5 Jun 2018

5 Jun 18 - Northern Triathlon: Part Two

This Post covers the second part of my Northern Triathlon to try to see my first White-faced Darters at Foulshaw Moss. The first part of the Triathlon was seeing my first Mountain Ringlets at Irton Fell. When I was doing the final planning for the trip, I was considering whether it would be possible to combine the Mountain Ringlet trip with looking for White-faced Darters at Whixall Moss in Shropshire. However, one of the first responses I saw on google was for White-faced Darters at Foulshaw Moss in Cumbria. This blog confirmed they had been flying since late May. I had forgotten there were Cumbrian sites. A bit of further searching online confirmed the site details & the White-faced Darters at Foulshaw Moss were the result of a successful re-introduction to the reserve. I am happy to consider looking at successful re-introductions into documented recent native range. Therefore, combining Foulshaw Moss into the Triathlon looked to be the obvious option. Even better I would be driving right past the entrance road to Foulshaw Moss.
Foulshaw Moss: Foulshaw Moss is an excellent looking Cumbria Wildlife Trust reserve
Foulshaw Moss: The reserve covers a large area of lowland peat bog which is a rare English habitat
Foulshaw Moss: The peat bog is fairly extensive
Foulshaw Moss
Foulshaw Moss: This drier part of the peat bog had patches of Cotton Grass
Foulshaw Moss: There were also areas of trees that had become established on the peat bog
The reserve has several hundred metres of boardwalks which allows access to the Northern part of the reserve. The boardwalk passes past a number of excellent small & medium sized ponds amongst the trees, all of which were very busy with Dragonflies. This included several hundred Four-spotted Chasers, as well as, a few hundred Azure Damselflies.
Four-spotted Chaser: This one shows the top of its-white facial pattern
Four Spotted Chaser
Four-spotted Chaser: The pools within the woodland had plenty of these atmospheric perches for the Dragonflies
Four-spotted Chaser: The numbers of Four-spotted Chasers on the reserve was the highest I've seen
Four-spotted Chaser
Four-spotted Chaser: Showing its white face which was why more than one person present misidentified the commoner Four-spotted Chasers as White-faced Darters
Blue-tailed Damselfly: This was the only one I saw
Azure Damselfly: I saw at least a couple of hundred
Azure Damselfly: There were good numbers egg laying
Round-leaved Sundew
Round-leaved Sundew: This Large Red Damselfly's luck has run out
After an hour of looking, I hadn't seen any White-faced Darters. All I knew was that they had been photographed somewhere on the boardwalk. Knowing that they are only on a limited number of pools at Whixall Moss that they like, I assumed that I still needed to keep walking along the boardwalk to find the correct micro habitat. After several hundred metres the boardwalk emerged from the flooded forest across more open peat bog. There were a couple of viewpoints, one of which was raised, from which it was possible to see the distant trees in the bog where there was a pair of nesting Ospreys. This was the main highlight for the reserve. However, I was looking for something with six legs, not six legs spread over three baby Ospreys. I did have brief look though a volunteer's telescope, but the nest was distant & the female was sitting low in the nest. The volunteer didn't know a lot about the White-faced Darters, but he did say that they had been seen around his lower viewpoint. This was reinforced by some locals who arrived & were also looking for the White-faced Darters. The lady promptly walked off the boardwalk to look at the pool beyond. She was quickly stopped by the volunteer as the Wildlife Trust quite rightly do not want people walking around off the boardwalk. It's quite amazing that some people just don't know how to behave on a nature reserve. But this did at least confirm the place I should be looking. I did see a probable White-faced Darter soon after quite a way out onto the bog, but quickly lost it & it didn't reappear.
Large Heath: I saw at least 8 here, but they were all active in the sunshine. This was the only photo I managed to get when one briefly landed
I thought I would have a quick look at the raised viewpoint to see it that looked promising for White-faced Darters as it was only 50 metres away. This was surrounded by another pond, but didn't have the Cotton Grass that the lower viewpoint pond had. A White-faced Darter was claimed by another visitor, but when I checked it, it was a Four-spotted Chaser. Four-spotted Chasers have an off-whitish front to the face, which can be confusing when you initially see one flying towards you. However, checking the rest of the markings on the abdomen & wings, then there is no confusion between Four-spotted Chasers & White-faced Darters. Four-spotted Chasers are also a different shape with a distinctive wide, flat abdomen, rather than the narrow, rounded abdomen of White-faced Darters. So it was time to head back to the Cotton Grass pond by the lower viewpoint. Fortunately, another guy had now appeared who also knew his local Dragonflies. He said he had seen several White-faced Darters flying around & occasionally landing on the distant pond. He borrowed another guy's telescope & after a couple of minutes, pointed out one that was perched up. A bit too far for a photo, but it was clearly a male White-faced Darter when it was my turn to take a look through the scope. All that was needed now was a bit of patience. About 15 minutes later, I picked up a White-faced Darter that flew over the boardwalk. It was  close to where we were standing, but didn't stop for a photo. Ten minutes later, another male White-faced Darter appeared & this time it landed on the boardwalk allowing some photos. It hung around the boardwalk & eventually became a bit more approachable. Finally, it settled on some natural vegetation for a better looking photo. It was now late afternoon & I needed to head off for the final part of my Northern Triathlon.
White-faced Darter: Male. My penultimate breeding English Dragonfly Tick. I just need to see Southern Emerald, as well as, the four Scottish speciality Dragonflies
White-faced Darter: Male. The white face is very distinctive when seen properly
White-faced Darter: Male. Males are the only black & red Darter. Bright yellow replaces the red in females with additional yellow at the base of the abdomen
White-faced Darter: Male. The nearest they get to Dorset is Whixall Moss in Shropshire
White-faced Darter: Male. Finally a natural background photo
Artificial Osprey nest: Almost the nearest I got to actually seeing the Osprey's was this artificial Osprey nest close to the car park (although I also saw the nest in use). The reserve has cameras on the real nest so visitors can see the latest action. I walked past the visitors hut, in my hurry to looked for the Dragonflies. I intended to stop on the way back. However, it was all shut up when I reached the car park at 17:00