[Tweeters] Eide Rd. -the latest "Damon Point"

Darrel Denune darrel.denune at yahoo.com
Wed Feb 4 11:14:37 PST 2015

My wife and I have been visiting Eide Rd. and the Stanwood area in general for birding for several years now and it has been amazing how it is morphed in to a viewing mecca almost overnight. Three-four winters ago you could count on one-hand the number of visitors on any given day, including hunters. This year reminds me much of the Damon Point debacle in 2011/2012 (which I did not partake in) when thousands flocked to see the snowy owls. A biologist friend of mine who works that area reported back to me some of the behaviors and I chose to stay away, as a member of WOS/ Audubon who agrees to follow ABA guidelines for rare/ migratory bird observation/ reporting. While migratory owls are mostly in good shape when they get here, months of folks altering their behaviors (mostly hunting patterns) and "flushing" birds repeatedly adds up over time.

At Leque island WDFW site, the now well-known rare long-eared pair nesting in the area have actually been there for successive years, but a the few who attempted to follow ABA guidelines were this year unsuccessful in not letting the cat out of the bag and for several months now, throngs of viewers have been putting pressure not only on the long-eared owls but the short-eared population as well. On my first visit this year, two months ago I watched as folks with point and shoot camera's/ video recorder's approached to within 10' of the male long-eared owl, completely encircling it. It was visibly uncomfortable and did it's best to get out of sight. I suggested to many that if they back-off to where we were at 50-60' and out of sight, it will go about it's natural business and it would likely actually come out where it could be better seen. After a while, some listened and gave it a try -moving back around the corner to where we were, low and behold the owl dove down and grabbed a vole, right where the folks had just been standing. Clearly it would not have had that opportunity as long as the crowd persisted in that area. On a recent trip, nearly two months later, I recognized some of the same folks that had been there previously, back with camcorders, etc., again 10' in front of the female LEO. I watched again as two fellows with 600mm lenses walked right by me to within 15' of the male flushing it at least twice (if you need to do that with a 600mm lens, there are some classes you can take for that). I observed random folks following SEO's around the entire site, one lady in a Subaru hit at least 50 MPH on the small road through the refuge in her excitement to get near to the SEO perched in a nearby tree ahead, spotted with binoculars (very dangerous as hunters/ other birders cross the road from trails at several points). Not everyone behaved this way, but an unfortunate majority did. If we want to keep these area's open to viewing we need to make less of an overall ecological footprint in doing so.

I generally avoid these types of throng's, but if I find myself in these situations, I try to minimize my impacts by staying out of sight and letting the birds come to me (they will eventually), keeping noise at a minimum, limit my shooting of stationary birds on a hunting perch to less than five minutes and not using a flash in low-light. Nesting rare birds really should always be avoided -and YUP, it's about that time of year...
Best birding, -Darrel DeNune

darrel.l.denune at yahoo.com

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