but also its an area that doesnt readily attract finance for research.
    So lets look at it logically. The importance of bird song to reproduction and social interaction is inescapable.
    The next question then is, are we interfering with that process when we use recorded song?
    We wouldn't use it if it was ineffective! "Bird Song Biological themes and variations" by Catchpole and Slater outlines many areas of research that suggest that we may be interfering with the learning and production of song. You ask if it is populations / individuals etc. Fledglings in learning their song appear to reject similar calls that have no effect - maybe we are influencing the population in an unwanted direction to the point where mating may be interfered with?
    My point is the "maybe" . Global warming has its sceptics even with the preponderance of evidence. Do we have to wait for a calamity to unfold before we are convinced, - or should we look at the balance of probability based upon the logic of the situation.
    You ask for an example. Thomas & Thomas "Birds of Australia" p73 (Frogmouth Publications 1996, ISBN 0 9528065 0 9) refers to the Rufous Scrub-Bird at a popular rainforest retreat, O'Reilly's in Queensland and notes that thousands of people all over the world try for this bird but it is no longer co-operative.
    Anecdotal evidence is likely to be the only evidence for many years.

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    Hi Ray,

    re:

    I think the issue as with all ecological / evolutionary issues is that they take time. If we wait until all the evidence is in, its probably too late.

    You originally wrote,

    "Stress on a particular bird is not the problem. Alteration of the species behaviour is. There are now a number of examples of particularly secretive species where this technique has been over-used to the point where the species will no longer respond to its call."

    I wrote, "Are you referring to locally rare or out of range birds and pairs of birds, or to populations of specific species in general? (I strongly suspect the former.) Either way, please share an example or two with us and let us know where we can find the documentation.


    Aside from mentioning one situation in Australia, one with only anecdotal evidence that may have nothing to do with cause and effect, you did not answer my questions and failed to back up your original statement. I need to take issue when folks make statements of fact to support an argument when in fact the statements of fact are simply their opinions.

    Again, here is what you wrote: "Alteration of the species behaviour is. There are now a number of examples of particularly secretive species where this technique has been over-used to the point where the species will no longer respond to its call."

    Yet you offer only one weak example and have no documentation.


    Pollution, melting ice caps, rising sea levels, habitat destruction, are issues that if we take a snapshot are irrelevant but take a time lapse and its a different story.

    I agree 100% but please do not equate the playing of tapes with the issues above.

    Similarly here and probably with greater difficulty, as I pointed out, not only because the very practice may make evidence difficult to obtain but also its an area that doesnt readily attract finance for research.
    So lets look at it logically. The importance of bird song to reproduction and social interaction is inescapable.
    The next question then is, are we interfering with that process when we use recorded song?

    In your opinion, yes. In my opinion, no.

    We wouldn't use it if it was (sic: were) ineffective! "Bird Song Biological themes and variations" by Catchpole and Slater outlines many areas of research that suggest that we

    Who is we and in what manner are "we" interfering???

    may be interfering with the learning and production of song. You ask if it is populations / individuals etc. Fledglings in learning their song appear to reject similar calls that have no effect - maybe we are influencing the population in an unwanted direction to the point where mating may be interfered with?

    And maybe not.

    My point is the "maybe" . Global warming has its sceptics even with the preponderance of evidence. Do we have to wait for a calamity to unfold before we are convinced, - or should we look at the balance of probability based upon the logic of the situation.

    Again, your comparing the playing of recorded songs of birds, a practice that might affect 1/10th of 1 percent of a given species, with major global environmental issues is hard to understand.

    You ask for an example. Thomas & Thomas "Birds of Australia" p73 (Frogmouth Publications 1996, ISBN 0 9528065 0 9) refers to the Rufous Scrub-Bird at a popular rainforest retreat, O'Reilly's in Queensland and notes that thousands of people all over the world try for this bird but it is no longer co-operative.

    As I suspected, your comments referred to a locally rare and desirable (for birders) species. And maybe the bird hasjust gotten wise to the tape....

    I am afraid that we will need to agree to disagree on the use of tapes. And IAC, it would seem much better to teach folks to use recordings judiciously so as to minimize any potential disturbance than to have lots of folks running around playing tapes recklessly. We are working here to educate the photographers. Who is gonna educate the birders??? I subscribe to all the birding magazines and have never seen the issue addressed (other than in advertisements for the recordings).

