Have Secret? Don’t Tell a Birder

GBP Notes 11/30/20

Good Morning GreatBirdPics Members!

On October 31, 2020 Karen and I along with Birding Buddy Mark were in the Morton Arboretum looking for the Red and White Crossbills (no we didn’t see them).  As we walked around the Conifer Collection another birding couple approached us and said, “Did you see the Saw-whet Owl?”  It turns out this owl had returned to the same tree it roosted in two years ago.  After a lot of help I was able to spot it tucked way up in the branches.  We then had a long conversation about wether to report the owl on our eBird checklist.  To report it would mean many people would then know that it was back and would come looking for it/at it.  Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, except for owls.  Since they sleep during the day, a lot of people congregating by it would disturb its rest time.  So we decided to keep it a secret.

Since that day we have been to the same area six times (looking for the Red and White Crossbills – no we haven’t see them).  Every time we have gone a birder would come up to us and say, “Have you seen the Saw-whet Owl?”  I don’t know how our “secret” got out: perhaps others checked that same tree hoping the owl had returned, somebody told somebody who told somebody, or an unenlightened birder posted it on eBird for all to see.  Regardless of how, every time we have been there a group of birders were camped out beneath the Saw-whet trying to get a look or a picture.  Last weekend we happened to enter the area at the same time our newest member Zurotography was walking in.  He asked me where the Saw-whet Owl was and I pointed down the path and told him to guess where – here’s what we saw:


Zurotograhpy did get a nice shot of the owl:


However with a crowd of people clustered beneath it every day and cameras clicking every time it moves, will the owl put up with it?  The concern is that if it gets disrupted often enough it will leave.  Then nobody will be able to enjoy it.  It’s hard to blame the birders – they see a rare bird and want to share it with everybody so others can get it on their Life List too.  Unfortunately there are too many birders who don’t understand the ethics of reporting an owl’s location and as a result instead of benefiting a few others, many may miss the opportunity to view the bird if it flies off, never to return.

Happy (discreet) Birding!


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