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, 28 December 2011

January Priority Species workshop

Hello all,

To celebrate the new year there will be a priority species workshop on Weds 4th January at 7.15 in the Mytholmroyd Countryside Services Office (above the library). The meeting will include an update on Calderdale's Biodiversity Action Plan and small discussion groups for different species.

It will be a opportunity to discuss actions for priority species in Calderdale for the coming year with Hugh Firman and other interested parties. If you would like to come along and contribute to the meeting please email Hugh to express your interest:

We look forward to seeing you there!


Earth Flight

Hi All

For those of you who have missed the TV ad then here is the link
Its on Thursday night 29th December.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

And sponsored New Year Bird Count in aid of Overgate Hospice.

All are welcome to join me for a 4 mile walk round North Dean Wood.
January 1st, 11.45 am for 12.00 start from car park below Clay House at West Vale.

We will be looking at fungi, one of Colin's favourite groups, and keeping tally of all bird species we see or hear, in the tradition of many birders on New Year's Day.

Why not get your friends or family to sponsor you per bird species. (We would be lucky to find 20.)

Bring a snack and hot drink if you like. Paths are muddy with some climbs, but suitable for children who are used to walking and dogs.

Steve Blacksmith (Chair, Halifax Scientific Society.)

Saturday, 24 December 2011

To all Bloggers. 
Have a good 2012.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

January Meeting at Cromwell Bottom

Robin Dalton has organised a meeting with Chris Tomson from the RSPB to visit Cromwell Bottom on the 12th January 2012. Click for full details.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

British Egg Collector Sentenced to Prison Term

December 13, 2011 - Matthew Gonshaw (49) of Cherrywood Close, Bow in East London, has extended his infamy for being Britain's most imprisoned egg collector by being sentenced to yet another jail term, for six months, following conviction for stealing and possessing wild birds eggs, including those of some of the rarest and most threatened birds in the UK.  Full Story

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Christmas Social

Just a reminder that the Christmas Social is tonight at the Central Library, Halifax at 7:30
Sale of books. Free Tea, coffee, cake. Displays. All Welcome.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Colin Duke

The death of a friend is a terrible thing. A friend with the same interests at heart is a rare thing.
Colin could always be relied on to have a view on the identity of a species, or at least the right family to search in. His knowledge made him a favourite with all, from adults to children.

I'll always remember when he invited me to assist him with a stream-dipping session in the centre of Hebden Bridge. A 3-year old girl took her first sweep with the net and brought out a tiny bullhead fish. It was beginners luck, because that species had not been recorded in Calderdale for many decades.
The little girl was not impressed, but Colin was. He said he always enjoyed most working with children.

He had no children of his own but Colin belonged to the wider family of naturalists and countryside volunteers. He took a leading role as chair of various groups, including the Sustainability Forum and for 10 years the Halifax Scientific Society.

He will be a hard act to follow.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Colin Duke

There is a short note about the sad death of Colin on the Bird Blog. Colin died on Saturday at Overgate Hospice. Colin held many posts at the Halifax Scientific Society and was President at the time of his death.
He will be missed by a great many of us to whom he freely gave help and imparted knowledge over many years.

The funeral service will take place at Halifax Chapel of Repose, Clare Road on Monday, December 12th, 2011 at 1.30 p.m. followed by committal and cremation and Park Wood Crematorium, Elland. Family flowers only please by request, but donations if desired to either Overgate Hospice or The World Wild Life Fund and a box will be available at the service. Will friends please accept this as the only intimation and meet at the chapel.

Holdsworth Fields and Soil Hill

The first snow of the season on Monday.
Holdsworth Fields, Monday

                        Snow Bunting on Tuesday - one of six birds.
Snow Bunting. The best picture I could manage!

Soil Hill opposite the mast, Tuesday morning.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Muntjac Deer

In the Todmorden paper it mentions one of our local landowners near Cross Stone, breeding exotic animals such as Wallabies, Ostriches and Nothern Elk. He also has 2 Muntjac Deer. He does this through his work running Live Animal Capture

Muntjac Deer are very destructive. They will eat coppice shoots, natural regeneration, bluebell bulbs, primulas etc. In other parts of the country this non-native deer is causing considerable damage and because the female can be pregnant in any month of the year, populations can rise quickly.

There are Muntjac in South Yorkshire and I believe some near Shibden. Let's hope we don't get any breeding populations in the valley.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Cromwell Bottom

There will be a site meeting at Cromwell Bottom this Saturday 26th November at 9:30am to look at various areas with regards to the development of wildlife habitats. Everyone welcome to attend.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Cromwell Bottom Meeting Wednesday November 23rd

The next meeting of the Group will be on Wednesday the 23rd of November at the adult learning centre Chapel Lane, in Brighouse (opposite the bus station) at 7:00pm. ALL WELCOME please come along and show your support.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

North Loop Re-Capping

A reminder that there will be a meeting in Brighouse this Wednesday, November 9th to discuss the capping of the North Loop at Cromwell Bottom L.N.R. This will inevitably affect ground and scrub nesting birds as well as other vertebrates.
Full details here: 

Monday, 31 October 2011

Jelly Fungus

This looks like the remains of a jelly fungus found at Ogden L.N.R.
It was between the roots of a pine tree.
Jelly Fungus. Possibly Tremella lutescens

Friday, 21 October 2011

Octobers Walk - Fungus foray

 10 members and friends + 2 dogs had a foray in Wade Wood. Here are some of the pictures.

