You may have noticed that with many of my posts, I describe the location of my photos in most general terms. There’s a reason for this, and it has nothing to do with hoarding a choice photography spot. In fact, most places where I’ve photographed wildlife are quite open to the public and well-known by birders and photographers throughout the year. In those cases, I may mention the park, but not the precise spot if it’s a tenuous situation for the animal.
My early policy was to never disclose the location of a nest or of young animals (birds or mammals) because, in my experience, drawing attention to wildlife during seasons when the animals are most vulnerable, can result in some bad outcomes. Last spring, a fellow photographer documented a guy encroaching on the habitat of burrowing owls, where he was catching them by surprise with a short lens that required him to be within feet of the bird. Those are the situations I try to avoid by being somewhat obscure with my disclosures. My blog is public and I’m cognizant of that when I post information.
As time went on and I began frequenting blogs and forums across the spectrum, from birding and photography sites, to outdoors blogs and message boards, I learned that some people will use birding sites for clues about where to chase down specific species once hunting season rolls around. One regular commenter at a waterfowling forum bragged about using Audubon birders’ lists to find the geese and duck species he planned to target.
I encounter difficult situations regularly enough to feel protective of the wildlife and birds I photograph. With many of these birds, I have what could be construed as a loose relationship, owing to my repeated forays into the field to capture the same individuals on ‘film.’ So I feel an obligation to contribute to their well-being, and not potentially detract from it.
Edited to add: Just last week, sad news filtered through the birding community about a few uncommon Harlequin duck visitors in Utah. The author of this post says that hunters targeted the Harlequin ducks after reading about them on birding lists. I did a bit of my own research and found a Utah waterfowl hunting forum where these ducks were, indeed, being discussed. I’m not sure if it’s definitive that one of these hunters shot the Harlequins, but the incident substantiates my position on this. I also read a recent Field and Stream post where the writer talked about using birding lists to find targeted waterfowl to hunt. And here’s another sample from a Duck Hunting forum where commenters learn from a birding list about a Falcated Duck in California.