Tuesday, 24 May 2011

We must remember, not everything that counts can be measured, and not everything that can be measured counts.

Parrinder Hide, Shoveler squirting water and Avocet standing on one leg in gale.

I see the RSPB has deservedly won a couple of architectural awards from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). The new Parrinder Hide at Titchwell and the Marshland Discovery Zone at Rainham are both exciting new structures that I have commented on before. Excellent, half a job done. The other half is what is outside the window and is the bit (sorry architects) that will entice most of us back into the building time and again.

What is it that makes us sit in the building longer than a quick warming of the new swivelling, plastic seat? A great hide provides a view that reveals more and more the longer you look. Great close-ups of common birds and other wildlife. Or perhaps spectacular flocks of birds. Or an unexpected look at something familiar. Some fascinating behaviour revealed, or an element of surprise, something which just a walk down the path would have missed. Nooks and crannies of habitat or landscape to look into, with new things appearing the longer you wait and watch. The chance of a rare bird! Such things that are stimulating or exalting to the spirit are often difficult to measure and certainly can be even more difficult to achieve.

So I decided to launch a new award: The Grumpy Ecologist’s ‘Most inspiring view from a box’ award. And by chance, I was back at Titchwell yesterday, looking at progress over the last year. The fresh marsh has been rejuvenated, years of encroaching vegetation rolled back and new islands created. Early days yet but 80 pairs of Avocet seem to like it, and this spring has provided good views of birds such as Temminck’s Stint, Red-necked Phalarope and Gull-billed Tern. None there when I visited of course, but I enjoyed close up views (on a lousy day) of feeding Avocets, godwits and Shoveler, wheeling flocks of tundra Ringed Plover and Turnstone, and Marsh Harriers drifting back and forth.

So the first winner of this soon to be prestigious award is: The Parrinder Hide at Titchwell. Nominations for the next award gratefully received.

I love these new hides but it’s what you see from them that counts. It doesn’t take Einstein to work that one out.

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