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Friday, 21 July 2017

Visit the Honey Bees!

  Sunday July 23rd : 1.30pm – 4.00pm
Please book on a place on this visit via Charlotte@charlottew.co.uk –places are limited, it is first come, first served, and a number of people have already booked a place.  You will be lent protective clothing. Also, if the weather is too wet or windy, the visit will have to be cancelled and you will be given notice on the morning.  So…get buzzing!

The Halifax and District Beekeepers Association Apiary is located on Church Lane, Southowram.  Please click on the link below to see a map of where it is located.
There will be a sign on the main road adjacent to the apiary and there is plenty of parking in the apiary grounds.

Meet from 1.30pm for a 2.00pm start
Introductory talk about honey bees, visit the bee hives, refreshments
End : 4.00pm

Please wear wellington boots if possible.  Protective veils and gloves etc will be provided.

With thanks to the Halifax and District Beekeepers Association for inviting us to visit their Apiary!

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Brambling in July in Hebden Bridge !

A friend sent me this photo today. He hasn't seen a male with it.

 Bramblings are usually strictly winter visitors.

Anyone sceptical of the date of the photo can check by the potato foliage behind.

2017 Big Butterfly Count

On Saturday July 15th, 9 of us (and one dog) embarked upon this year's Butterfly Count at Cromwell Bottom. The weather was a little unpromising but nevertheless our totals were not far below those of 2016. We also used the opportunity to look at some of the flora of the area - sadly the Grass Vetchling (Lathyrus nissolia) has now gone over and so we couldn't witness this beautiful, delicate flower, but the Yellow Birdsnest (Hypopitys monotropa) was seen to be emerging which was some consolation!

There were a lot of day-flying moths which Charlie (Streets) helped us to identify; notable were the large number of Shaded Broad-bars, one Clouded Border, and one Five-spot Burnet.

As for the butterfly count, the following totals were recorded; figures in brackets refer to those taken last year:

Meadow Brown 5 (9)

Gatekeeper 8 (14)

Small Skipper 3 (0)

Large Skipper 1 (4)

Ringlet 14 (9)

Large White 5 (2)

Peacock 0 (1)

Speckled Wood 0 (2)

Green-veined White 0 (2)

Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)

Not a butterfly, but often included in butterfly counts - the Five-spot Burnet (Zygaena trifolii), resting on Knapweed

Another rather beautiful moth, the Shaded Broad-bar (Scotopteryx chenopodiata)

And yet another moth - the Clouded Border moth (Lomaspilis marginata)

Fun with the butterfly net! (Some interesting bird poo was on this rock, chock-full of worms, which is why I decided to take a photo rather than sit in the vacant space!)

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

A surprise in the flower border.

I could hardly believe this was a Bilberry Bumble Bee Bombus monticola, but Charlotte Weightman confirmed it. Catmint flowers were all it wanted in the borders at St Augustines Community Centre, Hanson Lane, Halifax; a mostly built-up area. The nearest Bilberry is just the other side of Pellon Lane, along the cutting where the old High Level Railway used to run, or maybe the Council's new policy of sowing nectar-rich flower mixtures along some of the main roads has tempted it down from the moors. They feed from flowers other than those of Bilberry I've noticed, but I've only seen them high up, above Widdop, above Scammonden etc.. This one was at 200 metres.

I saw one on Tuesday 18th and today 19th July, possibly the same individual, as I only saw one at once.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Hay Meadows walk

The number 13 may be unlucky for some, but last Saturday (8th July) 13 of us went on a glorious meander round the hay meadows which are being developed as foraging grounds for Twite above Baitings Dam, Ripponden.  Once again, knowledge was shared, friends were made and picnics were eaten to the sound of buzzing bumblebees in the superb setting of Yorkshire in the sunshine.  Sadly, no Twite joined us, but the flowers and insects made up for that!

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Clouded Yellow

Saw my first Clouded Yellow of the summer at Mayroyd yesterday

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Bog Asphodel

One of the indicator plants of healthy wet heath/ bog is Bog Asphodel Narthecium ossifragum . This was photographed recently on Norland Moor by Laurence Sutton, who says it is precariously close to other vegetation which is being flattened by cyclists.

Cycling is the fastest growing sport in Britain at the moment; another strain on our beleaguered plantlife. If it's any consolation, golf courses are closing in large numbers, and though some of them go to housebuilding, quite a lot are just being abandoned, which has got to be good for nature.

Monday, 3 July 2017


Walking between Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge this weekend, we were delighted to come upon a host of Ringlets - at least 20 - which suddenly burst forth along a grassy bank just as the sun appeared. A wonderful spectacle!

Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus) 

A pair of Ringlets - making new Ringlets!

