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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

Friday, 26 January 2018

Animal Welfare

UK law is changing as we leave the EU.
The Government had planned to remove the concept of animal sentience which was enshrined in EU law but backed down after a public outcry.
A consultation is now underway that covers this issue as well as sentencing.
If, like me, you find animal cruelty appalling then you'll be pleased to hear that longer sentences are proposed in this draft.
If you care about the fate of our wildlife, farm animals and pets then please check the consultation.


Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Amazon Rainforest --- but perhaps more rain than forest?

We think of the Amazon rainforest as being untouched by humans, a wilderness of trees and bio-diversity. New archaeological and agricultural evidence is revealing this may be a myth.
It is estimated that up to 20 million people once lived in the Amazon but the population collapsed following the arrival of Europeans in 1492.
Diseases unknown in the Americas were introduced and it is thought that 90% of the indigenous population in some areas died as a result. They had no immunity.
More native people, both in North and South America, died from disease than in all the subsequent wars. 
Prior to this population collapse, many parts of the Amazon were probably as cultivated as regions in Europe. More than 200 species of trees are considered “hyperdominant” because they make up about half of the trees found in the rainforest. But many of these trees were probably cultivated on purpose.
It has implications for how much carbon the rainforests can absorb. All the tests  have been done in these relatively young areas of rainforest, which absorb much greater amounts of carbon. But this is not representative of the forest as a whole.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Lost Otter Cub at Hebden Bridge

If you click on the Calderdale Birds tab at the top you can get the full story of how it was rescued. There's an earlier post with the story, then a second post with a picture of it. (Now it appears two were found in different places!)

Correction: Apparently one young otter has been made into two due to confusion on Facebook!

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Tame Grouse???

Took my Scouts on our annual hike starting at Hardcastle Crags today. We were walking on the path under Shackleton Knoll when a Grouse turned up just a metre away from us chattering away to us. Despite my Scouts being noisy etc it stayed with us and then followed us when we moved off .

Call for Twite monitoring volunteers!

Katie Aspin of the RSPB has asked me to post this - please get in contact wih her direct if you are intersted in helping this spring!

 Vo    Volunteer Role Profile
Role Title:
Twite Monitoring Volunteer.  Project Title – Twite use of trial feeding habitats

South Pennines farms near to Ripponden, Marsden, Littleborough, Walsden and Hurstwood

March, April possibly into May

4 days minimum – each site will need to be visited at least 4 times over the monitoring period.

Why We Want You:
The twite is a 'red-listed' species whose population has declined substantially in England. To arrest this decline, trial management measures have been deployed at farms in the South Pennines to increase breeding season seed food availability. This project will collect bird and environmental data to evaluate the use of these habitats by foraging twite. 

What’s In It For You:

A chance to get some practical experience of conservation monitoring work on a very rare bird, plus spectacular views of the South Pennines landscape and plenty of fresh air!

The Skills / Talents You’ll Need:

We are looking for somebody with good bird ID skills, preferably with previous experience of twite ID, both visually and on call.  Excellent observation skills and a methodical approach to data collection will be key, as will patience and persistence.  You will need to be physically fit to cope with the demands of working in the uplands.  We need someone who is comfortable working alone in remote areas, but who can communicate effectively with landholders and project staff.

You will need to be able to travel to the farms, so your own transport is a must as most of the farms are in isolated locations.

Training will be provided by RSPB staff.

For more information, contact:
Katie Aspin – Twite Project Officer
Email – katrina.aspin@rspb.org.uk
Phone - 07736722177