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Saturday, 21 April 2018

White Holme, 21st April 2018

I went up hoping for emperor moths, without luck, though did get some other good stuff, including the beetle Carabus nitens, something I've been dying to see for years, green tiger beetles and my first wimberry bumblebee (Bombus monticola) at this location.

Cheers, Chris

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Why the different Fungi?

This Sycamore in our woodland has been dead for more than a decade. The short remaining length of upright trunk has only Ganoderma fungi growing round the stem.

Two separate lengths of this tree that lie on the ground have only Hoof Fungus--Fomes fomentarius, growing extensively along their rotting trunks.

It is said that dead trunks remaining upright have a different suite of fungi than trees lying on the ground.

I believe Hoof Fungus is not often seen in Calderdale, so I am pleased to have found such a large gathering. Books always say it has a preference for Birch but not in this case. Thanks go to Peachy Steve who helped confirm the identity and steered me away from Ganoderma pfefferi.

Interesting facts about Hoof Fungus:-- The flesh of the fruit bodies can be soaked in water, cut into strips and then beaten into fibres. The resultant fibres are called Amadou, which was used by dentists for drying teeth and surgeons as a styptic. Items of clothing have also been made from the Amadou fibres.

The 5,000 year old Otzi the Iceman was carrying pieces of Hoof Fungus, probably for use as tinder to light a fire.

                                                         Ganoderma (applanatum?)
                                                      From below, showing the pores

                                                         Close up of Ganoderma

Fomes fomentarius--Hoof Fungus

                                  Waxy surface which led me to initially consider G. pfeifferi

                                          Hoof fungus showing pore pattern from below

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Amphibian Walk Today

We had a superb day for the scheduled spring Amphibian Walk at Cromwell Bottom, and a good turn-out. 19 people age range 70 to 2.5! Plus Meg the dog.

The Cromwell Bottom Wildlife group kindly had the Cabin open, for the toilets and snacks/drinks. Thank you Jane for coming down early and opening up. Much appreciated. I think there was a work party as well. The reserve was looking great.

Amphibian watching was brilliant, with a male and female Palmate Newts netted in the Top Pond.
We counted approx. 27 clumps of frogspawn in various waters.

The toad breeding site I located at Tag Lock last year  was in use again. we could see about four toads from behind the barrier, and binoculars revealed many spawn strings tangled together in the clear water. This year the chorus of chirps of the males wasn't going on.

At the Big Pond dipping platform we netted two newt larvae with feathery gills. The bloom of "blanket weed" algae obstructed dipping somewhat, but in itself was a source of fascination to one Mum and two teenage daughters, who compared it to a textile and took some home to investigate further. It was a bright green colour and looked interesting under a 20x hand lens. In the old Halifax Naturalist there are passages about the algae species we have in water and on land, but the writer despaired even then of members ever studying them thoroughly.

Nearing the end of the walk, returning by the canal bank, I described hearing the previous year, but not being able to see, a toad breeding site, and they were calling again today. This time I spotted a male leave the edge of the water to escape into the depths and I caught him in my net. Then we heard the high-pitched calls coming from both sides of the canal. The waiting males obviously sit in the overhang of stones/ herbage at the very edge. We couldn't spot any spawn-strings though. This was just upstream of Freemans Bridge.

We spent some time at the bird feeding station, and among the commoner residents (Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Jay, ) we saw Bullfinch, Male Blackcap, Chiff-chaff and four Redpolls. The Redpolls were feeding on insects high in the Goat Willows, as were the Chiff-chaffs.

We are getting less surprised at the regular Buzzard soaring over the reserve, but the views were beautiful in the sunlight when one came quite close. Kingfisher was also seen by one member.

An interesting fungus we saw twice was Yellow Brain, a small, bright jelly on twigs on the ground

The Marsh Marigolds were blooming, also bright yellow, in the old Tag Cut, and the peculiar bottle-brush formed Butterbur flowers were emerging, leafless, from the soil. At Crowther Bridge we looked for and found a good quantity of the Common Whitlow-grass in the joints between the cobbles, a tiny flowering plant which is not common at all.

Finally, we were sure of spring when we saw two Comma Butterflies in courtship flight and one of them sending off a Peacock Butterfly.

Thursday, 12 April 2018


In Centre Vale Park today this flowering Liverwort was quite striking and even from a distance it looked like a mist had descended. It has delicate stems with a cream or black, dewdrop size ball at the tip.

