Sunday 9 July 2017

RSPB Rainham Marshes Rambles - July 2017

With some fair (swealtering) weather reappearing this week, I took the opportunity to escape out onto the reserve for several short walks, mainly with insects in mind although it was nice at last to connect with a Green Sandpiper for the old year list! Normally I get one in January so it was good to finally see that flashing white rump and ‘twit – whit ‘call.

A wander up over Rainham Ridge revealed the first Gatekeepers of the year along with countless Meadow Browns, the two smaller Skippers and a few Red Admirals and Painted Ladies all feeding merrily on the blooms of Mallow, Thistles, Yarrow, Bristly Ox Tongue, Wild Carrot and new one on me, Dittander - Lepidium latifolium while the Perennial Sweet Pea with its shocking pink flowers was being enthusiastically raided by bumblebees of at least four species.

Painted Lady
Essex Skipper
Small Skipper
Essex Skipper


Meadow Brown

Common Mallow

Wild Carrot
Perennial Sweet Pea

Perennial Sweet Pea
Dittander - Lepidium latifolium

Red Soldier Beetles were similarly gleaning and as usual were often in flagrante delicto.

Skylarks were still in song from both perches and the air above my head and Meadow Pipits were collecting food for that all important second brood while flocks of mainly juvenile Starling whirled but did not murmurate – over the tip.

Skylarks above and below

July sees the start of our annual Stock Dove congregation and small groups exploded grouse-like from cover as I ambled along and out on Wennington I counted at least 60 in one flock.

Stock Dove

Large Flowered Evening Primrose, Great Mullein and Ragwort (complete with Cinnabar cats) added more yellow to the pallet.

Large Flowered Evening Primrose

Cinnabar cat
Great Mullein

Closer to the visitors centre we have regularly seen Marbled Whites over the last week which is great news and hopefully this small number may see the start of this species colonisation of the site. They are particularly fond of the Black Knapweed but they seldom stay still for long and are a bugger to photograph so I was pleased with this shot.   

Marbled White
The first Clouded Yellows and fresh Common Blues, Brown Argus and Six Spot Burnets are making this a very attractive spot but the swathes of Bedstraw and Trefoil are nearly over and it will be the Yarrow, Creeping Thistles and Bristly Ox Tongue that will become popular.

Common Blue
Six Spot Burnet
Brown Argus

Brown Argus
A Six-belted Clearwing moth was vying for a spot against a Wool Carder Bee on the Trefoil and the Honey Bees were making the most of the abundant nectar.

Wool Carder Bee on Lemon Balm in the wildlife garden

The first Brown Hawker was on the wing on Monday and Southern Hawkers are now patrolling the woodland pathways and picking off smaller aerial prey while down in the grass Wasp Spiders are growing fast and taking on anything silly enough to leap into their strong webs.

Southern Hawker
Southern Hawker

Speckled Bush Cricket

The Lavender is covered in bumbles and in the wildlife garden the Wool Carder Bees are firmly on territory while Willoughby's Leaf Cutters are using the bee boxes we put up.  the blooming Chicory at the end of the exit ramp is also attracting the first Hairy Legged Mining bees - Dasypoda hirtipes of the year as they fill up those enormous baskets on the rich white pollen.

Wool Carder Bee
Hairy Legged Mining bees - Dasypoda hirtipes
Bumble on the Eryngium

Bumble on the Eryngium - a bit pale so not sure of species
Some concerted bee work around the gardens and car park has added Hawksbeard Mining Bee- Andrena fulvago to the list as well as the superbly green-eyed Anthophora bimaculata which zooms around like it has its own built in nitrous oxide button. The latter is pretty scarce while the suitably named Spined Mining Bee – Osmia spinulosa was collecting pollen from the Fleabane with a superb Red Tipped Clearwing - Synanthedon formicaeformis for company. 

Spined Mining Bee – Osmia spinulosa -
Red Tipped Clearwing - Synanthedon formicaeformis

Huge, territorial Volucella zonaria are now taking up their spots in the woodland too and having our biggest – and completely harmless- hoverfly eyeballing you from six inches is quite an experience. At least a dozen other species have been seen including the spotty eyed Eristilinus sepulchralis and incredibly wasp-like Chrysotoxum verralli

Volucella zonaria
Eristilinus sepulchralis
Chrysotoxum verralli - and yes I did work out antenna segment ratios after I potted it!
There are many more Episyrphus balteatus around this weekend and I suspect there has been an immigration of this migratory species as I also found my first, and always impressive, Scaeva pyrastri nectaring alongside them and Eupeodes corolla.

Episyrphus balteatus on Chicory
Scaeva pyrastri

Eupeodes corollae - female
female Sphaerophoria sp - nice but unidentifiable
There has been an explosion of Peacocks and the buddlias are now home to many flashing eyes as well as Red Admirals and Commas and Oak Eggar Moths are careening around at warp speed.


Red Admiral

A White-letter hairstreak was seen on the path on Monday – the first for several years – and I was lucky enough on Friday to see one briefly but our nice patch of sucker English Elms are out of reach to even us to check to see if we have more.

The remaining Hogweed flowers ares still attracting flies including two Cheilosia species - illustrata and pagana as well as plenty of Green and Blue Bottles and Red Soldier Beetles.

Cheilosia pagana
Cheilosia illustrata
Cailphora sp

Cailphora sp

Lucilia sp
Soldier beetle

I was going to end on a Gasteruption jaculator but I have already done that gag...

Gasteruption jaculator

Last year we caught several individuals of a rare and protected fly on the reserve.  The Levels Yellow Horned Horsefly - Hybomitra ciureai - has only been reported once or twice in Essex but I have caught four more since last Saturday so it is obviously doing well.  

Levels Yellow Horned Horsefly - Hybomitra ciureai
And before you ask, yes she can bite but on our marsh it only seems to be the Clegs that persistently try to draw human blood...
Just look at those amazing compound eyes!

Levels Yellow Horned Horsefly - Hybomitra ciureai