For over 40 years Tim Birkhead has studied the guillemot population on Skomer Island. Now the project is threatened by a withdrawal of funding, a move which Prof Birkhead believes is due to the short-sightedness of funding bodies. In this article, he highlights the need for long-term monitoring and the surprising patterns that it can uncover. The take home message is that if this can happen to successful and well known long-term studies, it does not bode well for species conservation in this country.