Earth Ball - Scleroderma citrinum
A Lichen. Parmelia perlata ?

A Mycena ??
Stags Horn  - Xylaria hypoxlon

Septembers Walk - Rochdale canal

Several Members had a very enjoyable walk along the Rochdale canal
Some of the crew
Shield Bug (anyone I.D. this)

Alder growing in the canal
Royal Fern (a rarity in Calderdale)

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Cromwell Bottom Development Group

 Many thanks to those who attended the meeting, we have a new committee member in Mike Henshaw  who's knowledge of the reserve will be invaluable to our group. Thanks to Mike for accepting the invitation.  A special thanks also to Hugh for walking us through the process of setting out a constitution.  We as a group have set out an interim constitution that will be ratified at the next meeting and will be held in place until a full A.G.M.,  where it can then be made permanent  by the full membership. This will give us the means to start a membership list / bank account / fund raising etc without having to wait until March. My thanks to Lisa for taking the minutes and typing this up.  Anyone wanting a copy if you could e-mail me at I will endeavour to send you one. A date has been set for the A.G.M. for the 21st of March 2012  venue to be announced at a later date, I hope you will all come along where we are hoping to have a slide show of members pictures and maybe some supper. The next meeting of the group will be on the 23rd of November at the adult learning centre in Brighouse  ALL WELCOME  please come along and show your support.
                                                                                                                                                                 Yours  Graham Haigh

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Watercress at Northowram

Hi all finally managed to get some pics of the large Watercress  patch at Northowram aprox grid ref is SE 277117

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Badger vaccine project generates 'delight'

Culling may spread TB by perturbing badgers' social groups - but vaccination would not.
The UK's first independent badger vaccination project has proved that the technique is "viable and affordable", according to the charity running it.
The Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust vaccinated 35 badgers during the summer against the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB) in cattle. Full story.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Dog control orders consultation

Proposal to introduce five Dog Control Orders to Calderdale.

The document can be viewed in full here:
You can respond to the Consultation here:
and the on-line questionnaire is here:

Original post from Hugh Firman
Conservation Officer
Calderdale Council

To get to grips with Beech versus Birch, The Alder versus Elder, plus many other common trees.
Join this friendly, informal group for short walks specifically to enjoy and learn about trees.
Alternating between rural and urban walks, you will soon become aware of the exotic species and variable garden trees and learn to pick out the native species.
Walk 1: Meet outside Halifax Adult Education Building in Horton Street, at the junction with Union Street, Sunday 23rd October at 09.00 for 9.15 for a 2 HOUR urban walk around the centre and outskirts of Halifax – an easy walk of approximately 1½ miles. Dogs welcome. Please dress brightly for road safety, and bring a notebook. Fee £6:00 for two walks to the Halifax Scientific Society, Natural History Group. (Members free).

Contact Steve Blacksmith on 01422 348222.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Cromwell Bottom: Meeting in Brighouse Wednesday October 12th at 7:00 pm

Arrowhead at Cromwell Bottom LNR
A date has been set for Wednesday evening 12th October at 7:00 pm to look at a draft constitution for the group. If you are interested in helping this Local Nature Reserve to achieve its potential then come along to the next meeting at Brighouse Adult Learning Centre, room 13, Church Street, Brighouse.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Walk to Stoodley Glen, Friday 30th September

A Reminder: 

There is a walk in Stoodley Glen to the Top (including a Fungus Foray).

Meet Steve Blacksmith from Halifax Scientific Society at 11.00 am start at the bottom of Stoodley Glen, Holmcoat Bridge, Eastwood, near Todmorden (grid reference SD965254) for a 2 mile walk looking at autumn fungi and two rare native crab apple trees. Donations welcome to Halifax Scientific Society.

An easy walk if you are moderately fit. Buses are available to the starting point.      Bring some lunch.  MAP of meeting place.