The liverwort appears every year but this damp weather we have had recently seems to have cheered it up.

It seems to prefer damp shady places on bare soil and probably does not like competition from other plants---not much chance of that happening on some of the shadier slopes beneath Beech in the Park!

A place for everything; shade is not always bad.


Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Tonight's meeting!

Don't forget, tonight's talk and meeting is at the TOWN HALL, Crossley Street, Halifax.  Entrance on the corner by the post box. The talk will be given by Chris Tomson of the RSPB on Farming and Wildlife.  We look forward to seeing you - the meeting starts at 7.15 prompt!

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Bumblebees may just buzz off

We are worrying about the wrong bees, says Gwen Pearson in Science magazine.

Honey bees will be fine.  Apis mellifera will not go extinct and the species is not remotely threatened with extinction. The bees we should be concerned about are the wild native species.

In a Research trial (published in the Nature Journal) it found that Honey bees weren’t affected by seeds treated with neonicotinoid pesticides but wild bees were and in a big way. Wild bee density in the treated fields was half that of the untreated fields. Bumble bee colonies grew more slowly and produced fewer queens. Solitary bee nests disappeared from the treated fields completely.

Many wild pollinators are declining and honeybees can't pick up the slack. Managed colonies supplement the work of wild pollinators, not the other way round. Wild bees and other insects do most of the pollination and are actually more effective pollinators --two to three times better.
Studies from many countries have demonstrated the negative effects of commercial bees, leading to a decline in local bee populations through competition over floral resources. It was found where hives of honeybees were placed, the bumblebees disappeared almost entirely.
Honeybees are more interested in the nectar and don't really want the pollen if they can avoid it; whereas wild bees are mostly pollen collectors, which is then taken back to their nests.
There is even a suggestion that wild flowers may be declining because they are not being effectively pollinated and therefore not reproducing.

All the above is condensed from original articles. If anyone wants a link to the more detailed originals, just ask. They won't copy and paste from this blog.

Help with a Toad Patrol Needed

52 toads picked up, three squashed Friday at Copley Valley new road. If anyone knows of anyone who might be able to help please give them a hint, as it's knackering on my own! No children please as the road is dangerous. Heartwarming to see the little characters (toads) marching away down the tunnel (it's 2ft - 60cm diameter) after I place them at the entrance. Started 20.20 Fri. Mild and dry conditions.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Can you guess what it is yet? (UPDATED)

Some of you may remember a caterpillar found by Julian on last September's walk to Bradshaw. It was unusual because of the foodplant it was found feeding on - Himalayan Balsam. It was for this reason I took it away to rear through. After spending the winter in my garage as a pupa it has now begun to "colour up" significantly with all manor of shapes and patterns appearing.

Originally I suspected it was an Angle Shades but due to the smaller than usual size for this species and the fact it hasn't overwintered as a larva I'm quietly confident it's the smaller cousin - Small Angle Shades. It's a rare species for me with not using a light trap so looking forward to the adult which should be out early next week.

Final instar - 30mm long

The pupa this morning

Bang on time the adult emerged on Tuesday morning. A quick record shot in the early morning gloom suggested this was a rather dull looking moth....

But another shot taken later that morning in more flattering light shows off all the intricate patterns and colours that so many moths have but which go largely unnoticed.

Just need a few million of them now to keep that Himalayan Balsam under control.

Thanks to Julian for finding the larva in the first place!

Sunday, 18 March 2018

One landscape many views but not necessarily so

I found this notice beside a lovely lake. Why is planting trees always seen as "the answer" to any problem, which in this case is erosion and lack of bio-diversity.

The newly fenced area has no room for any more trees as the ground is already severely shaded by the existing ones, which themselves are causing the erosion they are so concerned about.

Planting seems perverse when the answer is to remove some of the existing conifers. Biodiversity, plus the broadleaves at the pond edge, would then have a chance.

                                       Official notice. Logo says "One landscape many views"

                                           Existing deep shade, erosion and no ground flora

Monday, 12 March 2018

Elder-- but am I talking Tripe?

This is a most unusual Elder shrub layer in a parcel of woodland at St. Ives near Bingley and I don't recall seeing as much in any other woodland. Elder is not commonly planted and it is difficult to know why anyone would choose to plant so much as understorey.

It is similar to nettles, in so far as both grow better in nutrient enriched soil, which can indicate former human settlement or animal congregations.

