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Whixall Moss

An area of great birding potential which divides opinion locally like no other reserve. On it's day, an awesome venue but it can be (shall we say) very quiet if unusal birds are your quarry, it all depends on your birding outlook!

Grey grey Shrike

Personally, I love it (unless I've just been there and seen nowt!!), but limit the number of times I visit to those likely to be most productive as it is a fair distance for me to travel. It is one of Shropshire's truly remote wild places and the Moss itself is a mecca for a real diversity of wildlife. Dragonflies, including White-faced Darter, unusal Butterflies and Raft Spider may be found

One of Shropshire's wildest places....

First things first, officially a permit is required from Natural England and will be accompanied by a map / safety info etc. When going for the first time, or until truly familar with the Mosses, the site map is a very good idea as it is very easy to become disorientated in the wide open space! Keep to the main footpaths and wear sensible footwear - it's a peat bog after all!! Adders are possible but I've never seen one yet! One thing to very aware of is the veritable horde of insects of the biting kind which predominate during the Summer months. You WILL get bitten unless you take precautions such as repellant/cream and covered skin (and even then they will still bite!!). I always have hydrocortisone cream with me for instant use and this keeps reactions to a minimum.

Hobby

Don't forget to check out the fields either side of the access road leading up to the canal bridge. In Spring and autumn, always the chance of a wader or two! The small car park on the other side of the canal is well placed for access to the moss. Take your time walking in, during the latter stages of the wooded area, in Spring, there will be plenty of Willow Warblers and with luck the area just before you meet the main track is good for Willow Tit! Birds regularly seen on the Moss include Meadow Pipit, Stonechat and Reed Bunting. In Winter, this is one of the few places locally to hold a wintering Great-grey Shrike. Any time between November and March is well worth a visit and walk around! Pinning one down is never easy and the Fenns Moss side of the reserve (Welcome to Wales though!) may produce the goods!

Curlew and Skylark are plentiful during Spring and Summer. A round trip walk (see map below) will allow you take in most of 'what's about'. The small pools may hold a wader or two, Common Snipe, Redshank and Dunlin are possible. Cuckoo are now generally quite difficult to find in Shropshire but this is one place you really do have a good chance of success! The last two weeks in April will see birds arriving and calling, thereafter, anywhere on the Moss is likely to produce adults and later on, their offspring.

The Moss can be an awesome place for raptors. It remains the only place in Shropshire I've seen Montagu's Harrier (a juvenile in June 2006) and my first Shropshire Marsh Harrier! Hen Harrier and Short-eared owl are Winter specialities of the Moss and most of my records have come from visits in November and December. The mid point of the round trip walk (or simply walk straight in) has a slightly raised area where the main paths intersect and is a great spot for raptor watching.

Short-eared Owl

Common Buzzard and Kestrel are guaranteed with a reasonable chance of Peregrine and Sparrowhawk and if lucky - Merlin! The Hobby is undoubtedly the main the Summer target raptor of the Mosses and this is certainly one of the best best place in Shropshire to guarantee seeing one. Double figure counts are possible on a good day - to stand out in the middle and watch these magnificent birds flying overhead, then swooping down catching dragonflies is an awesome experience!

When there is lot's of standing water, don't forget to check out the flooded fields! You can access a good vantage point (the metal canal bridge) either from the Moss itself or via the car park and along the towpath. Anything is possible when this area is on form - plenty of wildfowl and I've also seen Wood Sandpiper, Common/Green Sandpiper, Ringed/Little ringed Plover and Ruff here!

The reserve is tucked away in the North Shropshire countryside and first time visitors would be well advised to have an OS map to hand (hmm maybe for the second time as well or store the location on your satnav!? The map below shows the location and my favourite access point, near Furbers car breakers yard, simply zoom in to enlarge(see map below).


View Whixall Moss in a larger map