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Monday, 23 October 2017

Nothing changes

"It must be confessed that the English population is lacking in the primary instincts necessary for the creation  and maintenance of agreeable surroundings to a greater extent than any other nation in Western civilisation".

This was written by the "Roads Beautifying Association" in their Roadside Planting book of 1930, published by Country Life. It was said in reaction to wanton destruction of most of the trees and shrubs planted by the roadsides in the 1920's.

Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister, said in 1927 "There ought to be an unwritten code that to defile any of these great roads, either by ugly surroundings, by hoggish behaviour along them, or by upsetting or spilling litter on them, should be a bar to a man from entering any decent club or any decent home circle".

There is a very interesting history surrounding the RBA and its precursor the Roads of Remembrance Association. They make for fascinating reading and it makes you wonder if the 1930 quote I began with, contains an element of truth.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Can you lend a hand? Moors and moths!

Calderdale Countryside Services run regular morning sessions doing practical conservation work on Norland Moor.  Next dates : 18th Oct, 15th Nov, 20th Dec, 17th Mar, 21 Mar.  Contact Robin Dalton on : 07712867619 for more details of where to meet etc.

Also, this Wednesday 11th Oct, Robin and Chris Sutcliffe are running a moth trapping night, meeting opposite the Moorcock, Norland at 7.00pm.  But please check with Robin first!


Monday, 25 September 2017

More pics from the Crocus walk

Even from the starting point at St. John's church in Bradshaw there were plenty of interesting fungi. A long overdue first for me were these three Blackening Waxcaps on the mown grass (above and below). Also three Scarlet Caterpillarclubs were found poking through the turf.

A couple of nice dung feeding fungi were found in the paddock with the masses of crocuses in - Egghead Mottlegill above and a lovely white Snowy Inkcap which was another new for me but I neglected to photograph :-(

Just before lunch Annie spotted this wagtail alighting on a fence - I'll leave it to Steve to fill us in on age/race/sex/species. (Grey Wagtail male; they lose the black bib completely after the breeding season - Steve.)

Shortly after the wagtail I found yet more bagworms on dry-stone walls and gate posts. Calderdale is the hot-spot for these at the moment and is currently the only place to see this rare moth species in Yorkshire. I suspect it's Dahlica lichenella - the Lichen Case-bearer, but would need to find some adults or empty pupal cases to be sure.
For those not familiar with bagworms I've added a photo of one of the adult females I reared last year. As there are no males known of this species in Britain and she is parthenogenetic, she wastes no time in laying a batch of ready fertilised eggs back in to the case she's just emerged from. After laying is complete she falls to the ground and dies. A quick demise for this 3mm long moth.
Another site was found later on in the walk with dozens of cases on the walls on both sides of the path.

Julian found this moth larva feeding on Himalayan Balsam of all things. Makes you wonder why they're not more commonly found bearing in mind the amount of balsam we have these days. I'll try and get an ID for it - if not I'll try and rear it through - although I strongly suspect it's an Angle Shades......

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Autumn Crocus

Some pictures of a very interesting Calderdale speciality - the delicate Crocus nudiflorus - native to the Pyrenees but naturalised in our area perhaps since the Middle Ages. Taken today on the annual Halifax Scientific Society Autumn Crocus walk, led by Steve Blacksmith. A good year, with a host of over a thousand flowers seen in one of the traditional places, and a good day out as always.

Julian Birkhead

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Hedgehog records

I would welcome any records of Hedgehogs this year in Calderdale. They are really scarce in our area nowadays !
I already have  a few records in the database but unfortunately, all are road-kills other than one record so far of a living one - a juvenile near Roils Head.
I'm looking for location (street name), date and 'alive or dead'.
Please post any sightings on the blog, or in the comments box, or pass to Steve B who will forward the records on. Many thanks. Dave.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

No food or shelter. The future is bleak.

Having just travelled through the East Riding, I find it not surprising that many bird species are in decline. There isn't any secret to it that needs the pretence of intensively written reports.

Mile after mile of farmland hedgerows were being tractor strimmed to neat garden-type hedges. All the growth that young birds would have just discovered to be 'home' was being hacked away. But worst of all was the squandering of the hawthorn berries and many, many elder fruits--rich black luscious hanging bunches. Now all gathering mud and squashed on the road.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Tuesday 12th September meeting

Please note that Tuesday's meeting and the talk by Diane Fare of the Bronte Parsonage entitled 'Uncovering Bronte Country' is being held in NEW Halifax Central Library, Square Road (more or less opposite the station) at the usual time of 7.15pm.  The meeting room is on the 2nd Floor.  We have tried to inform everyone but this is just a reminder!  Hope to see you there...and there will be cake!

Saturday, 9 September 2017

White Beech

I noticed that a young Beech sapling in Centre Vale Park at Todmorden was looking white on its upper leaves. I thought it was mildew but took a closer look as I have never seen mildew on Beech.

