Thursday 2 July 2020

Green Urban Birding: The Ranscombe Loop 2nd July 2020

With the chance of a dry(ish) and calm(ish) day I headed up to Ranscombe Farm once again (Oh no! I hear you cry!).

There was immediately a new addition to the plant list with several resplendent clumps of Nettle-leaved Bellflower nodding on the car park embankment amongst the Field Scabious and Knapweeds. 

Nettle-leaved Bellflower - Campanula trachelium

Longhoes had changed once again and the vibrant blues of the Viper’s Bugloss had gone down a few shades in intensity to a rich lilac but were offset by a mosaic of yellows.  Most was Oxtounges and I think that both Hawkweed and Bristly were present along with patches of Ragwort.

Leaning towards the sun...

Bristly Ox Tongue

White Viper's Bugloss
The sky was turbulent and changed the colour of the landscape below every few minutes with passing shadows and patches of sunlight.  Self Heal, Wild Basil, Vervain, and Red Bartsia were new species and the Long-stalked Cranesbill seems to keep growing up and through the other plants that were not even started when I first encountered it.  A couple more patches of Sainfoin had appeared and I was surprised to learn that these were the first for the reserve.

Long-stalked Cranesbill

Red Bartsia

Self Heal

Wild Basil

Wild Basil

I spent some time looking at Thistles as this gave me (and therefore Enid on Messenger!) a headache last time. Think I have it sussed now with skinny, spiky Slender, more clumpy, spiky, fat headed Welted and pale lilac clear stemmed Creeping!  We shall see!


Welted on left - Slender on right



The Buttercup Meadow as I called it is now definitely the Ragwort Meadow, interspersed with great roundels of Marjoram with its attendant Skippers and Bees.



Small Skipper on Marjoram
Field Bindweed in delicate shades of pink was open around the fence line where the Gromwell was just going over and Meadow Browns and chocolate Ringlets danced around the Brambles but it really was a little cool for many other insects.  Several Honey Bees and Eristalis arbustorum were on Hogweed heads and I managed some shots of yet another smart little black and yellow wasp that I think may be Cerceris quinquefasciata but I am awaiting some experienced input first.



Honey Bee

Cerceris quinquefasciata - Tim Strudwick has confirmed my id of this scarce species

Cerceris quinquefasciata

The Valley was still yellow but with a lot more Oxtongues in bloom with dotted splashes of Thistles and Bugloss. Rain was threatening but I pressed on finding a nice little patch of Common Flax and some Wild Oats shimmering in the increasing breeze. 

Common Flax

Wild Oats sp

The rain started at the point where I could head off into Mill Wood which was quiet and still and then out in Brockles Field and down the edge past Pyramidal Orchids, Agrimony and clambering Old Man’s Beard.  The breeze had stirred up the Sweet Chestnuts and the sickly sweet, slightly nauseating scent of the flowers crept across the meadow.

Getting dark...

Old Man’s Beard.

Down into Kitchen Field where the Poppies were largely over but the previously bare chalk was now covered in a sea of white daisy type flowers.  I had seen some a few weeks ago and thought it was Chamomile but today actually had a sniff too.  Both Camomile and Scented mayweed both smell pleasant.  This did not and it was quite pungent therefore at the moment I am going with the aptly named Stinking Chamomile until someone advises otherwise!

Kitchen Field

Stinking Chamomile

Perennial Sow Thistles with the ├╝ber soft yellow heads towered above the other ‘yellows’ and despite looking I could not find any Blue amongst the Scarlet Pimpernel... again. 

Perennial Sow Thistles

Perennial Sow Thistles

Perennial Sow Thistles

Scarlet Pimpernel

For some reason I could not refind my big patch of Wild Liquorice but there were still sluggish Marbled White and Meadow Browns in and out of the grasses.

Marbled White
Andrena sp

Eupeodes latifasciatus - a new one for me

I took the top path alongside the Chestnut coppice with the huge views over the Medway Valley beyond off towards the east of Maidstone and then discovered by leaning on a peculiarly placed piece of fencing that I was looking at the protected Meadow Clary area.  Fortunately there was still a little in flower of this now very rare plant.

Meadow Clary

The big Oaks, Ash and Maples kept the rain showers off as I skirted the fields and the good cleared area of Chestnuts alongside the path had Brambles out of the breeze and even in a little sunshine where Commas, Red Admirals, Whites, Skippers and Browns flitted around.  There were a few more bees here including Tree Bumbles and a few Linnaemya and Sarcs. 

I did find this large funky Tachinid fly though called Dexiosoma caninum that was on the hunt for Beetles to parasitize. 

Oak Apple Gall

Wood Sage

Large Skipper

Large White

Linnaemya sp

Linnaemya sp

Dexiosoma caninum

Dexiosoma caninum

Rutpela maculata

A patch of flowering White Bryony lured me off the path and there, unsurprisingly were the almost expected Andrena florea and I then saw them at every clump I looked at along the path.  I did check for Bryony Ladybirds but still have found none this season.

Andrena florea

Andrena florea

The path moves away from the Wheat and Broadbean fields and follows a wide ride where I thought it might be good for butterflies.  It was not warm enough to draw down any White Admirals or Silver Washed Frits but there were many of the aforementioned bramble species in the shelter here.  A female Emperor Dragonfly was making a concerted effort to catch them and the sudden acceleration after prey was amazing but to be honest the simplicity with which the Butterflies evaded a mauling was equally applause worthy.

Emperor Dragonfly

Red Admiral

Fleabane was now in flower and will be worthy of a further insect look if it warms up again and a male Bombus lucorum on some Bugloss was the first I have seen this year. 

Bombus lucorum - rubbish pic but the males are very distinctive



A glance west saw a rapidly blackening sky once again and so I cut up through the wheat field back to the road and the final stretch across the reserve and thankfully made it home with no further weather related incidents!

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