Wednesday, July 03, 2019

πŸ“– Shropshire Day Out!

☀️ 24C Wednesday 3rd July 2019 ~ A day out in Shropshire with Alan Boddington a fellow member of the Brandon Marsh Conservation Team with visits to Prees Heath Common and Fenn’s, Whixall & Bettisfield Mosses NNR. We began mid-morning at Prees Heath Common, the last sanctuary for the Silver-studded Blue butterfly in the Midlands.

One of many Silver-spotted Blue butterflies at Prees Common today
The reserve is on a large Common that had been a Second World War airfield. A major restoration project is re-instating heathland and grassland vegetation across much of the site, which is owned and managed by Butterfly Conservation. In fact, it wasn't that difficult a task to track down one of these eye-catching butterflies, with well over 100 on the wing in today's glorious sunshine.

♀Emporer Dragonfly ovipositing at Prees Common
Of course, there were other species to be found today in this excellent habitat including Large Skipper, Small Skipper and my first Essex Skipper of the year, plus (3) Painted Lady, Red Admiral and various numbers of Common Blues, Meadow Brown and Ringlet. At the far end of the Common, a small pool held Four-spotted Chaser and both male (♂) and female (♀) Emporer Dragonflies.

Stunning Musk Thistle ~ Nice perch for a Hover Fly!
A fine example of Great Mullein
However, it wasn't just about the Butterflies and Odanata for me with some stunning Flora to be found and my favourites today included the amazing Musk Thistle and Great Mullein at Prees and the Cotton Grass (below) at Wixhall.

Cotton Grass at Whixall
Just a short drive from Prees is Fenn’s, Whixall & Bettisfield Mosses NNR. Here lies one of the biggest and best-raised bogs in Britain: main habitats include lowland raised bog, wet woodland, wet peaty fields, heathland and Teesdalia grassland. We parked today at the car park next to the Llangollen Canal swingbridge, an area that Dazza (my wife) and I know very well from our years out cruising.

A slightly damaged Large Heath but thankful to have an opportunity to photograph one!
Our main Butterfly target was the Large Heath, a species which thrives in boggy habitats and quite rare to the Midlands. I have a feeling that we struck a bit lucky today with the photo, having only managed three specimens in total during our whole visit. Thankfully Alan spotted one on the ground (briefly) while ironically I was on the phone to Jim Timms, my 'goto' Dragonfly man πŸ˜‰

Black Darter
The remainder of the visit was very hot and sticky in mostly clear skies checking pools and grasses for Black Darter and the sought after White-faced Darter Dragonflies, plus getting the odd Mosquito bite for our troubles. Another speciality here is the Raft Spider but sadly we dipped on that one.

Immature male White-faced Darter ~ Snapped during the briefest encounter
However, it was well worth the effort with (5) Black Darter and although we thought we may have missed the more elusive White-faced Darter I was delighted to find that having reviewed my images at home later the very last photo of the day revealed an immature male!

I must also give a mention to our notable bird sightings today which included: (2) Marsh Tit, Willow Tit, (3) Curlew (which nest here) and a single Raven over.

More Images of the Day...

Large Red Damselfly

Another of the many Silver-studded Blue