Thursday 16 April 2020

Green Urban Birding: Rede Common – Great Crabbles Wood – Shorne Ridgeway – Higham Loop 16th April 2020

I was woken up by the mellifluous sound of a cascading Willow Warbler singing in my garden which spurred me on to get out early and by 8.30 I was on my way.  There was a nip in the air but it was already sunny and looked like it would turn out nice again.

My route took me up my road and up onto Rede Common once again. There was no change until I nearly reached the A2 where my second Willow Warbler of the day was singing in the Oaks.  Whilst listening to that I got distracted by some silvery dewy spider hammocks in the grass and a few sunbathing Hoverflies on a Blackthorn.  Eristalis pertinax and Epistrophe eligans are certainly the commonest species everywhere I have been in recent weeks and these were joined by a furry Myathropa florea, Platycheirus scutatus agg and a nice Dasysyrphus albostriatus.

Eristalis pertinax

Myathropa florea

Epistrophe eligans

Platycheirus scutatus agg

Dasysyrphus albostriatus

I carried on down the road to Crutches Lane passing drifts of Dandelions that had already gone to seed since I started these walks and then got distracted by a superb front garden with a colony of hundreds of Andrena flavipes swarming around the narrow bank and finely mown lawn.  Amongst them were quite a few of their parasitic companion Nomada fucata.

Andrena flavipes & Nomada fucata
Andrena flavipes & Nomada fucata

Andrena flavipes & Nomada fucata

Nomada fucata

A little further along a couple of spindly Hawthorns were being ravaged by tented Brown-tail Moth caterpillars and I took some pics from a respectable distance.

Brown-tail Moth caterpillars

I went past the entrance to Crabbles Bottom Orchard and swung into main Great Crabbles Wood about a hundred yards further along. Once I had got past the fly tipping at the entrance I entered the best piece of coppiced woodland I have so far visited.  Florally it was much as elsewhere but although the Bluebells were magnificent, they were tempered by a mosaic of whites and yellows from Anemones and Celandines and patches of taller robust green from Spurge Laurel, Stinking Iris and Butchers Broom as well as a delightful lime green grass with airy flowers that was dotted around in clumps.

Wood Anemones


Hazel Stoool

Butchers Broom

Spurge Laurel


Lords and Ladies

Bee Fly on Ash

Guelder Rose
There were patches of Moschatel growing in the margins and I found my first Early Purple Orchids in the same spot but trumped that a little further on with a superb scattered colony within the actual wood around what looked like a perfectly circular bomb crater. They were the biggest I have ever seen with some 18 inches tall and they came in all a range of colours from paleish pink to proper purple.  The leaves were also quite variable with some rounded and spotty, some long and spotty and some without any marks at all!

Early Purple Orchid

I poked around in some rot holes for hoverfly larvae (no joy) but I did find a mass graveyard of these little snails inside one and then got distracted by some smart black ants called Lasius fuliginosus and a big Red-tailed Bumblebee who was looking for a nest hole.

Snail Pit of Despair

Lasius fuliginosus

Lasius fuliginosus
Red-tailed Bumblebee - Bombus lapidarius
Bullfinches were singing and calling with at least three pairs I reckon but I never saw one. In fact, thinking about it, I barely saw a bird the whole time I was in there and a Green Woodpecker and two Nuthatch territories were all I encountered.

The path swung around and up through a much more mature area of coppice and the Bluebells were more intensive and intense up here.  Peacocks visited them and I found others basking on trunks with, unsurprisingly Gymnocheta viridis.

Wood Mellick & Bluebells


Gymnocheta viridis.

Pollenia sp.

Flesh Fly

Anthomyiidae sp
A fallen log was covered in a lacework of beetle larvae mines and I discovered a rather bizarre patch of naturalised Gooseberry bushes!

Beetle larvae mines

Eventually the path popped out via an alley onto Peartree Lane in between the huge properties and gardens of Shorne Ridgeway.  I followed the road toward Higham adding three more Nuthatch territories on the way but little else.  

White Bryony

From here I cut around Higham before taking a bridleway out into the glowing yellow of the oilseed rape fields to the north of the village.  My previous encounter with such fields had been birdless but to my delight these were not.  Skylarks sang all around and I was over the moon to hear the jangling of a Corn Bunting.  I soon picked him up way out on the Canary coloured sea and soon found four males between two such giant fields. 

Higham Church

Corn Bunting

Corn Bunting
A single Yellow Wagtail was heard but not seen and they are quite keen on this mono-culture habitat so hopefully I will pick them up on subsequent visits.  It is still early in the season.

A single male House Sparrow was also singing out in the fields much in the manner of the Corn Bunting – a most unusual sight.  This species appears to be doing just fine in my part of north Kent and I have encountered them everywhere I have been whether urban or rural.  

House Sparrow

Buzzards and Med Gulls circled overhead and a pair of Kestrels were seen although I have yet to see this species over my house since lockdown where it is far rarer than Hobby or Peregrine.

I started to turn towards home and made my way back up to Hermitage Lane to say hello to the horses and the male Swallow I encountered last week before dropping back down a narrow bridleway to Dillywood and the last road stretch before lunch.


This had me going from a distance
Small Tortoiseshell

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