This Blog covers nature sightings and related news in the Calderdale area.
It includes all groups - Plants, animals and fungi with links to specialist sites.
Anyone wishing to become a member of this Blog and post sightings please contact us.
If you would like to join the Halifax Scientific Society either email me or come along to the next meeting.
All welcome:
Please contact us about any sensitive records before posting on the blog

Thursday, 27 February 2020


First newt seen in my pond this morning

Monday, 24 February 2020


Sycamore trees are often derided but they stand out as one of the best trees for lichens.
Most Sycamore trees in a woodland situation are unfortunately being attacked by grey squirrels.
They strip the bark and kill branches and leader stems,
which is why there aren't as many seedlings as there used to be.

The bark is more alkaline than many other native trees and at this time of year,
from a distance, they can have the appearance of cherry blossom.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Tree form

I always find it interesting to see how people deal with trees that are within their property.

Unusual growth at the base of a Rowan tree in Stoodley Glen, which has the appearance of a wasps' nest. 
I wonder if over many years the tree has tried to form new shoots at the base as compensation for previous tree work and trunk removal.
The 2 stems and the high stem clearing of branches is evidence of this.

Nearby is this sycamore tree held captive by a shed. 

Rowan tree with basal bulge

Previous adventitious buds that were aborted and calloused by growth every year?

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Centre Vale Park

For those of you who know the park in Todmorden, there has been a major landslip on Lovers' Walk.
The large Beech tree which grew on this banking fell over with the landslip;
this is the 4th huge tree to fall in this same small area in 6 years.
Waterlogging of the soil is a major factor.

Interesting to note the remains of the original retaining wall is now exposed after 180 years.
I doubt anyone knew it was there. It could be this retaining wall was built before the making of Lover's Walk and then the level walk made by cutting into the rear banking;
all spoil then placed as a covering slope in front.
Not the best walling job so not made to be seen.

Waterlogged soil

The path had been subsiding for a while, see the recent tarmac infill

Remains of original retaining wall built 1840 and the covering soil has now slipped away

Fallen Beech tree, with another leaning badly

Broad Bean Seed Beetles

These seven long-legged beetles floated on the top when I soaked my home-grown broad beans prior to sowing yesterday. Unfortunately they died overnight in the damp pot I kept them in.
I looked at all the beans but could only find this one with a hole in it.
On the internet it explains that they don't spoil the seed as the larvae only eat the cotyledons, which are not needed for germination or growth. 

Bruchus rufimanus   -    (possibly.)    RHS website.

I've tried to preserve the beetles and the seed in 50% gin with water. 

Thursday, 30 January 2020

The Butterflies and Moths of Calderdale is now ready to order

Copies are £7.50 + £2.00 for post and packing
They can be obtained from -
1 ) e-mail
2) Collect from 9 Hedge top lane Northowram HX3 7ER (correct money please)
3) Hebden Bridge birders meeting at Fox and Goose 7 o'clock Tuesday 4th Feb
4) DJS has 10 copies and will be at the next HSS meeting on 11th Feb (Askam Bog talk)
or speak with Dave and collect...

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Ten Woodland Mosses

Plenty of interest shown in this subject with fifteen people attending this walk led by Peachy Steve.
Although Steve admitted to not being an expert on the subject he was able to show us more than ten different woodland mosses and describe the unique identifying features of each in the wonderful environs of Triangle Woods following the old railway line.
Besides the mosses it was good to see Lesser Celandine beginning to carpet the woodland floor as well as shoots of Bluebell piercing the soil.
A lone Grey Heron stood guard on the bank of the lake at Thorpe House.

Photo Mick Harrop

Photo Steve Blacksmith
Mosses are a devil to sort out when you're new to it, but Peachysteve is a good teacher, starting us off on 10 common ones, (except he provided us with a sheet with 15 on!)
We looked at all fifteen and with practice, it should be possible to get to know them.
The internet is a great help if you don't have the latest book on the subject. 
Mosses are intricate and beautiful close-up, but can also be stunning on a landscape scale.
I wandered off at one point and found this big stand of (Common Smoothcap?) under the trees.

