Sunday 15 May 2022

Two Essex Ambles - 13th May 2022

After some early morning survey work I headed over to meet Enid in the Ingrebourne Valley to suss out a couple of other areas for my two walks for Land of the Fanns later this month.  We walked north from the main car park before crossing over the river and wending our way up through the wood towards the Hacton end. I had never actually walked this section before and the trees in particular changed as you proceeded from almost entirely Oak with the odd Ash to the same two species along with huge Maple, Gean, Holly and Hazel and by the time you got to the top end it had become a patch of relict acid grassland with Birch and flowering Broom that is in serious need of some management work.  Enid was telling me that there are several rare Hawkweeds here.

Broom - a variation

There was some flower at ground level with Meadow and Creeping Buttercups, Common Comfrey, Wintercress, Green Alkanet, Stitchwort, Red Campion, the last of the Bluebells and patches of Cow Parsley and the odd Hogweed head but there was a profusion of Hawthorn all around.

Red Campion


Greater Stitchwort



Meadow Buttercups

Creeping Buttercups

Spear Thistle clump

Marsh Figwort

Green Alkanet

It was actually very cool and grey but in the warm pockets we found quite a bit of invert life with:-


Xanthogramma pedissequum

Myathropa florea

Eristalis pertinax

Eristalis tenax 

Eristalis arbustorum 

Rhingia campestris

Dasysyrphus albostriatus

Cheilosia impressa

Episyrphus balteatus

Myathropa florea

Syrphus ribesii

Playtcheirus albimanus

Melanostoma scalare

Eupeodes luniger

Sphaerophoria scripta

Helophilus pendulus

Epistrophe eligans

Chrysotoxum cautum.

Cheilosia impressa with the really red eyes

Chrysotoxum cautum 

Chrysotoxum cautum

I was actually surprised at the Hoverfly list given the cool conditions

Amongst the Bumblebees there were Bombus terrestris, pascuorum, pratorum and lapidarius but there was only one Azure Damselfly and a male Banded Demoiselle seen and just a handful of butterflies with Orange Tip, Brimstone, Speckled Wood, Small White, Green-veined White, Holly Blue, Peacock and a delightfully fresh Brown Argus.

Bombus pascuorum on Common Comfrey

Brown Argus

I found a couple of Cantharis rustica Soldier Beetles and some other interesting flies as well as getting distracted by leaf mines once again.

Cantharis rustica 

possibly Eumea linearicornis 

Thelaira nigrina 

I found Ectoedemia heringella on Holm Oak and have been advised that the Coleophora on the Silver Birch is either flavipennella or lutipennella while I also found Eriocrania subpurpurella on Oak and Stigmella aurella on Bramble and an amazingly complicated tight leaf roll on Oak that Antony says is Ancylis mitterbacheriana because of the diagnostic silk bungees!

Eriocrania subpurpurella

Ectoedemia heringella

Stigmella aurella

Coleophora flavipennella or lutipennella 

Ancylis mitterbacheriana

look at those bungees!

But the only actual moth I saw was a Nettle Tap

There were two late Dark-edged Beeflies and lots of Empis tessellata lurking around as well as Harlequin Ladybirds and two smart Malachius bipustulatus that were on some Hawthorn flowers.

Empis tessellata

Lackey Moth cat

Dark-edged Beefly on Green Alkanet

Malachius bipustulatus

There were birds too with Swifts and Ring-necked Parakeets competing for the skies and the usual selection of Warblers on the walk although it was good to hear Willow Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat and find a pair of Garden Warblers.  Grey Wagtails were feeding young on the upper stretch of the river and Great Spotted Woodpeckers called and Cuckoos did what they do best.

Garden Warbler

My lunchtime visit to RSPB Rainham Marshes beckoned so I dropped Enid off and headed that way for an old style Insect Afternoon with Annie, Phil and Mel.  Thankfully it warmed up quite a bit during the course of the walk and there were lots of sheltered spots within the Cordite store.  There was a similar selection of Hoverflies but with the addition of Parhelophilus sp,  Tropidia scita and a large Pipiza with a wing cloud that I think is from the P. noctiluca group.

Rhingia campestris

Parhelophilus sp

Argyra sp - A Dolichopodid

The same went for Butterflies with a complete repeat but with Small Tortoiseshell in addition including caterpillars as well as adults but no Brown Argus. However, there were dozens more Damsels with heaps of Blue-tailed and Azure and a smart male Large Red.  A Hairy Hawker was also seen but as usual did not stop.

Green Veined White


Small Tortoiseshell cat

Guelder Rose

Three Spine Stickleback and Pond Skater

Azure Damselfy

Blue-tailed Damselfly

Blue-tailed Damselfly

Large Red Damselfly

Purple Alder Leaf Beetle and gravid Green dock Beetles were seen and Annie found a stripy Wasp Beetle which is my first here for many years. There were Dock Bugs and Green, Hairy and Woundwort Shieldbugs and a couple of Phyllobius Weevils.

Alder Leaf Beetle  - Agelastica alni 

Green Dock Beetle - Gastrophysa viridula

Wasp Beetle - Clytus arietis
Phyllobius Weevil

Harlequin Ladybird

Hairy Shieldbug

Green Shieldbug

Woundwort Shieldbugs

Phil found a Slender Groundhopper and so I went and checked a suitable area and found quite a few, although keeping tabs on these half inch micro-Grasshopper relatives when they are in chopped up old bramble on the ground is no mean feat!

Slender Groundhopper

Slender Groundhopper

A Cuckoo sang continuously from the Horse Chestnuts which at least temporarily looked magnificent with their creamy candelabras of blooms.  One of the Rocky Robins came to say hello and was particularly keen on the live mealworms Phil had brought along although I think that the Robins know Phil and Mel by sight…

Nursery Web Spiders sat around with legs ‘stuck’ together and I found a single Arianella sp and two feisty Salticus scenicus on the old metal interp frames.

Arianella sp

Salticus scenicus 

Salticus scenicus 

A quick look from the Ken Barrett Hide where a male Pochard had an energetic bath and a male Marsh Harrier was making pretend food passes to the female over the back of Aveley Pools.  Hopefully they will have young in the nest by now.


We ambled back and had a coffee before saying our farewells.  It was good to be back and even better to be outside on the reserve I called my second home for nearly twenty years.

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