Every picture tells a story

Michael Gäbler [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I recently reviewed the magnum opus by Tim Sands (Wildlife in Trust) which chronicles the first 100 years of the Wildlife Trusts for  BBC Wildlife magazine.

I picked the book up again recently (which in itself is something of an achievement as it is very heavy) and made a rough note of the species illustrated within it.  There are some very attractive photographs within the book’s nearly 800 pages.

Not surprisingly there are a lot of images of badgers in this book, and quite a few otters, brown hares and water voles too.  Mammals get good coverage but there are birds everywhere in this book.  The birds chosen to illustrate the Wildlife Trust story include four different osprey images and three each of red kites and avocets – I checked that this wasn’t an RSPB book!  There is even a flock of cranes on the cover.

Butterflies are well-represented but other insects are in short supply,  as are all other animals.

If you judged the work of the Wildlife Trusts by the animal images they use in their own book they are mostly working on the cutest mammals, quite a lot of birds and some lovely butterflies.


Maybe we’ll have to wait for the centenary of Buglife before we get a more representative portrayal of the diversity of wildlife in the UK.

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12 Replies to “Every picture tells a story”

  1. I also reviewed this book and of course it was the potential joining of the RSPB with the Wildlife Trusts from 1966 - 1973 that caught my eye. A very good price for such a big book and a great reference book as well covering every local group in the UK.

  2. Two things surprise me about your comments Mark. One is that they even acknowledged that the RSPB (or any other 'competitor') exists and the other is that there were any images of things without fur. One Trust, which I used to be proud to be a trustee of, is now so ignorant of non-mammalian wildlife that they sent out a newsletter last autumn telling us that 'Now is the time that our resident finches and pipits can be found in the hedgerows feeding on berries'. No wonder I never see any Tree Pipits in winter, I'm clearly looking in the wrong habitat!

  3. Ive enjoyed reading this book and isnt bad value for money, indeed it does have many images, including some of my own (mostly birds however!).

  4. I have obviously read the book especially as I contributed. I think Tony must have had a bad time with his WT because as their work is largely habitat based they have to consider everything when carrying out their work. Of course this is exactly the same at the RSPB which is why they find the "Birds" tag a bit restrictive nowadays.

    Tim Sand's book is a great record and useful reference book. I have one problem wigh it though as it glosses over the turmoil that has existed over the years trying to unite 47 different charities under one banner. In my own time in over 20 years of working for the Wildlife Trusts I was so frustrated at the different levels that the many Trusts worked. For example the WTs in Wales are still under performing because the very smallest refuse to join up with others to make a more viable all Wales WT. Back to Tim's book I also worked at RSWT for three years and the bitter internal and external struggles are in no way represented in his text. There still remains tension in the relationship between the 47 WTs and the centre.

    With the financial situation in the UK still in trouble it may focus a number of the WTs to revisit where they go from here. Is it time that the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts found a way of coming together and creating a real power for wildlife in the UK?

    I can say that now I have been retired for 8 years.

    1. Look back in their histories and they championed nature conservation, nowadays it seems to be 'building biodiversity' rather than environmental protection and conservation per se.

      Having said that, it would perhaps be unfair to tarnish just the wildlife trusts as most of the 'quasi quangoes' appear to prefer building to conserving or protecting our ever diminishing quality (a subjective term I grant you) wilderness areas, habitats and species beyond the iconic 'cuddlies' or marketable ones!

      It will be interesting to see what the wildlife trusts, RSPB et. al. have to say in terms of the Defra EA-NE triennial Review or the Habitats Directive Core Guidelines consultation which looks like it will lead to more neutering and watering down of environmental protection.

  5. Its not just WT. I was fascinated by Wildlife Photographer of the Year (which actually is brilliant, I'd emphasise): there is a similarity between the winning topics year to year and I was left wondering whether the winning entries are from places with the lowest biodiversity - stacks and stacks from the frozen north, almost nothing from the rainforests. It is a recognisable phenomenon - the African Savannahs are undoubtedly more popular with wildlife watchers than the far more biodiverse South American rainforests because you actually SEE the birds.

    I also wonder whether a combination of the hurry we all live in + the difficulty of identifying smaller wildlife combine for them to be ignored. I spend more and more time photographing insects and they really are incredible - I'm sitting looking at a really stunning grasshopper from the south of France. I don't expect I'll ever identify it and I don't care.

    I also sympathise with Derek's comments about 'expurgated versions' - its doesn't help because there are real lessons to be learnt from the struggles - which is why I think Mark's 'Fighting for Birds' is so important - noone who really wants to contribute to conservation can afford not to read it - and which is why I'm currently working on a parrallel project about forestry/ the Forestry Commission - maybe it'll explain some of what has happened over forestry in the last 2 years !

    1. Roderick - I agree about WPotY - always a polar bear or three for a start!

      And your project sounds interesting...

  6. Thanks Mark - one for the book bucket list perhaps. Do they cover native trees much? They must have done a fair bit of woodland management in their time and seen changes in the fortunes of woodland and our attitudes to it. They'll also have lived through the Elm Disease outbreaks and various climate events that impacted on trees, such as the droughts of the twenties and thirties hitting oak quite hard, the heatwave summers of '76, the nineties and first half of the noughties and the current concerns about raging tree disease and invasive non-natives.

  7. Like Derek I worked at the Wildlife Trusts National Office, made a contribution to the book, and have read it. Two brief points: if you go to a family member's 100th birthday party you should spend more time celebrating than trawling over old family feuds, why can't we just be happy about something for once?

    Second I find it surprising that the organization that does more for more different sorts of wildlife than any other is being criticized for not doing so. Of course the Trusts are conserving inverts, plants, marine wildlife trees, and many other groups. As Derek says much of the Trusts work is habitat based and this is therefore inevitable. Have a look at how many reserves the Trusts have compared to any of the other major conservation organizations, and how many living landscapes and similar projects they are initiators of, or partners in.

    PR stuff is the tip of the iceberg to attract support and interest, it reflects but does not define the 90 per cent of their work which is at the heart of their operations.

    And by the way I have always argued for closer working between the major players, and did what I could to effect this, with more success in the West Midlands than nationally.

    I know, that was more than two points.

  8. Roderick - I can't wait for your book. As for non native trees - How long do they have to be growing in this country before they are classed as native? With 50% of our smaller plants now advertised in flora of Britain as native such as New Zealand Willow Herb trees like Sycamore are doing great things for our Bio diversity. The greatest leaf litter in Britain, salt resistant and a great upland tree just like Balsm Poplar now planted on islands for its growth. There are also the trees found before the last ice age. Are they not native like European Larch, Silver Fir and Norway Spruce? Some people are able to make their own rules about native!


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