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.
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Saturday, 23 May 2020

Self-seeded Limes (Tilia sp.) in answer to the previous post from Philip

Lime (Tilia sp.) self seeded at Lightcliffe in the 1990s.
Still healthy, though rarely repotted, just watered.

Close up showing the galls they get every year.
I think it is known as Military Gall, and caused by an insect.

Another remarkable thing about those Lime trees at Lightcliffe is that when the seeds were ripe in summer, a few Black-headed Gulls would sometimes tear them off (without perching on the trees) and fly off with them.
I never saw them eat the seeds, but presumabely this is why they wanted them.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Do Lime trees set seed?

Has anyone ever found a self-seeded Lime (Tilia) sapling?
I am wondering if our changing climate may be encouraging germination.

All Lime trees in the valley will have been planted but the other day I saw two saplings in separate places which appear to be self-seeded, one of  which I think is Common Lime (Tilia x europaea).
The other with the heart shaped base leaf and stem dieback could be a Small-Leaved Lime (Tilia cordata).

Lime trees need long hot summers to set viable seed and the genus is on the northern edge of its range in the UK.
I have never seen a self-seeded one anywhere.

The Flora of Cumbria says about Small-Leaved Lime in the Lake District
"The individual trees can fairly be described as potentially immortal.
The massive bases have been dated by C.D. Pigott as up to 2,300 years old.
Pigott has demonstrated that most of these old 'bases' are of root tissue rather than shoot.
When trees fall, they sprout freely from the base and if the original trunk remains partly rooted,
shoots grow up from the crown and may eventually root and form individual trees."

It was also shown that Cumbrian populations of Tilia cordata only produce viable seed in exceptionally warm years and the trees must be considered relicts from the post-glacial warm period, possibly even from 3,000 BC.

Tilia x europaea ?

Tilia cordata ?

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Hungarian Oak

For those interested in unusual planted trees, here is one at Centre Vale park Todmorden.

It is about 25 years old and was sent from the nursery as a Red Oak.
I had walked past it all that time until about 3 years ago I realised it was actually a Hungarian Oak (Quercus frainetto).

My photo is of a dead leaf but shows it to be much larger than a native Oak leaf and has deep square shaped lobes, which are divided into sub-lobes.
The tree has not yet produced any acorns.

The native range is the Balkans and the tree was introduced to Britain by Charles Lawson, an Edinburgh nurseryman, about 1835.

A very unusual characteristic is the lovely sweet balsam smell from the autumn leaves which lasts for months if they are put in a bowl as a pot-pourri (the living leaves on the tree don't smell).
This attribute is not mentioned in any account I have come across and may be a good way to confirm the identity of the tree.

The books say Hungarian Oak is planted in parks and large gardens but I have never seen another one, except in the arboretum at Thorpe Perrow in North York
---incidentally this also had the balsam smell on its dead leaves.

I would be interested to know if anyone knows of another growing in Calderdale.
If not, visit Tod Park and tick it off your list.

Hungarian Oak--next to the lamp post

Leaves can grow up to 25cm long

Tuesday, 12 May 2020


Last week during the warm weather we had numerous Brimstone butterflies in our woodland at Todmorden.
In the past there have been the occasional sightings and some years none at all.
Perhaps it is a combination of the warm spring and the maturing Alder Buckthorn we planted 30 years ago.
The woodland is of an open character with glades.
I would recommend anyone who does tree planting to include Alder Buckthorn and it thrives in damp ground.

Difficult to get closer for a good photo--looks to be feeding on the bluebells.

The Brimstone is one of the world's longest lived butterflies.
It also chooses to hibernate in Ivy.
A banking was covered in Ivy, then it was all eaten within a few winter months by Roe deer.
Apparently Ivy is the main food source for Roe in the winter months.
They left the banking with all the rope-like surface runners, like a net spread over the ground.
The Ivy isn't dead and is now growing new leaves.

See photo for the browse height on this gatepost; so measure the height and it will give you a guide when saplings can be released from having the leader nibbled off.


Sunday, 10 May 2020

Return of the Rabbits

Every few years the rabbits disappear from my area due to Myxomatosis. Usually at this time of year I can look out of my window and see them out on the hillside, but they have been gone since mid-summer last year. They are still not colonising the hillside opposite my window, but early one morning, coming back from my daily Dawn Chorus walk (that's another story!) I rounded the corner of Lumbutts and Causeway Wood Road to see these 2 beauties basking in the morning sun. And of course, rabbits being rabbits, where there are two, there will be more!

