Calderdale Wildlife

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

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Giant Wood Wasp

Incredible Farm at Lumbutts has a photo which looks suspiciously like Greater Horntail Wasp (Giant Wood Wasp) Urocerus gigas. The NBN atlas shows no records for Calderdale. This wood boring saw fly attacks conifers and is native to North Africa. The insect is harmless despite its appearance.
The photo taken at Incredible Farm but on facebook page of Michael C Smith who works there. 6th August.

Anyone come across this insect before?

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillar (Deilephila elpenor)

After years of searching for one these on Rosebay willowherb, this little chap crawled right past me on the pavement at Cow Green in Halifax town centre!

Crimsworth Dean Clough Scramble-3rd August 2019

Devil's-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis)
Antler moth(Cerapteryx graminis) on ragwort
Wolf's milk slime mould (Lycogala terrestre-plasmodium stage)
Looking for another route!
Fern hunting
Laurence and Sarah
Laurence studying a slime mould
Intrepid explorers!

Monday, 12 August 2019

Garden Butterflies And Moths

Late July to early August and probably my best two weeks or so of garden mothing ever.
Just wandering around my modest sized, suburban garden with a net, old Coolpix camera and head torch has produced some very interesting and exciting finds.
Around 50 species of nocturnal moths and nine butterfly species were recorded,
two of which are probably new to Calderdale.
Some highlights are - Clockwise:

Broad Bordered Yellow Underwing nectaring on the Buddleia - nice to see one feeding peacefully in the still of night rather than fighting for space in a moth trap.

Dark Green Fritillary feeding along side six Painted Ladies - rare enough out and about in the Calderdale countryside but this one was underneath my bedroom window.

True Lover's Knot - a real surprise this one, maybe the larva had fed on cultivated Heathers nearby.

Small Clouded Knot-horn (Phycitodes saxicola) - netted after dark - with it's need for dissection to secure an ID it re-sparked my interest in having a go myself. A very interesting and rewarding field of study in it's own right.

Azalea Leaf Miner - with just a handful of Yorkshire records I suspect it may be either overlooked, misidentified or maybe just not that strongly attracted to light.

Heart and Dart along with a Copper Underwing agg. - both feeding busily with their proboscis poking in to the Buddleia flowers.

And a Cacao Moth along with my annotated attempt at dissecting it - if you ever wondered what the reproductive bits of a micro moth moth look like then here you go :-)

Thursday, 8 August 2019


Lots of Butterflies at Clock Face Quarry this afternoon. Peacock, Painted Lady, Large White, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Speckled Wood, Small Tortoiseshell. Sadly no Clouded Yellow.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Vapourer, or rusty tussock

Spotted this vapourer moth caterpillar, Orgygia antiqua, on a sanguisorba flower in my garden in Halifax this evening.
Over the years I've found them in the garden in the egg, caterpillar and adult stages. The adult female is flightless (see my post from the 12th of August last year
The male's erratic flight put some naturalist long ago in mind of someone who had 'taken the vapours' - i.e strong drink - hence the name.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Common Lizard

Came across this yesterday on Rishworth Moor. Steve notified of exact location for which he had no records.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Tulip Tree

The Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) in Centre Vale park at Todmorden is experiencing the best display of flowers for many a year. I think it was planted in the early 1930's. They are a fast growing species and do not flower as well 'up north' but this hot weather has encouraged it.

The large upright cup of the flower is from the time when this ancient species was pollinated by beetles and before bees had evolved. It was easier for beetles to blunder into a large and upright flower.

Introduced to this country from America about 1630. Called by the early settlers the Canoe tree, as it was the preferred tree for making canoes by Native Americans, being fast growing with a straight trunk.

There are only 2 species in the genus; the other is from the far east and called the Chinese Tulip tree.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Wyke beck seriously polluted.

As announced at the recent meeting, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has started a project on the streams of the mid-Calder and the HSS has been invited to participate in some of the practical work and also in providing records of wildlife.

Sadly, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's previous project in the Calder Valley, the Clifton Beck/ Wyke Beck catchment was dealt a serious blow recently. On Saturday13th July we were at the Wyke Beck just upstream of Bailiff Bridge. The beck was grey-white with household drain water and smelled strongly of drains.

It's very annoying because we have known this as a beautiful little trout stream with Kingfishers nesting in the banks. They almost certainly wont be there now.

I reported it on Saturday evening to the EA and got an incident no. 1718487 kindly given to me by an EA official. You can ring their pollution hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's easy to find online.

The point we saw the pollution in the Wyke Beck was just north of Victoria Rd., Bailiff Bridge, SE1467925534.

Pond creatures

Can anyone identify these which have just appeared in a muddy pond very recently? Picture not very clear but best I could do.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Nurseryweb spider

Pisaura mirabilis guarding her young today on waste ground in Boothtown. The female carries a silken egg-sac around under her body until the young are nearly ready to emerge, then spins a tent-like nursery in which she sits. When the dozens of young hatch she guards them from the outside of the nursery for a few days until they are ready to make their way in the world.

