Choke Canyon State Park and Birding Ethcs, A Northern Jacana
The bird took a step and you could see its long toes. It was amazing really to watch a bird walk across the top of the pond, stepping on floating water plants. It raised its head and looked at the photographer, visibly upset with his nearness. With wings uplifted it glanced at the photographer and then at the alligator, swimming nearby. The poor bird was surrounded! The yellow flight feathers were unmistakable as it flew to a new spot only to be chased by the photographer and two more who joined him. Others in our group commented on the lack of ethics of photographers who were harassing the bird. Apparently some people feel that because they have an expensive camera they have the right to become bird paparazzi. As soon as we entered Choke Canyon State Park we registered and asked the Ranger if there were any unusual bird sightings. She told us about the Northern Jacana, which is usually only seen in Mexico and Central America. We left for our camping spot, hoping to set up quickly and then go birding at the 76 acre lake. Spotting a least grebe we at least had a new bird. It was late afternoon and the sun was in the west so the light was bad as Renita spotted a bird about the size of the jacana across the lake. We watched it a while and talked with a birder/wildlife painter, Maren Phillips, who had driven from San Antonio for the rare sighting. Cars came and went as birders were flocking in, pun intended, to add the bird to their life list. We decided to come back the next morning, when the light would be better, and hoped that we could see the yellow underwings. Renita had thought she had seen them but she wasn't sure if it was real or her imagination. We got a late start and didn't return until nine am and sure enough the parking lot was almost full with birders cars. Walking down the dirt road, which we learned from a posting on txbirds.org, we saw people on the first jetty and joining them we asked and were told that the jacana was directly across the lake. We watched the bird for three hours. It got quite a bit nearer as it was being driven by the photographer. I was reminded of the fools at Yellowstone National Park who surrounded a mother grizzly and her cub taking pictures as the bear became distressed and charged though the people seeking safety for her little ones. Now several others had went around the lake and taken stands. They also got images of the jacana but they waited patiently for it to come near, instead of crashing in on the bird. Now don't get me wrong, I have friends who are photographers and wildlife advocates. I even try to get close myself for a decent image, but when the animal sees you and goes on alert, its time to back off! We both were amazed that the jacana was still at the lake, and hope to return today for another sighting, at least if it hasn't left from being harassed. Clear skies.