As I write this editorial in mid May, at a time when our government is desperately trying to make sense of its ‘road map’ out of the Covid-19 lockdown, the future looks very uncertain. Daily life seems set to remain quite different in the months ahead and future support for various environment-related initiatives looks especially precarious. Even before coronavirus turned the Western world upside down, proper funding for long-term ecological research was both limited and subject to changing scientific fashions, and that situation seems unlikely to improve any time soon. Yet if you consider the depth of understanding provided by the various long-term studies in Europe, and the number of times they are quoted in the scientific literature, they clearly give exceptional value for money compared with shorter-term projects. Long-term studies, in which the same population is followed through a fluctuating or gradually changing environment, give us an insight that is simply unachievable from any number of shorter studies, and the paper by Erkki Korpimäki in this issue is a masterclass in this field. Erkki started work on Tengmalm’s Owls in Finland in the summer before I was born and his understanding and knowledge of this species, and more widely of various ecological principles, is extraordinary. In a world increasingly dominated by soundbites and short-termism, studies such as this are like gold dust. The same is true of long-term monitoring. Most of the national surveys that many of us are currently not doing are quite robust at dealing with a missing season but it will be vital to pick up the threads once we are all allowed back into the field.

Roger Riddington


310   BB eye: Agricultural policy – what does it mean for our farmland birds?  Mark Avery

313   News and comment  Adrian Pitches

316   Highlights from a long-term study of Tengmalm’s Owls: cyclic fluctuations in vole abundance govern mating systems, population dynamics and demography  Erkki Korpimäki

334   Plumage development and identification of the Spanish Imperial Eagle  Guillermo Rodríguez

354   A significant decline of breeding Peregrine Falcons in coastal north and west Cornwall, 2015–19  Steve Watson and Richard Sale

363   BBRC News

366   Letters

367   Recent reports

369   My patch

Issue 6
Start Page: 
Roger Riddington
Display Image: 

Stay at the forefront of British birding by taking out a subscription to British Birds.

Subscribe Now