Notice she has lost a leg in her adventures, probably a fairly recent injury because it has not begun to regenerate. Spiders are able to grow back lost limbs a little at a time with each successive skin moult. A spider this size would moult several times in her life.

With a body of length 12-15mm this is a large and unmistakable spider (the clover flower behind her gives a sense of scale) and the only British species of the genus Pisaura, common in the midlands and the south but with a patchy distribution in the north. Over the moon to find this spectacular beast so close to home!

A mid-summer day dream

I am concerned about the lack of insects and wild bees. Perhaps I'm not observant enough and behind me there are vast populations which play hide and seek when I turn around.

The photo shows Clattinger farm meadows in Wiltshire which we visited recently. It is one of the best wild flower meadows in the country and a joy to walk through, with abundant blue damselflies at every step. But where was the summer sound of buzzing bees and insects; only a few individuals could be seen if hard looked for.

The situation differs little wherever I go. Flower rich fields and flower laden bushes are lacking in any pollinators.

In our wood as soon as July started, it was impossible to work because of the clouds of black flies that formed. I had to resort to a towel draped over my head to keep them at bay. This was the same every year without fail for the whole of July. But now there aren't any. All gone.

Maybe it was all an illusion and nothing but a dream of lying in the grass in Summer and hearing the soporific drone of insects. Now I have woken from that dream I certainly miss them.

Clattinger Meadows, Wiltshire

Friday, 12 July 2019

Big Butterfly Count - 11th July until 11th August

Anyone can take part ......

Please note that the Big Butterfly Count starts on 19th July until 11th August. Launched in 2010, it’s an annual nationwide survey run by Butterfly Conservation. Declines reveal the poor health of our environment – “WE NEED YOUR SIGHTINGS” is their appeal – ‘Big Butterfly Count’ type it into your computer and log all your sightings.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Some July finds I'm excited about

Giant Puffball found at Hanson Lane in a very urban garden. Now mostly eaten. It fries beautifully brown and absorbs other flavours.

Wood Tiger moth at Crimsworth Dean

Wood Tiger showing its underwings. I saw my first one the week before at Gibson Mill. I'd never heard of it before!  Seen on a butterfly survey with Hardcastle Crags National Trust volunteers.

Willow Warbler nest at Jerusalem Farm. It builds a roofed-over nest with a side entrance similar to its relatives the Chiff-chaff and the Wood Warbler. When we found it last week the adults were busy feeding chicks (Annie brought my attention to them) but the nest was on a steep bank, cleverly built among thick grass with thistles and Dog-rose, making it impossible to check the contents without beating a path up to it. So finding it empty today (we waited about 15 minutes to see if the adults were still feeding,) and no signs of predation I can record it at least as a successful nest with young fledged in the first week of July. I record nest histories for the BTO, but don't find many warbler nests!

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Cucumber Spider

Delighted to find this bright green little orb weaver Araniella cucurbitina or Araniella opisthographa in my garden in Halifax. It's impossible to tell which of the two commonest cucumber spiders this one is without microscopic examination, which I haven't (yet) carried out. I'll keep watching for any roaming males, which are quite different looking, coming to court her.

If you look closely you can just about tell how she is hooked on to her web, which was being buffeted by a strong breeze, by her tiny tarsal claws.


Thursday, 27 June 2019

Bee Orchid rescue

A rescue operation took place on March 21st after demolition work began on the disused site adjacent to the old Rose & Crown on Halifax Road Todmorden. There were a lot of interesting plants on this site and I received permission from the site manager to retrieve any plants I wanted before the whole site was demolished. Early in March, a Bee Orchid (which had flowered two years previously) produced a rosette of leaves and Portia, of the Upper Calder Wildlife Network, safely unearthed the plant along with the fungus on which it depends for its growth. The orchid then took up residence on my balcony in a pot with plenty of the original earth and produced its first flower on June 6th. 

The first bud opened on June 6th

Now, at the end of June, the first flowers have faded but the buds higher up the stem continue to open. The entire plant measures 55cm/21.5" high. A number of Common Spotted and hybrid orchids were also rescued from the site and are now safe on Peachysteve's land. Hugh Firman has requested that a wildflower meadow be incorporated into the plans for the new development on the site in which case it may be possible to return the Bee Orchid to its original habitat. It may now be a question of 'watch this space'!

Multiple blooms now but the lower ones are fading

Tuesday, 25 June 2019


Interesting Sycamores at Copley, looks like two joined together.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Elephant hawk moth

Newly emerged Elephant Hawk Moth, Deilephila elpenor, in a garden in the centre of Ovenden this evening.
After about three hours in this position the wings are almost fully pumped out.
Photographing one is a minor ambition realised, having only seen them in books before!

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Hen Harrier Brood management

Hen Harrier Brood Management

In a few months’ time the outcome of the 2019 Hen Harrier breeding season will be announced. Some people will claim that it has been a good year and others will trumpet the outcome as a great year for Hen Harriers in England. Neither of these claims will be true, nor will they accurately reflect the fact that whatever the number of fledglings actually is this year, the population will remain perilously low for years to come despite the fact that there is sufficient space for c 300 pairs in the northern uplands.

