Tuesday 21 June 2022

Kentish Nature Walks #38 - The Ranscombe Loop 21st June 2022

Today was meant to be one of my planned Ranscombe Walks but having no takers did not stop me heading out into the wood mid-morning.  It had warmed up quite nicely and I had it in mind to go and check to see if the Purple Emperors were on the wings as they have already been seen in one or two others places but thought it would be good to take in the Poppy spectacle in The Valley that I did not quite get to last Monday.

I started at the Albatross Avenue end and spent some time amongst the Meadow Cranesbill and Oxeye Daisies before the CTRL bridge where I checked a few Xanthogramma for stackelbergi but all I saw well appeared to be the equally delightful pedissequum.  Eristalis intricaria patrolled the local airspace and Meadow Browns bounced over the blooms.

I had this down as a male Large White...

Xanthogramma pedissequum

Eristalis intricaria

I crossed the bridge and turned left into the first main clearing.  There were plenty of Bumbles including Bombus vestalis and pratorum and Syrphus sp Hoverflies were everywhere. Most that I got close to seemed to be males and I definitely got a couple of S ribesii females. 

Bombus pratorum

Seven Spot Ladybird larva

Syrphus sp

Syrphus sp

Rutpela maculata were flying between Bramble flowers and I also picked up Myathropa florea and a couple of Cheilosia variablis.  The first Anthophora bimaculataGreen eyed Flower Bees – were hurtling around and I nearly got a shot of one on some pink Common Centuary which would have been nice!

Myathropa florea 

Phaonia ?

Phaonia ?

Cheilosia variablis

Common Centuary

Rutpela maculata

Mistle Thrush

The woods were dark and quiet bar the sound of flies and squeaky baby birds and once back out in the sunshine I soon found an interesting stripy wasp and a gleaming Red Admiral that looked blood red with the sun shining through it.  Small Skippers were seen along the path side and my usual patch of Small Balsam was flowering.

Small Skipper

Xanthogramma pedissequum

Episyrphus balteatus

Small Balsam

Nysson spinous - with thanks to Grant Hazlehurst

Red Admiral

Red Admiral

Sicus ferrugineus

Figwort, Common Spotted Orchids and my first Common Cudweed for the site were found in flower and a couple of Commas and Speckled Woods were seen before I re-joined the main trail up towards Birch Wood Corner where I turned east back towards the actual Ranscombe Farm so that I would approach The Valley from above. 

Common Vetch

Common Cudweed

Common Spotted Orchid


The views down the Medway was as extensive as ever with a sea of mixed greens in contrast to what was to come.  Skylarks sung over he glaucous Wheat field and on the scattered Hogweed heads I found Small Torts, Red Soldier, Fat-thighed and Tumbling Beetles and once again Leucozona laternaria eluded my camera!


Small Tort

Red Soldier Beetle - obviously been stood up

Variimorda villosa

The first view down into The Valley was spectacular as a sea of red explodes before you and as I approached and then crossed up and through it the colour changed with the aspect and your proximity to the flowers.

Although mostly red, it was a palette of many shades and amongst the hot end of the spectrum there were the cooler lilacs of floppy Opium Poppy heads and banks of yellow composites with the Perennial Sow-thistles with their soft blooms rising over the red sea.

The colours changed with the light and the way you were facing

Every now and then the cobalt blue spires of Viper’s Bugloss would erupt from within. I am always captivated by such mass floral displays and just wish that the camera could capture more accurately what the eye sees.

I was actually paying attention to the Poppies and by looking at the spent heads I found Rough Poppies tucked around the periphery of the massed Field and Opium Poppies. The capsules were round and covered in bristles.

Field Poppy

Field Poppy

Rough Poppy

Rough Poppy

Field and Rough Poppy - both flowers - both seed heads

Opium Poppy

Opium Poppy

Opium Poppy

Opium Poppy

I cut through the bottom of Mill Wood and check on the Kitchen Field Hogweed patch which produced my first Melangyna compositarum / labiatarum for the site along with some Eristalis and Cheilosia illustrata. 

Melangyna compositarum / labiatarum 

Eupeodes luniger

Cheilosia illustrata

I climbed up to the top of the Field and had lunch sitting in the shade on a horizontal Beech bough with Speckled Woods, Ringlets, Marbled Whites and Meadow Browns flicking around the meadow in front.  A White Admiral power glided in and did a couple of low level circuits before climbing back into the canopy and Garden Warblers were vocal.

Pyramidal Orchids now looking very fine indeed

Marbled Whites

Meadow Grasshopper

Meadow Brown

Broad leaved fumitory

The path back up through the trees felt like a real slog and I do not think that my energy levels are quite back since I had shingles at the beginning of May.  However, another break was in order as I arrived at my Emperor Master Oak.  I stood around and watched the canopy for quite a while but nothing was moving up there although I did see several White Admirals lower down.  The firs sightings have only been in the last couple of days so there is still plenty of time to come back and look for them.

White Admiral

Painted Ladies, Red Admirals and Commas were feeding on Brambles on the main ride and were sharing the flowers with two Longhorn Beetle species and plenty of Bees and Syrphus Hovers. Two female Broad-bodied Chasers hunted from dead twigs and there were a few Azure Damsels around.  I thought I might see a Southern Migrant Hawker but no joy.

Painted Lady

Painted Lady



Xanthogramma pedissequum - again

Xanthogramma pedissequum - again

Broad-bodied Chaser

Broad-bodied Chaser

Stenurella melanura

Azure Damselfly

I ambled back down trying not to count Squirrels this time and adding the fine Nettle leaf roll of the Mother of Pearl moth (thanks Antony) and what I think is the first Tutsan I have seen at Ranscombe.


Bracket Fungus on Beech

Nettle leaf roll of the Mother of Pearl moth


A troop of dancing Poecilobothrus nobilitatus on the puddle before the bridge made me smile before heading for home.

Poecilobothrus nobilitatus

Poecilobothrus nobilitatus

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