I wonder if this particular woodland was formerly stocked with pigs. They would have dunged the soil and by rootling about, all vegetation would have been removed. Elder could well have taken advantage of such conditions.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

First Toads and Frogs out yesterday and Spawn today

The first toads were moved by Toad Patrollers across the roads of Calderdale on the evening of Saturday 10th March. This was at a number of sites in Todmorden and also at Sowerby.

Well done to all concerned for being on the ball!

Today two of us found frogspawn at Widdop Reservoir, typically in a flooded rut in the track.

We could see the small gathering of frogs under the water including some in amplexus (paired) but didn't hear their chorus if they were making it.

Widdop is also a Toad breeding site, like several of our high reservoirs, but none were visible today.

A group of six then a pair of Grey-lag Geese flying over and circling round below us as we traversed the ridge above the reservoir was a spectacular sight in the sunshine.

Frogspawn at Widdop today, my first for this year.
I would be glad to hear of any other early spawnings.

Also very interesting were stumps and branches of dead trees weathering out of the peat in three places. These must have grown before the peat started building up.

This looked very like an oak stump. The glove is there for scale.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

This Month's Talk

with thanks to Amin for the poster

Monday, 5 March 2018


My first Chaffinch of the year heard this morning in Centre Vale Park at Todmorden. Woodpecker drumming and Nuthatch singing. Good to know that Spring is on its way!

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Colden Clough

Excellent report and photos by Steve on the recent Colden walk. In it Steve mentions Beech that have been marked for felling near the rock outcrops, probably a while ago he suggests.

I remember Steve, myself and Hugh Firman looking for the rare Mountain Melic grass on those calcareous outcrops many years ago (was it 8 years?). We remarked that it was far too shady with the even aged Beech for most plants to survive, never mind the rare grass. So some Beech were marked up for felling but like lots of agreed plans, nothing has happened since.

Five years ago, most of Colden Clough gained a woodland management plan, which can be viewed on Forest Plans website http://forestplans.co.uk/colden-clough/   (Very little publicity was given to these plans, so the opportunity for comments was limited).

Under this plan, a few trees were felled near the lower bridge a couple of years ago and a few have been ring-barked but not much management has happened since. Yet many more trees have been planted to add to the numbers that need removing.

If you are in a hole stop digging--if you are in a dense woodland stop planting.

The potentially lovely wildlife dams in the Colden valley are extremely shaded by self-seeded trees, yet the simple work of coppicing them seems to be beyond all capabilities. There could be sunlight and dragonflies galore without much effort.

Why it is thought that more trees are needed in a woodland, when the very absence of new seedlings is telling the story that light levels are too low for this to happen naturally, is a puzzle equal to Fermat's Last Theorem.

                    Hundreds of new plantings amongst too many 'telegraph poles' with sparse crowns

                                         This is a better bit in Colden with spaced out Oaks    

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Hebblefoot today.

I learned its proper name (Hebblefoot) in an old article. Like Brookfoot and Luddendenfoot, it denotes the spot where a tributary stream joins the River Calder.

Others may know it as the Calder and Hebble junction, or the Salterhebble Canal Basin area.

Song Thrush
Meadow Pipit  2 , probably displaced by deep snow on the tops - unusual here. Feeding along the water's edge.
Mallard 2
Tree Sparrows used to nest in a hole in the masonry of the railway viaduct in the 1990s.

Very pretty all round in the snow.
Generally squalid without snow but often quite rich in birds.
A long time since the canal froze!

The naturalists of old left many records of water plants and water snails from this area.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Monthly Society Walk on 24th Feb and the Calcareous rock outcrop in Colden Dale on 25th Feb.2018

Thirteen attended the walk plus two dogs. Peachysteve pointed out  a short diversion from Ryburn Reservoir footpath into Drumming Wood where this waterfall can be seen, and later on he produced Cowhorn Bogmoss, a sphagnum species, on Beeston Rocks. These, along with the varied views along the reservoir and with trees right down to the water's edge, give this dam a scenic aspect  finer than many of the other local ones; like a little Lakeland water. 

A carpet of strikingly red-stemmed moss on disturbed ground.

We walked a circuit of  Ryburn Reservoir, making three detours up feeder streams, looking at the mosses and what ferns we could find still holding onto some green foliage in February.

