The August issue of the Wrack Line features a cover photo of a gathering known as a seabird “crèche” – a group of chicks from different broods attended by a smaller number of adults, freeing other parents to forage. Happening upon a crèche can be exciting, and admirers are often eager to photograph the charismatic birds that take temporary residence on the beaches each year. However, photographing birds for our enjoyment should not come at the cost of their chronic disturbance. If you are one of the lucky people to encounter and photograph shorebirds, please remember how to be a shorebird-friendly photographer.
When photographing a bird on a nest:
Remain behind the posted area. No part of you or your camera equipment should go beyond the string or signs. If the area around the nest is not staked off, you should remain far enough away to avoid disturbing the birds (typically 300 feet). If the birds show any sign of agitation as a result of your presence, quietly and slowly retreat until the birds no longer appear disturbed.
Never get close enough to cause the bird to leave its nest. Back off immediately if you flush a bird. Sometimes birds nest near the edge of a posted boundary, so even if you are outside the string, if the bird responds to you, you’re too close!
Scan for predators. Make sure there are no predators nearby such as raccoons, cats, and crows that may be attracted to human presence or scent. Predators also are alert to movement, so by flushing a bird, you may inadvertently help predators notice birds that would otherwise have remained camouflaged.
Don’t exceed 10 minutes. Too much time near the nest may unduly stress the birds. Be considerate and do not spend more than 10 minutes near the nest.
If other photographers are present, try to coordinate your time near the nest, and leave the area together, so that the birds have at least three hours of undisturbed time.
Don’t specify the nest’s exact location when sharing or publishing photos. Advertising the birds’ nesting location may draw additional disturbance to the nest.
When photographing birds that are away from their nests, or birds with chicks: