(Note – I wrote this a few weeks before all the recent posts on IN-Bird about Snowy Owls and photographers. This is one of those reoccurring themes that has come up every year since I started birding and probably will until the day I stop.)
I have read on birding listserves and blogs about photographers who will do anything for a photo but I hadn’t ever seen it in person. With people being what they are, it wasn’t hard to imagining it happening. And let me state I believe that most photographers won’t go to extremes for a photo but as in any group, a few spoil it for all.
I was in San Diego birding Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery on an early Saturday morning in November. I was walking the roads looking for the resident birds of the area when I noticed a large pickup truck zoom in. I didn’t think anything about it and just kept moving. I was walking along when the guy from the truck yelled over there was a hawk in a tree. He said it flew in front of his truck so he pulled in for photos. He was holding a camera with a huge telephoto lens on it. You know, the kind that looks like it belongs on Mt. Palomar.
The photographer said he thought it was an immature Broad-winged Hawk which would be uncommon for the area. (And my mind is thinking very late for mid-November) I said thanks for the info and took a few photos of the hawk myself from a distance, not saying I was pretty sure it was an immature Red-tailed Hawk.
I kept walking the looping roads and in little while circled back by the photographer. He said he wished the bird would move so he could get a flight shot. He said he had tried yelling, running around it, clapping, but to no avail. Since I was far from home, I just said “Too bad”, turned, and walked away quickly before I said something else.
I really didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t figure out why he would need a picture of a bird so badly? Was it that important to him? Why?
I eventually saw the photographer leave and I don’t think the bird had moved. But when I finally left I saw a flock of crows harassing a bird a little farther down the road, I was sure it was the hawk. I don’t really think the man’s actions would bother a hawk sitting 40-50′ up a tree. But maybe his actions had drawn the attention of the crows so they started to harass it? Since that is typical hawk/crow interaction it really wasn’t a problem. But just maybe it would lead to the hawk doing something like flying in front of a car to avoid the crows?