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Tadpoles at four weeks old

The fifth post showing the progress of the frog tadpoles in my garden pond.

Not many photos to show this week owing to the breakdown of my well-used macro camera lens! Could only manage this blurry effort, showing that the tadpoles have got a little bit rounder and even more speckled. They seem much more aware of me as a potential predator, swimming under a leaf as soon as my shadow falls on the pond.

Here are a few photos from my garden taken earlier this week.

Just looking closely at the pond, I suddenly became aware of the inscrutable gaze of this small frog. 

Something flew heavily around the garden, eventually careering into the ivy. It was this shield bug.

New oak leaves, Quercus robur. Note the tiny pink female flowers.

Until next week, when I hope my new camera lens will have arrived!

Friday, 1 May 2020

Lee Mount

A new sighting for here and I'm not well versed on newts !

I went out to check the moth trap this evening and nearly trod on this newt.
We have lived here since the 70's and we have never seen a newt here before !

I suspect it's a male Palmate Newt as the text seems to suggest the male has a short extension to the end of the tail and back feet are webbed - this one seems to fill both criteria?

Palmate Newt

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Plant ID

Can anyone identify this for me please. 

Growing quite extensively on a wall in Upper Greetland near The Sportsman (Dog Lane).
Looks like it should be a garden escape? Nigel O

Ashy mining bee

Came across this ashy mining bee Andrena cineraria on Sunday. It was hovering over bare patches of soil on a west facing slope and stood out as being quite distinct. Apparently its a female looking for a site to dig a burrow and lay eggs. They are nationally common but I've never seen one before.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Tadpoles at three weeks old

The fourth post showing the progress of the frog tadpoles in my garden pond.

The changes this week have been much less dramatic. Their mouths seem to be bigger and stronger as they forage among the vegetation. They also vary hugely in size, even though they all seem to be at a similar stage of development and all came from the one clump of spawn. 

They are also getting more difficult to photograph as they seem to prefer the murkier areas that are becoming choked with blanket weed. It doesn't seem to impede their progress, they just swim straight through it, and I think they are eating it, but they mostly nibble at the algae at the side of the pond or in the detritus at the bottom or on dead leaves.

A colony of tiny, worm-like animals attached to the side of the pond. They wave around constantly and vigorously and retract immediately when touched. 

A kind of hydra?
Any information welcome.

A tadpole barging straight into them but the 'worms' didn't retract. If they are hydra they sting and feed on small invertebrates like daphnia.

 Wolf spiders on the stones around the pond edge. This is a female, one of the Pardosa genus, probably monticola or palustris.

A male, you can just see the black palps between the front legs. I watched one yesterday displaying by raising and vibrating his palps to a seemingly entranced, if touchy, female - fascinating!

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Calderdale Odonata

Calopterygidae Demoiselles
Calopteryx splendens BANDED DEMOISELLE
Lestidae Emerald Damselflies
Pyrrhosoma nymphula LARGE RED DAMSELFLY
Coenagrion puella AZURE DAMSELFLY
Enallagma cyathigerum COMMON BLUE DAMSELFLY
ANISOPTERA Dragonflies
Aeshnidae Hawkers
Aeshna juncea COMMON HAWKER
Aeshna grandis BROWN HAWKER
Cordulegaster boltonii GOLDEN RINGED DRAGONFLY
Libellulidae Darters, Chasers, Skimmers
Orthetrum cancellatum BLACK TAILED SKIMMER
Libellula quadrimaculata FOUR SPOTTED CHASER
Libellula depressa BROAD BODIED CHASER
Sympetrum striolatum COMMON DARTER
Sympetrum sanguineum RUDDY DARTER
Sympetrum danae BLACK DARTER

Shroggs landfill - another querie !

Yesterday I came across  14 dead bees on a short (50m) stretch of woodland footpath. The bees were more or less intact except that their abdomens had been cleared out to look like empty eggshells.
This morning I checked the path again to find another 11 dead bees with the same condition.

I can't work out what has happened to them to be be dead in such a short area of fairly open woodland. It left me with a few questions.
Was it that cold easterly wind that affected them and they took shelter ?
But then why were the abdomens cleared out so cleanly - and by what ?

