Tag Archives: Bird watching Ethics

“On The Road” Lake Erie Pelagic Tour

We’re “On The Road” again, and this time we’re off to Cleveland for “The Sweet Water Sea, Lake Erie Pelagics”. This tour is sponsored by the Black Swamp Bird Observatory at Oak Harbor, Ohio. When I read about this trip on B.S.B.O. website, I think I was the first person to sign up. That seems like ages ago.

So now it’s time to prepare for this trip. And I’m not just driving up and back on the same day. Kathy suggested that I leave on Friday, and spend the night on the road, so I won’t feel so rushed on Saturday. So on Friday after I leave work, it’s off to Mansfield Ohio for the night. Believe you me it’s not the most palatial hotel in the world, but it will have to do. As a matter of fact, with a strip club right down the road, you might say this hotel might be rated as “seedy”. I’m afraid to ask if it has hourly rates. However it is an Econolodge, so I’m sure it will be fine.

The drive from my house to Columbus was rather uneventful. However, from Columbus to Mansfield, is where all sanity ceased to exist. To put it into simple terms, it was a madhouse. So what should have been a relatively short drive, took way too long. I arrived into my room at 7:30, put on some soft clothes, took 2 Tylenol PM’s, and a few swallows of Fra Fillippo, and it was lights out at 9:00.

I was a little nervous on this last leg of my journey. I had, what I thought were pretty good directions, but never been to Cleveland before, getting lost was not an option. I hate getting lost. So before I left town I went to Google Map and did a street view of the route after I left the highway. It went perfect. I was able to identify landmarks, and made it to my destination without a single problem. As I pulled into the parking lot I was greeted with this view.

The white building is where we left from. Meet up with birding buddy John Marvin and his father who spent the night in Cleveland before the trip. Both are very knowledgeable birders, and great to be with.

Another view of the city.

If you look real close, the top of our boat is visible in the lower left corner.

With a maximum of 50 people going, you can see it was rather cramped on the dock. In the background you can see a HUGH great lakes freighter navigating the Cuyahoga River.

As this freighter was making this turn you can see how many gulls it was kicking up in it’s wake. The gull population here is phenomenal.

This is like a Hitchcock movie.

Once we set sail, we  started looking for anything along the river. Someone did catch a Peregrine Falcon making it’s rounds. I did see a Sharp-shinned Hawk as we cruised the river. A few geese and Mallards were all we saw before we exited the river.

A look back at the city before we entered Lake Erie.

You can tell by this picture how calm the water was. It was pretty much like this the whole trip.

As you can tell, space was at a premium. Getting on board early guaranteed you a seat. But who sits. I was moving from left to right looking for birds the whole trip.

We made our way out to the pumping crib.

They started throwing bread and popcorn off the fantail to attract the gulls and anything else that might be in the vicinity.

It’s during this time of chuming for birds that we got our hit on a Pomarine Jaeger.

After we left the open waters of Lake Erie, we made our way to some breakwaters that run parallel to the coast.

Gulls followed us everywhere.

This is the area that the Snow Buntings were sighted. We’re running along the shore where an airport is located.

You can see the landing lights of the airport as we clear the corner.

Now here’s something you don’t see everyday. A U.S. World War II. era submarine. The Japanese flags on the side of the conning tower indicates that it served in the Pacific theater.

View of the city on our return trip to the dock.

A look back at the Cuyahoga River as we approach the dock.

So did I have a good time? Yes I did. Would I go back? Yes I would. Even though I did get 4 new birds for my life list, I was still disappointed in the lack of water birds. Having great weather conditions has a lot to do with the lack of water birds. The crappier the weather, the better the birding. So hopefully the weather will be better from a birding point of view for next year. So here is the list of birds for the trip.

