20:00 August 8, 2022
For almost ten years his life was dominated by a lonely spit of gravel, salt marsh, silt and sand that jutted out into the North Sea.
But Ajay Tegala was rarely lonely at the director’s accommodation at Blakeney Point – he was too busy looking after the wildlife.
Ajay was only 14 when he first saw Blakeney Point. “Like countless others, my family was on vacation in the county and had come to see the seals. The fog made it a mysterious and terrifying experience. I felt like I had entered a secret haven, a haven for seals and birds,” he said.
Five years later, he volunteered as an assistant ranger and became a full-time ranger at Blakeney Point. His home was the former lifeboat station on the point, and his route to the mainland was either a four-mile gravel spit or a tideboat trip across the harbor.
A conservation area for over a century, Blakeney Point is managed by the National Trust and a series of wardens deployed to protect the seal colonies and internationally important seabirds.
It was the National Trust’s first coastal nature reserve and has been a bird sanctuary for 121 years, frequented by many species of rare birds, including lesser terns, common terns, sandwich terns and arctic terns. Today it is both an internationally important nesting site for birds and home to England’s largest gray seal colony. There are also rare plants – and even the occasional dolphin.
From early April to mid-August, the guards keep a close eye on the terns to prevent visitors searching for seals from trampling the nests and crushing the eggs. Other threats to the terns include foxes, rats, and herring gulls. “Our message wasn’t that we don’t want herring gulls to nest, we just don’t want them to nest at Blakeney Point,” Ajay said.
And Ajay had an innovative approach to keeping herring gull populations down — by eating their eggs. “The taste is very similar to a chicken egg. We had them fried, scrambled eggs and even in an omelette,” Ajay said.
His roles ranged from day-to-day monitoring and protection of wildlife to dealing with crises that attracted national and international attention, including the 2013 tidal wave and the horrific helicopter crash the following year that killed four US servicemen.
There were also mysteries, including what happened to the baby seals washed up dead with strange corkscrew cuts. (Spoiler alert, it was nature red in tooth and claw.)
When camera crews came out to film for wildlife or countryside programs, Ajay found himself starring in shows like Countryfile, Springwatch, Autumnwatch, Winterwatch, Homes by the Sea and Coast.
“Few people have had the privilege and responsibility of living in an isolated, internationally important wildlife sanctuary,” said Ajay, who began volunteering at Blakeney Point in 2009, landed a job as a seasonal assistant in 2012 and was a ranger or warden from 2013. until 2018. He even got engaged at Blakeney Point.
Gradually, he realized that he loved introducing his lonely, beautiful home and wild neighbors at Blakeney Point to television viewers. It was the beginning of a new chapter in his career and he left Blakeney to become a nature TV presenter.
During his years at Blakeney Point, Ajay kept diaries that became the basis of his book, The Unique Life of a Ranger: Seasons of Change at Blakeney Point, which was published this month by The History Press. It contains his own photos and drawings from his time as a ranger.
“This is the story of what life as a ranger on one of Britain’s most important natural sites is really like, from the excitement of tracking the rapidly growing seal population to the challenges and struggles of protecting ground-nesting birds from an abundance to threats,” Ajay said. “This is my tribute to the beauty of Blakeney, to nature and the people for whom it is a home.”
“When you fall in love with a place as special as the North Norfolk coast, it stays in your heart and mind forever.
“Every time I hear the distinctive call of terns, I’m taken back to Far Point in the summer: the excitement, the drama, the responsibility, the absolute joy.”