Birders, Language Apps, And Protected Area Rules

Several visitors to Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour, were found to be using apps that imitate the unusual 'churring' call of the nightjar to coax out the bird. Photograph: Don Mcphee for the Guardian

Several visitors to Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour, were found to be using apps that imitate the unusual ‘churring’ call of the nightjar to coax out the bird. Photograph: Don Mcphee for the Guardian

Where is Ben, apart from being on the road to 2,000 birds, when you need him? We are curious how widespread the use of such apps might be among serious birders. Read this Guardian story to the end and you may agree with us that this language app is more likely to do harm than good:

To the long list of nature reserve do’s and dont’s can be added a thoroughly 21st-century injunction: don’t use your apps to pap the feathered denizens.

Worried by visitors using bird-call apps to entice seldom-seen species before their cameras, Dorset Wildlife Trust is asking people to stop using the technology, arguing that it distracts birds from nesting and tending their young.

The trust has launched an online campaign to stamp out the practice after several visitors to Brownsea Island, in Poole harbour, used apps imitating the unusual “churring” call of the nightjar to coax out the bird.

It is advising photographers not to use bird apps on all of its 42 reserves and signs have been put up on Brownsea Island to remind visitors.

The nightjar is rare but enjoys a refuge on the island where, like all nesting birds, it is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which makes it an offence intentionally to disturb any nesting bird. Brownsea Island also has special protection area status for the habitats it provides for birds.

Chris Thain, reserve manager on the island, said that while the increasingly popular apps could be great, people needed to use them responsibly.

“I’m sure visitors would be devastated if they realised the possible disturbance they were causing to wildlife,” he said. “We need to spread the word that use of these apps is not suitable for nature reserves and can be potentially harmful to sensitive species.”

Tony Whitehead, from the RSPB, urged people to consider the consequences of their actions, saying: “Repeatedly playing a recording of birdsong or calls to encourage a bird to respond in order to see it or photograph it can divert a territorial bird from other important duties, such as feeding its young.

“It is selfish and shows no respect to the bird.”

2 thoughts on “Birders, Language Apps, And Protected Area Rules

  1. Pingback: Entrepreneurial Conservation And Language Apps | Raxa Collective

  2. The use of tapes to elicit responses is actually a fairly common practice. During breeding times the use of “playback” is for the most part discouraged even though during this time is when you would have the most responses. For bird guides it is often the best way to find a bird and get it in close for clients. All in all I would say it is by and large avoided, but most certainly used.

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