Thursday 18 June 2020

Green Urban Birding: The Ranscombe Loop: 18th June 2020

I had to go up the road to the Post Office this morning (well, I did not have to walk that mile uphill but I am still trying to be good) and although it was still trying to rain I slung my camera over my shoulder just in case I decided to push on rather than come straight home.

I was glad that I did. It was eerily quiet as I walked up through the Cobham end of the Ranscombe Reserve. There was little bird song and the rain intensified while I had cover and the rhythmic pattering of the droplets working their way down to the forest floor was actually quite soothing. 

Unlike recent visits, there was absolutely no one else around so I audibly said hello to some of the trees.  One particular Chestnut stopped me in my tracks with the most humanoid of expressions down her left flank as if this Entwife was shying away from the camera and saying ‘don’t point that thing at me’.

I made my apologies and went on my way.

A taste of things to come

I swung down a new ride that felt good for another butterfly related visit in the coming weeks but there were only Dampchaffs and Wetcaps to be found as I headed down the tricky path hoping to come out at the Kitchen Field which is exactly what happened but there was still no one around to appreciate my general smugness.

The rain had mostly let up and it was still rather grey but the Poppies still glowed. I would be lying if I said it rivalled Lesvos (nothing can) but it was still a splendid sight and the wet chalk shining through added a certain something. I checked my phone and saw the news that Dame Vera Lynn had passed away at 103 and standing in a field of Poppies looking southeast towards Dover suddenly seemed very apt and poignant.

With Episyrphus balteatus

Several Meadow Browns and Marbled Whites were flitting around the grassy meadow under the trees but they seemed to favour the Ox Eye Daisies and Chamomile rather than the vibrant purpley pink heads of the Pyramidal Orchids. 

Marbled White

Pyramidal Orchid


A mystery pea type plant had to wait for me to get home to identify it as Wild Liquorice. I never even knew that it grew in this country. I checked for Blue Pimpernel again but had to be content with some Common Restharrow.

Wild Liquorice

Wild Liquorice
Common Restharrow

I cut through the bottom of Mill Wood to get to The Valley trying not to tread on the Great Black Slugs and Snails as I went. 

A Kentish Snail...Monacha cantiana

Great Black Slug - and yes I know...

Here the colour changed from a blanket of red Poppies to sea of yellow with Composites (Hawksbeards and Ox Tongues for the most part I think) and budding Ragwort dotted with splashes of violet blue Vipers Bugloss and purple Welted Thistles.

The Valley

Bristly Ox Tongue


Vipers Bugloss

A pair of Med Gulls caused me to look up before the plants drew me back.  The Nipplewort was now in flower and Burdock was just coming out although I am not sure which one it is. A patch of Phacelia (the plant grown as green manure) drew me to it. What curious flower structures it has.



Wild Radish seedheads

And my first ever Painted Lady caterpillar

Small White

I stuck to the main path to take me to Longhoes where I was greeted by the most astonishing display of Vipers Bugloss I have ever seen. Even since the 3rd June the colour had intensified and it was a truly wondrous sight. 

With Large White

It was alive with Bumblebees and Honey Bees with four species of the former including many that looked very good for Bombus lucorum for the first time this year.  There were certainly some silky white rear ends and lemony bands out there!

Bombus pascuorum

Bombus lapidarius
There were several Scaeva pyrastri among the many Eupeodes sp

Scaeva pyrastri

I searched for any small bee species as there is a newly colonising one called Hoplitis adunca that is pretty much tied to this plant but had no joy. Lots of the bumbles were sitting on the ground and seemed a bit slow and dopey. It had not rained properly for several hours and they were not bedraggled in any way. I helped a few up and they mostly took off and headed back to the flowers. It was almost like they were drunk!

After a nice chat with a couple of lovely ladies appreciating the purple vista I made my way down to the Cuxton Road passing the only stand of Greater Knapweed that I have so far found nestled on the bank with Field Scabious for company.

Greater Knapweed with
Bombus pascuorum, Oedemera nobilis, a tiny bee and a Picture winged Fly

Field Scabious with Oedemera nobilis

The roadside here always produced something and today it was a patch of white Common Century about 30 yards from some normal pink coloured plants. Interesting the white ones were not open but the pink were.

Common Century

Common Century

Common Century - the more normal pink!

Marjoram was attracting some of the usual Hoverflies as well as two miniscule Paragus sp. this tiny hover is about 4mm long I reckon!


Paragus sp.

The first Large Flowered Evening Primroses were on the wane already and the Teasel patch has exploded upwards.

Large Flowered Evening Primrose


I dropped into the Medway Gate estate quarry on my way back down and found Marbled Whites even closer to my home than the Crabbles Bottom Orchard ones! 

The M2 is still fairly quiet

Medway Gate
The clouds were beginning to boil up again so I pushed on to home and a well deserved late lunch.

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