Don’t Call Me White-face: Chartley Moss – 22 May 2010

My dragonfly season has been pretty underwhelming so far this year – I had a Large Red Damselfly in late April and yesterday saw a Blue-tailed Damselfly outside the EHB Building at Loughborough University.

A few months back now I had book four places on a guided trip to Chartley Moss. As followers of the blog may well remember Leigh and I visited two years ago. At nearby Chartley Castle, Mary, Queen of Scots was held before being moved to Fotheringhay Castle to be executed… not a fate I wished to share from my crew, Skev, The Leicester Llama and Jim Graham. I was seriously worried that the Dragonflies would be late emerging.

After having badgered everyone to bring their wellies it was highly embarrassing to have left mine in the car when we met up. Thankfully, The Llama – Andy Mackay- let me borrow his.

Soon after appointed meet, 14.00, we were heading onto the bog. Chartley Moss is a rare example of a floating bog or Schwingmoor, formed by glaicial events millions of years ago – or just last week, for any Creationists reading this. Key facts though are the bog is about 3m of Peat floating on 14m of Water… at best.

The trees are the remains of Pines that have died and are very, very slowly decomposing in the anaerobic environment. It makes me think of a WWI Battle Field.

The 'Rugby Post' Trees

Shooters' Pool

The main purpose of our trip was to see the rare White-faced Darter… though when Emma the reserve manager got everyone jumping on just a few feet of floating bog there were a few other white faces around.

We were soon into insects and bog plants with plenty of Latticed Heath Moths zipping about.


The first dragins we encountered were, predictably Large Red Damselfies but we soon had great views of up to 10 White-faced Darter, a few bluets, including Azure Damselfly and Common Blue Damselfly. A couple of the lads saw a Quad as well but I missed this.

Large Red Damselfly

I had bought a new Sigma 150mm macro for insect photography but on a floating bog with danger of death at every turn the 100-400mm ISM zoom seemed best bet. I did use a 35mm extension tube as well. The risks of disappearing are highlighted by Skev slowly sinking into the Sphagnum Moss.

Skev slowly gets closer to nature

We weren’t in too much danger though as it appears that Private Godfrey had got a pass out from his sister, Dolly and brought along his little first aid bag.

Private Godfrey

The Darters were pretty active and getting good shots was difficult. Whixall Moss is better for close encounters but nowhere near as enchanting.

male White-faced Darter

male White-faced Darter

immature male White-faced Darter

male White-faced Darter

teneral male White-faced Darter

Our time on the bog was over all too soon… it was scorching though and I needed water. There were still a few things to see as we left.

Green Hairstreak

Hoof Fungus

Bluebell Carpet

Getting home, I was soon off the Kelham Bridge to get brief flight views of what we thought was a Purple Heron… until the finder reviewed his photos to reveal what is probably and aptly described by the Llama as a: Manky Grey Heron.


3 responses to “Don’t Call Me White-face: Chartley Moss – 22 May 2010

  1. Could I have looked any more camp while you were taking that photo?!

    Thanks again for organising this, John – an excellent day was had by all. I may get round to putting my photos on my blog later.

    Re the Kelham bridge heron, having now seen a few flight shots of it, there is definitely something Purple-ish about it, in particular the big neck bulge and apparent heavy streaking underneath. I wonder if it could be a Purple x Grey hybrid? Certainly doesn’t look 100% right for either species.

  2. ‘That’ heron just ‘ain’t right’ full fuckin stop Andy!…..

    I reckon that there will be similar looking birds being washed up on the Gulf of Mexico…after being put thru a spin-dryer then set alight…poor fuckin wreck…!

    Glad you all had good time at the white faced……we were at Whixhall enjoying them in the afternoon….[after spending the morning dipping on club tails at Bewdley….it was a game of two halves for us yesterday]…!

    ps…to be semi-serious about that heron…i reckon probably just a grey…but then again..i’ve only looked at pic a couple o times….

  3. thedrunkbirder

    I must admit that in the few seconds the bird got up first time I was sure it was Purple… the only shots I got of it were useless as the bird was then flying away… flushed by twitchers! They know who they are…

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