Monday 18 May 2020

Two small loops and a minor excursion...

After my extended Cobham loop on the 12th, the rest of the week was a bit of a squib (can’t really be a damp one as it did not rain...)

I headed back out in the grey and chill of the 13th and made my way back up to Ranscombe under the strange notion that I now knew where the orchids were.  I was mistaken! It was a funny old walk with little to photograph or even see but I did find another clump of Long Stalked Cranesbill (Geranium columbinum) which was nice and I added a few territories but little else.

Long Stalked Cranesbill (Geranium columbinum)

However, I did find the route back to Bligh Way this time which took me to the Eurostar and then alongside it all the way back.  There is even a green wildlife bridge about half way along where I encountered a family party of Bullfinches which was a pleasant surprise and a patch of Early Purple Orchids still hanging on under the Chestnuts.

Early Purple Orchid

The 14th was bright to start with but very chilly and it became a three layers and a hat loop that took me back up through Crutches Lane which I have been told by several local people is pronounced Croochez... I tried not to laugh.

I took a new path into Great Crabbles Wood which wended its way up through the stands of giant Chestnut stools. The wind was getting up and rattling them together and I should think that it is an eerie place on a dark winter’s day.  Most of these coppiced woods have a very verdant understorey and this one is no exception.   

The Bluebells were now mostly over and Brambles and Male Ferns were showing their vigour with carpets of Dog’s Mercury starting to seed and beds of what I am sure is Enchanter’s Nightshade filling the gaps.


Enchanter’s Nightshade

Yellow Archangel

I have been told that Silver Washed Fritillaries and White Admirals have been seen here in previous years so that is another reason to come back.  Blackcaps, Wrens, Song Thrushes and Robins were the main songster territories to add when I got home.

The main path just sort of petered out and headed back down hill at the point I needed it to keep going up and so I followed the light track through the Bluebells and somehow popped out on the side of Peartree Lane which was where I hoped I would get to!

I followed the road down towards Higham passing a splendid Rhododendron in bloom in one of the palatial front gardens that line this road.

Once in Higham I headed for the church and got myself back on Hermitage Road.  The view from here is superb and I had not realised on my previous walks that from here you can look north-east all the way across the Thames to Thundersley and Hadleigh Castle Downs 11 miles away and south–east to the twin Swale crossings 13 miles away.

Over the Alpha Pit at Cliffe to Essex

Hadleigh beyond

DP World

The Medway and Swale Crossings
With brooding skies and frozen fingers I cut across to Dillywood and made for home with only a brief stop to take a picture of the now very impressive Caper Spurge plant on the spoil heap alongside the A2!

Caper Spurge

A few days of garden and home ensued as I am still trying to avoid doing anything at all out and about at weekends but today, the 18th May, saw my first escape by car since Lockdown.

I fancied some butterfly action and it seemed to be warming nicely and so a visit to Queendown Warren was in order. 

Rock Roses
Although not heaving with insects it was still just what I needed and once at the rabbit exclusion paddock at the west end I was rewarded with good numbers of Brown Argus, Common and Adonis Blue on the wing. How they actually make it through a single day without starving to death I do not know as they almost never seem to stop and when they do it is just for a few seconds and then they are on their way again.

Brown Argus

Common Blue

Adonis Blue
It seems really unfair on the dazzling male Common Blues that they should be upstaged by the Adonis but they quite simply are.  I used to call the colour electric blue but now in my head it will always be Morpho Blue.

Adonis Blue

Adonis Blue

Whilst pacing up and down the fence line following their progress I also found a single Grizzled Skipper and a Burnet Companion moth while I was delighted to see three Green Hairstreaks for the first time this season.  This species has always eluded me and I have seen it so infrequently so this was a special treat.

Grizzled Skipper

Burnet Companion

Green Hairstreak
I think these ponies on another part of the reserve were Exmoors

I could not find any orchids and a solitary male Garden Warbler was the best bird before I headed back and off to Oare Marshes for lunch and a circuit.

Med Gulls were everywhere and I drove down through a large group flycatching over the last wheat field and the sound of ‘caooooow’ filled the air. The tide was mid-level but the mud was devoid of any waders whatsoever and it felt more like a mid-June than mid-May day. 

2s Med Gull

An immature Red Kite circled west and Marsh Harriers, Kestrels and at least five Hobbies were on show for most of my circuit of the East Flood. 

Marsh Harrier
Red Kite

Shellness Hamlet in the distance looking like an island

I encountered several species that I had not seen since Lockdown on the 23rd March but will not be including them on the list as that is for home and walking only although it was good to see a Lapwing at last along with Bearded Tits and a small group of roosting Black-tailed Godwits.
A male Stonechat was also new and was a striking individual with a huge amount of white in the scapulars, pale rump, orange spot on breast and rather oddly finely streaked flanks. I managed one shot before it flew out further onto the marsh.

Black-tailed Godwits, Pochard, mallard and Black-headed Gull

Little Egret - it was a little hazy

odd Stonechat
Three Cuckoos were being vocal and moving around their territories and noisy flocks of Starling families were rummaging in the meadow for leatherjackets.  There is something so late spring about the sudden mass emergence of brown Starlings and the constant ‘cheuw cheuw’ as they demand attention from their beleaguered parents.

Starlings - ' C'mon Mum feed me that Leatherjacket!'
Reed Bunting with a house on Harty Hill behind

I added Yellow Wagtail and a couple of Avocets on the last bit of the walk but the place was rapidly filling up with poorly parked cars and all those other people that thought it was ok to come visit where I wanted to be so I packed up and headed for home.

1 comment:

  1. Nice collection Howard but it just shows how we take all the diverse range of species at Rainham for granted. We are all looking forward to the opening of the RSPB Reserves.