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Ethical wildlife watching and photography – Owls

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Ethical wildlife watching and photography is essential for humans and wildlife alike. For us humans to be able to enjoy nature and wildlife without putting any extra stress on our surroundings, and for the animals to feel safe and undisturbed with us watching or photographing them.

We should always remember that we are entering their territory when we go out in nature. We are the guests; hence, we should also act so.

This document has been made as an educational post, to teach about the various aspects of Eastern Ontario owl visitors during our winter season. Due to unethical bird watching and photography here in the Ottawa region the last few years, we feel inclined to create this educational document, highlighting the problem these animals endure while visiting us.

  1. The first thing to consider when photographing or viewing owls, is to learn as much as you can about the animal you want to see. How will you know if the bird is stressed if you do not know the symptoms?

    → Here is some great information from Christian Artuso’s article about “Signs of stress in owls

  2. Secondly, why did OFNC stop reporting owls, and why are we not encouraged reporting owls through eBird? Read about the controversy here, same problem in both the US and Canada.

    → Laura Erickson’s For the Birds “Reporting Owls Controversy
    → The Pathless Woods “Reporting owls doing more harm than good
    → This info was posted to OntBirds in January of 2015 from the Kingston Field Naturalist’s after someone reported owls from Amherst Island Owl woods:

    In order to minimize disturbance to wildlife and property, Kingston Field Naturalists has adopted the KFN Sensitive Sightings Policy

    Also note that, as requested by the landowners, sightings of owls at the privately-owned Owl Woods must not be distributed on the Internet (this includes posting as ‘Amherst Island’ on eBird) by KFN or anyone who visits.
    To ensure continued access to this location, please respect their wishes and follow the guidelines posted on-site. To maintain records for conservation purposes, sightings from that location are welcomed through all the traditional channels.

    Mark D. Read
    Email: markdread@gmail.com

  3. Thirdly, what’s up with the baiting business? Isn’t feeding live mice and feeding seeds the same? And, are we not just helping the owls survive by feeding them?

    In this section, we touch on the Pro/Con’s with feeding wildlife. Remember that we always should put the animal or bird before our own agenda:

    → Laura Erickson’s For the Birds “Baiting Owls
    → The Pathless Woods “Great Gray Owls in Ottawa: Baiting and Abetting
    → Paul Roedding “My Take On Owl Baiting

  4. Many ask; I am only one person, what harm can I do? The truth is that it is not only you, but many more who seek the same subjects as you do, otherwise we would not have this problem today.

    → “Your Perfect Instagram Shot Might End Up Killing A Snowy Owl

  5. Lastly, we have to remember that nature and wildlife is not there for our taking. When venturing out and about, be respectful, and follow a few guidelines on how to act:

    → The OFNC’s Code of Conduct for birders, birdwatchers, and photographers
    → Nature Photographers Code of Conduct – Presented by the Nature Photographers Network

     

    Feel free to share this article!
    —  If you would like to discuss the material presented here: Come join the conversation in our Facebook Group.
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Group Posting Guidelines

“The views expressed in this Facebook group do not necessarily represent the views of the Ottawa Field Naturalist Club.”

Founded in 1863 (and incorporated in 1879), the Ottawa Field-Naturalist Club is the oldest natural history club in Canada. Over 800 members have interests in all aspects of the natural world, from birding to botany, investigation to publication, conservation to cooperation. The Ottawa Field‐Naturalists’ Club’s Facebook group is a place for club members to discuss ideas and exchange information relating to all aspects of natural history, club outings and club initiatives, as well as for prospective members to get a feel for what the OFNC is about. We encourage all prospective members who enjoy their time in this group and the club’s initiatives to support the OFNC by becoming a club member (please note that joining this Facebook group dose not make you a club member).

~ Viewing nature
The OFNC supports the viewing of wildlife to further our understanding and develop a stronger appreciation of wildlife, hopefully leading to increased support for its conservation. However, wildlife – be it a chipmunk, a rare wintering owl or an inquisitive chickadee – is “wild” and viewers should be as unobtrusive and inconsequential as possible. We urge wildlife observers to use common sense and consideration in undertaking their actions (photography, feeding, observing), to be respectful of the wild nature and safety of the animal(s), and to maintain a positive experience for other observers. We also encourage viewers, only if they feel comfortable, to point out inappropriate behavior in a non-aggressive way to those responsible.

~ The OFNC and this Facebook group also endorse this Code of Conduct for birders, birdwatchers, and photographers. Please take some time to read it over and “respect wildlife, the environment, and other people.”