  1. Ring-billed Gull
  2. Bonaparte’s Gull
  3. Greater Black Backed Gull-Lifer
  4. Herring Gull
  5. Northern Harrier
  6. American Kestrel
  7. Bald Eagle
  8. Red-tailed Hawk
  9. Rough-legged Hawk (Dark Phase)
  10. Cooper’s Hawk
  11. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  12. Common Crow
  13. Pigeon
  14. Mourning Dove
  15. Starling
  16. American Robin
  17. Northern Cardinal
  18. Northern Mockingbird
  19. House Sparrow
  20. Canada Goose
  21. Mallard
  22. Black Scoter-Lifer
  23. Common Loon
  24. Red-breasted Merganser
  25. Horned Grebe
  26. Great Blue heron
  27. Pomarine Jaeger-Lifer
  28. Snow Bunting-Lifer
  29. American Coot

Bird Study Merit Badge

As most of my readers probably have guessed, this next Bird Book Review isn’t exactly a book per se. It’s more of a pamphlet. And you may ask yourself, why am I bothering with reviewing something like this? Well, let me set you straight about this overlooked, mis-judged, piece of birding literature.

For beginners, at only $4.49, and only being 96 pages, this would be an excellent book for any budding birder. And since we like to plant the seed early in a young persons life, it’s a very straight forward, easy to follow, how to kind of book. But first let me clear up the purpose of the Merit Badge.

The purpose of the Merit Badge system is to encourage scouts to explore areas of interest that might teach them valuable skills. This could lead to a career, or a life long hobby. And as we all know the future of any hobby or area of interest, lies with the youth who are involved right now. But we shouldn’t neglect the young person who hasn’t yet discovered the joy of birding. And this is where a book like this could be of great value.

Enough about that, let’s go over this book. So at 96 pages you might think how can they cover all that’s needed for a beginner. Remember the age group that this book is written for. Youth from 11 to 18 years old.

The first couple of pages go over the actual requirements that the scout has to complete before earning the merit badge. The rest of the book is broken down into short chapters. They are:

  1. Introduction
  2. North America’s Birds
  3. What Makes a Bird a Bird?
  4. How Bird’s Live
  5. Observing Birds
  6. Bird Study and Science
  7. Bird Conservation
  8. Creating a backyard Bird Sanctuary
  9. Bird Study Resources

As you read through the chapter, North America’s Birds, you’re introduced as to how they classify birds by Order using a nice 2 page outline with a color illustration of a familiar bird from that Order. They explain in the chapter where to find birds, as well as give examples of non-native birds.

The chapter on “What Makes a Bird a Bird”, explains in simple text, using color drawings the anatomy of a bird. It also has 2 excellent drawings of a bird and a wing, with all the key parts labeled. Which is useful when they learn about field marks.

“How Birds Live” educates the reader on the food they eat, and their feeding patterns, migration, courtship and nesting patterns. And they offer advise on who to call in case you discover a banded bird.

My favorite chapter, “Observing Birds”, it what I call the meat of the subject. Now we take everything that we learned so far and put in practical use. And now we get to play with toys. Binoculars, and spotting scopes, and field guides. Oh My. From choosing the right pair of binoculars, caring for them and how to use them properly is talked about here. They devote one whole page on “What Do the Numbers Mean”. Any newbie will benefit from this section. And as they leave you pondering your first set of binoculars, they jump into bird identification, field marks, taking good field notes, and determining the different bird calls. And since this is Boy Scout related, proper birding etiquette. This is great stuff.

The book finishes off with the, “How can you make a difference” portion. This is where we want to plant the seed of thought in the youth. By participating in something as simple as the “Great Backyard Bird Count”, to helping with bird banding, these chapters open up the opportunities awaiting someone with the desire to go that one step further. The final chapter is all about creating your own back yard habitat. Choosing the correct feeder and how to build them for different species of birds. Construction of various bird houses and how to maintain them.

As I was re-reading this book, I read the Acknowledgments in the back just to see you helped with this book. I’m not going to name everyone listed, but for all you birding folks out there, I think even the most die-hard will acknowledge the ability of these people.

Scott Wiedensaul ( Eagle Scout): Natural History Writer, Birder, Bird Bander. His book “Living on the Wind” won him a Pulitzer Prize nomination.

Gary M. Stolz Ph.D. ( Eagle Scout):  Refuge Manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Affiliate Professor at the University of Idaho as a Ornithologist and Herpetologist.

Julie Zickefoose: Wildlife Illustrator

Bob Gress ( Eagle Scout): Director, Great Plains Nature Center, Wichita, Kansas.

