[Tweeters] Leque Island Unit, Eide Road,
Snohomish County short eared owl, jan 24
crazydave65 at inbox.com
Sun Jan 24 18:14:55 PST 2016
On a whim, a couple of us went out and cruised around in the nice weather. By early afternoon, we arrived at Leque Island. We walked around a little while and came upon a group of 20 or 30 photographers on the outside of a 25 foot or so circle. There was several hundred thousand dollars worth of equipment in the hands of the paparazzi gathered about. The lenses ran from several 600mms (coulda been an 800mm in the bunch, but several 600's for sure), some Wemblys on heavy duty tripods and lots of 200's and 400's in the bunch as well. I opined there must be some uncommon sparrow in the middle of the bunch and let it go at that. Shortly thereafter, another photographer volunteered the information that the bird at the center of the group was a short eared owl. My response was I kinda doubted the bird was feeling great about all the attention, but the volunteer said he'd seen the bird and it was appeared to be 'unstressed', and we wandered off back to the car.
On the way home I thought about the encounter for a time and have concluded I'm either senile or stupid (or both), in that I left the area without really thinking things through, and I'm very disappointed in ME for not looking further into things at the time. As I recall it, photographers hounded an owl in that same area last year to death (long eared, as i recall it, but an owl of some kind for certain). And there has been the recent thread about the apparent untimely death of a hawk owl just a few weeks ago, likely as a result of the idiocy of a bunch of bird photogs. Further, thinking back on it, if there really was a short eared owl at the center of the event, I doubt it had enough room to get airborne even if it was not frozen in fear in the face of several hundred cumulative square feet of lens glass staring at it from every angle.
Having had time to think about all this, and having had enough time to cool off, I still find my own failure to look further into matters at least embarrassing if not downright reprehensible I have decided to send this note out to the birding community as a whole to say what I think I will do if presented with a similar situation in future. First I will go see if there really is an owl in the center of a group of more than two dozen people being harassed by photographers. If it turns out that is the case, I will explain to those present that I think they are acting wrongly, and then I will call 911 and ask for a law enforcement representative to come out to the scene and see if (s)he agrees a crime is being committed. I have done a bit of research on the matter, and I believe the conduct I think took place out on Eide Road today violates Washington law, specifically RCW RCW 77.15.130 and WAC 232-12-011.
This is not the first time the 'big honking lens' community of bird photographers has acted poorly, let's hope it's the last. Or that I'm wrong about it all, but I don't think that's the case.
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