Monday, 8 October 2012

Whixall Moss, Shropshire

I spent a very enjoyable day and a half wandering around the Fenn's, Whixall & Bettisfield  Mosses National Nature Reserve on the Shropshire/ Wales border, although I think I was mainly in the Whixall Moss section. At nearly 1000 hectares, it's the third largest lowland raised bog in Britain, and an SSI, a European Special Area of Conservation & a Wetland of International Importance.
View across Whixall Moss
I didn't notch up a particularly big list for the day, but the birds I saw included Stonechat, Reed Bunting, Raven, Kestrel, Common Buzzard, Mistle Thrush, Snipe, Goldcrest & Tree Creeper. I did however find lots of Black Darter, a new dragonfly species for me, which according to my guide shouldn't be flying this late in the year.
Male Black Darter
Female Black Darter
Mating tatty Black Darters
I also kept peering into any pools of water that I passed, looking for a Raft Spider.  I hadn't found one by the time I stopped for lunch at a small viewing platform. I was half way through my sandwich before I noticed something sitting on the bench opposite me, sure enough, it was a Raft Spider! It's one of the two largest spiders in the UK & hunts by running on the surface of the water. It can eat small fish & tadpoles & can submerge itself completely to hide from predators. I'm glad I didn't sit on it.
Lunch spot.....I had one side & the Raft Spider the other!
Raft Spider (Dolomedes fimbriatus)
The reserve is well worth a visit, if only to admire the unusual scenery.