CODE OF CONDUCT
CODE OF GOOD CONDUCT GOYARCYL (Birding guides & rural accommodation CyL)
Code of good conduct for the observer of birds and other fauna.
Based on the Ethical code for birdwatchers SEO/ Birdlife.
1. The wellbeing of the birds is always paramount.
Whether you are a ringer, a nature photographer, a scientist or simply a birdwatcher, you should be aware that the birds’ wellbeing ALWAYS comes first.
This should always be our maxim. Whatever activity which could interfere in a birds life should be carried out with this in mind. If we see that our presence or activity may be a disturbance or cause a problem for a bird we should retire or cease, at least until the situation is resolved. In case of any doubt we will take all necessary precautions and follow an option that does not generate any problem for the birds. There are many different cases of disturbances or negative impacts which we may cause and which are listed below.
Not all species tolerate at the same level the disturbances generated by humans. Below is a list of some practical points which should be borne in mind when attempting to ensure a maximum respect towards birds:
· For the observation of any species, especially those most sensitive to human presence (Black Stork, Purple Heron, Eagle Owl), those which suffer persecution from the hand of men (Wolf, Grey Partridge) or those whose populations are threatened (Capercaillie, Bonelli’s Eagle, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Dupont’s Lark, Black or Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers) we should limit observation areas to lookout points, existing paths and dirt tracks and make sure we do not produce an alteration in their behaviour.
· We shall in no case use recordings of birdcall to attract birds, especially during the breeding season. Outside the breeding season, during environmental and birdwatching educational activities, and with due care, use of birdcall limited to common passerines well accustomed to humans such as tits, nuthatches etc. may be acceptable.
· In the case of use of feeding and drinking stations as attractors to observe birds, we should ensure that they are not exposed to a greater risk than their proper hunger or thirst. Capture of wild birds is still common and many adults and children would indulge in this if they knew how to attract birds.
· We shall not offer to show nests except under strictly secure conditions, either due to their obvious inaccessibility or because they are situated in guarded areas. We will only show nests of cliff-nesting birds in places with similar secure characteristics such as the famous El Salto del Gitano or Portilla del Tietar in Extremadura. For tree-nesting species, we will limit observation to colonial birds such as white stork and grey heron, and always at such a distance as to avoid alteration of their conduct. We should under no circumstances show the nests of raptors built in trees. We never know who may be watching us. To disclose the nest of a buzzard or kite could mean its destruction by hunters.
· For the observation of waders and wildfowl we will preferably choose wetlands with hides and marked paths which are integrated into the daily life of the birds and the use of which do not generate alterations in their conduct.
· All companies and persons dedicated to birdwatching tourism should avoid using photographs of nests or chicks, especially those which could disclose their situation, in promotional or informative material. A reasonable exception could be urban photographs of white storks or photos taken from hides or interpretative centres or other guarded installations which ensure the security of the birds.
2. Protection of the habitat must be a priority.
Habitat is vital for birds, so all our activities must be respectful and cause no damage whatsoever. We must always leave it in the same condition in which we found it, and if possible, contribute to its improvement.
It is obvious that whatever alteration in habitat may influence the birds as well as the rest of the elements which form part of the ecosystem and its biodiversity. Good conservation of habitat is essential for the wellbeing of birds. As birdwatchers there are a series of actions which we can undertake to contribute to conservation and improvement of birds’ habitats during our outings:
· At all times we will behave in a civil manner and shall be an example of respect in our surroundings.
· We shall not leave anything behind.
· We shall attempt to improve the cleanliness of the spaces we visit.
· We shall not damage the flora or other natural elements of our surroundings, either by collecting or moving or displacing them. We should not turn over stones to look for amphibians and reptiles. This simple interference may cause them the loss of their home or refuge.
· On our routes we will attempt to stay on paths and tracks, walking as little as possible outside of them. From there we will allow the bird to freely approach as close as it likes. Often this brings surprising results.
· We shall not be noisy. Whatever loud noise, including our voice, may provoke the surrounding fauna to flee.
3. We will avoid altering the behaviour of animals.
A bird’s tolerance of human disturbance differs in each species and depends on the time of year. We should try not to disturb them at any time, but especially during the breeding season, as we may provoke them to abandon their nest, resulting in the loss of clutch or brood. The same occurs in winter, when adverse weather conditions cause energy loss which is difficult to compensate. We should also be especially careful during migration and anywhere where migrant birds rest to regain strength before they continue on their journeys.