    Respectfully.
    later and love, artie......... Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

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    On a note un-related to my comments above, in my very imited experience the great majority of birds ignore the tape, a small percentage will respond, and an even smaller percentage will be visibly upset. When a bird comes in to investigate and the tape is turned off, the bird may stay close and sing repeatedly. After a bird comes in once or twice, they will usually but not always ignore repeated playing of the song.
    Last edited by Arthur Morris; 12-03-2011 at 07:54 AM.
    later and love, artie......... Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

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    Default My limited experience

    First time I used a bird call to attract clapper rails I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. However, I found that it is possible to attract two birds from different territories, and once they see each other where the actual call came from is moot. I essentially brought two male clapper rails together, and a vicious fight ensued. The fight continued from an open area to vegetation that blocked my view, and I don't know if there was serious consequences. Nonetheless, along with the possibility of young not being protected from predation while the bird is investigation a phantom rival, the fact is that even clapper rails and other so called secretive birds can be photographed without audio. The important information is what area they inhabit, and this can be discovered not only visually but simply by listening to their calls.
    One other thing. Individual birds I photograph, herons, egrets, rails, and others tend to remain in relatively confined areas, and even if a bird call was effective, which it largely isn't, it isn't necessary. Since I am aware of many birds "homes", I will never compromise their safety, actually for selfish reasons; I want them to be there the next time I come to capture their images.

    I don't use bird calls, and in discussion with novice photographers, I do not volunteer the possibility.
    regards~BILL

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    I have no problems with the use of calls (and have used them on occasion) in areas that aren't heavily birded AND where it is not illegal! My understanding is that is not legal in National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, and many state parks. It is considered harassment of wildlife (alteration of behavior by the playing of the tape).

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    Interesting stuff Ilija. I do not know much at all about the music industry <smile>
    later and love, artie......... Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

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    Random Pixel Generator Michael Lloyd's Avatar
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    Interesting thoughts on bird calling. I think I prefer Daniel's results to those of duck and goose hunters. I'm not anti-hunting by the way. It's something I've grown away from in favor of photography.

    Just curious- Should I take my feeders down? What about "fake" perches? I don't see using audio to attract birds as being any worse than someone say... throwing fish to Eagles? or baiting hawks with mice. I probably wouldn't do it... or any of the baiting tricks... or fake perches... but I certainly don't condemn those that do. It's personal preference. Automobile traffic, little kids with bb guns, domestic cats, etc... do more harm to birds than mp3 audio does (IMHO)

    Aside from a one time (to be repeated) trip to Bosque I typically don't frequent heavily photographed areas. I tend to pack my "stuff" away from the crowds if I can. However, the reality is that most of my bird shots are the result of opportunity and good fortune rather than hard work :) and I'm good with that :D

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    Forum Participant Tell Dickinson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Lloyd View Post
    Just curious- Should I take my feeders down? What about "fake" perches? I don't see using audio to attract birds as being any worse than someone say... throwing fish to Eagles? or baiting hawks with mice. I probably wouldn't do it... or any of the baiting tricks... or fake perches...
    Hi Michael, I think the difference between the above and using audio is that with (say) a feeder the subject is getting a benefit where from using audio to attract JUST for the sake of a photograph it is not, and it may well be detrimental IMHO :)

    Tell

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tell Dickinson View Post
    Hi Michael, I think the difference between the above and using audio is that with (say) a feeder the subject is getting a benefit where from using audio to attract JUST for the sake of a photograph it is not, and it may well be detrimental IMHO :)

    Tell
    Hmmm... I don't know. Feeders run out of food. Birds become dependent on them. The reality is that any time we interact with nature we affect it. I see the word :JUST" but I also have another viewpoint. How does any of us know what the photographers intent is? I don't shoot anything "just" for the sake of capturing the image. Perhaps, like most of us here, the photographer is trying to capture a piece of time that only he or she has access to so that others can enjoy what he or she has seen?

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    Super Moderator Daniel Cadieux's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tell Dickinson View Post
    Hi Michael, I think the difference between the above and using audio is that with (say) a feeder the subject is getting a benefit where from using audio to attract JUST for the sake of a photograph it is not, and it may well be detrimental IMHO :)

    Tell

    But let's not forget that unmaintained, unkempt, and dirty feeders can and will cause and spread disease, and also may well be even more detrimental. Some people feed birds JUST for the sake of seeing them, but nobody gets on grandma's or auntie's (or whoever else's) back for doing so! Just like anything else, including audio, there is care to be taken. Just as there are some people's ethics that prevent them from attracting birds via audio, there are other's ethics that prevent them from feeding birds - even just seeds. I'm fine with that, but if you do use audio (or feeders), just know that that are things you can and should do to prevent negative impacts on your subjects.