~ Posting Guidelines
As this is a growing group with new members joining every day, we have found it necessary to implement some rules to keep the page and the flow of information orderly:

1) Please be respectful. If you disagree with another person’s opinion, please be polite and keep in mind that the person you disagree with may have several decades’ worth of experience in their field, or may be a beginner. Everyone deserves to have their voice heard regardless of their level of experience. If you feel that someone is being disrespectful, please contact an admin. This page is no place for personal attacks.

2) When posting within the group, please adhere to the following guidelines:

2a) General photos should be from the OFNC study area or Eastern Ontario, and should not exceed 3 photos per post. Photos relating to studies or research may be posted from outside our immediate area as long as the location of the study is provided (if in doubt, contact an admin). Links regarding any subject that our members may find interesting may be posted (i.e. neonicotinoids, the status of the Monarch butterfly, increasing or decreasing ranges of birds, etc.), but please make sure to indicate in your post where the article was made to avoid confusion.

2b) The main focuses of the OFNC Facebook Group is Education and Conservation of our natural world. This group does not focus on Photography. Please provide EDUCATIONAL CONTEXT with all the photos or website links you post, as well as a date, general location (if applicable), and species name if known (please indicate you are looking for an ID if the species is unknown to you). *** If photos and links are posted to the group without educational content or the required information mentioned above in the post, it will be removed without explanation. If you feel your post may have been removed, please do not post it again before contacting an admin.

2c) Due to the sensitivity of the Owl species, this group has a ZERO tolerance policy for posts containing OWLS in the group. This includes (but is not limited to) Owl Sighting reports and Photos of Nests, Fledged Young or of the Adult in any situation or location. For more information on why we ask this, please Read this article on “Ethical wildlife watching and photography“, and our Code of Conduct.
** If you are looking to make an educational post about Owls in the group, please contact an admin prior to posting to avoid your post being removed from the group news feed. Owl posts made in the group will be removed without warning, unless the post has been *Admin Approved* prior to being posted. If consistent Owl posts are made by any member of this group without admin approval, the member in question will be removed from the OFNC Facebook group without warning.

2d) Please do not post photos AND/OR report the location of active nests, or animal dens. Posts made with the topics indicated will be removed without warning. For more information on why we ask this, please Read this article on our Code of Conduct.

2e) If there’s a chance that harm or harassment may result from posting the location of sensitive species, please indicate that the location is not being disclosed for this reason. This applies to all Species at risk in Ontario. If the species you photographed is not on the provided list and you are afraid that revealing the location may result in harassment, please consider delaying your post for a few days rather than posting the same day as people will want to know where you photographed it.

2f) When asking for ID help, please provide as much information as possible: where, when, surroundings, circumstances. But first, please take a moment to consult a field guide, or conduct an online search when you are not certain of a species’ name or identity (Here are some websites that can help you to get started). We encourage people to attempt to identify flora and fauna on their own before asking for help. In this regard, it is more useful for experienced naturalists to point out the relevant field marks or other clues in a photo rather than just giving the answer. This helps people to develop their own identification skills and provides a learning experience for all of us.

2g) To make sure that all members get a chance to post a topic, we ask that group members refrain from posting more then 3 posts in the group per day.

2h) For posts that show photos of deceased wildlife, we ask that your post is made with the pictures in the comment section and we ask that a brief comment is made about this in the post to let members know that there are Graphic photos in the Comments that they can view if they choose to. We ask this so that all members can fully enjoy their experience here. Some members find wildlife remains to be very interesting, while others may be very disturbed by what they see. Note: This rule does not apply to Safe Wings posts, since their goal is to spread awareness. Additional Members exempt of this rule may be added if the need arises.

2i) Please refrain from posting advertisements. We have ZERO tolerance for advertisements in this group. Members caught advertising in the group without first consulting an Admin will be removed and blocked from the group without warning.

2j) Please keep posts on topic. If you wish to introduce a new subject to a thread with multiple responses, consider starting a new post instead.

3) Please do not block the admins who manage this group. Members noticed blocking admins will be removed from the group without warning.

  • If any of these guidelines are not met in a post or in the group by any member, the post or member may be deleted from the OFNC Facebook Group group without warning.
  • If your post is removed from the feed, please check the guidelines to make sure your post adheres to our guidelines prior to contacting an admin or re-posting.


**** Group posting guidelines are subject to change so make sure to check back regularly.

GROUP ADMINS: Nina Stavlund & Rachelle Lapensee

Thank you for joining the OFNC Facebook page and for helping to make this a positive experience for all of our members!