23 joined Malcolmfor this morning walk at Ranscombe farm, the local Plantlife reserve.
From the parking area we saw kestrel, and we were soon seeing swift, swallow, skylark and wood pigeon. Several chiffchaffs were calling from the tree tops and most folk saw at least one. A nuthatch was feeding amongst a tangle of distant branches but gave itself away with its distinctive call. Mallow, mugwort and rose-bay willowherb lined the path, and as we neared a tree Malcolm spotted an oak apple gall. On cutting the gall open to show us all the contents, a female oak apple gall wasp (biorhiza pallidia flew out and landed on his hand – we weren’t quite sure who was more surprised Malcolm or the wasp! A young song thrush sat on the bough of a tree causing us some interest whilst we decided on its id. Green woodpecker, wren, blackcap and chaffinch were all singing, but most remained out of sight.
Pink and white clover, nipplewort, white melilot, foxglove and teasel led us towards the Darnley mausoleum. The restoration of this local landmark has been remarkable, sadly it has two rather stout metal fences protecting it, and until it is taken over fully by the National Trust and opened to the public we have to make do with the view shown above. Carrying on through the woods, past impressive sweet chestnut trees with their swirling bark, we saw the broken memorial to the toe of a former Lord Darnley. Legend has it that the toe was unceremoniously chopped off when the said Lord decided to show his men how to chop wood! A good enough reason to let someone else do the work if you ask me.
On to the famous kitchen field. Once again we managed to find cudweed, corncockle and after much hunting ground pine – both species which are of particular interest to botanists. Red poppy vied with scarlet pimpernel, ox-eye daisy and countless other wild flowers – it was a magnificent sight. As we began the second half of our circular walk, we saw a hornet, bristly ox-tongue, meadow brown and more swift. Pyramidal orchids were putting on a fine show. Jackdaw and magpie were seen along with black-headed gull – the latter spotted as we walked into the more open area.
On queue a marbled white appeared – about 5 minutes after Malcolm had said they should be around. A large skipper was also found and several ringlets challenged us in the breeze.
Another great walk in this local reserve.