Gentle reminder, dear birders.
National Parks are no 'pishing' zones.
They are also no 'playback' zones.
This applies to State Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, Wildlife Management Areas, areas that are birded, ANY area that has endangered species, and at any time of year that birds could be nesting. It's in the better interest of the bird to avoid undue stress, activity, etc.
While iThings and eGadgets and crazyphones might be required for surviving the urban jungle, avoid temptation. Leave the devices off, or in your car while out birding. Use headphones if you want to double check a call you've heard. Don't know what you saw? Wait, look harder, or walk away. Don't know what you heard? Look for the source; not all recordings will cover all vocalizations.
This topic came up due to recent discussions at a CBC, and it highlights the technology gap that many birders have never experienced. Birders who have never birded without the technological crutch would have a very different experience without it. I have never used playback; Matt and I never even carry equipment capable of it. We go through a mental checklist of whether or not it's worth it for the bird and situation before 'pishing' - birds may go unseen, but it's better for the bird. The welfare of the creature is of utmost importance, our sighting/documentation is not even on the radar. For CBCs, in some situations, it may be worth it 'for the count' to get a better look at a bird. Still, all of the above checks and balances apply.
Learn calls. Leave the gear at home.
Our backgrounds are in conservation; perhaps this makes us more aware, but perhaps it also shows that bird-ing does not give birds the respect that is due.
As of April 10, 2011 there is a fantastic post on David Sibley's blog,
the proper use of playback in birding with thoughtful comments and good discussion... and mention of Brown-headed Cowbirds being opportunistic re: playback.