Monday 23 November 2020

Green Urban Birding - the Ranscombe Loop - 23rd November 2020

With a weather forecast for the entire week being grey and gloomy, I was somewhat pleased to see clear blue skies outside this morning so I hauled myself from my post breakfast slumpage and headed up the road towards the woods.

The M2 foot tunnel was particularly grim this morning and it is such a pity that the wonderful natural history murals that adorned its walls have steadily been obliterated by the illiterate denizens of such places. The species depicted may not be some of the more regulalrly encountered in the area (including two species of Albatross) but there used to be a wealth of insects and plants depicted too but most have now been tagged to oblivion.

Waved and Wandering?

With the vegetation die back a strange little way marker has appeared just before going into the tunnel but I have no idea what it designates!

I have studiously avoided coming up here at the weekends as this is when the off road bikes largely appear and they have made a complete mess of the unavoidable main path that leads up to the Eurostar crossing.  Thankfully the squeeze bar the other side is too small and they can’t enter Ranscombe.



Anyway, enough griping, as I came out to escape the fug of Covid related frustrations that hang over every conversation that you have with friends, family and your own head.

The woods were quiet as I trudged up towards the Darnley Mausoleum with the just the odd strident Robin and calling Crest to distract my progress before I turned right and onto one of the small tracks that leads back downhill towards Knights Place Stables. This was where I had the fledged Tawny owl in the early summer. A large Tit flock moved through with Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed as well as quite a few acrobatic energetic Goldcrests. They were largely silent with just the odd peep and tsee and were joined by the dry sound of random leaves being jettisoned in the slight breeze and tapping slightly as they hit twigs and branches on their descent.

I do love a Sweet Chestnut trunk



Grey Squirrels rummaged in the leaf litter and scampered around  flaky Silver Birch trunks and I followed the slotted prints of Fallow Deer down the same path but never saw them. I entered the Cobham NT area and wended my way through the Highland Cattle paths at a jaunty angle across the plot stopping occasionally to listen to Nuthatches investigating the underside of one of the big Inonotus hispidus (I think) Bracket fungus that adorn the tall Ash trees. 

Turkey Tails



Inonotus hispidus

Slightly younger Inonotus hispidus - I hope

I encountered Treecreepers and both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a large feeding party of Redwings that skittishly came up from the forest floor and lost themselves in the canopy but could still be heard as many of them were quietly sub-singing, forming a background burble of sound. A single Fieldfare was chacking in with them somewhere and the mournful song of a Mistle Thrush was being delivered from the highest point of a mature Oak.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Mistle Thrush


I eventually stumbled into the Highlands who were as usual unobtrusively feeding deep in the Bracken but they merely looked up and nodded a morning before getting back to the joy of grazing Brambles. 

There was an amazing crop of Privet berries

I climbed again and then dropped down towards the southern boundary footpath and although I had not walked this way before I had a good idea that there should be a gate out of the cattle enclosure somewhere close by and thankfully the inner SpazNav (TM) was spot on.


Looking out across the Lower Bush valley, I could see the weather front moving in from the west but it was slow moving and I hoped to stay in the cool sunshine for the rest of the walk. Now that I know what the ‘new green fields’ are across the way it has become clear just how many fields have been turned over to Vineyards this season and the rows of thousands of plastic vine protectors could be seen way off into the distance towards Luddesdown. The woods along this side were quiet and the fields had Skylarks and Carrion Crows while a Grey Heron lumbered over and was probably my first for the site.  

The pea-green areas are all new vineyards

Grey Heron

More vineyards in the distance which I walked through the other week


A single Violet flowered on the path side and there were still a few Bramble blooms but other than the odd Calliphora, I did not see many flying insects at all.  I did however find some fresh Cow Parsley growth which I inspected for the leaf mines of a fly called Phytomyza chaerophylli. I only thought to look havign seen it on the Essex Field Club FB page a couple of days ago!

Calliphora I think

Gnat and a fly which i think may be Pseudolyciella?

More Privet

Very early Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)



Phytomyza chaerophylli fly mines on Cow Parsley

Phytomyza  agromyzina fly mine on Dogwood

My path took my back up to Brockles, passing a wildlife adorned bench that must have previously been hidden from my view, and then across Kitchen Field before following the main path along the edge of the Chestnut back towards the main car park. I was even quieter here with just a few Goldcrests so I amused myself with taking pictures of moth leaf mines to send to Antony when I got home!  I shall add names where possibly over the coming days!

Badger, Buzzard, LIzard, Long-eared Bat and Dormouse

The greyness encrouching

Chestnut Pigmy - Stigmella samiatella on Sweet Chestnut

Chestnut Pigmy - Stigmella samiatella on Sweet Chestnut

Garden Midget Phyllonorycter messaniella on Sweet Chestnut

Top one is Sallow Pigmy - Stigmella salicis on Sallow - Blotch unknown

Lyonetia clerkella on Hornbeam

Nut-tree Pigmy - Stigmella microtheriella  on Hornbeam

Nut-tree Pigmy - Stigmella microtheriella  on Hazel

Nut Leaf Blister Moth - Phyllonorycter coryli  (blotch) on Hazel

Apple Leaf Miner - Lyonetia clerkella (wiggle) and Hazel Slender - Parornix devoniella (blotch) on Hazel

Nut-tree Pigmy - Stigmella microtheriella  on Hazel

possibly Phyllonorycter quercifoliella on English Oak

possibly Phyllonorycter quercifoliella on English Oak - upperside of the above

Apple Leaf Miner - Lyonetia clerkella  on Cherry

Golden Pigmy - Stigmella aurella on Bramble

Golden Pigmy - Stigmella aurella on Bramble

Dewberry Pigmy - Ectoedemia rubivora on Bramble

Short-barred Pigmy - Stigmella luteela on Birch

I took the last path left back up into the trees which as hoped brought me back out at the Eurostar bridge and the mile and a bit downhill trundle home.

Great Mullein


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