    Thanks everyone for all your input so far, the discussion has been great, and both sides have good points to make.:)

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    Forum Participant Tell Dickinson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Cadieux View Post
    Some people feed birds JUST for the sake of seeing them, but nobody gets on grandma's or auntie's (or whoever else's) back for doing so!:)
    Hi Daniel, there is a great difference IMHO :) With feeders etc the bird is free to come and go whenever it likes, no pressure whatsoever, but with audio its 'instincts' are to investigate the bogus source which means the birds behavior has been needlessly altered, whether this was to defend its territory or just stopping it looking for food perhaps to feed its youngsters etc I believe that in these circumstances the bird always loses out to some extent and never gains any benefit :(

    Tell

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    Lifetime Member Jim Neiger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tell Dickinson View Post
    Hi Daniel, there is a great difference IMHO :) With feeders etc the bird is free to come and go whenever it likes, no pressure whatsoever, but with audio its 'instincts' are to investigate the bogus source which means the birds behavior has been needlessly altered, whether this was to defend its territory or just stopping it looking for food perhaps to feed its youngsters etc I believe that in these circumstances the bird always loses out to some extent and never gains any benefit :(

    Tell
    The same could be said about simply being near a bird's territory. Simply sharing the planet with humans is the biggest threat to birds, IMO. Everything we humans do impacts them with the destruction of their habitat being their largest threat by far. It amazes me when people devote themselves to protecting birds from things that are relatively harmless while ignoring the overwhelming threat birds face whenever development occurs and wipes out their habitat.

    Even feeders may be a threat to small birds as they typicaly attract predators. We can argue that just about anything we humans do is detrimental to birds. Why not focus these efforts on the MOST threatening issues. It's something to think about anyway.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tell Dickinson View Post
    Hi Daniel, there is a great difference IMHO :) With feeders etc the bird is free to come and go whenever it likes, no pressure whatsoever, but with audio its 'instincts' are to investigate the bogus source which means the birds behavior has been needlessly altered, whether this was to defend its territory or just stopping it looking for food perhaps to feed its youngsters etc I believe that in these circumstances the bird always loses out to some extent and never gains any benefit :( Tell
    Tell,

    #1: Any thoughts on how to get birds of the same species on adjacent territories to stop singing and thus bothering their neighbors?

    #2: More seriously, how do you know that playing a tape judiciously is not helping to sharpen an individual bird's territorial defenses?
    later and love, artie......... Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

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    I'm upstairs at my desk. Ted is not home yet. I hear his voice "Heyya Grace, I'm home". I reply, "Hi Ted". No answer. I get up to look around, confused. I hear him again, yet no footsteps and I cannot see him. The confusion mounts and fear creaps in. I search the rest of the house, still no Ted, yet I hear his voice again and again, agitation and panic mount.

    The use of audio is not for me.

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    Random Pixel Generator Michael Lloyd's Avatar
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    Often when discussing something there comes a time to agree to disagree...

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    This is another case of where do you draw the line. Simply being in the field can disturb wildlife. We ALL do this deliberately and just to get photographs or observe the wildlife. Our mere presence can cause disturbances. I guess my position is that we should all draw our own lines where we feel comfortable drawing them. The thing that bugs me is when some people try to force other people to draw the line where they think it should be instead of letting folks decide for themselves. I'm all for discussion, but when folks start judging the actions of others or trying to dictate the behavior of others that's where I bow out.

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    I think Daniel did a very good job describing his method and what the signs of distress are. In my opinion this thread educates on the subject, which I find important since people use audio files to attract birds. I think people who use audio equipment should know as much as possible about their subject and make common sense and informed decisions such as not to use it when birds would leave or even abandon the nest, or stop when birds of the same species hear the sound and start fighting with each other, etc.

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    Lifetime Member Jim Neiger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Axel Hildebrandt View Post
    I think Daniel did a very good job describing his method and what the signs of distress are. In my opinion this thread educates on the subject, which I find important since people use audio files to attract birds. I think people who use audio equipment should know as much as possible about their subject and make common sense and informed decisions such as not to use it when birds would leave or even abandon the nest, or stop when birds of the same species hear the sound and start fighting with each other, etc.
    Axel,

    Thanks for getting this thread back on track.

    Daniel,
    I apologize for my part in taking it off track in the first place. I think your purpose for this was more of a how to do this properly thread than a is it right or wrong thread. Using audio recordings is a very complicated subject that few know much about. Most of the stuff I've read about it has been shear speculation.