What is actually happening is these upper leaves are totally devoid of chlorophyll, yet the lower leaves are as normal. No idea why this should be or whether it will persist on next year's growth.

         I have reduced the highlights in this image to try and get some detail in the leaf. you can just see there are some tiny eyelets of chlorophyll, yet the extension growth of the stem is vigorous.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Penistone and District Countryside Society

A friend of mine, Chris Tomson, has asked me to publise this new countryside group he has started at Penistone.  Some of you will have met him on the haymeadow walk in July.

Hi Folks,

A date for your diary - Tuesday 19th September 2017 at St Andrews Church, Penistone an illustrated talk by Chris Tomson - "Farming and Wildlife". 7:30pm. Admission £2.50.

The hall is also booked for another meeting on Tuesday 17th October for an illustrated talk hopefully about walking the Dales Way and West Highland Way TBC.

Please come along if you can and bring friends so that we can hopefully get the Penistone and District Countryside Society off the ground this winter.

Kind regards,

Chris Tomson
Tel. 0795 821 3643

Hollas Lane Walk

Walk Sat 2nd.

Hollas Lane walk, Sept 2nd. Plant List

Led by Peachysteve we explored the old flood plain area around the new houses which had previous industrial activity on the land with much of the area being relatively alkaline to which some plants were more suited. Once upon a time before the development Bee Orchid could be found.

Below is a list of but not all the plants we discussed.


 Polypodium vulgare

Asplenium ceterach

Asplenium ruta-muraria

Asplenium trichomanes (quadrivalens)

Asplenium scolopendrium

Dryopteris borreri

Dryopteris filix-mas

Dryopteris dilatata

Flowering Plants (in order of finding them)

Autumn Hawkbit

Chinese Bramble

Branched Burr Reed

American Pond Weed ( Potamogeton epihydrus)

Perforate St Johnwort

Hoary Mustard

Alsike Clover


Wild Mignonette

Smooth Hawksbeard

Great Mullein

Creeping Cinquefoil

Canadian Fleabane

Wild Sweet Alison

Ribbed Melilot

Small Melilot

White Melilot

Purple Loosestrife

Hardrush (alkaline)

Dittander (Broad Leaved Pepperwort)

Fern Grass

Narrow Leaved Ragwort

Hedgerow Cranesbill

Spreading Upright Hedge Parsley

Himalayan Honeysuckle

Giant Hogweed

Hairy Tare

Smooth Tare

Red Goosefoot

Hedge Mustard

Redshank (Hairy fringed Ochrea)

Pale Persicaria (No Hair or very little on Ochrea)

Wild Clary

Lesser Swine Cress

Fodder Vetch (compare with tufted vetch)

Salad Burnet


Wood Stichwort

Corn Mint

Pink Purslane

False Brome


Greater Birdsfoot Trefoil

Red Bartsia

Hedge Bedstraw

Water Mint

Wild Parsnip

Common Wintercress.

Original post - Laurence Sutton

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

From Yorkshire Naturalists Union, to which we are affiliated.

If anyone would like this forwarding to them please send me an email.

The actual News & Events document will then be downloadable onto your computer. (I didn't paste and copy that part as I assume it wouldn't open from here.) 

YNU News & Events - September 2017


YNU Communications comms@ynu.org.uk

Attachments6:41 PM (3 hours ago)
to comms
Hi Everyone,

Please find attached the September issue of the YNU News Brief.  This month includes a feature article on Thistle Broomrape in Yorkshire written by Phillip Whelpdale; a fully referenced version will be available on the website shortly.  
There are still a few places available on the upcoming botanical training days at Three Hagges Wood-Meadow near York. The one day courses are suitable for professionals or amateurs, are reasonably priced at £40 per day and no prior knowledge is necessary. For more details, please visit the Three Hagges website: http://www.haggewoodstrust.org.uk/events/
Finally, the Freshwater Habitats Trust want to encourage as many people as possible to take part in the Clean Water for Wildlife Survey. Anyone and everyone can get involved, both groups and members of the public are welcome to participate. The two quick test kits, are easy to use and you can record the amount of nutrient pollution in your local ponds, streams, rivers, ditches and canals – and maybe discover new clean water sites. FHT will send you as many nitrate and phosphate kits as you need to take part. Each kit comes with a Clean Water leaflet and recording form, so that you know what to do and what to record. More information can be found on our website  https://freshwaterhabitats.org.uk/projects/clean-water/take-part/ or contact Laura Quinlan lquinlan@freshwaterhabitats.org.uk
If you would like to contribute a feature article highlighting the work being done in our region or species of interest, or if you have any news or events you would like to include in the next News Brief, please e-mail comms@ynu.org.uk

With best wishes,

Paula and Kate

Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union

Monday, 4 September 2017

Hollas Lane walk - Sept. 2nd

Blessed with fantastic weather the turn out was good - around a dozen people showed up. Peachysteve lead the walk and his local plant knowledge and ID skills are something to behold! There were a sprinkling of knowledgeable plant folk who I'm sure left the walk having seen new plant or fern species. From a lepidopterist's point of view it was a worthwhile trip becoming familiar with a range of plants that moth larvae use such as Grey Alder, Sneezewort and the goosefoot/orache family.

