Yes, I feel that they are a necessary institution and do a necessary job.
But my opinion is based upon a possibly dubious premise: that accurate record-keeping is itself a necessary thing. Well, is it? Do birds - does nature - really need carefully identifying, counting, measuring, recording and archiving? In a comment on Part 1 Dylan Wrathall made this thought-provoking point: "...the natural world doesn't require judges and juries - it is there to be experienced, enjoyed and embraced." I could so easily subscribe to this view at its most simplistic level. Why not simply enjoy it all without feeling the need to convert what we see into just so much data?
I am not a biologist, not an ecologist, not a scientist of any kind. I am not even what you would really call a conservationist; personally I am convinced that man's arrogant hand is quite incapable of successfully managing this planet or its wildlife. However, I do acknowledge that to many, many people this is vital stuff, and I recognise that sound data is often the driver for thoughtful, well-intentioned conservation efforts from which our environment does seem to benefit. For that and many related reasons I am happy to provide such data when I'm in the mood. And if that includes complying with some sort of vetting procedure, so be it.
So I am probably what you might call a reluctant conservationist.
For example, no one could deny that right here we have a success story...
|Cirl Bunting press release dated 17/11/2016, lifted straight off RSPB website|
And I imagine that a great deal of careful observation, recording and subsequent data analysis contributed to this happy outcome. As a result, in 25 years we've gone from 100-odd to 1,078 Cirl Bunting pairs. Undeniably a success. I mean, who wouldn't want to enjoy more of these little beauties...?
|Male Cirl Bunting with Brambling at Broadsands, Devon in February 2008|
While we're on the subject of success stories we could make reference to Red Kite perhaps. Certainly a description species when I was still a London birder, but now a ubiquitous feature of many a skyscape, including some of London's. More controversially though, Common Crane. "Between 2010 and 2015, 93 Common Cranes were hand-reared to release onto the Somerset Levels and Moors - doubling the UK population, and helping to secure the future of the Crane in the UK" says the blurb on the The Great Crane Project website.
"Why?" says the cynic sitting at this keyboard. Were they not doing pretty well on their own?
And how about Great Bustard? Earlier this year I came across some rather gloomy data re. mortality and suchlike that confirmed for me what I've always thought, i.e. that the UK Great Bustard project is a ridiculously optimistic endeavour. Unfortunately I cannot seem to find this data right now, and a careful search of the Great Bustard Group website produces nothing that we might truly call 'results'. Maybe because they are so depressing? Ah well. Anyway, when it comes to reintroducing this species I am once again forced to ask: Why?
Evidently, time, money and massive effort is invested in all these and similar projects, but sadly I can only draw this analogy: to me it is all like polishing the wing mirror on a classic car with terminal chassis rot. Is it just me who sees things this way?
And there, dear readers, I leave you with my joyous Sunday offering...