Saturday 23 July 2022

Kentish Nature Walks #50 - The Ranscombe Loop 23rd July 2022

Another day, another Ranscombe walk.  We started at 9am from the Albatross Avenue end and once over the bridge Helen and I cut down through the big main clearing where Migrant, Brown and Southern Hawkers were doing what they do best and Common and Ruddy Darters also stuck to the sunny edge. A single Nemphora metallica was nowhere near any Scabious and I suspect it was all still in the shade and it wanted some breakfast and headed for the Creeping Thistle instead.

Common Darter

Empis livida

Nemphora metallica

There were a few more Hoverflies around this morning with several each of Volucella zonaria and inanis and plenty of Cheilosia along with a smart Chrysotoxum festivum on the Ragwort.

Volucella zonaria

Volucella zonaria 

Volucella inanis

Meadow and Field Grasshoppers were stridulating merrily and a Red Admiral sunbathed on an Oak trunk before we got down to the wheat fields.  

Lords & Ladies 

Meadow Grasshopper

Meadow Grasshopper - a pair

 Red Admiral 

The Fallow Deer were not in the field any more which was now just a six inch high stubble but just beyond Birch Wood Corner we found them in the margin of the field below.  It looked like the whole herd was still together but you could clearly see that several had started to remove that baby soft velvet from their antlers as blood was evident even from a distance.  The only one fully in the open was the buck that I felt was in charge of the group on Thursday and he was sitting out in the field enjoying the view and the sunshine and the attention of about 15 Magpies!

Fallow Deer

Nettle Leaved Bellflowers were amongst the many new species for Helen and Wild Parsnip at the top of Kitchen Field was anew to the site for me and was popular with the Wasps and Hovers along with a fine Gasteruption jaculator. 


there were some great stands of Teasels

Wild Liquorice going to seed

Wild Parsnip

Gasteruption jaculator

Because of the route we had taken we had to double back into The Valley to get to the meadow on Mill Hill.  The route took us through the trees where a Tit flock contained all five species along with a couple of very vocal Nuthatches.  Bullfinches called and a large Purple Emperor came out of the Oak canopy and glided out of view which was a nice if brief bonus.

Corn Mint

Hawkweed (left) and Bristly (right) Oxtongues

The sound of Hoverflies in the trees was amazing but you had to stop and actively listen for them to realise that they were creating a wall of sound at different frequencies.  Those closest to us were Syrphus ribesii and when the males battled the pitch when up a notch or too to an almost inaudible whine.

The Valley was dry and made up mostly of Composites now and up above somewhere we could hear two Peregrines although I could not find them. The Mill Hill triangle was as good as Thursday and I got better views of the Red Bartsia Bees amongst the other expected species. Bombus hypnorum was new for the week and there were a couple of Bombus vestalis on the Marjoram too.

Clustered Bellflower

Helophilus pendulus and Red Soldier Beetle

Large Skipper

The path through the trees once again produced Hogweed heads heaving with Ectemnius Wasps and Cheilosia Hoverflies.  Gymnosoma rotundatum was seen again and this seems to be another of those fly species that I can pick up and id in flight now. The small Gasteruption assectator was seen again along with a single lively Variimorda villosa added interest.

Ectemnius sp

Gymnosoma rotundatum

Silver Washed Fritillary drifted through and Helen found the striking bug, Corizus hyoscyami which I do not think I have recorded here before and a couple of hunting Hornets were observed - my first of the year.

Corizus hyoscyami


Lunch was taken in the shade and a cool breeze overlooking Brockles Field with Migrant Hawkers patrolling the edges and a Buzzard swooping energetically down across the field after something we could not see.  Marbled Whites danced with the Browns and as we neared the end a monster fly landed on the path causing me to have a ‘quick! Look at that!’ moment. It was a female Hornet Robber Fly in all its sinister, spiky legged, ginger glory and not just one but three were seen along the same stretch affording magnificent views.  I am not sure that Helen believed me when I said that it was a fly to start with!  I do not think that I have ever seen more than one at any site before so this was a real treat.

Hornet robberfly- Asilus crabroniformis

Marbled Whites

The next field was full of Migrant Hawkers around the margins and Small Heath, Comma, Small Tort and Peacock were all added.  The path into the wood that had been flattened on my last week was now a Hawker corridor with over 20 Migrants and two Browns frenetically patrolling.  The temperature in this little sheltered patch was noticeably higher and as we walked up through the trees towards the Mausoleum we kept encountering pockets of these aerial masters and my tally by the time we reached the top was just about 70. 


Green Veined White

Migrant Hawkers

Helophilus pendulus

Myathropa florea

Common Darter

There were no Silver Washed Frits in the woodland clearing but a White Admiral did a couple of circuits of us before departing. By the time we reached the top it was scorching once again and we were pleased to soon be back amongst the majestic Sweet Chestnuts with their twisted spiralling trunks. It was a pleasant walk back downhill to the cars taking in the warm smell of the Bracken and dappled light sneaking through the Chestnut canopy.  There were no butterflies around the Master Oak and perhaps the season for this tree is over this year.  The Tutsan was starting to fruit and I introduced Helen to Mrs Ent who was still staring aloofly off into the woods.



A couple of Oak Eggars and male Gypsy Moths hurtled by and two more Silver Washed Frits did likewise. There was now a gang of Migrant Hawkers patrolling the clearing before the bridge over the railway and the day total was just about the hundred mark which given the fact I saw four on Thursday is amazing especially when you consider the almost complete lack of water on the site or even anywhere nearby.

Eristalis intricaria

The walk was finished up with a fine human – insect interaction as we both held up a finger for a territorial Volucella pellucens to investigate and cool us down with the down draft from those precision blurring wings.

Volucella pellucens - not playing the game

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