Today I would like to take up one of the greatest ethical dilemmas of our age and one that I am surprised the Donald has not tweeted about more regularly.
I consider myself a man of good ethics and solid principles and these have been put to the test over the last few days with regards to what can be “ticked” or not.
The first dilemma concerns “tickable views”. This is a common dilemma for a birder or twitcher and many a birder has scoffed over what they know (or at least think) others have ticked based on (very) poor views. I had this dilemma twice on Værøy last year with PG Tips and Pechora Pipit where the identification of the bird was not in doubt but my views were poor. This year I had the same dilemma with the Savi’s Warbler which was a Norwegian tick although not a lifer. Kjell, the finder, had seen the bird very well and the ID was secured but my views were very brief. I did see it was grey/brown and unstreaked on the back and undertail coverts (it had its tail cocked) and that its jizz and behaviour were typical acro but is that enough for a Norwegian tick? I think so…
The second dilemma occurred yesterday when I saw a Red-crested Pochard that had been found near Oslo.
|eclipse male Red-crested Pochard|
The third dilemma is one that perhaps fewer people will understand and concerns ticking a bird in the hand. The Siberian Thrush on Værøy was not surprisingly a lifer for me but is it really tickable? It is my understanding that Dutch listing rules do not allow ringed birds to be ticked (even after they have been released) but I do not know the reasoning behind this. For me though it is a matter of ethics in so far as I do not think ringing purely in the pursuit of a rare bird (and tick) should be allowed. This is because trapping/ringing is an activity that is intrinsically bad for the bird and can only be justified (in my mind) where the ringing will potentially give data that can be helped in conservation – potentially sacrificing one bird for the good of many.
Trapping that is solely focused on the hope of finding a rarity is not good as there is no conservation value in the trapping of the single vagrant although if other birds are regularly trapped, processed and ringed in the process then it can be argued that some useful data is being collected. The intentional trapping of a bird that has already been found and documented in the field and which is usually stressed into the net can in no way be justified though and is done purely to satisfy individual peoples desires with no thought given to the bird. In some countries this isn’t allowed and from what I read the BTO in the UK is cracking down on this type of trapping with people losing their licences. In Norway however I would go as far as saying that the main motivation for the majority of ringing is to find a rarity. It is also allowed under “self-found” rules in Norway to include birds that you have pulled out of a net which is just an absurdity and undermines the perceived value of the list as a proxy for how good you are as a field birder.
The pictures I have posted of me and the Siberian Thrush tell their own tale and I was clearly mighty happy to see the bird and be photographed with it. The extreme rarity of the species in Europe and its mythical status amongst birders clearly got the better of me and principles seem to have been forgotten for a moment. For someone who is anti rarity ringing I did get rather carried away although I do envy John the honour of trapping the bird. He had been out patrolling the nets for 11 hours ringing large numbers of Redpolls and Yellow-browed Warblers (30!) and on the last round of the day the bird was hanging in the net all of its own accord. But should I tick it? It is not a question of self-found tick as I was not at the net when it was discovered but should I refuse to tick a ringed bird out of principle? I was sat in the house cracking open a can of IPA after having given up birding for the day and had already done the washing up that was overflowing in the sink. I didn’t even have to move more than 10 meters to see the bird – it was driven to me in a bag! Seeing it in the field after release did ease my conscience a tiny bit.
I’m sure that you are glad to see that I have chosen to address ethics and principles that are of utmost importance to the world we live in ;-)