Tuesday 28 July 2020

Green Urban Birding: The Ranscombe Woodland Loop 28th July 2020

The need to head up the road to the Post Office meant that a walk off into Ranscombe was the best option for the day.  It was quite warm but blustery but better than the cool greyness of my amble yesterday.

I cut under the M2 tunnel but did not cross the CTRL and walked down the side of the railway on the shady side in the hope that the sun was on the section where the butterflies were in the spring. It was but there was little happening to start with just a few Common Blue and Gatekeepers and a solitary Marbled White. The railway embankments have thankfully not been mowed again and were a carpet of Composites, Bedstraws and Vetches.  I checked the Field Scabious and nearly every head had at least one Nemophora metallica waving those white antennae but not quite in ahead bangingly wild manner befitting the shiny moth’s name. 

Nemophora metallica

I stood and watched the flowers and was rewarded by a succession of good species dropping in. The light kept going and I tended to be just too far away from things so my pics are not quite as crisp as I would have liked but I did see my first Wool Carder Bee of the year (at last) along with Green-eyed Flower Bees, a big fat bottomed Nowicki ferox and a super skinny Conopid that I reckon is Physocephala rufipes.

Nowicki ferox

Physocephala rufipes.
Wool Carder Bee - Anthidium manicatum

There were Field and Meadow Grasshoppers, Long-winged Coneheads and Dark and Speckled Bush-Crickets while a squadron of Migrant Hawkers patrolled over the Green Bridge and sometimes they all stopped at the same time and hung up in a Broom for a few minutes before starting to patrol once again.

Field Grasshoppers

Migrant Hawker

Migrant Hawker

Migrant Hawkers

There were more Butterflies just off the Bridge with Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers, more Common Blues and Whites and best of all my first Painted Lady of the year taking me to 39 species of which 38 have been in Kent.

Large White

Meadow Brown

Painted Lady

A territorial male Small Blue was seeing off several male Commons and a very dapper Brown Argus and a Buddlia had several Peacocks, Commas and Red Admiral in attendance.



Common Blue

Common Blue
Brown Argus

Brown Argus

Small Blue

Small Blue

I spied a little fly on Wild carrot off in front and thankfully it stayed long enough for me to get a bit closer and confirm that was indeed Gymnosoma rotundatum (or similar).  It was sharing its flower head with Rutpela maculata and several energetic Red Soldier Beetles.

Gymnosoma rotundatum

Red Soldier Beetle

Rutpela maculata

Common Darters zipped up and down the path at knee level and Eristalis arbustorum and pertinax were also seen as I walked along the narrow path putting up a Shaded Broad-bar and Lattice Heath in the process.

Common Darter

Lattice Heath

Shaded Broad-bar

Leiobunum rotundum

Once back at the other bridge, I spent some time with the Ragwort and Creeping Thistle clumps alongside the first wide ride and they were very productive with several each of Volucella zonaria, inanis and pellucens and loads of furry female Eristalis pertinax.

Volucella inanis

Volucella pellucens

Volucella zonaria

Volucella zonaria

My second and third Conopids of the day appeared to nectar with Sicus ferrugineus and a delightful waspish Conops quadrifasciatus.

Conops quadrifasciatus

However I was not expecting a Yellow-legged Clearwing to drop in for a short while and I think from the markings that it is a female. There were the usual expected Bumblebee species and several Andrena flavipes on the Ragwort (of which there were two species).

Yellow-legged Clearwing

Andrena flavipes

Red-tailed Bumblebee

I found the gall of Urophora cardui on the Creeping Thistles, a verdigris weevil called Phyllobius pomaceus and the super funky little bug called Heterotoma planicornis with the very odd antennae. This was proper quality grubbing!

Urophora cardui gall

Phyllobius pomaceus

Heterotoma planicornis
Hoary Ragwort - Jacobaea erucifolia

Hoary Ragwort - Jacobaea erucifolia

Common Ragwort - Jacobea vulgaris

Common Ragwort - Jacobea vulgaris

I found Corn Mint, Vervain, Hedge Woundwort and Nettle leaved Bellflower in the edges and some of the Slender Thistles in the clearing were at least nine feet tall with Creeping, shorter Slender and Welted underneath.  

Corn Mint

Hedge Woundwort

Slender, Welted and Creeping Thistle

Slender Thistle

Towering Slender Thistle

Migrant Hawkers zoomed up and down and I got a good look at a female Blue-eyed as she briefly perched up but as usual the Brown Hawker that I saw refused to stop. I looped around to the edge of the Broad Bean field where the set aside margin was a blizzard of Creeping Thistle fluff blowing in the wind. It swirled around the whole field, never going in the same direction with numerous White butterflies and frustrated hawkers moving amongst it. It was like being in a thistle down snowglobe.

A clump of Greater Burdock by a gate had a pristine male Brimstone on it and I looked for and found the little green eyed Picture-winged flies that make their home in the plant too. 


Terellia tussilaginis

I took a new ride back into the wood although I had a good idea where it came out but got distracted by another clearing with lots of Wild Carrot and Fleabane. There were more flies to watch with the yellow wing bases of Cheilosia impressa initially confusing me but the goggly red eyes and purpley sheen of Chryogaster solstitialis were less easy to confuse. A couple of Linnaemya were looking a bit ragged but the pair of wasps on one head were very smart and I think that they are Ectemnius lituratus.

Cheilosia impressa

Chryogaster solstitialis

Ectemnius lituratus.

Ectemnius lituratus.


Wild Carrot and a Lucilia

Two more plants here too with Redshank and a brand new one, Small Balsam with its dainty yellow flowers and a token bonus Episyrphus balteatus.

Redshank - Persicaria maculosa

Small Balsam - Impatiens parviflora

Small Balsam - Impatiens parviflora

The path took my up past a great little sandy bank that was riddled with bees burrows.  I could hear the Anthophora bimaculata as I approached.  These busy little green eyed bees were coming and going and performing maintenance on their homes while a rather sinister looking fly loitered outside with obvious malicious intent.  I am not sure what this one is yet. I am awaiting my fly oracle to check his mail!

Anthophora bimaculata

Anthophora bimaculata

Anthophora bimaculata

Sinister fly...

What I think was a Colletes was also nesting there but i am not sure what species (or even if it is definitely a Colletes sp!)

Colletes sp?

I reached the main trail and turned for home with any odd piece of Buddlia hosting Peacocks and the odd Red Admiral and ended with a family of fledged Sparrowhawks in the coppice just before I got back to Albatross Avenue.

Red Admiral


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