Websailor's Wacky Wildlife World: Keeping an Eagle Eye on a Little One

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A quirky look at wildlife. To be taken with a pinch of
salt, but with more than a grain of truth!

Keeping an Eagle Eye on a Little One

Recently an academic stated that filming the 'private moments' of animals and birds - mating, giving birth or dying - is invading their privacy! Now, I would go along with that up to a point if the filming is intrusive, or makes them behave differently, but providing it is done discreetly and with a minimum of fuss I can see no harm in it, and we learn an unimaginable amount from such nature filming.

I really don't think we can equate animal or bird reactions with that of our own - after all cameras, film, video, TV and the internet mean nothing to them. Most don't recognise themselves in a mirror, so I doubt they suffer embarrassment, though I firmly believe they feel just about every other human emotion and pain.

If there is anything wrong with it, then I am as guilty as the famous film makers. Not only do I film badgers and foxes without their knowledge or consent (at least knowledge as we know it) but I also watch migrating Whooping cranes in America, thanks to technology, and more recently the wonderful progress of a Bald eagle family in Canada. I am, along with many thousands of others, spellbound watching at close quarters the growth of an eaglet, cared for tenderly by committed monogamous parents who would shame many a human. Watching it grow from a small ball of fluff to a gangling 'teenager' with feet and beak too big is priceless. As for its pooping skills, well some humans could learn the lesson of 'not messing in your own nest' from him!

The eagles in question showed a very comical fascination at the appearance of the camera in the first instance, but have ignored it ever since. The same goes for the badgers and foxes in my garden. They are aware of it, often have a close look, a sniff and a nudge, but have no understanding of it and do not see it as a threat.

Nor would I have known about Pale Male, a male Red-tailed Hawk nesting in the heart of New York City, USA, to the delight of some and the horror of others! Like many birds they can be a bit messy!

There are many other such webcams set up for the education and entertainment of humans around the world, but also for the protection of endangered wildlife. The more pairs of eyes watching 24/7 the less chance there is of a marauding human for example, illegally collecting eggs or killing fledglings and destroying nests. Even less chance of them getting away with it.

I really do wonder sometimes why such clever people find such inane subjects to focus on, and who funds them, when so many dreadful things are happening in the world that really need our attention.

We have learnt so much thanks to wildlife photographers, film makers and their teams, and I would suggest that the BBC Natural History Unit is one of the best. I know that sometimes they have to use devious means to show us some things they have seen, but that is often in order not to disturb the subjects of their documentaries. I would also question whether animals do object to us watching them, as they will often 'perform' knowingly if they are aware of our interest, as our badgers and foxes do.

Of course many will choose to mate, give birth and die in what we would regard as privacy, but that is more to protect themselves from numerous predators than mere prying eyes.

We know so much about wildlife now that we almost take that knowledge for granted, but how did we gain such insight? Certainly not from sitting on a river bank in the dark, freezing in a tent in the Arctic /Antarctic, canoeing up the Amazon or swinging from the trees in a rainforest. We have not been bitten or stung, become wet, frozen or baked in hot sun as we seek such intimate information. We have left those delights to the men and women brave enough to take those risks in order to learn more about endangered species, and indeed new species. It is they who have brought that knowledge to us as we lounge in wonder on our sofas.

Personally, I would prefer that we left such travels to those who can make most use of the opportunities, rather than see so many areas, as in Africa for instance, all safari-ed out with buses and 4x4s racing to corner big cats and other animals to get a closer view for their clients. Understandable maybe, but in my opinion that is far more invasive of their 'privacy' than any secreted wildlife camera or photographer. Eco tourism is a valuable source of income to many countries but it has to be controlled in order to protect the habitat and the wildlife from unwarranted intrusions in to their lives. So perhaps there is a glimmer of sense in the academic's thoughts, but did it really need 'a study' to work that out?

I am afraid it will not stop me watching badgers with a night vision scope, or following the growth and development of a fluffy, clumsy eaglet (via webcam) in a Bald eagle nest somewhere in Canada or a Red tailed Hawk in New York. Such chances don't come to the likes of me and I would never have had the pleasure but for technology and the passionate wildlife protectors who allowed us to share the 'private' life of such creatures in such inaccessible places.

I hope you enjoy the insight these links will give you.

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