"Get out of that hide boy!" was the first thing Bert Axell said to me, as I snuck into Minsmere on a non-open day to see the Terek Sandpiper . Perhaps not noted for his visitor skills, Mr Axell's passion for his work was to be admired and the word 'scrape' entered the birding vocabulary. Many other ‘old school’ wardens were equally well known and respected; they knew their birds. Some were not interested in rarities but delivering for birds drove them. Having got into conservation and thinking about 'new' ways of managing wetlands, I usually found that Norman Sills had already researched it years before. Credit where credit’s due.
How times change. Am I a grumpy old git or is it 'just a job' to an increasing proportion of reserve wardens these days? When stocking leaflet dispensers comes before insightful fieldwork or paperwork becomes priority over rushing out for a reserve 'first', I begin to worry. Where is the passion? Basic management skills (like managing water levels) are being lost, not being transferred. How can you deliver the potential when you don’t walk the ground? However, where do we point the finger? At the wardens themselves, or at those that appoint them?