BIRDS: Kingfisher and Grey Heron on the river with Pied Wagtail, Nutchatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker all heard.

SPIDERS: I took a couple of shots of "interesting" looking arachnids - maybe Bruce or Julian can enlighten us? Their bodies were small pea sized.

Quite a few Red Admirals using the numerous Buddleia bushes on site.

A new one for me was this Coleophora argentula case on a Yarrow seedhead. After taking it home for further study I was surprised to find it was tenanted, the larva is now happily feeding away on the seeds. It will "hibernate" over winter to resume feeding in the spring. The adults emerge in early summer.
A leaf mine found on Downy Birch was Stigmella confusella. The frass (caterpillar poo) line is black and narrow throughout the mine which helps ID this species. The mine is complete and the larva will have exited it a month or two ago and have dropped to the ground to pupate.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Oak Trees

Acute Oak Decline and Chronic Oak Decline are terms used for the large numbers of older trees (above 50 years) which are showing signs of dieback and stress. AOD is affecting increasing numbers of Oaks each year and can kill the tree within 5 years. This blog does not all copying. Go to Google either of those diseases there is plenty of info there.

The affected trees are mainly in the eastern counties, midlands and south of England. There has been much research on the causes but recent work has suggested AOD and COD are the same disease at different stages of the spectrum. There was a theory that the Agrilus Beetle was part of the problem but it is more likely the beetle activity is taking advantage of already weakened Oak stems.

More recent research is looking at the soil environment and there has been found a strong link between high Nitrogen levels (from farming/air pollution/car exhausts) in the soil and the mapped trees that are showing symptoms of the disease.

What may be happening is the altered soils are affecting the essential link between mycorrhiza fungi and the roots of Oak trees. The roots need the fungal association to help with water uptake. When this link is severed, then the trees die from lack of water, particularly in the already drier parts of the country such as East and South. 

There is a worry that essential fungi are dying and soils generally are being degraded.

Norland moor walk - Aug.23rd

I won't give a summary of the walk as others are better qualified for that, suffice to say there was a good turn out of fifteen people and a couple of dogs and the weather was great after an ominous start to the day.

Lepidoptera as follows:

As is usual on the higher part of the moor micro moths were few and far between, in fact I only saw three all day but two of those were new to me :-)

No Annie, it wasn't a White-streaked Badger Moth but Eupoecilia angustana. It's larvae feed on the flowers and seeds of Heather amongst other plants.

This was in the grass at the base of an isolated birch tree - Epinotia trigonella. It's larvae feed on the spun leaves of birch. At 10mm in length it's nearly twice the size of the previous species. This one brings my list of Lepidoptera seen in Calderdale to 499.......

The third micro was a Agapeta hamana lying face down in a puddle!

Lots of leaf mines and coleophora cases seen but I'll not trouble you with a list of meaningless latin names.

Other leps were:

Silver Y x 3 flying wildly after been disturbed
Peacock sunning itself on Heather
Small White x 1
One Buff-tip larva doing well to avoid being trampled or run over in the car park.

Also of interest was this Cowberry plant hosting the fungi - Cowberry Redleaf (Exobasidium vaccinii). It deforms the upperside of the leaf turning it a reddish colour and the underside is covered in a white spore-bearing powder. I don't think this is the usual rust or smut but more closely related to the jelly fungi, sharing the same phylum. 

Monday, 21 August 2017

Help plant 3000 Autumn Hawkbit plug plants to provide food for Twite!

Volunteers needed!  Please see below the note from Katie Aspin of the RSPB:

As you may be aware, the Twite Recovery Project has been working with farmers to increase food availability for Twite during the breeding season, mainly through restoring hay meadows with key Twite food plants including Dandelion, Common Sorrel and Autumn Hawkbit.  Autumn Hawkbit is an important food source for Twite late in the breeding season, however, botanical surveys last year showed that this species hasn’t taken particularly well in some of the reseeded meadows.  Natural England have therefore approved a grant to buy some Autumn Hawkbit plug plants, which we hope will do better than the seed.  We are looking for volunteers to help us to plant these plug plants in September at farms near to Ripponden, Rishworth and Marsden.  If anyone would like to help out, please let me know which dates you could make from the list below:

Monday 18th September
Tuesday 19th September
Monday 25th September
Tuesday 26th September

Any time you could give would be very much appreciated, we have over 3000 plug plants to plant!

Many thanks,
Katie Aspin
Twite Project Officer (working days Monday - Wednesday) 
Email : Katrina.Aspin @rspb.org.uk
The RSPB, Northern England Region, Westleigh Mews, Wakefield Road, Denby Dale, Huddersfield, HD8 8QD
Tel 01484 868431
Mobile 07736722177