Field bird-watchers prowl around looking for birds to count, identify and – if they are very lucky – spot a rarity, such as an ivory-billed woodpecker, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says. But they are hampered by an increasing suspicion on the part of law enforcement that people sporting binoculars shouldn’t necessarily be trusted. Birders in the Milwaukee area say that access to select spots is declining with concern about terrorism. “We used to be able to go into the Coast Guard impoundment,” said Karl David of the Milwaukee School of Engineering. “It was illegal, but they used to look the other way for us birders. We can’t go there anymore.”
The problem is that places that lead to good birding are often the same as those cordoned off from potential saboteurs and the general population. Places such as reservoirs and sewage lagoons provide habitat and water for a variety of birds. Heidi Hughes, an avid birder and freelance writer. said that “over the years, my husband and I were rarely stopped by police or security guards. That changed after 9/11.”
David was able to convince security guard at a park that he was not a terrorist, but only after a series of questions concerning the types of birds he was looking for.
Stories of run-ins with the law have been reported by birders on a Wisconsin Internet e-mail list. Most of the birders-authorities encounters have been positive.
But law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard and the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department, are serious about protecting sensitive areas. “We ask people not to loiter in areas of particular interest,” said Jamie Scholzen, a lieutenant in the marine safety office of port operations with the Coast Guard.