Friday, September 30, 2022

A Big Win for Birds, or: the Persistence of One Man Who Loves Nature


This is a blog post about:

  • Wildlife
  • Michael Oberman
  • Fishing
  • Columbia
  • Nature photography 
  • Columbia Association
Wait. Let me see if I can get my ducks in a row.

Photo by Michael Oberman

This is a blog post about persistence.

Columbia photographer Michael Oberman, who focuses primarily on nature photography, is not only well-known locally for images like the one above. His photographs have been featured in national and international publications. It has occurred to me that local wildfowl come out to look their best if they see Oberman headed their way. He’s that good. 

His well-trained eye hasn’t just contributed to capturing engaging pictures of local wildlife. His observant nature also identified something far more deadly. It seems that a careless habit of human visitors to Columbia’s lakes was putting the birds he loved in danger. It had to do with fishing.

Beginning in June of 2012, and continuing even today, Michael Oberman has posted at least twenty two warnings on Facebook about the materials that hobby fishing enthusiasts leave behind. Abandoned fishing line, hooks, and lures are responsible for ongoing damage or death to local birds and other wildlife.

In his own* words: 

"The Damage Up Close"  Its left foot already maimed by the fishing line and its right foot totally ensnared thanks to the carelessness of fishermen who leave their deadly wares behind.  I took this photo at the bottom of the Wilde Lake dam where the heron allowed me to get within eight feet of it to take this photo.
June 7, 2012

"What's Wrong With This Picture?'  I first noticed this female Baltimore Oriole building its nest two days ago.  I took this photo this afternoon.  What's wrong with this picture is the fishing line that the Oriole has been using to build the nest.  Notice the line also branches out from the nest.  In all likelihood, this Oriole or her mate or her babies when they fledge will be strangled by the fishing line that has been left behind by fishermen who have no regard for wildlife or the environment.
May 6, 2017

Now for my rant about fishing at Wilde Lake and my disdain for…the fishermen who fish the shoreline portion that is lined with trees.  You invariably snag your fishing lines, lures and hooks and don’t cut them down.  Birds are injured and often killed by your carelessness.  Several years ago, I (I do not fish) went to Bass Pro and bought an extendable metal pole that extends eighteen feet and has a corkscrew loop on the end.  If I can reach fishing line, I pull it out of the trees.  Maybe fishermen should carry one too!
October 17, 2021

It makes good sense that Oberman, who spends a good amount his life in the company of wildlife, would have strong feelings about protecting that wildlife from easily avoidable harm. Through the years he has met with a number of representatives from local organizations to make his case:
  • Fishing should be permitted only in areas away from trees.
  • Those who fish must be held responsible for clearing away all of their fishing materials.
  • This must be consistently enforced.
It has often looked as through Mr. Oberman’s efforts were meeting with indifference, if not outright resistance. Yet in all these years he has never given up his mission to speak up for the beautiful birds and other creatures he photographs.

On September 17th of this year the Columbia Association posted the following announcement on Facebook:

Photo courtesy of Columbia Association

We 💙 the wildlife that call all of our lakes home. We also appreciate everyone who enjoys recreational fishing and do so responsibly.

Starting last month, CA team members increased their patrols of the Wilde Lake shoreline to at least 5 days a week with the goal of removing discarded and tangled fishing line. You can help by:

🐟 Check out CA's updated fishing policy:
📞 Report abandoned fishing line to 410-312-6330 
♻️ Recycling your fishing line in marked tubes
🗣 Spread the word on fishing practices that help protect the wildlife we all love to see at our lakes

#WildeLake #RecreationalFishing #OpenSpace #ProtectWildlife #ColumbiaAssociation #ColumbiaMD

And this:

Photo courtesy of Columbia Association 

We need YOU to help keep wildlife safe around our lakes and take action if you spot potentially harmful fishing line.

You can find fishing line tubes like this one around our lakes where line can be recycled. You're also welcome to call us at 410-312-6330 to report abandoned fishing line. Team members will respond as soon as possible to ensure it’s removed. 

As always, thank you for your continued care of Columbia's open space ❤

#WildeLake #RecreationalFishing #OpenSpace #ProtectWildlife #ColumbiaAssociation #ColumbiaMD

The first person I thought of when I read this was Michael Oberman. When I reached out to him, to propose a blog post, he had a request for my readers: get involved if you see these hazardous conditions around our lakes.

Learn about CA's updated fishing policy.
Report abandoned fishing line.
Recycle fishing line in marked tubes.
Spread the word on safe fishing practices.

One persistent, dedicated nature photographer has done a lot of the heavy lifting to bring public attention to this issue. But this shouldn’t be a one-man crusade. We’re all responsible for being good stewards of our local environment. The more we get involved, the more likely that this important knowledge will spread and incidents of harm will be reduced. 

And the more likely that initiatives like the one CA has recently announced will take root and succeed.

*All of Mr. Oberman’s quotes and photographs used with permission. - - jam

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