Hardcastle Crags

Yesterday near the top pond just upstream from Gibson Mill we found these interesting looking fungi.
The nearest I can find on 'the internet' is maybe Trametes versicolor (commonly called Turkey tail) ???

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Bridge Repair

We took a walk around Rishworth in early December.
Just before Booth Wood there is a wooden bridge across a stream.
The last time I went that way the bridge was fine but this time it was in a real state and very slippery.
I enjoy a little risk but not everybody feels the same way.
Once Highways were alerted and saw the state of the bridge they quickly replaced it.
Now I won't have to worry about leading people that way again.

Cross at your peril!

No trolls below

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Nice assemblage of wildfowl to be disturbed from their preferred dam tomorrow.

Smart male Goldeneye on Lee Dam, Lumbutts, quite a small dam with a mirror-like surface very often.
Along with three Teal, (one female,) four Goosanders (one male), Mallards, two Moorhens.
All due to be scared off from their important winter feeding water when the New Year Community Swim takes place tomorrow, 5th January 2020.

Of four dams in the Lumbutts/Woodhouse area this is the only one that regularly atttracts wildfowl, and yet this is the one they choose for the New Year Swim.
Sorry for the short notice; I only saw the banner advertising the Swim this morning.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

New Years Day Bird Count

Ten people turned up today for this annual start to the Walks calendar. Beginning at Clay House we walked up through North Dean Woods before following the stream to Pickwood Scar and continuing around Norland Moor. A very enjoyable day with a good bird count      (more details to follow from walk leader Steve B)

Thanks, Mick, I just turned on to do a brief report; a fuller one tomorrow. But today's count was 32 species, which equalled the record count of last year, though a partly different range of species was seen. Steve B.

2nd January 2020

These New Years Day Bird Counts have settled into a run of consistent results. This year and 2019 had equal numbers of species with 32 each, in 2017 the tally was 31. Fine weather is a factor. Given a foul day the count would be lower obviously; we have been lucky these last three times.

As above the two last counts were 32 and it is interesting to look at the similarities and differences in the two counts.

There were 23 species in common to both counts, 1st Jan 2019 and 1st Jan 2020:
Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Nuthatch, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, House Sparrow, Starling, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Redwing, Robin, Collared Dove, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Jay, Crow, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Black-headed Gull, Buzzard.

Nine species in 2019 but not 2020: Dipper, Dunnock, Wren, Raven, Pheasant, Stonechat, Little Owl, Mallard, Song Thrush.

And there were nine species in 2020 but not in 2019: Heron, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting, Fieldfare, Redpoll, Treecreeper, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Greenfinch, Common Gull.

The Fieldfares were in a huge flock covering two fields, very impressive, and the Redpolls were flitting charmingly through the trees along the top of North Dean Woods feeding from the birch seed-heads.

With thanks to the participants in the walk yesterday, 10 in total as Mick stated (8 in 2019.) All played a part in the final total on the walk as well as bringing their sightings from home first thing and on the way to the meet (without detours to sites with localised species.)

Two of us thought we heard a single note from a Green Woodpecker at the lower edge of Norland Moor where they are often present, but it was very brief so I decided not to include it.

There was some discussion whether to include domestic fowl, etc. I maintained they are bird species, others thought we should stick purely to self-sufficient wild or feral birds.

The bad news about the Little Owls adjacent to Norland Moor is that Jackdaws usurped them from their tree hole last spring so that's probably why we didn't see them all summer or this winter. Jackdaws in tree holes have become the norm throughout Calderdale. At one time I used to see them using only holes in old buildings and crevices in quarry rock-faces, where they still nest.

These counts are samples of the current state of local birds. Who would have thought a few decades ago that Nuthatch and Buzzard would be seen regularly? Also to run into a Raven isn't that unusual now, and to find a Song Thrush or a Greenfinch is a fairly noteworthy event.

