NYSBirds-L has no web-accessible long-term archive, so this message was cut and pasted verbatim from the short-term NYSBirds-L list archive on birdingonthe.net
Subject: Postings on sensitive species (e.g. owls)
From: Angus Wilson 
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 2004 15:19:39 -0500

Hi All,

Rob Jett makes a valid point in questioning the apparent conflict 
with existing practices with regard to the posting of directions for 
the Central Park Boreal Owl on public lists. In return, Phil 
Jeffrey's response (follow the links on his earlier message to 
NYSBIRDS-L) makes a cogent argument for why the rules might be broken 
in this case. It's a difficult call either way; balancing important 
concerns for the bird's welfare with needs for open exchange of bird 
sightings. Thankfully, the debate has been polite and 
information-based and I would imagine that a variety of opinions 
remain. Other outlets of bird news might choose (as a matter of 
principal) to be less specific about giving directions and things 
might change on this forum even, if evidence of abuse comes to light.

Yesterday evening, I was simultaneously excited and concerned by 
Scott Harber's posts to several lists in the Tri-state area. I had 
visions of a mob scene this morning, with flash guns exploding and 
birders flinging hapless mice at the owl to get better looks etc etc. 
My memories of poor behavior at the Boreal that showed up in 
Connecticut a decade or so ago are less than pleasant. Fortunately, 
the crowd this morning was well-behaved (during my brief visit at 
least) and were neatly separated from the owl tree by a knee high 
fence. This symbolic boundary was respected and the bird was 
relatively high up but well-exposed, giving superb views without any 
direct disturbance. Presumably, the owl selected this spot itself 
during the night and today was awake, occasionally glancing at the 
birders below but otherwise surveying the surrounding trees - perhaps 
keeping an eye out for Pale Male and friends? I have no idea how 
typical this type of diurnal activity is for Boreal Owls. Certainly 
the constant noise and bustle of New York City must be quite a change 
from the relative silence of the Canadian boreal forest!!

I echo the request from Lloyd Spitalnik and Phil Jeffrey for birders 
and photographers alike to behave sensibly. Perhaps the presence of 
onlookers will keep the roosting owl safe from predators or 
uninformed members of the public?? In terms of less rare species 
(Snowy, Short-eared, Saw-Whet etc), I favor giving minimal directions 
in posts.  Most birders should be able to find these species 
themselves, even if it takes a year or two of searching in the right 
habitat before chancing upon the target. For these more regular 
visitors, the welfare of the bird outweighs the need to share the 
sighting in explicit detail. After all, the experience is much 
sweeter to have found your own bird rather than have it pointed out 
to you.

That's my 2 cents. Given the discovery of two Boreal Owls this 
weekend at opposite ends of the state (Region 1 and Region 10), it 
seems very likely that there are others waiting to be discovered. 
Congratulations to Jim Demas and Peter Post for a great find. Last 
but not least, please remember that Boreal Owl is a NYSARC review 
species and we would appreciate written reports and photographs 
(visit our web site for the on-line reporting form: 

Cheers, Angus Wilson
New York City