Tuesday 26 May 2020

Green Urban Birding: The Ranscombe Loop – again... 26th May 2020

I last headed up this way on a cold 13th May and it was certainly a little warmer when I went out at 8.30 this morning and walked up the Cuxton Road through the heady scent of front garden Pyracantha and Elder.

A pair of Peregrines circled lazily above the Esso garage where I tried not to look too odd wielding my camera and the chalk bank that had the Wallflowers in early April was now awash with Red Valerian in several shades including white, Ox Eye Daisies and Perennial Wall Rocket.  



More Medway Rechargable Pigeons

Red Valarian
Ox Eye Daisies

The really manky bit of verge as I approached the M2 bridge had lots of Vipers Bugloss staring to flower and I was pleased to find a Broomrape coming through although the only other plant where it was growing was Ground Ivy so I suspect Common as it is not too fussy a parasite if I have read correctly.

Common Broomrape

I found a Dingy Skipper and a gleaming Xanthogramma pedissequum agg on the rabbit cropped area around the main roundabout which was a low carpet of some sort of Mint and Marjoram, one or two clumps of which were flowering.

Mint sp



Xanthogramma pedissequum agg


I walked up through the car park at Ranscombe where the pathside vegetation is a sea of yellow Hawksbeard and Sow Thistles.  Field and Opium Poppies had erupted round the first bench and Common Gromwell, Bladder and White Campions were in the edges.

Field Poppies

Opium Poppies

Opium Poppy

Gromwell - Seemed skinnier than those early in the season. Could it be Field rather than Common?

Bladder Campion

White Campion

Field Mallow

The field had grown up somewhat but there was little more flower although I did find my first blue Flax and Toadflax growing side by side and several more clumps of Long Stalked Cranesbill and some Sainfoin.

Pale Flax



Long Stalked Cranesbill and Creeping Buttercup

A single Wall Brown patrolled a 300m stretch of the chalk path and tirelessly flew up and down and only stopped twice briefly in ten minutes!

Wall Brown
Lasioglossum xanthopus

Down into the now green Valley and then off into the woods of Mill Hill.  

Dog Rose

Sphaerophoria sp

Not a great shot but I had a sneaky feeling that this was a Rambur's Pied Sheildbug (black wing cases) and this has been confirmed.  Not sure if it has been recorded here before.

I was still trying to find some orchids and was delighted to find a little spread out patch of eight White Helleborines scattered under some Beech trees.  They were tiny compared to those at Denge but were still trying their best to flower.

White Helleborine
Grey Squirrel

Columbines in shades of purple and pink grew on the sunny side of the path and down slope the Fly Orchids were doing very well in their little Rabbit proof enclose and I counted 16 spikes ranging from just four inches to a whopping 18 inches high.  



Fly Orchid

However the star in there for me was the Stinking Iris as I have never actually seen it flowering before.  I have seen clumps throughout the wood but none of the others I encountered had any blooms.

Stinking Iris

Stinking Iris

I was also very impressed by the little Plant Life sign telling you about the orchid fence and encouraging you to go in for a careful look – if you found the compound that is!

From here I swung down to where I hoped Kitchen Field would be, stopping on the way to accidentally scrump a couple of super sweet Wild Strawberries as I went.  

Wild Strawberries


From the reserve’s last FB past I had an inkling where I might find some Man Orchids and although it took me a little while I was successful and found seven spikes including a couple of very nice ones.  There were six more White Helleborines in the same area and a Grizzled Skipper was my first on this side of the reserve.

Man Orchid

Man Orchid

White Helleborine

Grizzled Skipper

The path I took from here was a new one although I knew it was heading vaguely towards the mausoleum and I was very pleased to discover a pair of Marsh Tits foraging although they seldom stayed still.  I have walked 450 miles since Lockdown on the 23rd March and much of it has been in and around the Medway woods but this was the first encounter I have had with this once widespread species. Who would have thought I would see more Hawfinches than Marsh Tits?

Treecreepers were very vocal and there were several young birds following parents around but the woods were as quiet as you would expect on a hot late spring day. I lingered at sunny glades and found a very wasp like Figwort Sawfly on some Brambles. It was a bit too far for a good picture but you get the idea.  Some Figwort was flowering just a few paces further on.


Figwort Sawfly
Linnaemya sp I think. Certainly a Tachinid

I found the path up to the Darnley M and then dropped back down the track where the Garden Warblers were still singing and joined the bridle way that took me past Knights Place Farm and its rather well tended horses.  It ran alongside the Ash grove that I mentioned on the 12th and it actually stretch all the way back toward the A2. 

Yellow Flag

From here it was a straight cut back up to the Tunnel and the top of Bligh Way.  Lunch beckoned and some respite from the sun so I sat up the garden for a while in the shade with some of my Elderflower cordial in a pint glass and listened to the screaming of Swifts and small wild humanoids before the evil stares of pigeons got the better of me and I retreated indoors...

Evil Eye...

And full on Bogging...


  1. A nice haul of wild flowers Howard. I particularly liked the Fly Orchid. I get worn out just walking around the Rainham circuit but I did get some pictures of the Figwort Sawfly a couple of days ago. Flying with their legs dangling is a dead give away.

  2. thanks Lawrenece... There is always something to find