1 March 2013

Mentioning nests in blog posts

I wrote this post a while ago and Mark Cocker's column in Birdwatch this month (Birdwatch 249: 21) has finally motivated me to post it. Last May I was walking across my patch when a Common Redshank flew up from right under my feet. It is well known locally that small numbers of Redshank still breed here and I immediately thought 'nest' and stopped in my tracks. Sure enough, hidden in a clump of long grass were four large brown mottled eggs, beautifully arranged facing inwards.

Common Redshank nest, Staines Moor, Surrey, 13 May 2012

Redshank is not a Schedule 1 species, so I hurriedly took a photo and then moved some distance away. Within a few minutes the bird returned. It's not often you find a Redshank nest, especially in London, and I thought others would be interested in seeing the photo. However, although there was no possibility of the photo revealing the location of the nest, and Staines Moor is a well known breeding site for this species, I just didn't feel comfortable posting it on my blog so I didn't. Birders I spoke to agreed I did the right thing, with reasons ranging from possibly drawing unwanted attention to the nest, to I'll be showing an unhealthy interest in eggs. But would posting the photo be a genuine threat to the nest, or have we become paranoid when it comes to nests and eggs?

I grew up in the 1980s, when conservation legislation was tightened to ban even the possession of wild birds’ eggs (quite rightly of course). Understandably, birders became wary of disturbing or disclosing the location of nests, but perhaps we've also had embedded into us a sense of guilt at the very thought of birds' eggs or nests? For example, I even felt a pang of guilt choosing A Field Guide to Monitoring Nests, (Ferguson-Lees et al.) as my free gift when joining the BTO last year!

In Brazil, which has it’s fair share of problems involving theft of eggs and chicks from nests, birders have a very different attitude, and while they are wary of disclosing the location of rare nesting species, will find, watch and even photograph nests in a responsible manner. By comparison, I am useless at finding nests and had no chance of refinding that Redshank nest.

Nests and eggs are just another fascinating part of birds' lives, and this year I'll be trying to find and monitor nests of ground nesting species on my patch such as Northern Lapwing, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, as part of the BTO Nest Record Scheme. This doesn't mean that I have an unhealthy interest in eggs, and neither does it mean I'm going to become an egg collector.

Is it okay to post photos of nests and eggs on a blog? Personally, I think it is fine as long as the photo does not relate to Schedule 1 species, and the location of the nest is not revealed and cannot be deduced from either the photo or any text. If I do post any photos of nests or eggs on my blog then it will be to add educational or other value to the post, and I will not be posting any photos that could reveal the location of the nest.

Many thanks to Carl Barimore, Nest Record Scheme Organiser at the BTO, for his thoughts and guidance on this issue. To find out more about the BTO's Nest Record Scheme click here.

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