Monday 22 June 2020

Green Urban Birding: The Ranscombe – Cobham Extended Loop 22nd June 2020

I left home at just after 8.30 on what would turn out to be nearly seven hours on my feet.  It was pleasantly warm as I headed up the road to find my way into the Ranscombe Woods.  The display of Meadow Cranesbill before the CTRL Bridge is now superb and Large and Essex Skippers were zipping around merrily before I crossed over to the trees.

Large Skipper on Meadow Cranesbill

Essex Skipper

The sun was illuminating the very first Bramble clump and I was on the lookout for those special woodland summer butterflies and so was delighted when a White Admiral glided down from the canopy for some breakfast until a stroppy Holly Blue gave it a thump and sent it on its way again.  

White Admiral

Holly Blue

I found another a few paces further on but this one was coming down for salts on the ground. The woods were alive with the hum of hoverflies and bees and each Bramble clump I came too was thrumming with life.

White Admiral

Small and Large Whites started to appear and then a couple of Commas before I discovered the sunny side of an Oak with two each of Red Admiral and Comma and a rather lethargic Tree Bumblebee sunbathing on the trunk.

Tatty Tree Bumblebee and Red Admiral

Red Admiral


Red Admiral

Grey Squirrels were everywhere and I do worry about the predation rates on small bird nests when they are at this sort of density. Unfortunately the woods are just too disturbed to home Goshawks!

Grey Squirrel

Grey Squirrel

A gingery bee was nectaring on some Hawksbeard and I thought it might be an Anthophora and my books pointed me towards A.furcata when I got home – a new one for me while my first Cheilosia illustrata of the year was on some Hogweed.

Anthophora furcata

Anthophora furcata

Cheilosia illustrata

Meadow Browns and Ringlets started to dance around the edges and there were Large and Small Skippers on the Bramble flowers.  Helophilus pendulus, Episyrphus balteatus and Syrphus sp were common and there were numerous Eristalis intricaria and Volucella pellucens patrolling territories over the paths.


Helophilus pendulus

Volucella pellucens


Rosebay Willowherb
Enchanter's Nightshade

Just before I reached the Cobham gate I discovered the disgusting remains of a big party that had been had at the laying Chestnuts where families often play. It was an absolute mess with bottles, bags, BBQs, food packages and gas canisters. The fact that the people responsible had walked at least a mile up through the woods with all their stuff made it all the more unbelievable.   

I took some pictures and pinged the Farm’s FB page and went on my way down the slope towards Knights Place Farm where my first ever local Silver Washed Fritillary took my mind off just how little regard people have for the countryside.

The pesky Frit would not perch where I could see it properly so I had to be content with some nice close fly by views but there would be other opportunities as I entered the Cobham Woods cattle area but although I saw several I still never got a shot. The Brambles were well attended by Honey Bees and many Bumbles but strangely only a few Meadow Browns. I saw a single Eristalis arbustorum and a nice Xylota sylvarum flashing its yellow tail light.  There were a few small Clegs circling around me so I kept moving and scanning the oaks for Purple Emperors and Hairstreaks but with no joy. 

Xylota sylvarum

A single dragonfly patrolled a clearing and landed briefly enough for me to get a couple of shots proving it to be a teneral Blue Eyed and not Southern Hawker as I had expected.

Blue Eyed Hawker

Blue Eyed Hawker

I stayed on the cattle paths as I cut back up towards the main route through as I did not want to cross the boring golf course.  There was a bit of zigzagging to avoid brushing through the Bracken where the chances of my finding questing ticks would have been greater. Treecreepers were vocal and a Garden Warbler (or a Greater Pettychap as my Dad discovered they were called in his 1863 hedgerow book he got for Father’s Day) was giving it large.

I had previously mentioned that this bit of old open woodland looks perfect for some of the scarcer breeding species but that I could not find any so when a Spotted Flycatcher started singing from one of the mighty Ash trees I was very pleased.  A second bird called in the next tree but it took ten minutes to actually find him.  This was my 110th species on foot from home since Lockdown started.

Spotted Flycatcher

A stand of Ragwort had some well grown Cinnabar moth cats on it – the first I have seen.


Spear Thistle?

The long hedge as I exited the wood has the gold course on the north side and a meadow and then wheat on the south. The meadow was dotted with Ox Eye Daisies, Field Mallow and Knapweed and there were Meadow Browns , Small Heaths and Skippers darting around and a Slender Robber Fly was moving slowly among the grass stalks while Med Gulls called above my head in the blue with a Buzzard mewing even higher up.


The calm was broken by a Spitfire thundering into view before banking around and heading back south. It is always a thrill to hear and see one of these majestic beasts.

I cut alongside the Pea field full of ripening pods before being hit by the scent from the Lime Tree avenue at the end of the road. I am not sure what the time actually was but I was determined to get lunch from the Cobham Village Store and with cup of tea and well filled thick cut ham salad roll in hand I cut across the rec ground and into Jeskyns CP having added six pair of nesting House Martins to the village tally.

Lime flowers

There is never a seat when you want one but I balanced my tea on a fence post and stood there, roll in hand and watched the Bonking Beetles on the Hogweed with the Oedemera nobilis and my third recent White Crab Spider – this one sucking the juices from a good sized fly.

Red Soldier Beetle (AKA Bonking Beetles...)

