If you think you may have sensitive records regarding any animal or plant sightings please email us (address in the "Welcome" page) before posting on the Blog. We will pass all details in confidence to the relevant Recorder.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Today's Ramble

Today's ramble at Park Wood Elland was advertised as a birdwatching event. Five of us turned up, four members and a friend of members who often comes. Of course we couldn't ignore the display of bluebells. As usual, our walks are a mix of all our interests, so apart from looking and listening for birds we were treated to a running commentary on the botany (which is very rich in this wood), on butterflies and micromoths, local history, and what we had in our sandwiches.

The bird list was quite varied.  I like to time those I see in the first half hour - this is a recognised way of doing a simple survey, as the commonest birds are usually encountered first, so these half-hour counts will be interesting and comparable in the future.

10.45 to 11.15 Chaffinch, Dunnock, Blackcap, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Buzzard, Goldfinch, Chiff-chaff, Bullfinch, Robin, Blackbird, Magpie.

Then for the rest of the walk which went on till 3.30pm - Great Spotted Woodpecker, Willow Warbler, Wren, Woodpigeon, Stock Dove, Crow, Blue Tit, Jay, Green Woodpecker.

Charlie got a great picture of the first Buzzard we saw - it had inner primaries re-growing, and a middle tail feather also.

A new plant to me in that wood was a small Field Maple we saw just before getting back to the car park. We failed  (I failed) to find either of the two Soft Shield Fern sites. My excuse is that new paths are appearing everywhere, created by the mountain-bikers. There was at least one motorbiker in there as well. Some of us agreed it must be an exciting and usually harmless sport, but NOT in a wood which is a SSSI. (Site of Special Scientific Interest.)

Thursday, 20 April 2017

At Portsmouth Dam. On the hunt for Toad spawn and got lucky!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Trees on the move

Look at this link. Do you think they will survive the move?


Thursday, 6 April 2017

The Talk at our next full indoor meeting


After the talk, there will be time to socialise and hear about recent Wildlife sightings in Calderdale, and find out how individual members have been involved in the Natural History world.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Comma at Cromwell Bottom 26.03.17

This beauty was fluttering around the reeds on a gorgeous sunny day at Cromwell Bottom. A week later we were lucky enough to spot a Brimstone as we walked by the river, but weren't lucky enough to snap it with our cameras! A Peacock is usually the first butterfly of the year that I see, but I haven't seen one yet.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

New Countryside e-news

The first Countryside e-newsletter is available at http://eepurl.com/cH29sD

If you wish to receive future editions please subscribe by clicking on the button at the bottom of the newsletter. 

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Scarlet Elf Cup

We have a large number of these fungi in our woodland at Todmorden and they are spreading to different areas and increasing in number each year. Centre Vale park had its first record this year.

I have never seen one as large as this but if I had been born further into Yorkshire I would have used smaller coinage.

                                        Scarlet Elf Cup fungi

Message from Hugh Firman, Conservation Officer

The Countryside and Woodlands team will be launching their e-newsletter later this month. If you would like to be on the circulation list, please e-mail countryside@calderdale.gov.uk


Toad Patrol Round-up

We have had 3 nights of definite toad movement on the roads, 10th,11th & 12th March.

On the 9th I had 4 new volunteers, but only 2 could turn up on 10th, and I was on my own on 11th.

We could do with some people who could patrol several nights, maybe alternating at sites to give people a night off.

WASHER LANE This once massive colony has now disappeared due to firstly to the Copley Data Centre being built, then dams being drained and built over. No toads sighted this year so far.

BOULDERCLOUGH DAM  10th - 64 toads (a few couples in amplex) 6 dead toads and one Palmate newt, several frogs.  11th - 30 toads including 7 pairs in amplexus. Several frogs and a fabulous frog chorus in the rain from the bottom little pond.

COPLEY NEW ROAD   10th - first sighting of toads on this new road, though I had predicted to Hugh Firman the Conservation Officer that there would be a crossing. There was always a lot on the track that used to be there.

