Birders’ Code of Conduct

HOS has drawn up a Code of Conduct which we ask our members to adhere to – and we hope anyone watching birds in Hampshire (and elsewhere) will do their best to put the birds’ interest first.

Over the past few years there have been an increasing number of incidents involving birders, photographers and other nature enthusiasts that has resulted in displacement of protected (schedule 1) breeding species and harassment of important wintering species. For example, in January 2019 alone, wintering birds deliberately disturbed included Purple Sandpiper, two Short-eared Owl, three Hen Harrier and a White-tailed Eagle.

As a result of this we are issuing a new county wide Code of Conduct. Alongside this we are also recommending a series of actions to take if you witness selfish or illegal activity.  We appreciate that most birders in Hampshire set excellent examples of behaviour. But in the interests of the welfare of our amazing birds, this code seeks to remind us all of how important it is to put the birds first.

As a Hampshire birder, photographer or nature enthusiast I agree:

  • To avoid taking photos of protected (schedule 1) breeding species at their territories/nest sites.  Noting that it is a criminal offence to do so without a licence.*
  • To avoid playing recordings of any breeding species near nest sites/territories during the spring and summer months-unless for an approved scientific study.
  • To avoid repeated flushing or disturbance of vagrant or migrant species.
  • To keep at a sensible distance from wintering wader, goose and duck flocks to avoid deliberately flushing.
  • Not enter a private or restricted area without express permission of the site owner.
  • To keep to public rights of way across farmland.
  • To abide at all times by the instructions of a reserve warden or site manager.
  • To avoid walking off designated paths in sensitive areas (such as the New Forest Heaths) during the breeding season.
  • To assume a closed gate is meant to be closed and an open gate is meant to be left open unless a sign says otherwise.
  • To keep dogs on leads at all times in or near a nature reserve or protected area and abide by all relevant signage on dog restrictions.
  • To keep at a sensible distance from wintering wader, goose and duck flocks to avoid deliberately flushing (more info here)

Finally…..Think of other people first-and remember that we want to encourage people of all ages and abilities to enjoy and engage with nature.  So avoid hogging the window to get a best photo or view-at the expense of others who are patiently waiting to look. And be patient with those who know less than you.

*Natural England do issue a limited number of licences for photographs of Schedule 1 species. It is advised that licenced activity takes place in areas where the photographer is unlikely to encounter other members of the public.

We realise that this code of conduct will not be enough to address a “hard core” who are determined to break the law to get up close and personal with rarer species.  So the additional comments are addressing that group and are designed to help the rest of us know what to do:

  • If you witness bad behaviour; such as flushing a tired migrant or playing a tape lure-challenge politely but directly. Back away if you feel threatened.
  • If you witness behaviour that you believe is illegal; contact the police immediately. Call 101 and ask for Hampshire Country Watch Team.
  • If you know the person involved in the illegal behaviour, name and shame. Photographers posting photos obtained through illegal disturbance can be barred from posting on designated sites and can also be prosecuted.
  • Without risking your own welfare, try to obtain photos of any illegal activity as that can be used in a prosecution. (NB no photos of those under 18).
  • Finally, be aware that the various nature conservation groups in Hampshire will be taking a ZERO TOLERANCE approach to the deliberate disturbance of threatened, declining, roosting, protected or vagrant species. This will include the right of HOS to terminate membership of anyone known to be repeatedly violating the agreed Code of Conduct.

Bird welfare must always come first.  Birders welfare comes second.

Code of Conduct for looking after our birds this year

We would like you to really enjoy nature this year!   Hampshire has some of Britain’s rarest breeding and wintering birds.  Over the past few years there has been increased disturbance.   If we are to protect birdlife for future generations to enjoy, then we all need to abide by a simple Code of Conduct.

  • Please keep to public footpaths and rights of way wherever possible and avoid walking off-path across sensitive areas of land in the breeding season-such as the New Forest.
  • Please obey signage; including dogs on leads, shut the gate and keep out signs.
  • Please keep your dog on a lead in places where there may be rare breeding birds or where there are large flocks of wintering ducks, geese and waders.
  • Please no photography in or near the breeding sites of protected, sensitive or threatened birds.  In some cases, this is a criminal offence.

Always follow the instructions of a farmer, warden or ranger when you are on their land.  It is often for your own safety.

If you witness behaviour which you think could be illegal; then please dial 101 and ask for Hampshire Country Watch team.