Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Where is the passion?

"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?


Moore Patcher said...

As one GE to another, I have to say I'm luvvin the blog - keep up the good work :)

Paul Tout said...

Come on Whitey ... there've always been rubbish wardens and you 'n' I have known a few at first hand. Firstly, I often think they're often too old. That doesn't mean that older wardens are necessarily lacking the passion but energy and idealism can both fade with age.
Secondly, I don't think they are appointed because they have 'fizz' or passion. Often I think they're put in place as a 'safe pair of hands' because they lack (or have lost)the social skills for a front desk job.
Finally I think they can tend to stay in the same place too long, become a bit isolated and a bit odd. I would say that a few exchanges and reserve swaps, open days (where all the wetland reserve wardens, for example, spend a day or two at YOUR reserve) might keep them on their toes.
Long term macrovegetation monitoring is also essential. It's too easy (as has happened in Italy) to establish am area as a wetland reserve and find out that it's changed to a carr in just a decade.