The best way of knowing if we are disturbing a bird is to check if it is changing its usual behaviour because of our presence or activities. For somebody with little or no experience it is difficult to know when this change in behaviour occurs, but for the experienced eye this moment can be fairly precisely predicted before it happens, so it is important that those who do know should teach others to identify these signals. A bird which leaves its resting place, flies away from us, stops feeding, deserts its nest, shows signs of excitement or simply starts to look at us nervously, is a bird which feels threatened: this indicates that our presence is not welcome and we should retire.
This precept is without doubt one of the most important in this code of conduct, as it refers to many forms of actions which cause disturbance, there being cases of special consequence because they affect birds at vital moments and circumstances in which they are particularly sensitive:
· Nesting birds: Birds are especially sensitive at this time in their life cycle so we should be extremely cautious. We shall not approach nests, and if we inadvertently pass by we should remain as little time as possible. Obviously eggs or chicks must never be touched or taken. Breeding colonies should be avoided as disturbance to one bird may result in the entire colony leaving their nests and exposing them to grave risk.
· Birds during courtship: During courtship we shall reject all use of decoys or playback to attract their attention. The energy loss involved in responding to these decoys, exposal to predators and possible desertion of the territory are an unacceptable risk for a respectful observer.
· Migrant birds: Migrant birds which have stopped to rest or feed must never be disturbed. They are generally in a precarious state and need rest in order to gain strength and continue on their journey; any extra activity may be fatal to them. We should be especially mindful of flocks, as when a few birds fly the rest will follow.
· Roosts: The same precautions apply as with nesting or resting migrant birds and we should keep our distance. A daytime bird frightened off its roost may suffer a mortal accident by colliding with an electric cable, or choose a new roost which exposes it to predators or disturbances which impede its rest and chances of recuperation.
· Feeble birds: In storms or snowfall the security distance should be augmented with birds, especially when they don’t fly away when approached. They are probably unable to escape due to weakness and our presence can lead to “one last effort” which could prove lethal to them.
4. When we find an endangered bird, we should inform with care.
If you find an endangered species which is breeding and you think it requires protection, you should inform SEO/BirdLife as soon as possible, in any of its offices. We shall avoid giving details of its exact location to other circles, especially those susceptible of using the information to collect the eggs or try to capture the bird (alive or dead). These incidents of breeding provide very important information for the knowledge and protection of the species. The area in which it is breeding should not be visited during this period.
Species of birds which are under threat (in danger, vulnerable, etc.: there are various categories in the Red Book of Birds in Spain) often present scarce or very local populations. Any disturbance or alteration of their surroundings may endanger their survival, especially when breeding, as it is an extremely vulnerable period. To know their whereabouts is essential in order for authorised specialists to be able to monitor them and supervise their welfare. This rule also emphasises the need to inform the competent authorities of those birds which we come across that have fallen victim to negative impacts such as traffic, electrocutions, poisoning, illegal hunting, nest robbing, damage to the environment, etc.; in this way we can point out sources of impact for the birds and take measures for their correction. The recommendation of not visiting an area during breeding obviously does not apply to the authorities responsible for the monitoring of these birds to determine the success or not of the nesting, although they too must apply extreme caution in their visits so as not to cause any disturbance.
5. We should not beset vagrant or rare species.
Vagrant or rare birds should not be disturbed. If we find one, we should contact SEO/BirdLife via its email so that it can be evaluated by their Rare Bird committee. In any case, we shall try to exercise the greatest discretion. A large number of birdwatchers arriving at the area may cause distress to a bird which could be exhausted after a draining journey. In the same way if we think it is an exotic species we can contact the Exotic Bird Group at SEO/BirdLife via their email email@example.com.
The observation of rarities or vagrant birds is a very attractive activity as it is always gratifying to see novelties amongst the local avifauna. In recent times, with the spread of internet, this activity has notably increased and many birders turn up to see rarities which appear anywhere in the country. There have been cases of, in order to gain evidence of their presence, (photographic, a good viewpoint for an adequate description and even the capture of the bird for ringing), inacceptable pressure produced by the observers. In these cases the welfare of the bird is paramount, as stated in point nº1 of this code. Also, we should bear in mind that these birds have arrived in our territory after a difficult journey or because of adverse weather conditions and they are weak and in poor physical condition, for which they need to be left alone in order to recover. It is vitally important to send information to the Rare Birds Committee as this work group produces the List of Birds of Spain. With information sent by other observers a general pattern of the birds’ presence throughout our territory can be established, and ultimately a better understanding of these and the areas that receive them. Exotic birds often interfere with resident species, which makes it all the more important to send information to the GAE (Exotic Bird Group).
6. Comply at all times with the current regulations on bird protection.
Birds are protected by law (Law 42/2007 Natural Heritage and Biodiversity). This is thanks to the work of various generations of birdwatchers, scientists and bird lovers.
