Impact of disturbed and lost habitats

If you have been following me a while then you will know I am often irritated by tourists who attempt to photograph flocks of roosting or feeding birds with their phones, basic cameras or worst of all iPads. The inadequacy of the lenses means they walk closer and closer to the birds, until surprise surprise they take to flight.

Disturbed by a woman with an iPad!

It doesn’t matter too much if it is urban pigeons you are photographing but if waders and/or flamingos experience this regularly it will have a hugely detrimental impact. MrB and myself will never get really close to the birds, as thanks to an excellent set of binoculars and a camera with an 83x optical lens we can easily observe from quite a distance away. We will also when we can attempt to blend in with the environment, and there are occasions when we deliberately decide not to stop and observe as we are aware the birds are restless. You can therefore can imagine my annoyance with individuals who deliberately cause the birds to take off all in the name of a good photograph or those who see nothing wrong in allowing their pets or themselves to run or walk through roosting and feeding areas.

Taking flight
Disturbed by a couple walking through the middle of a roosting area

Unfortunately though even worse things have occurred recently in the saltpans to the west of Olhão da Restauração, which seem to be having an even bigger impact on the birds. Two of the footpaths/sea walls have been repaired. Doesn’t sound too bad does it, and I admit they were at risk at eroding into the sea and so repairs were a necessity. However it is the manner in which they have been repaired which has caused our concerns. The next two galleries include before and after photographs.

Large machinery was used to move the rocks and soils from another part of the saltpans to the sections needing repair, and to get the machinery onto the paths they had to widen them. And there lies the problem. In widening they have removed much of the vegetation which was protecting the birds from both the prevailing winds and the ever increasing tourist activity. Areas which were once filled with birds at high tide now lie empty, and thanks to a month of no rain the damaged vegetation which remains is struggling to stay alive.

I am sure in a couple of years much of it will have returned, but in the meantime this change to the habitat combined with increasing numbers of tourists here could have a significant impact on bird numbers in the medium to long term. It is so unfortunate, as it could have easily have been avoided if more care had been taken. I can only hope it rains very soon as waders need a place to roost.

Pre widening
Pre widening you can see the vegetation on the path to far left of picture

I also hope that you will help me get a message out to a wider audience by sharing with friends, family and on social media the importance of respecting nesting, roosting and feeding areas. Maybe share this post, or simply have a conversation with one person this week about why we should not try not to get too close to the birds and should never deliberately disturb the birds. As more and more of us travel and explore the countryside it really is as important as reducing our use of plastic. The thing to remember is that ‘In order to see the birds you need to be part of the silence.’

Author: BeckyB

It had been a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, blogging, and best of all spending time with MrB, family, & friends. Sadly it no longer is. Suddenly and unexpectedly I have become a widow.

34 thoughts

  1. I love your final quote – it’s worth remembering when trying to observe birds, or any animal in its natural habitat actually. I hope the environment improves for the birds soon.

  2. Wonderful post and sentiment Becky. My little camera with a lens powerful enough to get a photo of the surface of our Moon is great for birds. Some still see me and take off but never have flocks fly. OK maybe some gulls on the beach.
    I am appalled at the rebuilding works that have destroyed the environment. So sad for the wildlife.
    Thank goodness for us environmental warriors

    1. Thank you Brian. I’m really hoping some of the tourists see this post! One of the local English speaking newspapers has shared it so hopefully drip by drip can get the message out there.

    1. Thank you so very much. We’re very lucky with where we stay as this is right on our doorstep so can go out most days 🙂

  3. I’ll join you in being irate…Another reason, many of us in the US with any awareness are irate about the WALL on the Mexican boarder: it will disturb and destroy valuable habitat!
    Elsewhere a man with a cell phone just stepped in front of me to pelican up close. I suggested he take a photo from further and crop for details. Me and my iPhone X got lovely images doing just that!

    1. Oh you are amazing. So wonderful you did that and as you say with cropping and other photoshopping skills you can do so much afterwards 😊

      And grrr re your wall. Such a daft and unnecessary response and as you highlight so many dreadful side effects. Fingers crossed Nancy is able to get the senate to see sense soon.

  4. People can be selfish / stupid (or both). Or maybe there are just too many of us now. Your conversation with Eunice making those points is interesting. I don’t know what the answer is – restrictions are frustrating for everybody, but in the seals’ circumstances I can understand they are necessary.

  5. I agree with you entirely Becky, I hate to see birds or animals that are peacefully feeding/sleeping/roosting etc being disturbed by people getting too close. My camera isn’t as powerful as yours but the zoom is still good enough to get a decent shot of most things so I’m happy with that.

    Back in 2007 I went to a place in Lincolnshire where hundreds of seals give birth to and nurture their pups before going back to sea, and at that time serious photographers were allowed to get close up if they dressed appropriately to blend into the surroundings and followed the rules, even acting like a seal by lying and crawling along the wet sand – it was an amazing experience and I got some shots I would never have otherwise got. I went back five years later to find that access to the beach had been blocked and ALL visitors had to stay behind the fence – a conservationist told me that since my first visit the handful of serious photographers had turned into coachloads of visitors, often on works’ outings, with as many as 300 people a time walking out across the sand flats, meaning that at least 65 seal pups per season were being lost because of the disturbance. I was disappointed not to be able to repeat my previous experience but fully understood and respected the reasons why.

    It’s a long story but last summer the local housing association undertook a programme of replacing all the boundary fences on my estate and in the process many trees and hedges were felled and ripped out, some quite needlessly – I had a long and protracted fight to keep mine but sadly I lost, and the little birds which often perched on the window sill and delighted me with their antics are now all gone 🙁 Human interference in whatever form can be so detrimental to wildlife – I hope your saltpan area recovers soon from the footpath repairs and the birds aren’t too badly affected. I love your first photo by the way 🙂

    1. Oh that must have been an amazing experience, but how sad it’s gone. Another example I guess of over tourism, something I’m writing about in my next post!

      And aargh re housing association. Why don’t organisations understand there are ways round total destruction. There’s been some rain this week so I’m hopeful when we return next week that there may have been some regrowth. Fingers crossed anyway!

      1. Just thinking about my above comment re the seals, I’ve been looking back through my photos so I may write a blog post about them soon 🙂

  6. Thanks for documenting this. Unfortunately, men’s interests seem to take precedent over nature. – On photographing birds: I agree. Although I am guilty of this sin more often than not without wanting to. Yesterday I saw this hawk sitting on a pole (I think it was a hawk, I’m not a birder, it was a bird of prey in any case and those are the ones most common here). I was far away, on a dirt road – no matter how slowly I lifted my camera, as usual the thing took off before I could even focus. This is a common occurrence for me. My best bird pics are – sad to say – from the zoo.

    1. Suspect the hawk taking off was nothing to do with you. They’re less bothered by humans, and so probably had spied dinner!! The fact though you were trying not to disturb it is what counts 😊

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