Posts Tagged ‘Garganey


Some you win … some you lose

I’ve been working at Wild Ken Hill for around seven months now leading some of the ‘Big Picture’ tours. The tours cover the coastal marsh, the regenerative agricultural implementations on the estate and also the 1000 acre rewilding area. At WKH they are doing some amazing things which I passionately believe we should be doing.

I don’t take my camera with me on the walks as it’s quite a heavy beast of a thing and can be a little strength sapping when on foot all day.

Tania came with me last Saturday, as she sometimes does. About 2 hours into the morning tour we were just starting to climb the hill that is ‘Wild Ken Hill’ within the rewilding area when I saw something flitting half-way up one of the Scots Pines. I raised my binoculars expecting to see a Robin. In fact what I saw floored me. The red wasn’t on the breast but down the flanks of the bird and as it turned I saw an ivory white throat and a beautiful blue tail. It was a female/first winter type Red flanked Bluetail. I forget what I actually said … but it was something quite exclamatory! The bird flew down to a pile of scrubby removed Rhododendrons and promptly disappeared.

I think this is the second March record for Norfolk. None of the twelve guests with us were bird watchers and I had a timetable to observe. However, I explained the significance of the sighting and reluctantly left the area, with more than a single backward glance, to continue the tour. In the short time we had available to look on the afternoon tour it was nowhere to be seen.

The following day, on Sunday, we decided to see if we could see any of the Garganey that had been reported at Cley NWT over the preceding week. Garganey, our only summer visiting duck, are normally elusive; preferring the shelter of vegetation and reedbeds to open water. After waiting unsuccessfully in one hide most of the morning we decided to have lunch back at the centre and try the centre group of hides in the afternoon.

As we got to the hides friends Greg and Andrew were departing and announced they had seen a pair going up and down the drain close in front of them. Well, they weren’t wrong. The birds were ridiculously close. I had to take off the extender and reset the minimum focusing distance. In fact I could have easily have taken photos on a mobile phone.

Sometimes you win by taking the camera … sometimes you lose when you don’t.



“Where is it?” was the question.

“The Garganey?” I replied.

“Yes!” which was said in a slightly incredulous tone; as though he couldn’t have possibly meant anything else.

“It’s way at the back of the scrape … among those Teal” I volunteered.

“Ah! I see it. The one doing an Anne Boleyn?”

This was no doubt a reference to the ducks amazing propensity for losing its head. For the main part tucking it beneath what would be a snug warm wing. Indeed, this bird spent so much time sleeping you would be forgiven for thinking it may well have been hibernating; and who would blame it? The whistling north easterly wind here on the Norfolk marshes was a little sharp. Not the sort of weather you would expect an early spring migrant to use as a returning vehicle to its breeding grounds. The earliest date for returning Garganey in Norfolk last year was 18th March so maybe this bird has overwintered among a seclude flock of teal somewhere in an undetected backwater. Several others splattered through the UK have over wintered this year.


A record shot of a very distant bird in a rare moment of consciousness.

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Mar 2023


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