Friday 15 March 2024

A drive south and a plane east - 15th March 2024

Sri Lanka departure day did not mean a blank wildlife day so I headed south at 6am with the intention of making a few stops on the way and by 7.30 I was surprisingly at Abberton Reservoir having avoided any traffic sticking points and seeing several Red Kites and Buzzards on the way.

Of course today of all days there was sunshine which meant viewing at the reservoir was somewhat tricky but I was lucky and picked up one pair of the five Lesser Scaup quite quickly from the LDLH causeway although they did not last long and soon headed out to join the vast flock of Tufties way at the back of Wigborough.  The centre was closed, as were the Billet gates and I could not park near them due to the numerous dog walkers.  I had a look from the Wig Screen but the light was pants but there was a fine male Red-legged Partridge crowing on the bank with a Hare with one floppy ear watching him with equal interest.  A ‘phist’ call drew me to a Water Pipit in the field with two male Pied Wagtails but it was soon n the move and lost calling in sun.

I soon gave up and drove round to the now open centre car park adding a pair of Goosander and a raft of Goldeneye and plenty of Great Crested Grebes but little else so I decided to carry on south into increasing grey cloud and showers.  Several more Red Kites were seen along with a jingle jangle Corn Bunting just outside Goldhanger.  It was so loud I heard it through the closed windows!

With changing plans I aimed straight for the QEII bridge and I was parked up at the top of Darnley Road (yes I know…) by 10.30 and heading out for a predictably muddy loop of Ranscombe.  It kept trying to rain and there were occasional sunny spots but they did not last and finding insects was largely confined to ground level stumps and leaf litter.

Where once there were butterflies there is now a giant, spliff smoking stoned Octopus

It was only a short circuit, down past the emerging Lady Orchids and then up towards Birch Wood Corner, down to Sam’s Clary Bench and then up the hill to the main drag back to the car.  It was good to be back but like all working woodlands it was quite a shock to see just how much has been harvested or pollarded or simply removed.  Given the state of the paths I can only imagine just how wet it was over the last few months.

Lady Orchids

Anyway, it was quiet bird wise as expected but staring at my feet did produce quite a few Flies and Spiders.  Most of the former were Calliphora vicina but I was pleased to also find Eudasyphora cyanella and both Eristalis pertinax and Cheilosia grossa.  Both Hoverfly species were fresh and furry!

Eudasyphora cyanella 

Calliphora vicina

Eristalis pertinax

Cheilosia grossa

A Comma was the only Butterfly and several Bombus terrestris, Andrena and single male Anthophora plumipes were noted – the latter around White Dead Nettle while Pardosa type Wolf and Nursery Web Spiders were trying to bask too.

Nursery Web Spiders

Pardosa  sp

Andrena sp - need to look up the one beginning with ni and Trimmer's!

Dock Bug

Barren Strawberry was in flower along with a few Sweet Violets and Primroses and the Spurge Laurel and Butcher’s Broom clumps above Kitchen Field were looking in fine shape.


Butcher’s Broom

Sweet Violets and Primroses

Meadow Clary

Spurge Laurel

Spurge Laurel

The local Jackdaws and Rooks harried two Buzzards while below them six Fallow Deer stags chewed the cud at the bottom of the field.  I was very pleased to see a fine White Hart; the last one having been poached.

Fallow Deer 

Coptotriche marginea and Stigmella aurella

A funky Slime Mould - id welcome!

I said hello to a few of the mighty trees I befriended during my lockdown walks and squidged my way back to the car happy to have at least got short walk back on the patch of countryside that re-acquainted me with not only my love for the natural world around me but with the disconnected person that I had become and gave me the impetus to make a change and now be sitting in Heathrow waiting to lead a tour to Sri Lanka.


  1. Always good to reacquaint oneself with one's past haunts.Have a successful trip Howard, which I am sure we will hear about.

  2. The violets with the Primroses look more like Early Dog Violets to me. Enjoy Sri Lanka.