Thursday 12 August 2021

RSPB Rainham Marshes and Kentish Nature Walk #20 - 12th August 2021

With the odd spell of actually pleasant weather there was the opportunity to find some more inverts around the outdoor reception at RSPB Rainham Marshes and I have been trying to educate the visiting public about just how amazing leaving a patch of grass to run wild in the garden can be.

The ‘left patches’ around the play area have several Wasp Spiders nestled away in their little open pockets in the sward.  People always seem amazing that the spider actually ties each strand out of the way to create the gap. 

There are still small at the moment and the hole is about tennis ball sized but before too long it will be foot sized as she increases and size and appetite from Grasshoppers and Crickets.

Wasp Spider - Argiope bruennichi with the male lurking behind

One of the female had a male bravely hanging around for three days waiting for the opportune moment to approach with an offer of brief love – the ultimate dangerous liaison.  He is now unsurprisingly nowhere to be seen but she has already plumped up... say no more.

Yesterday she had two Meadow Grasshoppers in the web at the same time; one being drained and the other not quite subdued.  Meanwhile two more male Grasshoppers caught up on the local news with a bit or territorial stridulating seemingly oblivious of the death throes of their compadres just six inches away.


The Globe Thistles are also now in flower and are attracting many Bombus terrestris including some glowing fresh males.  Normally Spiders seem to leave big Bees alone and let them just crash around until they are out of the web but two different Candy Striped Spiders (Enoplognatha sp) had each got them self a Bumble which possibly says something about the strength and swiftness of their venom.  A couple of male Bombus humilis, lapidarius and pascuorum were also attracted a hopefully some Bombus sylvarum will appear in the coming weeks as the Sedum starts to flower too.

Bombus terrestris

Gatekeepers and Hoverflies were also attracted with a couple of fine Volucella zonaria being the stars by a mile.


Volucella zonaria by Annie Jackson - on Annie Jackson

Jersey Tigers fluttered around aimlessly sure in the fact that no self respecting bird would try tackling a gaudy black, yellow and orange flying beast.  One or two  were of the form lutescens with yellow, not red underwings.  To think that this was once a rare visitor and has now become part of our summer insect fauna.

Jersey Tiger


Drinker and Gypsy Moths hurtled around at breakneck speed and both Pyrausta aurata and purpuralis Mint Moths were in the herb bed where the Garden Orbs were getting larger.  There were several webs with Metallina spiders in them and perhaps only the time of year suggests M segmentata rather than the earlier M mengi.  Interestingly all three webs I found were strung at an angle with the spider on the downward side of the web.  All the Araneus were vertical.


Pyrausta purpuralis

Pyrausta aurata

Metallini sp

Garden orb - Araneus diadematus

Wolf (that I still have no identified), Labyrinth, Nursery and a plump female Misumena vatia that had consumed two Hoverflies, evidenced by the crispy husks discarded below her, added to the spider tally while a fine female Opilio canestrinii Harvestman ticked the primitive Arachnid order.

Misumena vatia

Opilio canestrinii


Whilst searching for more Wasp Spiders I found Roesel’s and Dark Bush Crickets and the Long-winged Coneheads are now mature.  This used to be the rare species here but now Short-winged is the trickier to find.

Long-winged Conehead

Down amongst the grasses there were several Coremacera marginata with their pretty lattice work wings. Their larvae prey on terrestrial snails of which there were plenty around and up in the Phragmites I found the cigar gall of a little fly called Lipara lucens.  Amazingly we also have a species of tiny bee which then only breed in the spent galls of this fly.

Cigar gall of a little fly called Lipara lucens

Coremacera marginata

I found a 'roosting' Larionoides cornutus tucked up in bed in the head of a Ox Tongue with her web in tatters below a grass stem.  She will rebuild it before evening falls. 

Larionoides cornutus

Migrant Hawkers patrolled characteristically above head height and the odd Southern Hawker also came in to patrol the gardens but I have not seen a Blue-eyed here for a couple of weeks and I suspect they are now out on the ditches.  Painted Ladies, Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells, Red Admirals and Commas were on the lilac Buddleias.

Painted Lady

Small Tortoiseshell

Birdwise from out front it has been quiet with a few Swift and Sand Martin moving through and Chiffchaff and Blackcap calling constantly in the gardens while Reed Warblers chicks are now being fed there too, well away from the ditches.

Little Egrets and Buzzards have drifted over and I saw one of the two Great White Egrets on a brief pop into the cafe.

And so to today when as usual the weather decided once again to laugh in my face.  Not glimmer of sun all day down here in north Kent and with mizzly drizzle in the air too.  It was not the ideal morning to go looking for Violet Helleborines but at least I knew they would not be hiding because of the weather!  My intention was to go to Shorn CP to look for them but it would seem that the CP have done some ‘essential tidying’ and have widened the path with stones to make it more people friendly and in doing so have obliterated the main colony.

Fortunately I had been told of some more well off the beaten track near Snodland about twenty minutes from home.  They did not disappoint but at least after seeing them last year near Canterbury I was aware that photography would be challenging to say the least under the Beech, Hornbeam and Pine canopy.  I counted 19 spikes of which several had been nibbled above Rabbit height so presumably by Deer. Some were in full flowers with others still in bud and one was a giant, reaching past my waist.  The one I saw before had wasps and Ants in attendance while these had what appeared to be a Fruit-type Fly of some sort around the open flowers.


Violet Helleborines


The woods were otherwise very quiet with just Nuthatches, Treecreepers and Coal Tits heard and even around the edges there was almost no invert life in the cool conditions bar a few Meadow Grasshoppers.

I was inexplicably tired and could barely keep my eyes open and so decided that dragging myself around further would be pointless so I called it a day before I had really got started and headed back home. Some days you just have to know when to take it easy.

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