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    Tell, Have you ever considered that the judicious playing of a bird's song might sharpen the bird's territorial defenses?
    later and love, artie......... Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

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    Forum Participant Tell Dickinson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arthur Morris View Post
    Tell, Have you ever considered that the judicious playing of a bird's song might sharpen the bird's territorial defenses?
    Hi Art, you could argue that but you could also argue the opposite :) but I think both ways it misses the point because I honestly believe we are stopping the bird from doing what it should be doing, protecting territory from real intruders, feeding young, looking for a mate, in a possible negative way just for our own purposes. Anyway, some people may be pleased to know that I am on my Hols, sorry vacation ;) tomorrow so will not have to put up with any more posts from me regarding this - :D

    Tell

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    To all, I think that the discussion here has been a good thing. No apologies needed. And even better it has been kept completely civil which is pretty cool in and of itself...
    later and love, artie......... Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    BIRDS AS ART Blog: great info and lessons, lots of images with our legendary BAA educational Captions.
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    Have a great trip. It will be a welcome respite :) But I respect you for relentlessly bucking the tide.
    later and love, artie......... Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

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    ps: And if it could possibly be true, then it would actually be helping that bird....
    later and love, artie......... Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

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    It's funny how a thread on a forum will stick in a persons mind :)

    On the topic of calling... generally speaking... Ducks and Geese are called in by hunters every year. Then they are shot... or at least shot at. Yet the calls still work. Even after a hundred or more years the calls still work. Granted, the caller has to develop his/her skill to the point where they can fool the bird into coming into a spread... and they are in fact also using decoys to aid in their endeavor to attract the birds into the trap (very elaborate decoys in some cases)... but the practice of calling still works. Duck and Goose numbers remain strong (no "real" data to back that up btw) in spite of the hunting pressure. They haven't appreciably modified their migratory habits as a direct result of calling. I can't say that for certain about shooting but I tend to think that animals are not so educated that they make decisions about what they do based on logic. It's instinctual, not logical, behavior. I am fairly certain that they don't have long discussions about where they are going for winter survival when they are at their breeding / nesting grounds (they might... ya never know about these things. We live in an amazing place).

    In my mind, the harm that comes from calling is the getting shot part, not the calling part. I think there's a lot of supposition (to be fair that includes my own) about the negativity of calling for non-lethal purposes. JMHO

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    Publisher Arthur Morris's Avatar
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    And at Bosque, they are considering restricting all visitors to their vehicles to reduce "haraassment" of the ducks and geese. And, hunting is allowed on the refuge. Man, you gotta love that.
    later and love, artie......... Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

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    Random Pixel Generator Michael Lloyd's Avatar
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    The ducks and geese could care less about the big one-eyed thing staring and clicking at them?!? If they cared we wouldn't be getting full frame shots of them going about their daily tasks (eating, sleeping, pooping, honking). Besides... how are the going to pay us back with little "bombs" when they fly over if we are in vehicles? Bosque would not be the same if they did that.

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    Excellent article, Daniel. I am going to try this out on some common species in my city.

    Since this hasn't been brought up - unless I missed it in this long thread - the ABA ethics guidelines, as per my understanding, state that using of recordings is OK, with some caveats, of course.

    "1(b) To avoid stressing birds or exposing them to danger, exercise restraint and caution during observation, photography, sound recording, or filming.
    Limit the use of recordings and other methods of attracting birds, and never use such methods in heavily birded areas, or for attracting any species that is Threatened, Endangered, or of Special Concern, or is rare in your local area;"

    Recommended reading: http://www.aba.org/about/ethics.html

    For threatened and endangered species, using recordings may even be a violation of the Endangered Species Act, punishable by law.
    http://www.cfo-link.org/downloads/la...009_beatty.pdf
    Last edited by Sidharth Kodikal; 03-25-2010 at 01:05 PM.

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    Forum Participant Allen Hirsch's Avatar
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    This is a very interesting thread to me. I just ordered, from a link elsewhere within this site, an iTouch with bird calls - more so I can learn to recognize additional birds in the field by their calls than to "bait" them.

    But, it certainly occurred to me that I could probably do better in my photo opps if I was able to play audio that attracted certain birds.

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    BPN Member Henry Domke's Avatar
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    Default 7 questions about attracting birds with recorded songs

    1. What is the source of your bird songs?
    I've just switched to using the app called BirdTunes on my iPhone. I used to use iBird but BirdTunes has more songs for each species.

    2. Do you have any experience with wireless speakers?
    I've just started using wireless (bluetooth) speakers. Much faster setup and no tangles. I'm using the speaker by Jawbone called Jambox. It is expensive and small but it is elegant and it plays loud.

    3. What is the optimal placement for the speaker in relation to the desired perch?
    What height? What direction should it be pointing? Up at the sky?