If brood management goes ahead as planned 2019 will not be remembered as a good year for the English Hen Harrier population. It will be remembered, by leading conservation groups, including NERF, and Raptor Workers across the country as the year that Natural England, the English Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation betrayed Hen Harriers to placate the grouse shooting industry. An industry that is, according to Natural England’s own data, largely responsible for the unexplained demise of 72% of Hen Harriers satellite tagged by their own staff. With that knowledge it is not unreasonable to assume that a similar percentage of un-tagged birds ‘disappeared’ under identical circumstances over the same period. It is also clear from press releases issued by RSPB that many of the birds satellite tagged as part of their Hen Harrier Life Project have also suffered the same fate on land managed for grouse shooting.

Natural England’s answer to those facts is the implementation of their flawed policy of Hen Harrier brood management on the basis that it is essential for Hen Harrier conservation and will lead to an increase in the English population. That second assertion may be true during the breeding season but it totally ignores the fact that all of the evidence reveals that persecution is more problematic after the chicks disperse from their breeding grounds. Brood management will do nothing to prevent persecution despite claims to the contrary. Anyone who believes that the entire grouse shooting industry will wholeheartedly welcome an increase in the Hen Harrier population is at best delusional. There are members of the industry who won’t even tolerate the small number of birds that already reside in, or transit through, the uplands at the present time let alone an increased number.

Following the confirmation that brood management has taken place this year NERF fully expects an announcement in due course from Natural England stating how many eggs, or chicks were taken in to the scheme, what the hatching rates were from each clutch, what the fledging rates were and confirmation that the birds were released back onto the moors from which they were removed. The project calls for all of the chicks to be satellite tagged prior to release back to the wild and for reasons of transparency NERF expects to read a prompt press release when the birds either die naturally or ‘disappear’ in circumstances that suggest persecution was the probable cause. The press release should include the location of the last known fix from the satellite tag.

Whilst Natural England has the legal right to undertake brood management, because they licensed themselves to do it. However, there is no right way to do the wrong thing and there is, in NERF’s opinion no justification for pursuing the brood management of Hen Harriers. We often hear the Police say that they cannot arrest their way out of the Hen Harrier persecution problem and in part that may be true. However, it is also true that Government policy should not be influenced by individuals or organisations that rely on criminality for their industry to prosper.

Additionally we need to know how much of the significant cost of brood management is being borne, not by the industry which has created the problem through illegal persecution, but by the British tax payer.

Despite the hype that we can expect at the end of the breeding season, 2019 will not be a good year for Hen Harriers in England.

June 2019

Tiger beetle mating season is here!

Tiger beetles mating on Erringden Moor (Sunday June 9th 2019)

After a very fruitful walk through Parrock Clough and Broadhead Clough where we saw and heard many birds, we followed the path up to Erringden Moor and were treated to a host of beautifully iridescent Tiger beetles, some alone, many flying around and also a pair mating. With such changeable weather recently we were lucky to enjoy a mostly rain-free day; the Tiger beetles obviously took advantage of the warm sun too!

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Galls on Lime

These are nail galls on the leaf of a Lime tree.
They are caused by a mites (Eriophyes lateannulatus) that is only about a tenth of a millimetre in size, which browse on the lower surface of the leaf.

Chemicals in their saliva cause the leaf cells to proliferate, creating these hollow galls.
The mites then move inside them to feed and breed in safety. They have no adverse effect on the tree.

It seems the mite Eriophyes tilliae prefers the Large-Leaved Lime and the galls are longer and pointed, whereas the mite Eriophyes lateannulatus prefers the Small-Leaved Lime and galls are shorter with rounded tips.
Common Lime can have either species of mite.

Nail Galls

Friday, 31 May 2019

Ash trees are dying.

This year Ash Dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) has progressed from killing saplings and into mature trees. I hardly see any mature tree that is not showing dieback or is nearly dead; wherever I go.

In nearby limestone areas where Ash is a major component of the landscape, there will shortly be huge devastation. All the field trees will be gone and the landscape will be laid waste. We have been suitably warned about this and should have been planting field and boundary trees as replacements.  But this isn't happening.

No shortage of new 'woodlands' but trees are out of favour and forgotten.

Monday, 27 May 2019

This wool is alive

The bark of this tree has white waxy woolly areas, which has been secreted as a covering by the Felted Beech Scale insect (Cryptococcus fagisuga). It only inhabits Beech species.

No male insects have ever been found and fertilisation is not required for the offspring (parthenogenesis).

The scale insect makes small incisions and feeds on the soft tissues of the bark but does not cause serious damage to the tree. Damage occurs when the Nectria coccinea fungus spores gain entry to the tree through the feeding holes. This fungus then blocks the tree's vascular system, causing serious injury or death.

Damage was so serious that in 1902 the Rev. Wilks feared that --"Beech is doomed all over the country and the next generation will only know by pictures how gloriously beautiful our forest Beeches have been".

Look out for this often seen woolly covering and think what damage a tiny 1/16" insect can precipitate in such a huge tree.