10th - 9 toads moved from the Copley new road, 23 squashed. Four males in the nearby pond. Snag with this crossing is that toads are going both ways. On 11th I moved 6 couples in amplexus, 8 singles and 4 dead.  There was one big fat Palmate newt. This new road is very dangerous with a risk of speeders; one guy has already written his car off, and the lamp post he hit. Hi-viz gear is most advisable, and preferably at least two patrollers so as a team they can alert each other and oncoming cars to people in the road.

On 12th there were 2 patrollers at each of the two sites mentioned above. Not got the count for Boulderclough Dam yet but at COPLEY NEW ROAD we had 24 toads including 2 pairs in amplexus, and 12 dead, Six Palmate Newts were picked up from the road. THE TRAGEDIES of this road are that when amphibians go onto it, they can never get off; the kerbs are too high and smooth for them to climb. So they go wandering along looking for a way up till the fall down the gullies. Each of about five of these I looked at had several toads and newts in the filthy water. I don't know if they are trapped, or can find their way out through the drainage system. If they did so, they would be well off course for their breeding pond.


Timings - movement starts at dusk, currently about 6.30. You can stay as long or as little as you like. I did 1 hour 15 mins in the rain on Saturday at Boulderclough, and after an hour off to do my weekly shop, just 15 mins at Copley New Rd.


An observation on scavengers of the dead toads: I have wondered who or what clears up the dead toads we see during an evening. (They have mostly gone when we return on the next day.) I was passing the Copley New Road toad crossing this morning (12th) and saw a crow picking one up. There may be others that take advantage.


A heart-warming story from Gordon at Lumbutts via Annie:                                                                          
"Something to cheer you all up; I had an email from Gordon (who doesn't' do Facebook) about his experience on Saturday night and I asked his permission to put this paragraph on our page. So beautiful. " But the best act of kindness, which I felt quite moved by was when a convoy of cars were driving down into the village from the direction of the'Brink, when the leading car suddenly pulled up in the centre of the road completely blocking it in both directions. The driver, who was all dressed in his Saturday best, walked to the front and with the help from his headlights carefully picked up 'A Mating Pair' has he called it. He then walked back up the road, past all the waiting cars and met me before carefully placing his charges into my bucket. By this time traffic was coming down from the opposite direction and quite a holdup was being created but not a single car used their horn, instead they all sat patiently as the rescue unfolded. It took a good few minutes to untangle the resulting snarl up during which time I thanked everyone for their patience. Quite wonderful". ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Toad migration full on 6.30pm - till as long as you want.

While temperature holds up to about 10C after dark.

Those who would like to help at toad patrols can contact me by mobile/text.

Roads are much busier than they used to be and hi-viz or light coloured clothing is essential. Also a torch, bucket and gloves.

Due to increased risk from speeding traffic, I would not recommend it for families with young children, sadly.


Friday, 10 March 2017

Local Geology Sites tour postponed

Unfortunately this outing will not take place tomorrow as the leader needs an emergency knee operation.
We will try to re-arrange it soon, and the details will be posted here.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Tree diseases compounded

Tree Health event today 9th March, hosted by the Forestry Commission, to provide information on the risks that trees in London may soon be, or already are, subjected to.

Asian Longhorn Beetle (outbreak has already occurred in Kent in 2012)
3,800,000 trees could get affected with replacement cost of a staggering £23,000,000,000

Ash Dieback (already everywhere throughout the country) In London alone could kill a possible 374,195 ash trees.  It is projected that it would cost £447,345,251 to replace the dead ash in London.

Plane Wilt, which currently plagues parts of continental Europe, its emergence and impact would lead to 121,000 plane trees being felled / dying and an attributed replacement cost of £351,623,660.

Don't forget, these are estimates for London alone. It doesn't take much imagination to see the effect it would have throughout the country.

With Ash Dieback I think we will see much more evidence of this in Calderdale this year, following many early signs in the valley last couple of years.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Do Ladybirds damage trees

Pehr Kalm (the Genus Kalmia is named after him) was the favourite disciple of Carl Linnaeus of Sweden and he was sent on a botanical mission to North America in 1748, subsequently writing a book of his travels there.