These records might be interesting to read in the future. Another way of "sampling" bird populations is to time a count on a walk, noting every species. I seem to get about 14 species on a good day in half an hour, though I haven't sat down with my notebooks to work out the average. It's OK to count a bird if you identify it without doubt by its call or song. The habitat needs recording; upland, waterside or woodland, etc.

Perhaps we could initiate a regular Spring Bird Count every May-day on 1st May?


Thursday, 26 December 2019

A Fragrance of Boxing Day!

The Winter Heliotrope Petasites fragrans.
Long known at King Cross, Halifax, opposite the Fire Station, in the graveyard.
We went to find it today and if we bent down the fragrance was gorgeous.
We agreed it was almonds we could smell.

A few years ago I came across this patch on the top of the wood above the Elland by-pass,
and we found it again this Christmas day, with flowers not yet open.
It must have been a garden escape from the adjacent Halifax Zoo,
reputed to have had beautiful gardens in the early 20th century,
now the pitches of Siddal Rugby Club.

The West Yorkshire Plant Atlas 1994 has only one site for the Calderdale area,
and only six others in West Yorkshire, all around Leeds or east of there.
It is an alien from the Mediterranean region.

The next flower to look out for is the White Butterbur, Petasites albus, a relative of the above.
This we go to find in the Colden Valley from late February - March, a more showy flower, but not scented, and another garden escape, originally from central Europe and the Caucasus.

The first outdoor meeting of the Halifax Scientific Society is on 1st January, meeting 10.30. Anyone who would like to join us is welcome.
Meet in front of Clay House, West Vale, Elland, HX4 8AN for the traditional New Year's Day Bird Count. (We count the number of species seen or heard.)
The walk is about 7 miles, through North Dean Woods (the woods are very muddy just now,) round Norland Moor, back by an alternative path through the woods to West Vale before dark.
A stop for a sociable picnic will be taken somewhere in the woods - bring a waterproof layer to sit on.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Welcome to our new program of talks and walks for 2020.
Click on tabs above for more details.
We hope you will agree that the council have managed to put together a range of diverse natural history topics
with emphasis on local ecology and broader environmental issues.
Overall the program aims to enlighten us all and our guests. 

 We rounded off 2019 with the successful social on the 10th December.
The newly elected chair Mick Harrop made everyone most welcome and presented Christine Eves with a gift on behalf of the council and members for her contribution as treasurer over the last 7 years.
Christine is passing on this role to Michael Brook.
A special thanks goes to Sarah Flood for organising a challenging but entertaining quiz.
Thanks to all who contributed to the food and nibbles for the evening.

 Reminders below of the first events of 2020.

 In February the talk by Alastair Fitter concerns the threat to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s first conservation site by developers near York. We hope that by the time the talk is given the site will have been saved! Please see the Calderdale Wildlife blog for many more details.

 Walk 10:30 to Dusk Wednesday 1st January
New Year’s Day bird count. Meet SB at Clay House, West Vale.
A walk through North Dean Woods and around
Norland Moor. HX4 8AN. Approx. 7 miles.

Walk 10.30 to 14.30 Saturday 11th January
Ten common Woodland Mosses.
Meet PS at Stansfield Mill Lane, Triangle. HX6 3JX. Approx. 4 miles.

Talk Tuesday 14 January
Adrian Horton and Rosie Holdsworth
Slow the Flow in Calderdale.

 Talk Tuesday 11 February
Alastair Fitter
Askham Bog: Yorkshire’s Biodiversity Hotspot.

 Reminder to all please that the annual membership fees are now due!

 Finally we look forward to seeing you all in the New Year and wish you all seasonal greetings and a happy peaceful Christmas.

 Laurence Sutton - Membership secretary - 07880 721330 

Friday, 29 November 2019


Heard an unusual bird-call this afternoon in Queens Park at Burnley and saw this couple of Paraqueets. Are they ring-necked? I presume they are male and female; is the male the scruffier one?

Monday, 18 November 2019

Commenting on posts

Does anyone else have any problem with replying to comments? I have no luck when I press "publish" and they just disappear. Apologies if any commenters seem ignored.

