Friday 22 July 2022

Kentish Nature Walks #49 - The Ranscombe Loop 21st July 2022

A fairly lazy start to the walk today and Mark and I set off from the main Ranscombe carpark in already humid and sticky conditions.  Surprisingly there were still some flowers on the first bank and there were several Andrena hattorfiana on the Field Scabious to get the day off to a good start as they accumulated the luscious pink pollen.

Andrena hattorfiana

Andrena hattorfiana

Nemophora metallica - just the one seen 

The top meadow was once again full of flower but still lacking in insect diversity. A couple of smart little Grapholita moths and the first slow flying orange orb that was a Gymnosoma rotundatum.  All three Whites, Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns and Common Blues danced around but where were the Six Spot Burnets?

Grapholita compositella 

Longhoes was now largely dry and crispy but a fat female Common Lizard scurried across the path and there were more Common Blues and quite a number of Brown Argus and some of the biggest Field Grasshoppers I have ever seen.

 Brown Argus

This one confused me but I think it is a dark female Common Blue

Field Grasshopper

The Brambles down in the corner added Southern and the first Migrant Hawkers of the year and Sicus ferrugineus were on the lookout while Araneus diadematus webs were starting to dominate the gaps.  A Purple Hairstreak dashed back up to the canopy.

Araneus diadematus

Last of the Broad Leaved Cudweed

The first Eriothrhix rufomaculata  of the year

Hoary Ragwort

Sicus ferrugineus

Common Toadflax

The walk down into The Valley was quiet but some Meagchile had stuffed leaves in four old holes in a the big fence post and were seen collecting pollen from the Greater Burdock where Terellia tussilaginis waggled wings and watched the world through green eyes.

Meagchile ligneseca

Meagchile ligneseca

Terellia tussilaginis 

Comma, Essex Skipper (a new one for Mark), Ringlet and Small Tortoiseshell joined the butterfly list as we walked through the field now largely gone to seed. The stand of Wild Oats was particularly impressive now shining silvery fawn in and ready to drop its amazing seeds. To think that evolution has designed these ingenious seeds in such a way that as they dry the two ‘spider leg’ appendages quite literally screw the seed head into the ground.


Essex Skipper

Essex Skipper

Large White

Wild Oats

There were quite a few Bombus lapidarius on this path including yellow banded males along with a few Bombus pascuorum and plenty of Honey Bees but there were once again almost no Hoverflies at all in attendance.

Bombus lapidarius 

Cheilosia soror

Feel I should know this one!

I took us up to the Mill Wood meadow where there were more Clustered Bellflowers in bloom. They seemed to vary somewhat in lilac intensity.  Marbled Whites were still on the wing and at long last a couple of Six Spot Burnets.  Brimstone and superbly fresh Small Copper were seen and I remembered to look at the Red Bartsia and promptly found Melitta tricincta in attendance – a new one for the site for me. A Shaded Broad Bar was trying not to be noticed and there were a couple of Lucerne Bugs on the Marjoram.

Clustered Bellflower

Clustered Bellflower

Shaded Broad Bar

Six Spot Burnet


Small Copper

Small Copper

Lucerne Bug - Adelphocoris lineolatus 

Marbled White

Marbled White

Melitta tricincta

Rutpela maculata

Hemp Agrimony

Being hidden from the worst of the heat that the week has thrown at us, the Mill Wood rides were still hosting freshly flowering Marjoram, Upright Hedge Parley, Hogweed, Ragwort and Nettle-leaved Bellflowers. The Marjoram was alive with Honey Bees and Bumbles that added Bombus pratorum, terrestris and vestalis and both Pyrausta aurata and purpuralis. 

Nettle-leaved Bellflower

Bombus vestalis

Pyrausta aurata

Pyrausta purpuralis

The Umbellifers were particularly popular with those pesky black and yellow Ectemnius-type Wasps with the alien eyes and oversized heads but I gave up long ago trying to get a positive identification on any of them so now just enjoy watching them!

Ectemnius-type Wasps

I think that this may be Andrena bicolor

Melitta haemorrhoidalis.

