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Staged photographs

Dave Williams

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I have come into this debate rather late and much that I would have said has been said already.

I am also as guilty in some respects  but have opposing views to others. I would also mention that I am not a professional and my camera is there as a supplement to my hobby of observation. I like a nice snap to take home for my album but that is secondary (unless playing games like BY when it gets bloody frustrating! :rolleyes:)

@Dave Williams will use man made devices to get the birds to pose. I don't have a problem with that. @Peter Connan

 sees little ethical difference between meat eaters and non meat eaters. Neither do I as long as it is done so the target doe snot associate the appearnce of the food with human activity.

I do not care for electronic bird calling and it should be banned in a public hide as a total intrusion (as well as stressful to the birds).

However my friend and guide in East Africa can actually mimic many birds. I am not sure where mimicry fits in all this as other birds mimic too.

He is especially adept at calling in Owls. A by-product of this is of course the local 'Lbjs' go absolutely mental and we can observe them quite closely whilst they are occupied mobbing the Owl. So, as well as seeing and photographing the Owl we get photos of smaller birds that otherwise spend their time skulking and posing for those tricky EBC shots. Is this wrong? The little uns are obviously agitated but the Owl does not appear to be bothered at all.

Quite rightly @janzin

does not approve of the many devious ways employed by, ahem, professionals in workshops. Neither do I especially as it certainly stresses the birds. but nobody on here would turn their nose up at feeders or grit trays for Bearded Reedlings would they? It is a matter of degree.

The WT Eagles on Mull come to feed on fish thrown from "Lady Jane" most days. I don't mind that.

But neither do the many land lubbers waiting for the boats arrival on the north shore of Loch na Keale who get the exact same birds with a steady long lens from the shore. Are they also wrong?

Is it 'wrong' to photo a sparrowhawk that has learned fast food is available at a bird table? I don't think so and by extension feeders and tables must also be acceptable.

So leaving avifauna we can now move to mammals.

Obviously live baiting for me is a big No No. But what about "Dead baiting". Years ago there was a habit of 'feeding' leopards in South Luangwa. The leopards quickly caught on and it was getting dangerous so it stopped.


This is what can happen when leopards get too bold with careless campers:-

Not a good idea.


But is it wrong to put out kitchen scraps for Genets, Porcupines,Galagos and even Honey Badgers?



This guy loved my spaghetti.

If so I plead guilty. The Genets of Ndutu Lodge are rightly famous but they do keep the mice down.


Closer to home we often put out food for Pine Martens and Squirrels. Is that wrong?

Which of the following two Pine Martens was just visiting and which had come to be fed?




Finally on a trip to find Snow Leopards in Ladakh in 2016 we heard of a sighting on our last morning and this was what we found:-


Now it was a lovely cat to be sure BUT I am not blind. We were told it had taken one of the local calves which figured. However surely there are two calves there, one black and one brown and I strongly suspect that this was a baited sighting but my questions remained unanswered.

So even if we are whiter than white with our ethics it may well be going on behind our backs.


BTW, it anybody tried my quiz on the two Pine Martens you may like to know the 2nd visitor was just passing by as I sat outside my cottage and decided to stop and chat.


Later she took advantage of my car for some shade before trotting off.


So the final answer must be that we do what we feel comfortable with.

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Much as I enjoy watching a human bird caller working their 'magic' it concerns me that often the other bird comes into

1. defend the territory, in the case of a male call, or

2. wants to breed, in the case of a female call. 


This is a complete waste of, often hard-earned energy for the bird concerned and could have a health impact on them .


The above concern could also be applied to other animals. Whistling to call in wild dogs etc

At least with food bait there is some reward for effort................

Edited by wilddog
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Thanks. Like you I deplore the indiscriminate use of ''calling" and did say it was a question of degree. I too would be concerned if I felt it impacted negatively on the bird. For this same reason I don't condone 'pishing' for small birds. The bird's welfare must come first.

However I feel in the example I wrote about there is no problem.

The call is not a simple 'broadcast' but is usually made in response to an already calling bird who is advertising his/her presence.  For owls,  turaco or sometimes an oriole  this is their normal behaviour and causes no stress or wasted energy. 

I don't know about whistling for wild dogs. I have never heard of the practice and assume it is used to call in a resident pack around their den. If so this would be as unacceptable to me as  putting out any food for them.


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