Thanks for commenting. I have tried again many times but my comment just disappears when I press 'publish'. Very odd.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Pampas Grass

I'm sure most people are familiar with Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) with its tall fluffy plumes. It originates in South America but there is also one that comes from New Zealand and has the common name ToeToe.

They look similar and both generally get called Pampas Grass without realising they come from different parts of the world.

My photo shows the New Zealand species, which you can see has a graceful curved stem with a more delicate flower head than the large plumed Pampas grass. These tussocks are at the entrance to Todmorden park. There is also a good one in a garden by the roadside at Springs, Mytholm.

Both species came under the genus Cortaderia but the New Zealand grass has now been put into genus Austroderia, (specific name richardii,  named after Achille Richard a French botanist).

What is remarkable is the hardiness of the New Zealand grass. Whenever I go over Holme Moss (elevation 1719 feet) from Holmfirth towards Woodhead, I always remark on the incongruity of just one large tussock at the roadside just over the summit. It is wild and windswept with severe winters, yet this hardy grass grows and flowers well amongst the moorland vegetation.
Someone must have been determined to plant it there!

By the way, be careful handling them as the leaves will cut you to the bone.

                                            New Zealand 'Pampas' ToeToe grass

                                                       At entrance to Todmorden Park

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Silent Fireworks

A town in Italy has banned the use of all but silent fireworks. Great!

I know a lot of people and children love the spectacle of rockets lighting up the early winter darkness, but I have long detested the war-like explosions.

There is a movement to spare our domestic animals this annual torture and since our woods have become repopulated with badgers, deer and foxes I imagine their panic when the deafening salvos start.

Monday, 4 November 2019

Grassland Fungi Survey - Broadhead Clough, Nov. 1st

Eleven of us turned out on a damp, mizzly kind of day including Peachysteve who organised the event and Andy Mclay from Natural England. To be honest, one look at the mainly long, sodden grass made me think that this was an impossible task to find anything of note but with so many keen eyes on the ground we had a pretty decent haul by the end of the trip.

This Glutinous Earthtongue was the first decent species and was extremely well picked out by one young lady. The head was so smooth and slimy you can even see my reflection in it.

Thirteen species of Waxcaps were found including this Goblet Waxcap.

.......and this rather pretty Spangle Waxcap.

A nice clump of Yellow Clubs

It's the first time I've had any pinkgills named for me so it was good to finally see this Mealy Pinkgill

......and this Priest's Hat Pinkgill (Entoloma infula). It had no English name until it was fancifully imagined by Peachysteve.

This unearthed Scarlet Caterpillarclub had an unusual amount of fruit bodies so I wondered if it was from a particularly large moth larva such as an Emperor Moth, but I was soon reminded that these pupate above ground. Turns out it was just a regular sized (noctuid?) larvae.

As expected the large amount of cow pats contained fungi including these "eyelash" fungi. Such was their abundance I'm fairly confident they're Cheilymenia fimicola - a very common species.

A lateral view shows smaller hairs on the underside of the cup.

Another highlight for myself were these much sought after Horsehair Parachutes. The caps measure around 3mm across and their stems are like, you guessed it, horsehair. I was already at the back of the party when I found these, so that when I'd finished photographing them I was all on my own, in an drizzly, exposed field in the middle of nowhere and the light was fading fast - quite surreal really.


Lunch was taken overlooking the Cragg valley - we all enjoyed the chocolate brownies one kind lady had baked for us.
Fungi expert Andy Mclay is on the left.


