Liz found the following post on a herp forum board and I thought it would be suitable for posting here, as well, it does pertain to Whooping cranes. Unfortunately, it also illustrates the measures that someone would consider going to to get a better photograph of a Whooping crane.
Post subject: Whooping Crane Question & photos
Alright so I wanted to ask the opinion of some bird savvy folk about an idea thats popped into my head… Its kind of silly, feel free to laugh or tell me if its a bad idea, thats why I am asking.
So I know of an general area where a whooping crane is hanging out, i saw him/her 2 weeks ago and then yesterday I visited again and it was pretty much in the exact same place. I’d love to get some photos but the issue is its super skittish and in a wide open area where it can see pretty far in all directions. I tried approaching behind a line of trees while crouching down but it spotted me and was visibly and audibly agitated and began to retreat so I backed away.
Now I wish I could afford a super lens that I could get some shots with, but it just so happens I don’t have $10,000 sitting around and if I did have $10k i wouldn’t be spending it on a lens either. I have my 400mm and thats it. That leaves the other option which is to get closer. So I started thinking about how do I responsibly do this? Setting up a blind, maybe… but its kind of an open area and it might be tough predicting where the crane will be in that area. But then I had another idea, if it works its almost easier than the blind. Many of us have seen photos of the suits people wear while working with whooping cranes, the suit is usually a billowy white thing that breaks up the human shape, sometimes there is an appendage resembling a cranes head. If you have not seen such a suit the first photo at this link shows an example.
My thoughts are as follows…. It would be really easy to make a suit like that out of a random white sheet which I already have around the house. This might allow me to approach the cranes more closely without disturbing them and Id potentially be able to photograph the cranes from the suit. Now im not saying I want to get as close as the biologist in the photo in the link, I certainly dont. I have a 400 mm lens and I intend to use it, 40 ft or so would be more than close enough but I was thinking more like 60-80.
Now here is why im posting on here… The whooping crane is a sensitive species and I dont want to disturb it. The subjects welfare is more important than any photo. The crane isn’t nesting or anything, if it was I wouldn’t even consider this. But I wanted to get some opinions and thoughts on whether this would be an ecologically responsible thing to do? I don’t see how this would harm the bird, if my costume wasn’t convincing enough and was stressing the crane then well Id just stop approaching and move away. So tell me if im missing something. If someone says its a bad idea and has a reasonable explanation as to why then thats it, i wont consider it any further.
Thanks for bearing with me. Thoughts/opinions?
Here are some heavily cropped sub-par images I was able to get. 2 different cranes in 2 different areas, I’d attempt to approach the one in the first area if I do this, the second one is in a pretty unapproachable area.
This is SO NOT a good idea. According to your Flickr biography you are a university student double majoring in Biology and Conservation & Environmental Science. This would tend to lead one to assume you are educated and knowledgeable about conservation and the environment. It appalls me that you are asking the above question and it saddens me that a closer photograph is, in your opinion, more valuable to you than a Whooping crane in the wild.
This is why the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) and it’s founding members cannot stress enough – when you are lucky enough to see whooping cranes, please do not approach them closely, even in a vehicle, to avoid habituating the birds to human presence. Habituation is one of the greatest dangers that whooping cranes face because it puts them at greater risk from vehicle collisions, predation, and illegal shooting.
Raising these incredible birds is not an easy task and it takes the efforts of many. Guiding them along a 1200-mile migration route from Wisconsin to Florida in 50-mile increments takes months. Every hour we spend in costume, slugging through the marsh is an investment in their future wildness. The people that wear the costumes, designed to mask out human form, consider it a privilege to be able to work with this species that very nearly plummeted over the edge of extinction. Our names are listed on a permit, issued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, allowing us this honor.
PLEASE do not attempt to make a costume to approach this, or any other crane. You could very well find yourself facing some hefty fines like the ‘professional photographer’ in this story did.