Since at least July 2021, online ads have displayed an alleged drone photograph of a massive nest or other object hanging from a telephone pole or power lines. The ads seemed to promise answers. For example, this ad appeared next to an article on the 10news.com website.
The ad read: “[Pics] The drone captures photos that we are not supposed to see. It was sponsored by the Definition.org website, which has a long history of deceptive click traps. The ad was hosted by the Outbrain advertising network.
Clicking on the ad led to a 39 page slideshow item and a headline that read: “Pictures of drones taken in the air will make you uncomfortable.”
The article contained several photographs that appeared to have been taken from the air, whether by a drone, helicopter or plane. One claimed he was showing the aftermath of a residential explosion. Another described a shot that was reportedly captured over Barcelona, Spain. We also found a Photo which would have shown volcanic activity in Iceland.
We clicked on all 39 pages. The article never mentioned the photo in the ad. It was click bait. We clicked “next page” almost 40 times so you didn’t have to.
The ad image was not captured high in the sky using a drone. It appears to have been shot on the ground by the artist and the photographer Dillon Marsh of Photograph of Dillon Marsh. We did not find any credit to Marsh on the Definition.org website.
The photo showed a large bird’s nest for the sociable weaver, built on a telephone pole. The bird species lives in the Kalahari region of southern Africa.
The only place they can be found in the United States is the San Diego Zoo. The zoo described nests built by sociable weavers as offering enough living space for an “entire colony as well as for future residents”. Nests can hold up to 400 birds and can potentially last an entire century.
The nests built by the species are made of large twigs, dry grasses, straw, soft plants, cotton, fur and down. The zoo also published that a “suitable nesting tree has a long, smooth trunk and tall branches to deter crawling predators.” Perhaps this is what makes a telephone pole the perfect safe for sociable weavers.
The nests keep sociable weavers cool in summer and warm on cold nights. They welcome other birds indoors, such as the South African dwarf hawk, barbet, pet cat, red-headed finch, ash-tit, and pink-faced lovebird. Vultures, eagles and owls can also occasionally be seen atop nests. The added company is supposed to create a safer home against predators.
As for food, the zoo’s page on the sociable weaver said they “need less water than any other bird” and “most never drink.” They get their moisture from insects. To learn more about the species, visit San Diego Zoo website.
In short, an advertisement promised to reveal something about a strange drone photograph that “we are not supposed to see”. The lengthy article that resulted from the ad never mentioned the image. In fact, it was shot from the ground and showed a massive nest built on a telephone pole by sociable weavers.
Note: Flickr photographs are credited to Bernard Dupont and Rui Ornelas. Matt Mawson took the photo from Getty Images. The photograph in the ad, which was not credited by the advertiser, originally appeared to have been captured by Dillon Marsh.