Clavulinopsis fusiformis Golden Spindles
Clavulinopsis helvola Yellow Club
Clavulinopsis luteoalba Apricot Club
Clitocybe nebularis Clouded Funnel
Cordyceps militaris Scarlet Caterpillar Club
Cystoderma amianthinum Earthy Powdercap
Entoloma infula Priest's Hat Pinkgill
Entoloma prunuloides Mealy Pinkgill
Galerina sp Bell
Geoglossum glutinosum Glutinous Earthtongue
Hygrocybe cantharellus Goblet Waxcap
Hygrocybe chlorophana Golden Waxcap
Hygrocybe coccinea Scarlet Waxcap
Hygrocybe conica Blackening Waxcap
Hygrocybe insipida Spangle Waxcap
Hygrocybe irrigata Slimy Waxcap
Hygrocybe laeta Heath Waxcap
Hygrocybe pratensis Meadow Waxcap
Hygrocybe psittacina Parrot Waxcap 
Hygrocybe quieta Oily Waxcap
Hygrocybe reidii Honey Waxcap 
Hygrocybe russocoriacea Cedarwood Waxcap 
Hygrocybe virginea Snowy Waxcap 
Laccaria laccata Deceiver 
Lactarius quietus Oakbug Milkcap
Lycoperdon nigrescens Dusky Puffball 
Mucilago crustacea Dog's Vomit Slime Mould 
Mycena epipterygia Yellowleg Bonnet
Mycena pura Lilac Bonnet 
Paneolus sp Mottlegill 
Psilocybe semilanceata Liberty Cap
Rhodocollybia butyracea Buttercap
Scleroderma citrinum Common Earth Ball
Stropharia semiglobata Dung Roundhead
Agaricus sp Mushroom
Tubaria dispersa Hawthorn Twiglet
Rickenella fibula Orange Mosscap
Cheilymenia sp Dung Eyelash Fungus 
Clitocybe fragrans Frangrant Funnel 
Boletus luridiformis Scarletina Bolete 

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Gorpley Clough musings

A few photos of Gorpley Clough taken in April this year to show aspects of woodland management.

Some of the mature Sycamores were "killed" a few years ago as part of the management of the upper clough and following this tubes were planted, which have been more successful than their contents, although some have saplings emerging shyly.

One small area has been successful with 14 oak trees appearing. One has to wonder why 14 were planted when there is only room on this ledge for perhaps 2 or 3 mature oaks. If left as is, they will all grow like spindles and none will make an attractive tree. Maybe there are plans to thin them at some later date--we will see.

Interesting way to kill the Sycamores. Not content with topping the trunk and removing all the crown, they have had 2 chainsaw rings around the trunk in an attempt at ring barking. Not satisfied with this, there was a more serious attempt at killing the tree by wholesale bark removal. But just to make sure, there have been ecoplugs drilled around the circumference. These plugs contain Glyphosate and kill the tree stone dead, preventing any regrowth. Of course, being drilled above the ringbarking they are useless as there is no sap flow connection to take Glyphosate to the roots. It all seems an expensive and bizarre way to create standing dead wood.

It would not have mattered if there had been some coppice type regrowth from the roots; it's all leaves, shelter and greenery and could be coppiced again after a few years.

I have included photos of Alder not far away from the planted tubes. Look how these have grown into really interesting trees, fascinating to look at and full of wildlife niches. But this is because they have space to grow.

In the lower clough, an earlier planting scheme of possibly 20 or 30 years ago is doing well. But the redundant tubes are scattered about and some are still around the trunks.

Come on--this is an attractive and designated wood why does it need plastic and Glyphosate?

Glyphosate plugs, ring barking and bark stripping. You will die or else!!

Many Oak saplings but will any grow into a tree?

Alder tree. Characterful after enjoying a good life in the open

Space to stretch ones limbs

A tree as tenement and testament

Growing well but what about those tubes?

Steep to plant but too steep to collect tubes

Friday, 1 November 2019

Sweet Chestnut -- Castanea sativa

Showing the nutlets inside the split outer casing. You are more likely to get mature edible nuts in southern counties but maybe with climate change we will soon be eating them.

It was always thought the Romans introduced this tree to England but recent research suggests it was much later, in about the 13th century.

                            Can you see the face on the left casing, gazing intently at the nuts?

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Pale Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Saw this little fellow earlier this week, in Luddenden Dean.
Initially I thought it was a piece of sheep's wool, covered in luminous algae.
It really was this bright. My camera hasn't changed its colours.
I think it has a face like a cat without ears!
Charlie Streets said they are known as 'Hop Dogs', due to the havoc they wreak on hop plantations.