    4. Is it important that the speaker be camouflaged?

    5. Do you know of a list, blog or website that gives specific notes on how different species respond?
    Warblers and sparrows may respond well in general, but what about specific warblers? Is one species always a dud and one almost sure to succeed?
    I realize that results will probably vary, but if a Bay-breasted Warbler never responds it would be good to know.

    6. Does it help to vary the song if you have the choice? Does it help to pause the song from time to time?

    7. I plan to use this mostly with the smaller birds (passerines or songbirds). Are there any other species that are especially responsive?

    Thanks for any help!

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    Super Moderator Daniel Cadieux's Avatar
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    Hey Henry, I'll reply as best I can according to my experience. If others want to chime in that would be great too...

    1. What is the source of your bird songs?
    I've just switched to using the app called BirdTunes on my iPhone. I used to use iBird but BirdTunes has more songs for each species.

    I use the Stokes recordings as their songs are the longest ones I know of (30-45 second clips, and some over 1 minute rather than 8-10 seconds with many others)

    2. Do you have any experience with wireless speakers?
    I've just started using wireless (bluetooth) speakers. Much faster setup and no tangles. I'm using the speaker by Jawbone called Jambox. It is expensive and small but it is elegant and it plays loud.

    I have no experience with wireless speakers, but that is an option I'd toy with for sure. I like the idea of one less thing to carry in the field...

    3. What is the optimal placement for the speaker in relation to the desired perch?
    What height? What direction should it be pointing? Up at the sky?

    Close enough. Some birds will actually land on the speakers. I like to place them directly underneath the area I want the birds to perch on. Sometimes just a few inches below. For rocks and logs just place the speakers on the ground below the perch. Experiment as not all individual birds will do the same.

    4. Is it important that the speaker be camouflaged?

    No.

    5. Do you know of a list, blog or website that gives specific notes on how different species respond?
    Warblers and sparrows may respond well in general, but what about specific warblers? Is one species always a dud and one almost sure to succeed?
    I realize that results will probably vary, but if a Bay-breasted Warbler never responds it would be good to know.

    I don't know of any such list. I find it is easier to assess by "families" of birds rather than species. For example, one year I had zero success with Ovenbirds, then the next year they were all posing like crazy. Same with Blackburnian Warbler. One year nothing, another lots. Even a species that does not work well in one spot may in another. For years I tried Eastern Wood-pewee in vain...last summer I tried for the heck of it and BAM with 5 seconds one perched beautifully inches from the speakers.

    In my experience sparrows and warblers in general work better than other families.

    6. Does it help to vary the song if you have the choice? Does it help to pause the song from time to time?

    I don't think it helps to vary it, but you can try. What I did with my audio though is to eliminate the parts where it is the "call" rather than the "song". Some recordings even have the "alarm call". Get rid of that for sure as that tends to spook the birds or stress them. Defenitely do pause though, even if it is working. If after a few minutes nothing happens either shut it off, or switch species.

    7. I plan to use this mostly with the smaller birds (passerines or songbirds). Are there any other species that are especially responsive?

    Most passerine species will have some individuals respond at some point in time. Locally the rail family responds very well (Virginia Rail and Sora). Owls can respond, but not usually well enough for good photos. Woodpeckers - sapsuckers especially so in my experience. Some waterfowl such as grebes and some species of ducks approach. There may be others that I am not thinking of right now, or haven't tried with yet.

    Note that a bird "responding" may not actually be responding well for photography. MANY birds will respond but stay well back. Far fewer will "respond" by coming right in and perch for beautiful photos. Still well worth it though!!

    Thanks for any help!

    You are welcome!

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    BPN Member Henry Domke's Avatar
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    Thanks Dan for your thoughts.
    As I've been working with calling in birds I've got a few more questions:
    1. How much does time of day impact responsiveness to recorded songs? I know that in general birds are much more visible and vocal in the early morning. Are they also more likely to respond to recorded songs then?

    2. Are birds generally less responsive when they first arrive on site; before they have had time to stake a claim for their territory and started breeding? I ask this because I have been surprised the last few days that the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher’s have not been coming in to the calls like I would expect.

    3. How do you know how close you can get? In other words, how do you know what the comfort zone is of the bird you are shooting? I find that many of the birds I am trying to call in will clearly respond, but they won’t come all the way in. They flit back-and-forth off to the sides and at a distance.

    I wonder if it would help it I pulled back? I am often 20 – 25 feet from where I want the bird to be. Since these are very small birds to get them to fill a reasonable amount of the frame you have to either be very close or you have to have a lot of magnification. I’m using a 600mm lens with a 1.4x Teleconverter on a camera body with a 1.3 crop factor.

    By the way, as I’m getting shots I'm posting them on online at www.pgtnaturegarden.org

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