Another couple of Gynosoma rotundatum moved between the heads and they are still one of my favourite flies that I encounter here. There were also various Sawflies including Tenthredo vespa and Arge pagana along with plenty of Parasitic wasp-things with a small Gasteruption that I thank is G assectator

Gynosoma rotundatum 

Arge pagana

Tenthredo vespa

Tenthredo vespa

Gasteruption assectator

There were a few Lucilia and a Sarc similar to the unidentified one from my garden and Phil kindly had a look a very spiky ‘Bluebottle’ type that I suspected wasn’t and has suggested Epicampocera succincta for an id. It is a species of Tachinid that parasitizes Small and Green Veined Whites – both of which were immediately visible. A Silver Washed Fritillary landed on a random bit of Buddleia and was jostled by the Large Whites.

Cheilosia impressa

Syritta pipiens

Epicampocera succincta

Epicampocera succincta

Green Veined White

Silver Washed Fritillary

Silver Washed Fritillary

Silver Washed Fritillary

Leiobunum rotundum - female

The woods were quite as expected although a persistent calling Chiffchaff on the margin before Brockles had us wondering if we had found a Redstart for a while. It was grey and very humid once out in the open again but it did not stop the field from flickering with Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns and Marbled Whites but once again almost every Wild Carrot head or Marjoram clump was insectless.

Marbled White

The next woodland margin added two more very tatty female Silver Washed Frits and a single Carrot head had a Enoplognatha species trying to drag it’s Ectemnius dinner to the underside of the flower. Quite a catch!

Silver Washed Frit

Enoplognatha sp

A Variimorda villosa was also seen here along with a micro Paragus Hoverfly and another glowing male Brimstone. Just into the next meadow a Migrant Hawker at last gave itself up  and briefly perched, confirming my earlier suspicions but although there were plenty of butterflies across the field there were still no Chalkhill Blues amongst the Commons and Brown Argus.

Migrant Hawker

Paragus sp

Variimorda villosa 

My track back into the woods had been trashed by woodland work machinery gaining access to where we could hear the sound of chainsaws so there were no flowers to check in one of my favourite spots.  The path back up the hill added a final Silver Washed Frit in the clearing where they would not stop the other day but she actually came and fed on the Thistle I had previously staked out. While standing there a large Tit flock barrelled through with probably forty of so birds including both Coal and several Marsh Tits.  The latter, as usual were almost silent.  Treecreeper, Nuthatch and Chiffchaff were also caught with them.

Silver Washed Frit

The slog up through the Bracken to the Darnley Mausoleum was actually touch going in the claggy air but a White Admiral, male Bombus lucorum and some Cinnabar cats made it worthwhile.

Bombus lucorum

I introduced Mark to some of my favourite Chestnut trees before checking out the Master Oak but it was too grey and not a butterfly moved so we quickly moved on and the at Five Ways dropped back down towards the farmland where Speckled Wood was at last seen and a Dingy Footman did its best Pumpkin seed impression on a leaf.

Ant Damsel Bug numph

Dingy Footman

Green Shieldbug 

Apolygus lucorum

The Wheat field at the end was being harvested and after being distracted by the mighty machine I noticed a row of dark branches in the middle of the golden carpet.  They moved and I suddenly realised that they were all Fallow Deer. The next twenty minutes was one of those captivating natural history encounters that will forever be there for recall as we watched them sedately following the lead stag across the field.  There were seventeen animals of which a two were does and several were younger bucks but most were in full velvet regalia in a bewildering array of configurations.

With a haze of harvester dust

Fallow Deer

At times you could only see the line of disembodied antlers moving before heads rose for a look around.  They were completely unphased by the Harvester and truck working their way around the periphery of the huge field and were also aware of us standing at the path side watching the show.

The last twenty minutes of the walk were something of a blur with just a fine male Common Darter of note as I think we spent the whole time talking about wondrous Fallow Deer experience.

Dark Bush Cricket

Common Darter


  1. Nice collection of insects. The leafcutter bee is M. ligniseca and the one below the Andrena bicolor is Melitta haemorrhoidalis.

    1. thanks Tim - sorry - had not got notifications set up on comments!

  2. Enjoyed this post plenty, felt like I was there. Thanks for sharing, Howard!