As responsible wildlife photographers I'm sure that there have been occasions where we have had to back off from taking a shot. The welfare of the subject matter is and has to be paramount.
But what happens if, for instance, you can get a shot of a protected species, in the case of birds a Schedule 1 species, without being near a nest site in nesting season? If, for instance, the bird is adjacent to a public footpath or in a public park? Would you take the shot?
I would, I make no bones about it. If my actions are in no way endangering or disturbing the subject then I would get the best shot I could.
I, like a lot of other people, regularly view and post shots on the Birdguides Website. Birdguides is an excellent tool, it gives images, sightings, and information about birds seen all over the world. Birdguides have a code of conduct. They state they will not publish shots submitted of birds on the schedule 1 list during March to June. They state that they will not publish such shots even if the submitter allegedly has a licence to photo such birds because they do not have the resources to check. There are lots of birds on the list and they even add a few that aren't because they believe they should be.
Yet on a weekly basis shots of birds like, Red Kite, Kingfisher, Bittern and lately Black winged stilt have been submitted and posted. Today I had such an opportunity present itself to me. I had been watching Little Ringed Plover in a private site near Hereford. I was watching from a hide at a distance of 50-75 yards or more. This was the best shot I got.
I think you would agree its pretty pooh. So after almost an hour and a half of sitting watching it not come any nearer I decided to give up. Chalk it down to experience and wait for another day. I moved to a different part of the site and hoped to get better shots of Reed Buntings that I'd seen there on Friday, as I walked to the spot something flew over my head and landed at the waters edge about 20 yards from me. I didn't see what it was properly, so I just carried on walking in the direction I had been going until I got to where I thought it was and then glanced down and was so surprised to see it was the LRP. I didn't do anything other than drop my tripod off my shoulder, focus on the bird and quickly snap off a frame or two. I expected it to fly off.
It didn't, I stood still and snapped off a few dozen more shots. Still it didn't fly off, I moved slowly and deliberately to my right to get a better view and still it stayed where it was, feeding off insects or whatever at the water side. I was about 10-15 yards from it and by now I had taken the camera off the tripod and was resting it on a bag on a post. The bird knew I was there, it looked at me and ignored me, it wasn't stressed or scared it just carried on mooching for food. I eventually took 300 frames and walked away. I went to look for the Reed Bunting and failed to get close to them, I walked around another area of the site and then walked back the way I had originally come. The LRP was still there and still feeding. I used my Binos to have a good look for any sign of another bird that might be nesting and whilst I cannot be 100% sure there wasn't one I am as sure as I can be that there wasn't. I did not take any more shots I merely carried on. I was thrilled by the experience, It was amazing.
I duly got home and processed some of the shots. I submitted them to Birdguides and they didn't get past the first stage. No explanation, just the blanket statement. Who makes the rules? How do they decide? why should one bird be accepted and one refused. Fortunately I have this site to display the shots. I know what the legislation says and I am happy that I did not breach any law in obtaining the shots. I hope you will agree they are pretty nice. They have been cropped but not by a lot.
Once in a while luck comes together. I also saw a Red Kite at the site today, only the 4th I've seen in Herefordshire since I first moved here in 1985. I got one very distance record shot of it.
Thanks for looking.