05/03/2014
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Changes to photograph submission rules during the breeding season

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Since 2011, BirdGuides has imposed an automatic 'blanket ban' on photos of birds on Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 taken between 1st March and 30th June inclusive [update: now extended to 31st July at the request of the Rare Birds Breeding Panel], unless the bird has been reported on our bird news services. Many of you will be familiar with this procedure. After receiving plenty of comments — both positive and negative — regarding our stance over the past few years, the new management team made it a priority to revisit the rules in time for 2014's breeding season. We recognise that there are some downsides to the imposition of a 'blanket ban', with many Schedule 1 species being photographed well away from nesting areas and in perfectly safe, disturbance-free conditions. As a result, we have spent some time assessing each species on the Schedule 1 list on its individual merits in order to come to a logical, sensible and fair position for each.

We acknowledge that species' statuses are constantly changing, and that the inclusion of some species on the list is now irrelevant. Similarly, there are other, recently colonizing, species (most notably Great White Egret) that are missing from the list. Below you will find our new categorisation of species on Schedule 1, based on our own analysis and opinion of their current status in Britain (and their vulnerability and susceptibility to disturbance). We hope that our readers — and indeed birders and photographers — agree that the decisions we have made make sense and, without jeopardizing the welfare of species, offer a more pragmatic approach to that adopted in the past. At the same time, we recognize that no method is ever going to be perfect (or entirely objective), but we believe the new guidance, explained below, is both more appropriate and up-to-date.

Before explaining the changes, we'd like to draw all contributors to the attention of some of our long-standing photograph submission guidelines:

  • Consider using "undisclosed site" if a location is sensitive, private or the subject is a rare breeding bird.
  • We generally won't feature pictures of birds, eggs or fledglings taken at the nest, nor pictures of captive birds.
  • Photographs of rare breeding birds will only be accepted where there is unlikely to have been any disturbance, or the photographer holds a current Schedule 1 licence. Such a licence is needed when photographing rare breeding birds at the nest or their dependent young.

We hope it is clear that, although we have removed a significant proportion of species from the banned list, we nevertheless consider birds' welfare as top priority. Therefore, we still reserve the right to decline to publish any uploaded photograph, without notice or explanation.

Species to which a full ban is still applicable

Due to the generally sensitive nature of a significant proportion of species on the Schedule 1 list, a full ban on photos taken from 1st March until 31st July inclusive, will still apply to the following species. Note that the ban will not apply to individuals of these species that have been reported on our news services, and photos of those birds may be approved for the galleries.

Three of our own additions are as follows:

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Species to which a delayed ban is applicable

One of the most common observations made in recent years has concerned the rejection of some Schedule 1 species photographs clearly taken on wintering/non-breeding grounds early in the season. To allow for this, we have delayed the embargo for the following species until 1st April (and continuing until 31st July, as above):

Species removed from the ban list

The remainder of species on the Schedule 1 list have been removed from the BirdGuides 'blanket ban' list. There were many reasons for these removals, varying between individual species. Some, such as Bewick's Swan and Velvet Scoter, are not applicable in a British context as they do not breed here (at least with any regularity). Others — including passage waders such as Ruff, Greenshank and Green Sandpiper — are primarily non-breeding visitors or passage migrants and are therefore almost always photographed with little risk to breeding success. Similarly, some species, though breeding, are now much commoner than they once were and are routinely available to photograph from public hides at nature reserves across the country. Finally, some species will now be judged on individual merits — for example, Black-tailed Godwit has been removed from the list as we acknowledge the vast majority are non-breeding birds of Icelandic origin. We will, however, continue not to publish Continental birds on breeding grounds in the galleries.

When will the new rules take effect?

The modified rules have been applied as of today, 5 March 2014. We hope that our changes are both proportionate and clear. If you have any comments or questions, please do not hesitate to email us.

We reserve the right to reject or amend photographs (and their accompanying text) at our discretion and without notice.

Written by: BirdGuides