I had said the dam doesn't often attract interesting wildfowl, but on the last stretch of water we found a male Goldeneye diving and feeding not far off and easy to see in the bright sunshine for those with binoculars.

Colden Dale on 25th Feb.

Some of us hadn't got much of a look at the calcareous rock outcrop on the walk on 27th January, only reaching it as the rest of the party moved off, so we took ourselves up there on a spare Sunday.

This is the big one on the east side of the valley, long known and the plants studied and recorded. Johnny Turner, a resident of Colden Dale, has since found a matching smaller one on the west side of the valley, as written about earlier in this blog.

There is a well-known one in Hardcastle Crags, the next valley, on the eastern slope of the valley. It's interesting to speculate there might be one on the south-western side, perhaps a continuation through the hill of this one in Colden Dale.

Maidenhair Spleenwort; apart from on these calcareous sandstones, is almost confined to old walls with lime mortar in Calderdale..

A very interesting mushroom (above,) about 20mm across. The underside had pores; but unusual wide-spaced pores, like holes in a little colander. I think Julian got a good picture of these.

A tiny fungus, possibly Elfin Saddle, Helvella lacunosa (above and below.)

A stunning moss with leaflets like a miniature fern, growing among Wood Melick grass. Mountain Melick was also once known from these rocks in the 19thC.  The top of the outcrop supports a meagre growth of spindly Aspen suckers. It will die out unless the Beeches are not removed that block the sun. They are marked as if planned for removal, but it was a while back, by the fading paint marks.

Two members of the Hx Sci Soc recording plants on the calcareous sandstone outcrop.


White Butterbur also still thriving and flowering in February in Colden Dale.

After visiting the rocks we went up the valley, where I guessed the White Butterbur would probably be in flower. This is one of only two sites known in Calderdale. Frank Murgatroyd only found out about it just before his Flora went to press in 1994, and too late to include it. It is a long term garden escape. The other site is near Sowerby Bridge. I've found it also in a clough just over the Kirklees - Calderdale boundary, (Wool Clough near Marsden.)

At Colden it stretches for 22 yards along the bottom of a field where the Calderdale Way goes across the top, and creeps along the damp sides of a small watercourse a few yards into the wood below.

White Butterbur Petasites alba

I haven't mentioned many birds; others as well as myself write over on Calderbirds.blogspot about what they have seen. I have shortcuts to both on my laptop, or there is a tab at the top.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

1,000 years of history in this collapsed Oak

From a news report last week.
"One of the oldest trees in Wales which was probably planted 1,000 years ago as a boundary marker along Offa's Dyke has fallen down.
The Buttington Oak was spotted collapsed in its field two miles from Welshpool in Powys by a man nicknamed the "tree hunter".
Rob McBride said he was sad to see such a significant tree grounded.
The tree's girth measured 11m, which made it about 1,000 years old, he added."
The problem is that none of our really old trees have any legal protection. Old buildings of this age would be listed, yet they can be rebuilt.
Ancient and Notable Trees need to have a protected root area and the soil left alone within this zone.
Is it significant this Welsh tree appears to have cultivated soil and crops under the crown and up to the trunk?
In my travels I see many trees within cultivated fields that are dying due to the soil ploughed up to the trunk, or excess nitrogen application destroying the essential surface roots. It is a fallacy that tree roots go deep down into the soil; most are within the top few inches and spread widely, often great distances beyond the crown spread. 



Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Pithya vulgaris

This very scarce fungus is now fruiting again on the old Christmas trees at Ogden Reservoir. See picture on the Fungus blog. (Tab at top.)


In Devon they have observed Beavers happily munching on Himalayan Balsam; also the kits followed their parents and copied the behaviour. Another good reason for introducing Beavers more widely.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Monday, 29 January 2018

Mosses in mind in a moist and magic valley - Colden Clough

We were privileged to have Johnny Turner along to guide us and introduce some of the many species of mosses and liverworts that grow in the woods in Colden Clough.  Peachysteve was there too and he is also very interested and knowledgeable. This was the Society Ramble on 27th January 2018.

The drizzle that started the day had the advantage that all the mosses and liverworts would be perked up and looking at their best.

First we headed to the calcareous rock outcrop that we have long known at the top of Eves Wood, on the top edge at the Heptonstall side.

Here we saw TWISTED MOSS Tortella tortuosa which makes compact cushions on rock that is not too wet and acid.

