Celebrity Birds And Twitching

Every so often a rare or unusual bird will be sighted and showcased on social media. They become celebrities. Birders will come from far and near to share in the experience.

1/2000, F5.6, ISO 12,800

This is especially true of twitchers. What is a twitcher”? A twitcher is a birder who seeks to build their life list with as many species as possible. Usually (but not always), they are not overly interested in detailed or long-term observation of individual birds. Most (but not all), twitchers are often characterized as being satisfied with just achieving a confirmed identification as quickly as possible. It’s birding as a competitive sport. And as with all sports, there are players that cross ethical lines to win. Or, in the case of the twitcher sub-species, bird photographers, do anything to ‘get the shot’.

For the last week, my hometown Decatur, GA has had its own celebrity bird. A Barn Owl, an exceedingly rare bird in urban settings, could be seen hunting in Legacy Park the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset, a very rare behavior for a nocturnal raptor. Legacy Park is owned by the City of Decatur and is the buildings and grounds of a former Methodist children’s home. It is being planned as multi-use public area.

Its multi-uses are always gives and takes when user paths cross. This has been the case this week as twitchers and the bird photographer twitcher sub-species have descended on the park. The photographers have claimed rights to the fields the owl is hunting. They want to (must) get their shots even if that means disrupting the daily habits of the neighborhood trail runners, walkers, and dog walkers that have found a courteous balance of use. These users have been told to give up their daily rituals and to show respect for the magnificent creature. This is of course shorthand for “don’t get in the way of my shot” 🙂

1/2000, F5.6, ISO 12,800

As you can see, I participated in the owl paparazzi on Sunday morning. But, one of the great features of my Olympus kit is its mobility. I do not have to set up a tripod fortress and try to keep a clear line of sight. I could move and not have to ask the neighbors to accommodate me. Better even than that is I could work the light as it came up over the tree line. My side & backlit snaps were different than the majority of the hundreds posted on the social media sites. My twitching itch was satisfied 🙂

Be sure to read and always practice: North American Nature Photograph Association Ethics

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