[Ontbirds]Jarvis Black-necked Stilts

hugh currie hcurrie at ca.inter.net
Wed Jun 16 18:20:43 EDT 2004


Tom Cosburn has asked me to post this note for him because he does not
have internet access. Mark Cranford asks that any further discussion be
made privately because the subject  violates Ontbirds rules.  He does
ask that that information about any nesting birds be general if given at
all. What follows is Tom's letter.                    Hugh Currie
"Dear Fellow Birders:
    I am saddened to hear of the desertion of Ontario's first nesting
Black-necked Stilts. From what I have heard, I seem to be blamed for
this and have been targeted as the culprit for this most unfortunate
loss. This concerns me greatly.
    I feel I must explain what happened so as not to take the blame
here. According to my accuser, I was at the Jarvis sewage lagoons on
June 4/04 at 12:00 noon. That is correct, I arrived at the lagoons at 12
noon but sat in my car (a blue 1992 Cavalier) and ate my lunch. I walked
up to the lagoon at 12:15 pm. When I  reached the top of the lagoon, I
could already hear the stilts calling (a loud yipping call - the male's
call seemed to be lower pitched). The stilts were circling above the far
corner of the lagoon (away from far end of the lagoon, AWAY from  the
treeline that separates the nesting lagoon from the public lagoon). I
walked halfway down the lagoon (along the treeline) and (with my
parabolic mike which my accuser also clearly saw), made my recording
quickly and succinctly. On the far corner (which was the REAL CAUSE of
the stilts' agitation) was a tall man (about 6' 2" with curly
reddish-blond hair wearing glasses, aged about 45-50 and wearing a plaid
jacket) with an extremely expensive camera lens. He was rummaging about
the shoreline. I could see him parting the vegetation with his hands
(obviously searching for the nest) and the stilts were dive-bombing him
briefly, but then just flew about 5 meters above the water yipping
loudly. The closest I was to the stilts was maybe 20-25 meters, while
this mystery photographer was practically on top of them.
    The one difficult part of my defence is tht my accuser could clearly
see me from the other lagoon (along the treeline) but could not see the
photographer who was farther down and out of sight from the public
lagoon. To this day I do not know where the nest was, and I don't want
to know. I'll leave the research up to the professionals. I went there
to record the bird's call (which, with my equipment can be accomplished
easily from a 200 meter distance). Furthermore, if I was the one that
alarmed the stilts, then how come they did not dive-bomb me???  Indeed I
feel like Dr. Richard Kimble trying to find his elusive one-armed man.!!
It has been asked why I didn't talk to this man about bothering the
nest, but I was afraid of walking over to the nest area and being seen
by someone else and also be blamed. (a lot of good that did, because
right now it appears my name is mud). Also this man was obviously on
foot, as I saw no car and must assume that he lived in the Jarvis area.
I left at 12:30 pm and had a cold drink in my car  ( it was said
correctly by my accuser that he saw the same person in the car).
    I must put forward a few questions in my defence. Firstly, if I was
the person that disturbed these birds (which I was not), then who is to
say I alone am to blame? The person that found the nest originally must
have disturbed the birds, and this must have taken some time. (I was at
the lagoon perhaps 15 minutes tops). Also other "professionals" have
been back to photograph the nest (for documentation purposes) days
before I made my visit. Would not they have disturbed the stilts also?
My visit was on Friday June 4, but the stilts were seen on Saturday,
June 5 by Garth Riley and his family.  So if the birds deserted the area
because of me, why would they still be there on Saturday? The fact of
the matter is that this photographer got away with "nest espionage"
clean and quick and I am left taking the rap. I have been birding for 30
years and I have been making sound recordings for 25 years, and I know
enough  when to keep my distance, and have also studied the nidiology of
many birds.
    Finally it has been said that the grass around the lagoon was cut or
mowed. This indeed would deter the nesting attempts of any
ground-nesting species. Remember the mowing of the alfalfa fields around
Morpeth during the late spring of 2000? That destroyed a few nests of
the rare Dickcissel.
    I cannot think of anything else to say in my defence, except that I
did not cause the stilts to take flight and dive-bomb nor did I approach
the nest. I did not know even know where the nest was. This mystery
photographer was the cause but only I saw him. So I guess it's my word
against my accuser.
    I am sorry for what happened but am not going to take the blame for
sometimg I didn't do.
                                                Yours sincerely,
                                                Tom Cosburn 416-241-1396

PS I challenge my accuser to phone me and clear the air."

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