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Friday, 22 May 2015

We want these back at Cromwell Bottom ! (As well as along the canals, where they were when I was a schoolboy in the 1960s.)

Water voles in the UK are threatened with extinction. You can help by volunteering for our national water vole survey to regularly monitor sites.
PTES.ORG

This came through on Facebook from PTES.ORG. 
You can also help by monitoring your local patch regularly through the Halifax Scientific Society.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Writing Prize 2015 - Wildlife and the Environment

I am offering a prize of a new natural history field guide to any member of Halifax Scientific Society, Cromwell Bottom Wildlife Group, Upper Calderdale Wildlife Group or Calderale Bird Conservation Group:

to the person writing the most interesting piece on their views of how Wildlife and the Natural Environment is being (and could be) conserved and enhanced by the authorities and by landowners, agencies and volunteer groups in Calderdale.

Please stick to Calderdale mainly, though it can link in with adjacent areas.

In the event a tie is judged to have occurred after the entries are read by Halifax Scientific Recorders and Council, there will be a draw of names from the hat to decide the winner. Value of prize up to £16.99.

Deadline for the piece to be in is midsummer day (longest day), mid-day on Sunday 21st June.

Entries can be posted to 40, Dudwell Lane, Skircoat Green, Halifax HX3 0SD,  Or emailed to steve.blacksmith@gmail.com or posted on this blog.

There is a choice of writing about a) Cromwell Bottom Nature Reserve (especially North Loop) b) wider Calderdale, 
or c) a particular type of habitat, e.g. waterways, woodlands, grasslands or uplands.

If you are not a regular writer, don't worry. The style, spelling or grammar will not be judged or commented on; only positive ideas and constructive criticism will be valued in your piece. All entrants must refrain from personal or general accusations which might be offensive or verge on the libelous.

You can be as brave and imaginative, even impractical, as you like. You can be technical, romantic or nostalgic. There will be no editing by the judges. You must put your name to the piece and allow it to be published if thought suitable.

This Competition is prompted by the document sent to me for the comments of  Hx. Scientific Society members by:
Anne Holdsworth,
Environmental Projects Officer
Business and Economy Section
Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council      ---      on 21st April this year.

It is a document about the above department's far-reaching proposals for North Loop at Cromwell Bottom Nature Reserve, which is being re-opened after re-capping which was needed to seal in the household waste buried there. The document is 10 pages long plus two maps which I am willing to try to email to anyone in the above groups; or get it to you some other way.

Let's refer to that Department as "the B and E Section" if abbreviating it.

The proposals in it go far beyond the plans the Cromwell Bottom Wildlife Group had been implementing with the advice of Calderdale Conservation Officers and the co-operation of the Engineers working on the re-capping.

Steve Blacksmith, Chair, Halifax Scientific Society, 18th May 2015.




Sunday, 17 May 2015

Beech branch failure

This picture is of a Beech tree branch in a wood at Todmorden, which has recently split along the centre. This is caused by the loading on the upward growing branch trying to reduce the curvature. In tree terms it is known as a 'Hazard Beam'.

These splits can be good habitats for wildlife but this branch will fail at some stage. On the main trunk there are some curious buckling ridges which show the tree has been under stress for some time.

I don't know whether it is general in the valley but in Todmorden many mature Beech are rapidly loosing vigour and collapsing. It doesn't seem to be necessarily old age that is the problem; I have seen Copper Beech loose all vigour and within a couple of years are dead.



Saturday, 16 May 2015

Jerusalem Farm

After the Grassland Training day at Jerusalem Farm on Friday 15th
I went for a walk with the dogs in the fields.
I bumped into Portia, Stella and Jude who had been at the meeting
and we set out to find the Lousewort which Ali and I had spotted last year.
We searched for a while with no joy but it was the wrong field,
when I got my bearings we found a large area covered in pink flowers.

Lousewort (Pedicularis sylvatica)


Pedicularis means Louse and it was thought that animals grazing this plant would catch lice.
Lousewort is rare in Calderdale and West Yorkshire.
This is the only location in Calderdale I have seen it and it is abundant. 

Having found this we set out to see what other interesting species we could find.
It wasn't long before Portia pointed out an interesting looking leaf.


She guessed that it could be the small fern
Common Adder's Tongue (Ophioglossum vulgatum)
A quick search showed that there were many of these leaves and some had unripe fertile spikes.


Although this is described as common in Calderdale
we are not aware of any recent records and none of us had seen it locally.

As we walked back Stella drew our attention to a Cuckoo
calling out from across the valley.

Today I returned to the site in the hope of finding some Moonwort
another small fern for which we have no recent records.
Sadly I was unable to find it but in another field further up the valley
I did find another "common" plant that I have been looking for but not yet found.


Heath Milkwort (Polygala serpyllifolia)




This delicate plant has pretty flowers that come in blue, pink and white.
It differs from the Common Milkwort in having some opposite leaves, often low down on the stem.


Polygala means "having much milk" and it was believed that cows grazing on this plant would produce more milk.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Some flowers and birds along the Calderdale Way, Midgley Moor Section.

We had a great afternoon walking this scenic section along the moor edge today.
Some fields near Far Shawcroft Farm, Oldtown had a good selection of meadow flowers among the grass.
Large bittercress was waving its pure white flowers with purple anthers, next to Cuckoo Flower with lilac flowers above Midgley.

Birds included many Meadow Pipits, Great Black-backed Gull, Kestrel, Reed Bunting, Wheatear; we listened to a Snipe chipping as we ate our picnic, and counted 5 Lapwings at the Oldtown end, as well as three noisy Curlews together. We heard one Red Grouse.

A male Grey Wagtail preening beside the stream at Luddenden was probably near its mate sitting on eggs nearby.

And the only nest we recorded - as we approached the car we left at Luddenden, a Blue Tit flying into a hole in a wall gave away its nest with at least three stretching and gaping blind, naked young.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Meadow Pipit's nest yesterday, and Golden-scaled Male Fern.


We were looking for nests and reptiles at Wainstalls but flushed a Meadow Pipit by chance, though we had been looking at its mate, watching us from a rock in the middle-distance.

The camera focused on the front of the nest, rather than the eggs, which I didn't notice at the time, as I only spend a few seconds at a nest where I have flushed the bird.  Then it's best to walk away in full view, so the bird sees you going away. It doesn't differentiate between a human and a grazing animal.
Never risk flushing birds in cold, showery weather.

We also recorded a Woodpigeon's nest nearby with two eggs visible from ground level, and watched a Willow Warbler carrying nest material around in an aimless way.

The data will go in with my other BTO Nest Record Cards. (British Trust for Ornithology.)


The pipit's nest is just above the centre in this picture, in a spot where it would be unlikely to be stepped on. (Tucked into a little bank, well hidden by long grass.)




Golden-scaled Male Fern, ( Dryopteris affinis group)
There is a magnificent colony of these on some wet rocks beside the road just before the Cat in'th' Well Pub at Wainstalls. Many of the ferns are at their most spectacular as they are unfurling like this in Spring.