Friday, 10 April 2015

Schedule 1 birds - knowing the law

It was good to be back at Vange Marsh my patch from my teenage days. Being the Easter holidays I'd made arrangements for the kids to visit their grandparents just a short drive from this Thames side haven. After a quick drop off I was soon crossing the railway tracks and entering the marsh.

Even though Vange Marsh is now managed by the RSPB and is much more publicised as a nature reserve than it ever use to be, you still rarely see another soul here and that has always been one of its main attractions for me. It's just a shame the RSPB have greatly reduced some of the access, and you can no longer circumnavigate the whole marsh, but I fully understand the reasoning behind this, which is basically habitat and breeding bird protection - and this brings me nicely on to the real subject of this blogpost - Schedule 1 birds.

I toyed with idea of not posting this blogpost due to its photographic content - Bearded Tits. For those not in the know Bearded Tits are listed as a Schedule 1 species and are given additional protection by law during the breeding season and this includes the photographing of them, so why have I chosen to post photographs of Bearded Tits on here then? Why, because I didn't do anything wrong, and I wanted to use the images as a way of highlighting the list of Schedule 1 birds as we enter the start of the breeding season - it's still surprising how many birders/photographers are not aware (or are just plain ignorant) of which birds are on this list. So hopefully by blogging about the subject, along with the addition of a couple of nice supporting images, it might just make somebody think twice about their actions in the coming months, however innocent it might seem.

In this instance I was positioned behind a purpose built screen, where I could hear and see at least four birds flying over the top of the reedbed, when a male Bearded Tit broke away from the group and landed in the reeds just metres away from where I was standing, as a typical camera carrying birder I did the most natural thing I know in the world - I lifted my camera and fired off a dozen shots, pleased with the resulting images I started to question my conscience and thought about whether I have should have done that? But my over riding feeling was yes, it was just an opportunist moment, there was no pursuing of the bird, no tape-luring, no disturbance, just a pure and simple opportunity to photograph a wonderful subject and I took it - as anybody else in my situation would have done. But had I purposely approached the bird too closely, maybe entering into its natural habitat away from the main path and thus causing the bird to change its natural behaviour - then yes, this would be crossing the line and totally unacceptable and deemed a criminal offence, potentially punishable with a large fine or even a prison sentence. These are fine lines but ones that need to be followed and adhered to if we are not to ultimately disturb any breeding bird and especially those on the Schedule 1 list.

There is the question of potentially highlighting the breeding site of these birds by posting their location on this blog, but you don't have to be a genius to work out that where you have a large expanse of reedbed on a marsh in east anglia, there's a good chance you will also have Bearded Tits and Cetti's Warbler and possibly a Kingfisher and maybe even a Barn Owl - all birds which appear on that important Schedule 1 list.

Male, Bearded Reedling

Male, Bearded Reedling

Male, Bearded Reedling

Here is the full list of birds which are classed as Schedule 1. There is the feeling that this list is a little out of touch with recent breeding bird trends, but until such time this list is officially updated we all need to respect the birds which appear on it.

Bittern, Little
Bunting, Cirl
Bunting, Lapland
Bunting, Snow
Buzzard, Honey
Capercaillie (in Scotland)
Crake, Spotted
Crossbill (all species)
Diver (all species)
Duck, Long-tailed
Eagle, Golden
Eagle, White-tailed
Godwit, Black-tailed
Grebe, Black-necked
Grebe, Slavonian
Gull, Little
Gull, Mediterranean
Harriers (all species)
Heron, Purple
Kite, Red
Oriole, Golden
Owl, Barn
Owl, Snowy
Petrel, Leach’s
Phalarope, Red-necked
Plover, Kentish
Plover, Little Ringed
Quail, Common
Redstart, Black
Rosefinch, Scarlet
Sandpiper, Green
Sandpiper, Purple
Sandpiper, Wood
Scoter, Common
Scoter, Velvet
Shrike, Red-backed
Stilt, Black-winged
Stint, Temminck’s
Stone Curlew
Swan, Bewick’s
Swan, Whooper
Tern, Black
Tern, Little
Tern, Roseate
Tit, Bearded
Tit, Crested
Treecreeper, Short-toed
Warbler, Cetti’s
Warbler, Dartford
Warbler, Marsh
Warbler, Savi’s

Further information and guidance regarding the Schedule 1 list of birds, including photographing and the potential disturbance of those birds during the breeding season can be found here.

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