Amateur wildlife photographers have been reminded of their obligations not to disturb nesting birds.
While the prospect of watching the progress from nest to eggs to chicks to fledglings is tantalising, BirdWatch Ireland has said that trying to get photos may risk failure of the nesting attempt.
The golden rule of responsible nature photography is that the welfare of the subject must always come first, BirdWatch Ireland has said.
Unethical use of recorded sounds
The unethical use of recorded bird sounds is also being used to lure birds to perform for the camera.
The conservation body has had several reports of seabird colonies, in particular, being disturbed, but also other sensitive species, such as corncrakes, curlews (small picture), and birds of prey.
It is illegal to disturb or photograph nesting birds without a specific licence from the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Section 22 (9)(f) of the Wildlife Act, 1976 declares that “a licence is required for a person to take … video/pictures of a wild bird of a species … on or near a nest containing eggs or unflown young”.
'A good law'
“This is a good law, and is in place with the best interests of the birds in mind,” says BirdWatch Ireland.
Adult birds will likely leave the nest as humans approach. This means that eggs that need to be incubated, or chicks that need to be kept warm, are exposed and will rapidly lose heat, putting them at risk.
The presence of humans will prevent adult birds from feeding their chicks, which need a lot of food every day to fledge successfully.
As chicks get older, there’s also a risk of humans causing them to ‘explode’ from the nest.
Jump from the nest
The chicks see humans as a predator and if the nest is approached, they will think their time is up, take a risk and jump from the nest, in the hope of escaping.
This greatly decreases their odds of survival.
“In the natural world, there’s nothing good about a large animal trying to seek out your nest – it can only be a bad thing,” Bird Watch Ireland points out.
Birds who remain on the nest when humans approach also have greatly elevated heart rates for several hours afterwards.
Lastly, even if no chicks jump the nest, and the adult birds return quickly, there can still be disastrous consequences.
Approaching a nest can give away its location to potential predators such as cats, magpies, foxes and dogs.
A trail of flattened grass, or moved branches or briars, all tip off potential nest predators.