Seven years had passed since the last MNA coach trip to Whixall Moss. At nearly 1,000 hectares, the Fenn’s, Whixall & Bettisfield Mosses National Nature Reserve are the third largest and one of the most southerly lowland raised bogs in Britain. Whilst 2007’s visit was blessed with glorious sunshine today’s was altogether a more sodden affair. Nevertheless MNA members are made of sterner stuff and an enjoyable day was had as we saw quite a few of the species this National Nature Reserve is noted for.
As we walked down to the Mosses there were a few Scaly Earthballs Scleroderma verrucosum one of which ChrisB sectioned to show the spores inside.
Quiet birdwise, a couple of Hobbies, a Sprawk and John Clegg and co had an unusual sighting of a 1st year Whooper Swan in a field across from the Llangollen Canal.
Not ideal conditions for Damsel and Dragonflies but we did manage to see half a dozen Emerald Damselfly Lestes sponsa, a few Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum, a single Migrant Hawker Aesha mixta patrolling one of the pools and half a dozen Black Darter Sympetrum danae – despite my ‘growling’ one eventually settled for a reasonable shot.
Butterflies were also suffering, we noted a few Large White Pieris brassicae, a rather yellow looking second brood Green-veined White Pieris napi, Peacock Inachis io, Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria a few Meadow Browns Maniola jurtina and a Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus. Moths included three Scarce Footman Eilema complana, a Large Yellow Underwing Noctua pronuba and a rather bedraggled ‘tussock’ moth caterpillar.
Invertebrates included a Longhorn Beetle Stranglia maculata, plenty of Common Red Soldier Beetle Rhagonycha fulva, a Red-legged Shieldbug a.k.a. Forest Bug Pentatoma rufipes and a few Common Green Shieldbug Palomena prasina nymphs. We searched the pools for an adult Raft Spider Dolomedes fimbriatus though I did manage to spot a teeny juvenile on the bracken, also a Common Stretch Spider Tetragnatha extensa.
Raft Spider juvenille
Grasshoppers boing from under our feet as we walked along including Meadow Grasshopper Chorthippus parallelus and Mottled Grasshopper Myrmeleotettix maculatus. Numerous biting Insects with Notch-horned Cleg Haematopota pluvialis, Twin-lobed Deerfly Chrysops relictus and lots of Mosquitoes. There were also plenty of Tachinid Flies Eumea linearicornis and Scorpion Flies Panorpa communis.
Scorpion Fly female
The Sessile Oaks Quercus petraea were taking a battering from the Cynipid Gall Wasps -immature Common Spangle Galls caused by Neuroterus quercusbaccarum and Oak Marble Galls caused by Andricus kollari.
Oak Marble Galls
We were joined by members of the Liverpool Botanical Society who were kept enthralled by the plants – those I did note included Amphibious Bistort Persicaria amphibia, Redshank Persicaria maculosa, Round-leaved Sundew Drosera rotundifolia, Wild Mignonette Reseda lutea, Bog-rosemary Andromeda polifolia, Cross-leaved Heath Erica tetralix, Bell Heather Erica cinerea, Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus, Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria, Tormentil Potentilla erecta, Rosebay Willowherb Chamerion angustifolium, Buckthorn Rhamnus cathartica, Alder Buckthorn Frangula alnus, Bittersweet Solanum dulcamara, Hedge Bindweed Calystegia sepium, Common Comfrey Symphytum officinale, Marsh Woundwort Stachys palustris, White Dead-nettle Lamium album, Wood Sage Teucrium scorodonia, Greater Plantain Plantago major, Foxglove Digitalis purpurea, Honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum, Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra, Nipplewort Lapsana communis, Smooth Sow-thistle Sonchus oleraceus, Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris, Common Ragwort Senecio jacobaea, Broad-leaved Pondweed Potamogeton natans and Bog Asphodel Narthecium ossifragum.
ChrisB held a Common Toad Bufo bufo for everyone to look at closely as we wandered back to the coach. ‘Corpse Of The Day’ went to John Clegg and co who saw a Pike Esox Lucius floating belly-up in the Llangollen Canal.