One particularly energetic discussion with Dutch colleagues on the recent trip to The Netherlands centred around the qualities that make a good reserve manager. Why do some reserves appear vibrant and others as dull as ditchwater?
‘Thinking and tinkering’ is a phrase that may well sum up the best of reserve wardens . The great old wardens of yore ( and the best of today), were forever tinkering with their reserves; thinking about how to change things for the better and trying things out. Good reserve management requires an intimate knowledge of the site and an inquisitive mind. Reading through some of the books by wardens, such as Bert Axell’s ‘Minsmere: Portrait of a Bird Reserve’, this is clear. The now famous ‘scrape’ appeared bit by bit over at least 12 years. Trial and error was involved in getting it right, and much tinkering management by wardens and many volunteers.
Is this art of tinkering being lost? Perhaps. Nowadays, many wardens seem less connected with their reserves as the demands on their time increase and more time is spent behind the desk. Some even mutter about getting people in to monitor birds as they don’t have enough time!! So how do we encourage the tinkerer? Well, partly it’s about appointing, and then developing, the right people in the first place, people with a passion for wildlife. However it’s done, we need more thinkers and tinkerers please.