As well as Spanish and European legislation, there are also local regulations which affect Autonomous Communities and specific protected natural spaces. In the latter case, it is advisable to seek information before visiting them. As some of these laws have been written in such a way as to be ambiguous, if in doubt we should apply the most prudent and respectful interpretation towards the birds and their environment in order to guarantee their wellbeing. We should not think that because of our knowledge and good intentions we have the right to a more lax and permissive interpretation of the law than others; rules should always be the same for all.
7. Respect the rights of the landowners.
The rights of the owners of the land on which we wish to enter should always be respected. We should not enter without prior permission and to not stray from the permitted paths and tracks is essential for the conservation of species.
To access private land without permission may constitute a crime. We can also generate problems for the birds which inhabit the area. A ranch with little human transit, being private, may favour the establishment of nesting birds or populations which in other areas would find more difficulties. To enter suddenly might cause damage or disturbances if the territory is unknown, for this reason it is essential to keep to footpaths or enter accompanied by the owner.
8. Respect the rights of other people in the area of observation.
When we coincide with others in the observation zone, we should take into account that they have the same rights as us to enjoy the natural environment and the birdlife.
Birdwatching is an activity which can be undertaken in all kinds of areas, and, generally, it is normal for other people to be watching birds or doing other activities. These people may be performing professional activities or hobbies. We should at all times respect others’ activities, not obstruct the way nor exclusively occupy certain areas and avoid causing any kind of nuisance. If the other people are also birdwatchers, we should be discreet and not disturb them, both on arrival and on departure, e.g. on entering or leaving a hide or an observation point. We shall not be noisy nor shall we pass in front of their line of vision. It goes without saying that we should never frighten off the birds they are observing (which would also go against point nº 1 of this code). In agricultural areas it is important not to block tracks, paths or entrances with our vehicles, as a farmer will probably need to make use of them. If we stray far from our vehicle they may lose valuable time trying to find us in order to move it. In the observation areas we may find agricultural equipment or an object which belongs to the locals, especially in rural areas. Even if it obstructs our view we cannot justify removing it without the owner’s permission, and if we do move it aside, we must replace it before we depart. Acting respectfully and magnanimously towards others contributes to giving a positive image of birders in general.
9. Share your sightings with other local birders.
Much of our present knowledge of species comes from sightings voluntarily shared by many bird watchers. For this reason it would be convenient that your sightings be added to others in order to achieve a better understanding for a greater protection and conservation of birds.
Evidently, this is a recommendation and not an obligation, but it has to be said that reporting sightings and information adds data which contributes to conservation. Frequently we believe that to reveal certain information (nests, presence of scarce birds, etc.) can be counterproductive for those birds, however there are many cases of areas being destroyed because their value was not known. Furthermore, it is often thought that the data we obtain is of no scientific value: not so, as in many cases, monitoring and the subsequent knowledge gained from these, especially of the most common birds, stem from a wide base of collaborators (not necessarily experts) who provide local sightings, which, linked to many others, form a more global data base of great value (see examples such as the Atlas, SACRE, NOCTUA programmes, etc. in the SEO/BirdLife web under section Seguimiento de Aves: www.seguimientodeaves.com).
10. Behave as you would have others behave in your area.
Good behaviour and following these simple rules turns birdwatchers into ambassadors for the conservation of birds and their habitats.
The best way of spreading this code of conduct and to achieve respect for our collective is, without doubt, by setting a good example. These rules and suggestions are of course applicable to all areas.
GUIDELINES TO FOLLOW BY MEMBERS OF GOYARCYL WITH RURAL ACCOMMODATION
Rural hotels and cottages should be responsible for the sustainability of their establishments in relation to the conservation of the culture and ecology of the territory and should comply with the following points:
- We shall not use dissected birds or animals as decorative elements.
- We shall avoid keeping caged birds and/or any exotic species.
- We shall comply with the corresponding regulations regarding: noise; spills; hazardous waste… We shall minimize waste production and will separate products for their subsequent processing, as long as the village or locality has the appropriate recycling containers for this waste material.
- We will avoid materials that contain noxious substances.
- We will choose where possible materials and products which are natural and organic and are certified as guaranteeing an environment-friendly processing.
- We will indicate in which languages we can attend clients.
- We will facilitate: maps and leaflets with information on paths, birding and nature routes, bird observatories, viewpoints and recommended places to observe fauna, nature interpretation centres, visitor centres, museums, etc.
- We shall keep a basic library of birds in general and of the area or region.
- We will use the Goyarcyl companies to offer guided routes with local nature guides, or will give out their contact details.