Monday 20 February 2023

Kentish Nature Walk #67 - The Ranscombe Loop 20th February 2023

A day out...

My first scheduled Ranscombe walk of the year started well with a fine adult Med Gull on the playing fields just minutes after meeting up with Malcolm for our walk.  It was metal ringed and well on the way to full summer plumage. A dog walker spooked the flock and so we moved on to the underpass and onto the loop.

Med Gull

Bullfinches were calling as soon as we crossed the railway and just for once perched up, albeit distantly in a Hazel.  The first Coltsfoot was in flower and on closer inspection there were still some tiny red anemone Hazel flowers to be found.


Hazel flowers

The Lady Orchids were poking through the Sweet Chestnut leaf litter and the adjacent clump of Butcher’s Broom was coming into flower if you looked really closely. King Alfred’s Cakes glistened on trunks and Lords and Ladies were twisting into view.  It was quite warm but still breezy and I think just not quite right to entice any insects to come out and bask.

Butcher’s Broom

Lady Orchids

King Alfred’s Cakes

Lords and Ladies

Skylarks were singing in the fields above The Valley and gangs of Rooks and Jackdaws swirled on the gusts with two Buzzards for company.  The woods were still very dormant and even the resident birds seemed reluctant to make themselves known. Primroses were just starting to open on the path side and the Holly was likewise in bloom with its waxy almost pinky flowers.  There were still some berries on the Privet that had evaded snaffling by the Thrushes and the Spurge Laurel was in fine flower but as usual was scentless.



Spooked Wood Pigeons


Spurge Laurel

I fondled some Burdock seed heads but found nothing to suggest moth larva presence but found none but had better luck with Endothenia within several Teasel heads but I chose not to spend time check for the presence or absence of anal cones to tie them to species!

Stigmella aurella

Stigmella aurella (left) and Coptoptiche marginea (right). Learn these two on Bramble and you will find them almost anywhere you look

Endothenia sp within its poo cocoon...

We descended across Kitchen Field with Raven and male Sparrowhawk in the now blue sky and two Meadow Pipits unusually perched atop the dying Ash trees which were adorned with garlands of silvery Old Man’s Beard.  A Green Woodpecker loudly yaffled before actually perching up for a short while and flashing that red crown.

Old Man’s Beard


A party of four stag and two hind Fallow Deer were in their favoured secure meadow and watched us cautiously.  The stags looked in fine fettle.  

Fallow Deer

Up into Brockles where the view across the valley revealed the hideously fake green of thousands of vine guards and another Sparrowhawk and Kestrel were added as we followed the path up alongside the woods.

Malcolm found three Stonechats in the next meadow which had not been cleared of scrub saplings yet which was pleasingly on my second record for the site.  Two males and a female were working the field and we moved a little closer in the hope that a Dartford Warbler may have chosen to join them but alas not!  Mistletoe had obtained its almost luminescent spring colours and the flowers were just starting to open.  It looks so different at this time of year.



A coffee on a log afforded fine views and the sound of Skylark song descending from up on high before we cut through and followed the Cobham fenceline where Bluebells were showing their new leaves to the fields where a pair of Mistle Thrushes were seen as we popped out into the open. A single Celandine flower was home to an Episyrphus balteatus in all its stripy glory and there were a few lazy Calliphora vicina basking on fence posts but no Bees or Butterflies.


Episyrphus balteatus

Spears of Bluebell leaves

Back into the Cobham Estate woods where Long-tailed Tits foraged and a Treecreeper did what they do best while we walked down to say hello to the Highland Cattle that were chilling out in the dead Bracken. The first furry Yellow Dung Flies of the season were staking out a nice fresh pat and one male was already paired up!

Yellow Dung Fly

Just chillin'

We walked through the hollow Chestnut and then back onto the main drag back to the cars introducing Malcolm to some of my other favourite trees on the way.  As usual the downhill route back was much appreciated but the woods were quiet bar from a few foraging Tits and a Goldcrest just before we crossed back over the Eurostar line after a pleasant five mile circuit.

I used to call it the Elephant Tree for a shape in the charcoal insides but it would appear to have developed other elephantine proportions over the winter months...

The Hollow Chestnut

The aftermath of the October 1987 storm is still evident in the winter months with the aligned trunks of the massive Chestnuts that did not make it through. Some are dead but most still have a toehold in the stony ground and now have 35 year old regrowth from their horizontal original trunks while others have Birches growing out of their remains.

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