Kalm was delayed for 5 months in England whilst waiting for a ship to America and during this time recorded many observations, one of which referred to a Coccionella which damaged trees in Ireland.

The Coccionella are the Ladybird family. I always thought they just ate aphids but it seems some species do eat vegetation and the larvae graze the undersides of leaves whilst the adult beetle grazes the upper side.

The 24 spot Ladybird is listed as eating leaves but seems mainly recorded in East Yorks and the South. Has anyone ever noticed damage to trees locally by any leaf grazing Ladybird species?

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Feral Cat ?

We went up to Swalesmoor early this morning to try and see the Snow Bunting that has been found there (we failed to find it early on - though it was showing later,) and among the skips and containers at the waste meat factory we saw a dark, mottled cat. (Annie points out it was tortoiseshell.)  It rapidly slunk off under the metalwork, reminding me very much of feral cats I've seen in Scotland, in colouration and behaviour.

I've never heard of true feral cats getting established in this area.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

140,000 trees to be felled on the moors

The above title to this post is premature and may be an underestimate of numbers. But they do say you should plan ahead.

To explain and offer musings consequent on this:-

I suppose you have all seen the headlines about planting 200,000 trees on species poor grassland on Yorkshire Water land at Gorpley Reservoir Todmorden. As usual, these reports are copied from one news media to another without giving a clear idea of what is to happen.

The Lancashire Telegraph may have a better handle on it when it says that an initial 3,000 trees will be planted at Gorpley to begin the exercise. Then it goes on to say the magic figure of 200,000 may eventually be planted across the wider South Pennines area.

But I am not sure that is true either. All media reports say there will be 3,000 trees planted per hectare, so has the Lancs Telegraph got confused and used that number as a total? Who knows.

What may be a better number to look at is the spacing of 2 metres between saplings which the 3,000 per hectare represents.

For sound woodland management, prevention of soil erosion and excess water run-off due to shading, 140,000 of these trees will have to be felled/coppiced in the early decades if the new woodlands are to function as intended.

I would suggest a plan to pollard some of the suitable species. They would resist the wind on these high grounds, would not get eaten by deer and more importantly--survive.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Anyone got an interest in world habitat conservation ?

Shocking rainforest destruction linked to Pepsi

A new report is shining a spotlight on some of the most ruthless destruction of elephant habitat we’ve ever seen. And the massive forest clearance is linked to the suppliers of snack foods sold by companies like PepsiCo across the world.

A field investigation by our partners at Rainforest Action Network uncovered the devastating clearance of already endangered forests in the Leuser Ecosystem. The only place on earth where elephants, tigers, orangutans and rhinos live in the same forest, Leuser is considered one of the world’s top priority conservation areas. It’s also the source of drinking water and livelihoods for millions of people in the Indonesian province of Aceh.

But Leuser’s critical importance is apparently of no concern to rogue palm oil producer PT. ABN. The company has been illegally -- and rapidly -- turning lowland forests into palm oil plantations despite being ordered out by the Indonesian government. So who has been buying PT. ABN’s conflict palm oil? Wilmar palm oil refineries, supplier of brands like PepsiCo, McDonald’s, and Nestlรฉ.

We can’t let mega-corporations like PepsiCo, Nestle, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, and McDonald’s sweep the destruction of this priceless ecosystem under the rug -- Watch and Share.

Monday, 20 February 2017


There have been reports of a cuckoo being heard near Hebden Bridge. Any thoughts? http://www.hebdenbridge.co.uk/forum/2017/018.html#p2

Thursday, 16 February 2017

State of Nature Invitation : 16th March

I have been asked to circulate this invitation - please do come!  Please let Katie Aspin (katrina.aspin@rspb.org.uk) if you would like to attend and would like the official invitation (I'm so sorry, I have failed miserably in uploading the scenic invite it to the Blog!) Charlotte

'The South Pennines Local Nature Partnership, working with RSPB and Moors for the Future, invites you to an evening of presentations and discussion about the State of Nature in the South Pennines, on the 16th March in Marsden.