Friday, 30 June 2017


Nice to see a hare cross in front of me this afternoon at Cold Edge

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Sycamore tree

In a recent survey of Callis Wood at Charlestown, we saw some leaves of a mature Sycamore that looked different. They were on the end of a low, large branch and if shown in isolation it would be easy to assume they are from an ornamental maple.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Birdwatching Ramble at Rishworth

On Saturday 17th June, nine of us met at Heathfield Prep for a birdwatching ramble in the Rishworth area, taking in Booth Dean and Turner Clough with its breathtaking views of the River Ryburn. Some of the terrain was a tad challenging but the rewards were worth it - wild and untamed areas of woodland where we spotted some fascinating moths as well as birds. Steve did his usual half-hour count of bird species which totalled 17. Later, we saw two Buzzards, the first of which was of such a size that Charlie said he would possibly have identified it as a Golden Eagle had we been in Scotland! Out of the woods, we were treated to more butterflies and moths, with a possible first for Calderdale identified by Charlie as Grapholita compositella, or the Clover Seed moth. There were a good number of Speckled Wood butterflies and I was very excited to see a Yellow Shell moth for the first time in two years! Julian took an excellent shot of it, shown here, which was no easy task on such an extremely bright and sunny day. As for mammals, one young Roe deer was spotted, one rabbit and one squirrel. There was also evidence of moles in the form of molehills.
Plant species were also noted; Julian photographed a Southern Marsh orchid - identity now verified by Peachysteve.
On our way back down the road, Steve and Charlie spotted a Ruby-tailed wasp, which Steve managed to photograph very well in spite of the insect buzzing around at high speed.
It was a great ramble despite the heat, and - as always - it was a wonderful privilege to be walking with experts!

(Possibly) Southern Marsh orchid Julian Birkhead

One of the many exquisite scenes we saw along the Ryburn Julian Birkhead

Yellow Shell moth Julian Birkhead

Ruby-tailed Wasp Chrysis ignita SB
Charlie Streets explains it would have been searching the cracks in the wall for other wasp nests or those of  mining bees to parasitise. Only about the size of a bluebottle fly, it must qualify as one of the most superbly-coloured insects in Britain. 


Had a pleasant surprise this week. When inspecting my apple tree I discovered two new mistletoe plants in addition to the one that germinated four years ago.

I've not added any berries in that time so assume the seeds have lain dormant since then.

Fingers crossed I now have both sexes!

Wanted! Butterfly survey volunteers

Natalie at the National Trust has asked me to share this request for butterfly volunteers with you:

We are currently recruiting for survey volunteers at Hardcastle Crags!

Mainly we survey butterflies in the peak season and record our results onto the UK BMS database in partnership with Butterfly Conservation.

We want to expand our group so that we can collect more records, survey other critters as well as carrying out survey work which will influence our practical countryside work plans, habitat management and natural flood management work.

See the link below for the survey role profile and Hardcastle crags information packs.

The survey team meet up once a month for a catch up meet with a guest speaker accompanied with a survey on site. In the last meeting we had a student studying bumblebees on our hay meadows and for the next meeting we have a local mosses and liverworts chap talking about his crags discoveries and helping us to I.D.

Interested? Contact me directly on the email below with any other questions and information regarding a taster day.

Best wishes,

Natalie Pownall
Academy Ranger
West Yorkshire Group
National Trust

Friday, 16 June 2017

Bashing balsam update!

On Wednesday I went balsam bashing at Hardcastle Crags - the balsam is quick and easy to pull up and 7 of us cleared quite an area fast, which is always satisfying!  If you'd like to have a go and help trying to rid Hardcastle Crags of this non native plant which is threatening to out compete other native plants, please help the National Trust by going along to sessions on 19th and 27th June, and 6th, 14th and 19th July, all at 18.00 - 20.00.  Wear protective clothing (nettles and brambles can sting!) and bring insect repellent. Stay for as long as you like. Meet at Midgehole Car Parking (if volunteering and you are not a member of the National Trust, there is no car parking charge.)

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Rhinoceros Beetle

Continuing with the beetle theme, here are a couple of pictures of a male rhinoceros beetle, Sinodendron cylindricum, which I found in my garden in Halifax last night. It was struggling to walk - all caught up in thick cobweb which I removed with a pin and set him free to amble up the path, pointing him in the direction of the woodpile.

Interesting Beetle

We saw this ground beetle, Elaphrus cupreus, swimming about at the edge of a pool on the moor above Pecket Well yesterday on the impromptu Halifax Scientific Society walk. Turns out not to be uncommon in this environment, but a handsome beast and interesting to watch as it paddled around with it's antennae in the air.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Ash Dieback

There are reports this season from respected arborists, that the advance of Ash dieback disease is breath taking across Yorkshire and Lancs/Cumbria.

I travelled over to Gisburn a few days ago and the majority of Ash trees, both young and mature, had severe thinning and dieback, with many looking near death. Plenty of evidence also on mature trees in Calderdale.

In the adjacent limestone areas where virtually every other tree is an Ash, it will have devastating effects.

Plenty of 'woodlands' being planted but no one is replacing the landscape trees which we all love and make the land what it is.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Bash that Balsam!

If you fancy some fun and useful practical conservation work, the HSS have been invited to join the National Trust in doing some balsam bashing at Hardcastle Crags.  Come for as long or as short a time as you like, it’s very informal – dates are : 14th, 19th, 27th June and 6th, 14th and 19th July, all at 6.00 – 8.00pm.  There will be signposts from Midgehole Carpark directing you to where the balsam bashing that evening is taking place.  Please note, car parking charges for non National Trust members may apply.