Perhaps a bird but I suspect birds would have demolished the bees completely. Maybe a parasite another insect or maybe even a small mammal. More questions than answer's for me. 
They looked all like the same species of bee but I'm not much on identifying them !

Any ideas ?

Click photo's to enlarge

Shroggs Park - querie !

I found this small white 'blob' on an old oak tree last week. Wondered what it was and on closer inspection it looked like  a cluster of small eggs - baffled !

The following day the look like a cluster of eggs had gone and there was a thin skin over it. Then another day on I noticed a small entrance hole at the lower end of it. I saw no activity at all and everything has disappeared now.
Any ideas ??

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Shroggs Park Oaks

(Sorry, I can't manage to post in 'comments' section)

Those are amazing photos David and well chosen Oaks. They are the type of trees we need to record as veterans of Calderdale and very important as a record of past management and land use, as well as ideal habitat. 

Most appear to have been coppiced and then neglected, leading to those huge stems. Some may have just been damaged by the falling rocks. Generally speaking, in the past most of our local trees had to work for a living and our present idea of 'woodland' would have seemed quite alien.

To produce those gnarled and spreading trunks/branches they have grown in the open for a long while. You wouldn't get that kind of growth in a closed woodland. Oak trees in particular need plenty of light and space, being a pioneer tree and depending totally on Jays planting the acorns in open spaces. 

We must cherish characterful Oaks such as these, try to understand them and prevent needless loss.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Tadpoles at two weeks old

The third post showing the progress of the frog tadpoles, which all hatched from a single clump of spawn, in my small garden pond. 

Two weeks old today. They are now very vigorous swimmers,
exploring every area of the pond and wriggling from one place to another, reminding me that the seventeenth-century naturalist Thomas Browne called them 'porwiggles'. Norfolk dialect, I think.

Their eyes are much more developed and their external gills have disappeared.
They have golden speckles.

A view of this one's underside as it breaches the surface for a gulp of air. The black spot is its open mouth. The intestine is visible beneath the skin.

An iridescent aquatic beetle among the dead leaves on the surface. One of the so-called water scavenger beetles. Perhaps Helophorus griseus.

Springtails on a floating oak leaf. 

A gathering of hundreds of daphnia, tiny crustaceans, in a more open and sunlit area of the pond. The tadpoles seem to show no interest and swim straight through them.

Close up you can see their one eye and the limbs with which they filter feed and flick themselves around.

Until next week...

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Shroggs Park - Woodland Oaks

I have taken the opportunity this last few days to take my local walk through the woodland here.

The banking is very steep and the soil is gritty and full of rocks and there is little vegetation.
I wonder how these oaks have not only survived in the extremes but produced such interesting shapes.
Perhaps a hard life getting established there or maybe, not sure,
if there has been some pollarding or damage to the leading shoots when they were at a young stage.
I'm amazed by them !

Click on the pictures to enlarge

This last one looks as if there were two leaders at one time, no signs of damage,
that gradually over the years grafted themselves back together.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Snakes in Calderdale! but the wrong ones.

This story seems to have made its way into the Yorkshire Post,
certainly was a talking point on Facebook.
Last week my wife gave me a call to say there was a snake hanging out of the viaduct wall on Thornhill's Beck Lane near where I live.  I walked down hoping maybe we had our first adder or grass snake.  Unfortunately it was a very torpid royal python, a native of tropical Africa.  A settee had been dumped the night before so I assumed it had been living in there and the perpetrator had unknowingly dumped their escaped pet with it.  The next morning a neighbour called to say there was four snakes in the lay-by about half a km further up the lane.  Luckily, working at Calderdale College I knew some animal technicians that could come and rescue them.  On a hunch, I thought I'd go back down to the viaduct and do a search.  I soon found another three snakes, two in the wall and one under a bin liner.  The next day another turned up slithering across the lane near the lay-by, and three more turned up by the viaduct, rescued by neighbours.

In total we've found twelve, but I guess we'll never know how many were dumped.  Four have died, but eight are doing well and will be re homed in time.  As you all know the last thing we want are exotics out on the loose.  These wouldn't have lasted long in our climate, but had they been temperate species then the impact on native wildlife could have been negative.  Quite why some one did it we'll never know either, but I guess its somehow linked to the current corona virus situation.