There will be an introduction to the South Pennines Local Nature Partnership from Robin Gray, Development Manager. The evening will also include presentations from Sarah Proctor (Moors for the Future) and Tim Melling (RSPB) who will give talks on what threats species in the South Pennines face, and what is being done to help.  Tim’s presentation will include a case study of Twite, and an update on the Twite Recovery Project. You will also have the opportunity to join discussions about how we protect and enhance nature in the South Pennines in the future.  

Please feel free to distribute the invite to people who you think may be interested in attending, the more the merrier!'

Katie Aspin
Twite Project Officer (working hours Monday - Thursday)email : katrina.aspin@rspb.org.uk

 South Pennines Local Nature Partnership: The State of Nature 2017
Using modern Red List criteria, which identify species of the highest conservation concern, the State of Nature report published last year assessed 8,000 species. Of these, 15% are extinct or threatened with extinction from Great Britain. The South Pennines is an area of internationally important habitat for rare species, including birds of prey and waders. For example, this is home to the last outpost for breeding pairs of Twite ( our own ‘Pennine Finch’) in England and native species such as the Bilberry Bumble Bee.
What is happening here in the South Pennines to these populations ...and what can we do to help ?
Speakers include :
Tim Melling, Senior Conservation Officer, RSPB
Sarah Proctor, Community Science Project Manager, Moors for the Future.
RSPB State of Nature 
Moors for the Future South Pennines Local Nature Partnership  RSPB Twite Recovery Project

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Our next meeting - as usual on the second Tuesday of the month


Our activities don't consist entirely of these interesting talks, we also meet up for walks. They are of differing lengths, which we call ambles, rambles and hikes, and they are open to visitors just like the talks. 
To see our programme click on the "Welcome to Walks, Talks and Joining" tab at the top. This is also available in printed form at Halifax Central Library and various other points throughout Calderdale.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Another imported fungi

DEFRA has found the pathogenic fungus Cryphonectria parasitica in Sweet Chestnut Trees in Devon. Oak trees can get infected but they only suffer superficial damage (we hope) although they can spread the disease.

This is the same disease that arrived in America in 1904 on imported plants from Japan. In 40 years the disease had killed 5 billion American Chestnuts and the tree is now classed as 'technically extinct'.

The hyphae of the fungus produce toxic compounds, including Oxalic Acid. This lowers the PH of the affected tissue from normal 5.5 to 2.8 which is toxic to plant cells.

There are good populations of Sweet Chestnut - Castanea sativa in England, and many centuries old trees in the North of England. Below is a photo of 3 of them at Levens Park, near the Lake District.

Let's hope the containment notices stop the spread of this disease.

                                         Sweet Chestnut Trees

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Soil is the key to healthy woodland

In one acre of a typical British woodland system there are:
• 110 tons of trees
• 1 lb of birds
• 21 lb of large animals
• ½ ton of plants
• 1½ tons of fungi
• 4½ lb of small mammals
• 500 lb of earthworms
• 9 lb of beetles
• 50 lb of spiders
• 90 lb of slugs & snails
• 4 tons of bacteria
• 340 lb of protozoa

Or: “Each shovel of soil holds more living things than all the human beings ever born.”

“Soils often have between 1,000,000 to 10,000,000 bacteria per gramme.”

“A teaspoon of forest soil may hold more than 10 miles of fungi and 1 gramme of garden soil can contain around one million fungi.”

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Plants, a fungus and creatures around Elland

On cut oak branches, maybe a form of Turkeytail ? More pics on Calderdale Fungi (tab at top.)

Best picture I've got so far of a pair Goosanders which are becoming so numerous. (We saw 5 females with 2 males at Lee Dam, Todmorden last Sunday being very vocal.)

I predicted the Autumn Crocus Crocus nudiflorus leaves might be beginning to show as it has been a mild winter so far. These are at the Park Nook Lock site.

At this site they grow right down the bank towards the River Calder 

After missing it once, we found the other site along the Calder banks at Elland which I discovered     (I suppose re-discovered) a few years ago. They are about 475 metres East from the Park Nook Lock site.

Though it is very grass-like, the white stripe up the inside the stiff, folded leaf shows it is a Crocus.  