Empis tessellata

Misumena vatia

Andrena flavipes

Cheilosia illustrata

Garden Chafers were swarming and dancing around whatever tree they fancied (I think I wrongly called them Summer Chafers the other day – must go and check)

Garden Chafer

The meadow opposite was full of Trefoil and Red Clover and my first Gatekeepers of the season were out with Meadow Browns and Whites.


Red Clover

Filed Scabious and Empis tessellata

From here I entered the officially Ancient Ashenbank Wood which is home to some very impressive Sweet Chestnuts including this oddity which has seemingly continually sprouted side shoots and cross branches and now looks like some sort of tropical fig with aerial roots. 

I paid my respects and walked up to where I believe the Bronze Age Barrow is situated but the interp was missing and I only found a semi-feral Small Blue Elephant.

It was quite mobile...

Fours Spot Chasers and a Large Red Damselfly were on the dog pond and I could hear Treecreepers and both Woodpeckers.

I stumbled on the WWII housing bunkers sunk in the sandy loam where personnel were stationed to staff the local airfields and some interesting Wasps were taking prey into their burrows in the sandy path while a Southern Hawker patrolled above.

WWII Bunker


Multi-trunked Birch growing out of the root ball of a long fallen Sweet Chestnut

Cerceris rybyensis

Common Awl Robberfly (Neoitamus cyanurus)

Common Awl Robberfly (Neoitamus cyanurus)

Common Awl Robberfly (Neoitamus cyanurus)

Common Awl Robberfly (Neoitamus cyanurus)

Red Admirals danced in the sunlit glade by the car park and it was a short nip across the road and into Cobham Estate once again.  The Rookery was noisy and there seemed to be as many Jackdaws in there as Rooks as I cut across the Trefoil filled grassland to get to the CRTL path in the North East corner.

I followed this as before all the way to the Golf Course entrance road passing many Pyramidal and huge Spotted Orchids on my way before coming to a continuous line of Ox-eye Daisies, Knapweed and Greater Burnet-Saxifrage (an umbelifer) which were being visited by a host of bees, flies, beetles and hoverflies. 

Common Spotted Orchids

Common Spotted Orchids

Pyramidal Orchid

Pyramidal Orchid

Greater Burnet-Saxifrage

Greater Burnet-Saxifrage

Ox-eye Daisies

Ox-eye Daisies and Greater Burnet-Saxifrage

Rather than cutting over the A2 at the road I followed the path onwards and this fantastic train of flowers continued beyond that point.  It was amazing and I was very pleased with my discoveries partly as I managed to successfully identify a couple of tricky Hovers.

The hairy eyes of Cheilosia variablis 

Cheilosia variablis 

Cheilosia variablis 

Xanthogramma stackelbergi

Xanthogramma stackelbergi

Xanthogramma stackelbergi

Volucella pellucens

Volucella pellucens

Volucella pellucens

Volucella pellucens

Graphomyia maculata

Small Megachile?

Small Megachile or an Osmia?

Marbled White appeared where the path widened and a White-letter Hairstreak came up from the flowers by the only patch of Elms I had seen. Rutpela maculata joined the fly throng and a Hornet thrummed pasty my ear but did not stop. Speckled Wood, Common Blue and Peacock were new for the day and a family of Jays boisterously kept pace with me for a couple of hundred yards.

Speckled Wood

A footpath back into the wood became available and I had a sneaky feeling that I knew where 161 led and it did indeed take me back up through the Ash grove to the corner of the Cobham fenceline where I entered earlier but rather than retrace my steps I found another path a little way into the wood and this proved to be a very good choice as I heard a squeaky ‘k-wick’ from up in front and hoped that I would find a young Tawny Owl perched up in front.  I crept up the slope but it saw me before I saw it and it flew silently off but not too far and I found it again watching me from a safe distance.  It was a fledgling but well feathered and is probably the first daylight Tawny I have seen properly in 15 years or so.

Tawny Owlet

I left it sitting there and quietly moved off just as a couple of Crossbills called up in front – two more Lockdown Walk ticks!

As I got back up towards the main ride I could hear the tinny whine of ‘interesting’ music through a phone and being a grumpy old fart nowadays I bristled at my peace being disturbed. Three lads and a girl headed across the top, music blaring but hang on a minute... they were carrying four black bin bags and two big shopping bags.  Didn’t I see those two bags at the party spot earlier? Surely not?

It was only fifty yards back to investigate and there it was, pristine and devoid of any sign they had been there. I was speechless. Ok, so they should not have left it there in the first place but to walk over a mile up into the woods to collect it all the following afternoon gave me just the smallest smidgeon of hope that all might not be lost.

I veered back off the main path and back down the bridleway where another Silver Washed Frit dashed past me and a doe Fallow Deer stopped long enough for me to lift the camera.

Fallow Deer

The path reached a paddock at the back of the stables with a very nice pond which is where I suspect my Blue Eyed Hawker came from and I thought I had found three more deer in the shadows until I realised that they were Alpacas!  

Alpaca with Lockdown ear hair issues 

The last bit of new trail popped me back out on the CTRL path before shortly intercepting the Bligh Way Bridge.  I had a quick chat with Ben from Plant Life who was doing some work at that corner who had been equally puzzled at the teenagers with the rubbish bags who had just walked past him!

And so I only had a mile to go to get home after a thoroughly enjoyable amble with many new species added and different paths trodden.

No comments:

Post a Comment