Monday, 6 June 2016

White faced Darters at Whixall Moss

For at least 3 years, I have wanted to visit Whixall Moss in Shropshire to see one of England's rarest dragonflies, the White faced Darter and a species I have never seen before. For one reason or not, I have never gone and suspect that the four hour drive has put me off but during the winter of 2015, I hatched a plan with fellow dragonfly enthusiast Paul Ritchie to make plans to visit Whixall Moss. Nearing the time, the weather did not look very favorable so we moved our visit to Sunday 5th June which looked excellent weather wise. I left home early at 4am and after a long but pleasant drive, arrived at Whixall at 8am where after getting ready and having a drink and something to eat, I wandered on down towards the entrance. Paul and Sue Ritchie soon arrived and with the sun already warming up nicely, we walked on down to look at the boggy pools. Good numbers of Large Red Damselfly and Azure Damselfly were seen on the walk down and not long after we arrived at some pools. A brief search did not produce any darters so we wandered on down to the 'target pool' where we had reliable information that this pool was the place to be. Well, what can I say but wow, wow and wow again. We spent about five hours at this pool where we were treated to c30 White faced Darter including males, a few females, mating pairs and stunning views of this little stunner. Having not seen them before, it made it extra special to see them and both Paul and I were soon into some serious camera action. We were joined later by Mike and Jerry who joined in the camera fest and between us, we were soon filling our boots again. Being a dark dragonfly, it was at times quite tricky to get the light right and being a darter, they were often hard to approach and soon whizzed off. I tried for a few flight shots which for most of the time, were near on impossible due to their speed but I did get lucky with one attempt which ended up being one of my shots of the day.




White faced Darters (male) 

White faced Darters (mating pair)

With numerous drink breaks thrown in to keep the energy levels high and time spent collecting White faced Darter exuviae which I shall photograph and post in due coarse, the time went quite quickly. The pool also had good numbers of Four spotted Chasers and I also saw my first ever Large Heath butterflies with four seen flying past and 2 Raft Spiders were seen on the pool. I had spent quite a while during the day looking for a White faced Darter emerging but hadn't found any but late afternoon, Jerry found one which had just emerged and was still clinging on to its exuviae. What a great sight to see and despite the sun being in our faces which was not ideal for photos, I rattled off a few shots. With a good few hundred shots taken and a four hour drive to do, I said my goodbyes to Paul, Sue, Mike and Jerry and made my way back to the car, not before having one last good look at a male White faced Darter posing on a stick and just enjoying the moment. What a superb day had in great company and many thanks to Paul Ritchie for helping organise the trip and getting information on the site etc. A memorable day that I will not forget in a long while, magic! No apologies for the number of photos and I shall post some exuviae shots in the next few days I expect when I get a moment.







White faced Darters (mating pair) 




White faced Darter (male) 



White faced Darter (teneral male)

20 comments:

  1. Oh wow,
    These are beauties Marc, you've got them in every position! Very nice indeed.

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    1. Thanks Warren. They are stunners. Great in flight head on, the white really stands out well on them. My highlight so far of the year.

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  2. I have never seen that type, beautiful Marc.

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  3. Well done on a great success. That first flight shot is something else. They really are delightful and tiny Dragonflies.

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    1. Thanks Bob. Pleased with the flight shot. Very tricky in flight and like trying to follow a bullet. Just have to be ready for that ever so brief pause in flight.

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  4. I should have guessed you'd get one either emerging or just emerged ;o)! Brilliant series Marc. Love the 2 males together.

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    1. Thanks Lucy. Nice know to look back at the shots of a super day. Softens the blow a bit for the long drive.

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  5. Great set of shots Marc, glad you had a successful trip and well done in getting that flight shot. A stunning looking dragonfly and one I have yet to see.

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    1. Thanks Adrian. Iv'e waited a few years to visit and it was well worth it. A super place to see these rare dragonflies up close.

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  6. Some stunning shots of a very fine little darter Marc. Well done on that flight shot. Would happily have shared that journey with you.!!

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    1. Ashame Mike, you would have been most welcome to join me. I can only talk to myself for so long until I do ny own head in!!

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  7. I'm lucky enough to be involved with a WFD translocation project for the last 3 years. They are great little dragonflies aren't they? I'm sure you've been asked this hundreds of times Marc (so apologies!) but how do you manage to obtain such pin-sharp/crystal clear images? Do you use a great deal of image manipulation or do you have some extremely impressive cameras and lenses?

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    1. Many thanks Kev for your kind words. Firstly, is there any news on th being reintroduced to Thursley I wonder. It would certainly save me some petrol money and surely, WFD would do well there again. As far as the photos go, I use a Canon 7d mk1 camera and Sigma 150 mm macro lens and Canon f4 300mm lens. I would like to think that I have learnt over time how to use my equipment well and the time put in pays off. Apart from a bit of sharpening, contrast and brightness,I don't do anything else to them. For the top flight shot which was taken with the 300mm lens, I manually focused and took a whole series of shots and just hoped. Out of the bunch, just the one was passable but I must admit, a really pleasing image. I look forward to any comments you may have as to any introductions that may happen in southern England.

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    2. Sorry Marc, I've no idea if they are any plans to reintroduce them in southern England. They're specialists of acidic bogs. I'm involved in a project to reintroduce them to a site in Cheshire. Thanks for the info on your camera and lenses.

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  8. Wow,these are MINT,superb captures of one of our favourite Dragons,if I had to choose one image,it would be the first one,beauty on the Wing.
    John.

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    1. Many thanks John. I think I agree with your choice. I could probably spend weeks there and not get a shot like that.

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  9. A successful twitch Marc. Also a nice looking Dragon Fly, one I have never seen or really knew existed before. Great images. I really do think the Canon 300mm f4 is probably one of the best all round Dragon Fly lenses on the market.

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    1. Thanks Steve. They are a super dragonfly, you can see why I wanted to go. The f4 300mm lens as you say is one of the best in my opinion.

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  10. So pleased to see that your re-scheduled visit worked out so well, Marc. The results are fabulous, and I'm sure your memories of the visit will be with you for a long time!

    Delighted to see that your WFD flight shot is getting so much well-deserved acclaim.

    Sorry to be catching up with your blog so late. I've been away in the New Forest, celebrating my 70th birthday, and then came home on Friday to floods around our house. We're currently having our third flood since our return, and I'm spending much of my time clearing up and making sure that the drains stay unblocked.

    Best wishes - - - Richard

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