This Great Diving Beetle had died in the top pond on Tag Loop at Cromwell Bottom Local Nature Reserve. It was about 3cm (an inch and a quarter) long. Picture of the upper side was blurred. We left it in the water near the edge, so it might still be there.

Common Whitlow Grass Erophila verna at Elland Lock (side nearest the road by the Crematorium entrance.) Previously known in this area only 2 locks down at Cromwell Lock, where it also grows between the cobbles. One of the smallest flowering plants we have.

At the Calderdale Trees Strategy pre-consultation morning last Wednesday where Charlotte our President and I represented the Society, I made a strong case for favouring and establishing totally unobstructed trees allowed to grow with no other trees anywhere near them. This oak is throwing out its lowest branches within a metre of the ground. It is already a perfect climbing tree for kids and hopefully will be for hundreds of years - near Park Nook Lock.  Though tall straight trees in thick woodland are also beautiful, the great thing about trees like this one above is that there are open, sunlit glades around them which are so good for sun-loving plants and creatures.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

One sunny afternoon in Todmorden

I saw 7 Roe deer today in woodland only a few minutes from the centre of Todmorden. Ivy is the main preferred food source in winter and this photo shows a stone stoop, which only a few weeks ago was covered in bushy Ivy right to the ground.

You can now see it is eaten away to a definite browse line. Roe seem to be very lazy browsers and don't make much effort above nose level.

                                              Ivy browse-line

Nearby was a good number of Scarlet Elf Cup, Sarcoscypha austriaca. In fact I haven't seen as many in one place before (there were many others nearby) and all are on decaying Sycamore branches.

Scarlet Elf Cup
For an attractive winter grass, Miscanthus sinensis is lovely with its old seed heads. It is very hardy and needs no managing. It is a good substitute for Common Reed, which does not flower in Todmorden. Originally from Eastern Asia.
Miscanthus sinensis

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Siskins at Todmorden

There were about 40 females/males about equally mixed of these dainty finches, below Cross Stone Church this morning. There are lots of mature conifers around which they prefer to nest in so it's possible they breed here.
They love these Alder seeds but can be found feeding on Birch seeds as well.



I once picked up a male at Greetland, probably exhausted, with its crop so stuffed with Birch seeds they were spilling out. I kept it in a cage for a while where it would eat all sorts of small seeds and peanuts. I didn't know it was illegal at the time. I soon let it fly free but I missed its cheery singing for a while. They are known for being attracted to peanuts in gardens, and there was a belief that if the nuts were hung out in a red mesh bag, this would attract them quicker. Nobody seems to bother with this now, but bird habits, and people habits, change.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Dramatic finale to the evening's murmuration.

I captured this video clip of Starlings at Brighouse this evening, many others had just gone down:

Other observations of the day included: 7 - 8 Meadow Pipits beside Ringby Lane, Ploughcroft.
13 Common Gulls included 3 juveniles at Ploughcroft
Herring gulls among the crows on Swalesmoor, Ploughcroft
Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming in Shibden Valley despite light snow falling.
Mistle Thrush and 2 Goldfinches in Bradford Old Rd. Claremount.


Saturday, 21 January 2017

Starling Murmuration at Brighouse

This large flock of Starlings has been gathering together in small parties to make one huge group to roost together in central Brighouse for at least a few weeks.


Thank you to Annie Honjo for posting her video on You-tube.

We were there this evening 4.15 to 5.00pm, along with eleven other people amazed by the spectacle.
A Sparrowhawk appeared twice but didn't seem to catch a Starling, though it was definitely trying!
A spontaneous round of applause went up when the birds finally settled into the trees.

The finale is when the trees appear to suck the flock out of the sky.
If you want to see it, go to the car parks at the bottom of town near the double-towered old flour mill.  

Monday, 16 January 2017

Invitation to help a group interested in Nature on Roils Head Moor

Hi Steve

We have completed a baseline survey of the moor with Chris Sutcliffe
(Calderdale MBC Countryside Officer).

Chris Sutcliffe has recommended the Halifax Scientific Society may be
able to help us complete a more detailed survey.

