Tomorrow is the BTO Conference – and of course it is an online event so no driving up to Swanwick in the rain, no afternoon of easily spotting the difference between members and staff (by the 30-year gap between their average ages) and no slipping away from the conference to find a local bookmakers to watch the Tingle Creek Chase. I think we can watch online but if you haven’t registered already you can’t participate in momentous votes.
There are, in a way, three momentous events to be marked at this AGM but two of them are opposite sides of the same coin. This is the first AGM for Juliet Vickery as CEO and the last for Andy Clements. Juliet will probably be a very good BTO CEO although she hasn’t got much form at this level. She’s stepping up from novice to championship ranks with this task but all her previous hurdling and chase form suggests she’ll stay the trip with some style – and she is a runner with international class stamina. And I wish her the best of luck.
Andy and I don’t agree about everything (but then, there are very few who agree with me (and probably him) on everything) but he has been a very good BTO CEO. He has both modernised the BTO and kept its essence more or less unsullied. He has built a stronger team and has given the BTO a better look and feel. In these hard times he has probably done as well as anyone could to keep the BTO not just in the race, but always challenging for a prominent position. I think the BTO has got too close to the statutory agencies in recent years, not helped by Andy’s role on Natural England Board, but that is where the money has been recently.
Andy is, in my experience over several decades, a good bloke, a good birder and he has clearly been a very good BTO CEO. So, one can’t feel sad that he is going because he has done a good and distnguished stint, he deserves a bit of a rest, he’s done well (and probably achieved most of what he would ever achieve in that job) and his successor looks like another excellent choice. And so we say fair well and thank you to Andy and hello and good luck to Juliet.
The other event is that the BTO has a new Patron. I said that Andy has been a modernising BTO CEO and I suppose that bringing in Prince William instead of his grandfather, Prince Phillip, is a kind of modernisation, but it is keeping both feet firmly in the establishment.
Now I know that many in the BTO staff were a bit surprised at some of the unfavourable reaction to this move when it was announced a couple of months back. I’ve heard that the BTO would rather it wasn’t mentioned too much (but nobody reads this blog so no harm done here). Patrons are figureheads and they usually have as much influence on an organisation as did the carved wooden figureheads on wooden sailing ships.
I don’t imagine that the new BTO Patron will be instructing the Ringing Team in how to get a left and right of high Pheasants at Sandringham any more than did his grandpa. That may not stop there being a few questions about this move at the AGM (perhaps).
Maybe the RSPB could offload their ‘R’ to the BTO? Then RSPB could become SPB before becoming Birdlife UK, before becoming Birdlife England and Wales eventually, and the BTO could simply be RBTO. Maybe not in Juliet’s time in the job…?