Our Wild Things columnist Eric Brown reflects on further good news for the conservationists opposing plans to transform nature-rich habitat on Swanscombe peninsular into a £3.5 billion Disney-style theme park at the expense of rare spiders and other wildlife.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to see the United Kingdom’s only summer migrant duck.

The drake or male garganey is a really smart chap with a mottled brown breast, finely barred grey flanks, white belly and a row of black and white drooping feathers along the back.

A conspicuous white crescent-shaped gash running from over the eye down behind the rear of his lower neck makes the drake garganey unmistakeable in the field. He outshines his more sombrely dressed partner.

Wild Things: A victory for conservationists

Garganeys are among the first migrant birds to arrive here annually, their March appearance on lakes, pools and rivers eagerly anticipated by birdwatchers. Once breeding begins, the males disappear so if you want to see one, act now.

I couldn’t recall when I last gazed on garganey. My records reveal it was in pre-covid lockdown March 2019 at Kent's Swanscombe peninsular.

That this spectacular visitor from Africa should settle on reed-fringed pools at Swanscombe highlights the irreplaceable value of habitat there.

News Shopper: A garganey in flight Photo: Bernie WeightA garganey in flight Photo: Bernie Weight

Which brings me neatly to redevelopment plans for the area. I have been writing about a plot to turn tranquil, wildlife-rich space into a giant Disney-style theme park since September 2020. Regular readers will remember I wrote a month ago about the Save Swanscombe Peninsular Group’s victory in convincing ITV and BBC to shun the project on conservation grounds particularly after highlighting risk to the rare distinguished jumping spider.

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Since then the London Resort announced it is scrapping current plans for the £3.5 billion, 1,150-acre(465-hectare) project on the newly-designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. At the time of writing there are no plans for Swanscombe peninsular development.

But protesters are not counting their chickens. Or even their garganeys. One national newspaper reported more than £75 million had been invested in the scheme by Middle Eastern businessmen including Ebbsfleet United Football Club’s Kuwaiti tycoon owner, Dr Abdulla Al-Humaidi so the conservationists remain alert for any London Resort move to produce scaled-down plans for approval.

Much may depend on whether building material costs continue to soar but one thing is certain. The original target of a Swanscombe theme park opening in 2024 is as unlikely as garganeys turning up in December.

More on Swanscombe Peninsular on the Buglife website.