As I conclude this review I truly feel that by opening the eyes of  anyone who might want to be a part of this great past time, that they give this little book a try. How can you go wrong at such a great price. You can find a Scout Shop in almost every part of the country. Or better yet you can order it on-line through www.scoutstuff.org. And look, if it doesn’t work out, you’re not out a lot of money, and then you donate the book to a local troop. That will give you a warm fuzzy feelin’.       Try it, you’ll like it.

Bird Watching Ethics

One afternoon I was searching for some new birding blogs, when I happened upon this particular blog. The name is BirdWatching-Bliss. In this blog was some very good information. And the one that struck me the most, was the one about bird watching ethics. On a whole, most birders I’ve meet are conscience of the natural world and how delicate it is. I feel we are true stewards of  this planet.

So why would we have to know this stuff if we’re such stewards of the birding world? Well, for a couple of reasons. If your new to birding, this information is valuable, so when you do go out into the field you have the knowledge to make the right decisions. And secondly, it’s a good refresher for us old salts who think we know everything, but forgot the basics. It’s just a good thing to go over every now and again.

Bird Watching Ethics

Please follow this code of bird watching ethics and teach the code of ethics to others. Everyone who enjoys birds and bird watching must always respect wildlife, wildlife habitats, and the rights of other wildlife viewers and property owners. For any conflict of interest between birds and birders, the welfare of the birds and their environment must come first.

Code of Bird Watching Ethics

1. Promote the welfare of birds and their environment.

1(a) Support the protection of important bird habitat.

1(b) To avoid stressing birds or exposing them to danger, exercise restraint and caution during observation, photography, sound recording, or filming.

Limit the use of recording and other methods of attracting birds, and never use such methods in heavily birded areas, or for attracting any species that is Threatened, Endangered, or of Special Concern, or is rare in your local area;

Keep well back from nests and nesting colonies, roosts, display areas, and important feeding sites. In such sensitive areas, if there is a need for extended observation, photography, filming, or recording, try to use a blind or hide, and take advantage of natural cover.

Use artificial light sparingly for filming or photography, especially for close-ups.

1(c) Before advertising the presence of a rare bird, evaluate the potential for disturbance to the bird, it’s surroundings, and other people in the area, and proceed only if access can be controlled, disturbance minimized, and permission has been obtained from private land-owners. The sites of rare nesting birds should be divulged only to the proper conservation authorities.

1(d) Stay on roads, trails, and paths where they exist; otherwise keep disturbance to a minimum.


2. Respect the law, and the rights of others.

2(a) Do not enter private property without the owner’s explicit permission.

2(b) Follow all laws, rules, and regulations governing use of roads and public areas, both at home and abroad.

2(c) Practice common courtesy in contacts with other people. Your exemplary behavior will generate goodwill with other birders and non-birders alike.


3. Ensure that feeders, nest structures, and other artificial bird environments are safe.

3(a) Keep dispensers, water, and food clean, and free of decay or disease. It is important to feed birds continually during harsh weather.

3(b) Maintain and clean nest structures regularly.

3(c) If you are attracting birds to an area, ensure the birds are not exposed to predation from cats and other domestic animals, or dangers posed by artificial hazards.


4. Groups birding, whether organized or impromptu, requires special care. each individual in the group, in addition to the obligations spelled out in items #1 and #2, has responsibilities as a group member.

4(a) Respect the interests, rights, and skills of fellow birders, as well as people participating in other legitimate outdoor activities. Freely share your knowledge and experience, except where code 1(c) applies. Be especially helpful to beginning birders.

4(b) If you witness unethical birding behavior, assess the situation, and intervene if you think it prudent. When interceding, inform the person(s) of the inappropriate action, and attempt , within reason, to have it stopped. If the behavior continues, document it, and notify appropriate individuals or organizations.

4(c) Be an exemplary ethical role model for the group. Teach through word and example.

4(d) Keep groups to a size that limits impact on the environment, and does not interfere with others using the same area.

4(e) Ensure everyone in the group knows of and practices this code.

4(f) Learn and inform the group of any special circumstances applicable to the areas being visited (e.g. no tape recorders allowed).

4(g) Acknowledge that professional tour companies bear a special responsibility to place the welfare of birds and the benefits of public knowledge ahead of the company’s commercial interests. Ideally, leaders should keep track of tour sightings, document unusual occurrences, and submit records to appropriate organizations.

Please follow this code of bird watching ethics and distribute and teach the code of ethics to others.