In the long term we would like to have all the species of wildlife and
plants on the moors listed, in which areas and which seasons, food
webs and food chains etc however, we lack the knowledge to do this.

We have contacted Calderdale MBC to see if the area could be made into
a Local Nature Reserve.

Would the Society be interested in helping us with the survey?

I have attached the survey and a general map of the area.


Kelly Reid

From Steve: this is a large open area above Halifax Golf Club, north of Halifax. 
Do we have a member living near there, who would like to take a lead on this? You
don't have to be an expert on species, just organise an initial visit, show us round, 
keep notes, and correspond  for us with Kelly; that sort of thing.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Celebrating our Woodland Heritage - volunteers needed!

Want to get out into our local woods and help survey them?
During the excellent talk last night given by Craig Best, Countryside Manager of the National Trust, Craig mentioned the project which one of our previous speakers, Chris Atkinson of Pennine Prospects had also discussed with us - 'Celebrating our Woodland Heritage - an Archaeological Survey'.  The surveys are taking place at a number of woods in the area - full details plus dates are given in the link below.  Training will be given.  The surveys have started - so please do have a look now to see if there is a wood near you which you could help survey!


The list of woodlands to be investigated during the projects first year are listed below.  In order to fully record the woodland heritage of the South Pennines we need you! Whether as an individual, family, group or organisation we welcome you to get involved, to learn new skills and to enjoy our woodland heritage.
Name Location Easting Northing Dates of Survey
Hirst Wood Bradford 412719 438232 6th – 7th January 2017
Hardcastle Crags Hebden Bridge 397310 430152 11th – 14th January 2017
Knotts Wood Todmorden 391757 426025 18th- 19th January 2017
Park Wood Keighley 407143 440977 22nd & 24th January 2017
Castle Clough Wood Hapton 378756 431342 3rd – 4th February 2017
Callis Wood Hebden Bridge 397908 426556 6th & 8th February 2017
Middleton Woods Ilkley 412074 448764 15th – 18th February 2017
Ogden Plantation Ogden 405798 431077 2nd – 3rd & 5th March 2017
Roddlesworth Tockholes 366076 421538 8th – 10th March 2017
New Field Clough (Smithills Estate) Bolton 367469 412492 15th – 17th March 2017
Jagger Park Wood Low Bentley 413587 428061 20th – 22nd March 2017
Redisher Woods Ramsbottom 377396 415657 23rd – 25th March 2017
North Dean Wood Copley 408485 422212 26th – 29th March 2017

If you are interested in attending any of these archaeological events, either for a day or multiple days please contact  Chris Atkinson, Woodland Heritage Officer at Chris.Atkinson@pennineprospects.co.uk for further details.
All equipment such as a hand held GPS for recording the location, recording sheets, pens/pencils, clip boards, tape measures and camera will be provide.
As we will be outdoors and the weather is likely to be cold and probably a bit damp at times, please wear sturdy foot wear and warm/wet weather gear.  A packed lunch and drink is also advisable.  As for the timings, each day of survey will last between 10am and 3pm

Lost and found

At our HSS meeting last night at the Library, the follwing were left behind:
  • One small thermos flask
  • One DVD 'A Bird for All Seasons'

If they are yours, please let me know and I'll arrange to get them to you - or bring them to our next meeting on 14th Feb!

Thank you, Charlotte

Monday, 9 January 2017

To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,

This is not local but I'm sure we have all seen photos of this amazing Giant Sequoia with its incongruous and sad road tunnel drilled through it. Well it is now no more, having been blown down by recent storm. Read about it here:-


"Tunnel trees were created in the 19th century to promote parks and inspire tourism". As if ancient trees were not inspiring enough.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Our first inside meeting of the year !

All welcome to this talk. After it there is a short refreshments break, then the very informal meeting of the society, when we talk about upcoming events, and collect any
 Natural History sightings, etc.  to go in the records. 

We just ask for a small donation to offset the cost of hiring the room.

Don't forget your chequebooks or cash if you are wishing to join or renew your membership.
(See Welcome to Walks, Talks and Joining tab above.)