We have all enjoyed looking at gorgeous photographs of chicks craning their beaks from the nest as a parent returns with food, and marvelled at the construction of a well camouflaged nest or the colour of eggs revealed in close up.

It might appear mean spirited to adopt a code of ethics that stops us snapping and publishing these cute photos of birds around the nest. But with good reason Angair adopted the Australian BirdLife Photography Code of Ethics at its April meeting. This is a comprehensive set of guidelines for minimising disturbance to birds by photographers. It is part of BirdLife Australia’s Ethical Birdwaching Guidelines.

Just before I sent my bird book to the printer I attended a BirdLife conference and heard about the photography code of ethics which urges photographers, as a subset of birdwatchers, to put the welfare of birds and their habitat before the capture of a photograph. In practice this means not photographing or publishing photos of nests with chicks or eggs. At the time my book layout included two double page spreads of nests. I was devastated and torn about whether to go ahead and publish. After all I had kept my distance and felt I had not disturbed the birds. I had a long chat with the presenter and she convinced me that we need to change the culture around such photographs and not encourage this genre of photography. She explained that social media and everyone having a phone in their pockets encourages people to get too close to birds and peer into nests. She also explained that predators watch human behaviour and notice otherwise hidden nests. The worst case I have observed was a group of 3 or 4 men sitting in deck chairs with long lenses on tripods aimed into the tree above waiting for something to happen in a nest near the gate to Werribee Treatment Plant.

The guidelines are extensive and anyone who photographs birds should read them. In brief no photos of nests with eggs or chicks will be published in this newsletter (as for BirdLife magazine). Birders should not photograph current nests from any distance, use call back, use drones, flush birds, or disturb the habitat in any way. Bird photographers must always put the interests of birds first, even if it means missing a corker of a shot. It will take some time to change this culture, but not publishing such photos is a start.

The full documents can be accessed here:
https://birdlife.org.au/documents/POL-Ethical-Birding-Guidelines.pdf

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