Discussion: baiting birds for photos 討論:餌誘拍鳥

(responding without understanding the original text… but here goes)

Hmmmm...... do I need to put my hand up to baiting? …. YES.

But at what point is baiting, baiting…… and acceptable or not.

The fish are put into #4 pond to feed Cormorants..... a lot of other birds feed & a lot of photographers take advantage.
Do the Cormorants see an association between humans & food? Perhaps.
Is there a greater or lesser benefit to those Cormorants simply because it is done at Mai Po, or could it or something similar be done by an individual or association located anywhere in Hong Kong?
Are the photographers associated with that food? If so......., the photographers would probably have Cormorants sitting on the bus or taxi roof when they go home, or alternatively the Cormorants would be sitting outside the Mai Po warders house every feeding day morning.

UK was highlighted because some top photographers bait birds with various foods dependent on the bird they want to attract.
UK is not alone..... it is practiced worldwide and to much greater degrees than might be practiced in Hong Kong!! And to varying degrees from seed to white mice.
In many countries they have birding ranches set up specifically to attract birds to bait so the waiting photographers can catch the action (raptors & mice & 50 photographers in a line), for monetary gain.

Is there an association between food & humans? Is really dependent on the action of the human, & do they encourage the association between food & humans.
I don't think most photographers encourage a bird/human relationship.... as their art/skill is in the photograph, not showing people how easy it is to handfeed a Cormorant & get everybody else doing it. Once they have the photograph they want, most just move on to the next subject.

A second issue.... there is a variable country issue with regard to predation of birds by humans & whether it would be detrimental to the safety of the bird to see an association between humans & birds.
In a lot of countries most birds are protected and as such capture & sale is not encouraged.
This does not mean that people do not bait & capture birds for monetary advantage in Hong Kong... we all know this happens.... but these are not photographers or birders. Although the baiting by photographers or birders may make the work easier for trappers in isolated cases…, the catchers are very experienced and know what they are doing. They don’t need or encourage outsiders to assist them in their clandestine activities.

A third issue.... the baiting of birds is not necessarily dependent on the ready supply of food... it can also be the creation of a favourable "bird" environment where one did not exist before.... or the maintenance of an ideal "bird" environment to attract birds.... or phishing... or imitation of bird calls etc.

To my own situation which may or may not be being questioned by some.....

4 years ago I rented a house with a 5,000 square foot garden on a north facing hillside on Lamma Island.... in the knowledge it would/could be a good birding site & specifically to photograph birds. The house is relatively isolated on the hill.

I then built a series of 4 connecting ponds 50’ in length.... for decoration & in the knowledge it would attract, bugs, frogs, snakes, birds etc...... and create an environment beneficial to wild/birdlife that did not exist before….., and in the knowledge that there is no year round flowing/fresh water within about half km and animal life would be “unnaturally” attracted to my garden.
Does this action become "baiting"... I think so.

I then built a hide which is 10' x 8' x 6' at the minimum focus distance for my 500m lens from where I expected the birds to come to water.... more intention of creation of an environment for the purpose of bird photography.
I then created an environment around the pond whereby various different birds could approach the pond to drink & bathe with relative security & comfort…… the baiting intention continues.

Is there an association between me & baiting & the birds... I sometimes wish there was... it would make my life a lot easier...... I only have to move my lens sticking from the front of the hide 1cm & the male Japanese Thrush will disappear. Other birds are similarly nervous to varying degrees.
The only way I can effectively photograph the Japanese Thrush, is to study its actions, and then anticipate when & where it will appear in front of my waiting lens. In reality I could do this anywhere, it does not need to be in my garden.
The birds are very anxious from the sound of the camera shutter, but I have minimised this by creating a noisy waterfall & by fixing a 2” thick polystyrene noise buffer to my lens.

When I sit outside my house... most birds fly immediately... the exceptions..... bulbuls & a Blue Whistling Thrush... do these birds see an association between me and the pond & the provision of water.... I don't think so.
The birds never see me when I am photographing & I never use flash which causes birds extreme initial anxiety ….. most bird photographers use flash!! Although birds can become acclimatised to “flash”.
Do the birds ever see me enter the hide?.... never... it has a back entrance & most times I climb out the kitchen window to avoid leaving from the front and then round the back of the house to enter the hide.
Have I always been so considerate…. No…. but like many things in life, there is a learning curve with regard to understanding and appreciation of alter values.

Do the birds see me near the pond… yes often… making changes, putting up different perches, moving rocks…… do they see me as creating a nice environment for them…. I don’t think so… in birdworld they probably think I am going there to drink & bathe my feet and am just very clumsy with branches & rocks around me.

I don't use bird calls & I don't "phish".
I do put food out..., but 30 yards from the pond area as I don't want dominant birds like the Magpie Robin or Blue Whistling Thrush to keep bathers away and inhibiting their water oriented habits which are already anxiety filled .... and most days I put the food out at 05:00......, not so the birds don't associate me with food, but because I don't want to disturb any bird activity that might be happening naturally around my pond "shooting" area.

So why do I put out food? Is simple.... to attract more birds to the vacinity of the pond, but not to the pond, because I like to see and watch birds and their behaviour patterns in the garden.... although is probably not necessary as I leave my pond waterfall running 24 hours a day using the noise to attract birds from a greater distance, especially at night.
Do the birds see an association between me & food... perhaps.... but is not intentional and definitely not as much as the Lamma ferry & Little Egrets, or Crows & rubbish bins etc.... each having a human association.
The Little Egrets start flying in readiness to the ferry when the closing bell goes off before the ferry departs!!!

Do I feel the association of humans & food is actually a big issue in Hong Kong through predation by humans .... not really.... I think the greater issue may be the congregation of a large number of birds & different species in a confined area & the possible spread of disease.
However, does the unnatural creation of a preferential environment cause a congregation or an association that would not occur naturally to a greater or lesser extent elsewhere and cause a similar spread of disease?
If my pond did not exist, would the birds not look for an alternate water supply, or would it stop their continued migration… there are variable answers to each question.

My intention for this lengthy reply…. not necessarily to defend my action of having a preferential environment  or ‘baiting” for the purpose of photographing birds, but..

Firstly to highlight that in all situations there are variables to any question…. and the issue of baiting & not baiting can be similarly questioned with the feeding of Cormorants at Mai Po or the creation of an artificial water source on Lamma Island………., by the creation of an environment that would be appreciated by travel weary & hungry birds,

Secondly….,  I have seen this issue raised many times in various forums and never responded, mainly because the responses I read have always been too simplistic & based solely on whether or not a person is a birder or a bird photographer.
There are differences of opinion, however I have noticed a greater desire in HKBWS for birders and bird photographers to accommodate one another to their mutual benefit and I felt I should give a view as I appreciate the work done by the HKBWS and whether my views are admonished or greeted then HKBWS members deserve some input from me.

Thirdly…, but correct me if I am wrong…. One mutual benefit from my pond… more birders are beginning to give Lamma Island a greater priority and they in turn, or the powers that be, may also gradually have an understanding that bird environments are gradually being decimated on Lamma to facilitate “economic progress”…… and protectionists and the like should give Lamma more thought.
Lamma Island is too often considered an uninteresting faraway backwater.

All the best, Guy (A bird photographer who may gradually be turning into a birder)
Ps.. if anybody is interested… between 07:00-09:30 yesterday I had 34 thrush visits to the pond….. during the course of the whole of today I think I had between 50-70 thrush visits to the pond area….. none of the birds saw me or a relationship between me & my baiting action nor do I believe were they adversely affected.