We discussed the rocks and how they appear also at Hardcastle Crags in one small outcrop which the National Trust carefully preserve, even removing small trees that prevent the sun getting in.

Mountain Melick was found recently at Hardcastle Crags by Annie Honjo after decades of it not being recorded and these rocks at Eves Wood also used to hold this rare grass. However Summer is the best time to look for it. The small ferns we often see in old walls with lime mortar - Maidenhair Spleenwort, Wall Rue etc. are also a feature of these calcareous outcrops and Ivy can indicate the rocks from a distance.

The party of nine plus Meg the Black Lab. (out of shot)

Soon we were off in search of a new-to-us outcrop of the same rock on the far side of the valley, which Johnny had reported to us. (So there are new things to report on geology in our area!)

On the way we found the remains of a fresh Woodcock, eaten by a raptor of some kind. The bird of prey had left the wings, part of the skull with the long, straight beak, and one foot of the Woodcock, where it had eaten it, beside the track.

Along the way we looked at many different mosses of which I can only list a few. We were shown LANKY MOSS Rhytidiadelphus loreus, which was not recorded during the industrial years, but has now become very common since the Clean Air Acts were passed.

It's relative the ELECTRIFIED CAT'S TAIL MOSS Rhytidiadelphus triquestris used to be known as BIG SHAGGY MOSS till many bryologists picked up the common name - very apt - from across the Atlantic. This is one of the aspects of bryology - the same species can be found right round the northern hemisphere, wherever the tiny spores are carried on the winds.


Tree growing implausibly on top of solid rock, as they often do in the Pennine Cloughs

Sphagnum mosses are most often seen on the moors in wet places, where they are valued for absorbing huge amounts of water and playing a part in flood prevention, but Colden Clough has a lot of SMALL RED SPHAGNUM Sphagnum capillifolium on its slopes.

A tiny liverwort we were shown was a rare one; FINGERED COWLWORT Colura calyptrifolia, which Johnny had found for the first time in Calderdale. He's not a fan of the new policy to give every organism a common name as well as the scientific one, but he's been doing it for so long he's got used to the latin/greek.
I think common names could help more people to get into it, aid awareness and thus conservation.

After another off-piste scramble we got to the newly found calcareous rock outcrop on the western side of Colden Clough. It's not as big as the one on the Heptonstall side, but has the same distinctive appearance.

We then walked along the contour to some huge rocks quite near the Blackshaw Head Road. Here there are overhangs and small caves in which Johnny wanted to show us the moss GOBLIN'S GOLD Schistostega pennata. This moss grows in the deepest shade where nothing else can compete. Chloroblasts in the leaves are actually mobile, and turn like tiny lenses to capture the maximum of the available light, which give the effect of shining greenish gold. However, it was such a dull day that the effect wasn't happening for us on Saturday. In Hokkaido there is apparently a shrine to this moss at one place it grows and is much admired by Japanese nature lovers.

I recalled that knowledge of mosses used to be more ingrained among members of the Halifax Scientific Society; I occasionally heard an urban myth in which one gentleman member "borrowed" someone else's girlfriend to go looking for the Goblin's Gold. Shocking!

All these mosses and the liverwort can be found online.

If anyone would like to hear a talk on Calderdale Mosses and Liverworts Johnny Turner is bringing us an illustrated lecture on his subject at the New Central Library, Halifax, at 7.00 for 7.15 on Tuesday 13th March. Entry is free with donations accepted to the Halifax Scientific Society.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Here is a wood we made earlier

This is a local woodland that was formerly unimproved pasture full of wildflowers. It is shown on the 1850 OS map as an open field within surrounding woodland.

About 30 years ago it was planted with trees (mainly Oak I think) and is now a good example of 'make your mind up' time.

Oak trees need plenty of light and space to grow. There is a good one in the foreground of the photo that would make a fine tree but not if left as it is. The ones surrounding need to be coppiced or pollarded to create a more structured woodland and release this Oak from shading. Not much work involved and all could be done quickly with these young saplings.

Other likely trees in this small field could be identified and the competing ones managed. The extra light would allow wildflowers to grow. If no intervention, then the likelihood is further loss of ground flora and a degenerating woodland.

There are new plantations springing up everywhere and I hope in future years that people are as keen to use a bow saw as they are a spade.

                                     Lovely vigorous new woodland but will it get too shady?
                                                          Can you see the extra one?

                                                                         Here it is