Tuesday, 27 September 2011


Bumblebee Nest Predation

In last August’s edition of the newsletter some of you may remember the discovery by Alison Mosson who found an exposed red- tailed bumblebee nest that had fallen victim to predation (possibly by a badger)! One year on and we thought it would be interesting to follow up on this kind of event by investigating a project being undertaken by Steph O’Connor at the university of Stirling looking at bumblebee nest predation.
In this study, Steph trained sniffer dog Toby (pictured right) to search for the nests of common bumblebee species. A total of 19 bumblebee nests were found and their entrances filmed until the nest died out at the end of the season. During this time a number of interesting observations were noted; animals found to be preying on bumblebees coming in and out of the nests included great tits, robins and crows, while shrews and voles were also spotted visiting the nests (although what they did inside the nest remains a mystery). Hedgehogs and squirrels were also found to show some interest in the nests. There were kills or attempted kills observed at 5 of the 19 nests with great tits the most prevalent predators in this study; they were found mainly to prey on large nests with lots of bee traffic. However Steph emphasizes that these nests were large enough to recover from the predation and all of the nests preyed upon produced new queens before the season was over. She also notes that the study focussed on the most common species of bumblebee, while the question remains as to how nest predation affects our less common species?

These amazing photographs taken by Linda Turner on her BeeWalk show a blue-tit preying on a buff-tail bumblebee and providing a meal for its offspring.

There was an interesting discussion earlier this month within the BeeWalk Google group, in which one volunteer told how they accidently discovered a common carder bee nest under some grass cuttings in his garden. Upon further inspection, they noticed fast-moving white grubs within the nest that were roughly half an inch long. Another volunteer writing in the forum guessed that they could be the larvae of a Wax moth and provided some interesting information on these nest parasites (sourced from "the female wax moth stakes out the bumblebee nest and hangs around outside for a few days to pick up its scent. Once she has done this, she enters the nest undetected to lay her eggs. These hatch into caterpillars, which start off by eating the nest debris before moving to the wax pots containing honey, pollen, and grubs. They create tough, silk tunnels, presumably to protect themselves from the adult bees. Before long the entire nest is gone, prompting the caterpillars to leave to pupate into next year's wax moths." A third volunteer mentioned that their daughter had been through exactly the same scenario, and also told of their experiences of the damage a wax moth can do to a hive of honeybees. It really is inspiring to see a BeeWalk community developing on this forum; asking questions, sharing information and helping each other out!

Bumblebee Mating Strategies explained
These curious pictures taken by Elizabeth Winder (left) and John Taylor (both below); show a male and queen red tailed bumblebee mating. Possibly just as astonishing as these pictures is the story John told in his email as to how he managed to take this photograph. Despite being a mile and a half from home with no camera when he first saw the male red-tail jump the queen mid flight, at 64 years old he managed to run all the way home, grab his camera and drive back up to the spot where the two bees were amazingly still present!

After hearing John's story and seeing these photographs we decided to consider the topic of bumblebee mating strategies for this edition of the newsletter. Male bumblebees are born late in the season and are the direct offspring of female bees laying eggs without mating (males therefore only have half the genes that females have). After spending a few days in the nest drinking nectar and building up strength, male bumblebees leave the nest and from then on fend for themselves, foraging for nectar and taking refuge in flowers and vegetation over night or when it rains. Male bumblebees are born with one goal in life – to mate. They achieve this by patrolling an area and depositing a scent on prominent objects such as tree trunks, rocks and flowers. Newly emerging queens who are ready to mate are attracted to the pheromones in the scent and subsequently enter the male bumblebee’s patrol area. The male will try to intercept a queen flying within his area in order to mate with her (apparently he will try and intercept anything queen shaped flying at the right height - even a rock thrown through the air). Once he has latched on to a queen, the pair usually settle down on the ground or in the undergrowth to mate, this can take anywhere between 10 and 80 minutes. After the mating has taken place the new queen will spend time provisioning the fuel she needs for the winter and find a place in which to hibernate. For a more detailed outlook on bumblebee mating see .

Sunday, 25 September 2011


An interesting report with a video interview including the Societies August speaker, Hugh Warwick.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Friends of Cromwell Bottom

Original Post from Steve Cummings -
This evenings meeting in Brighouse proved to be quite eventful with the formation of an interim committee of the Friends of Cromwell Bottom. It's early days but the next meeting in October will thrash out the details of the constitution.

Walk This Saturday, September 24th - a reminder

Meet Brian Waight for a saunter along the canal from Hebden Bridge Information Centre (The Marina) to Todmorden. No stiles to climb.
Meet at SD992271 Map 
All welcome to come along.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

T. gigantea

This large male (3" leg span) was on our living room wall a few nights ago - it was gone in the morning.

Calderdale in September

Harebells (Campanular rotundiflora).
There were several large patches on Norland golf course.

An unidentified fungus surrounded by Eyebright (Euphrasia) at Fly Flatts.

On the way to see the Autumn Crocus
this Speckled Wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria) was seen.

C. nudiflorus 19/9/2011

Two flowers of the Autumn Crocus (Crocus nudiflorus) near Holmfield, Halifax.

There were 425 plants counted there.

Reference:  The Mystery of the Autumn Crocus. Crocus nudiflorus  Steve Blacksmith. A Halifax Scientific Society publication.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Birds and plants at Dean Clough

Dipper and Grey Wagtail were present on the beck outside Dean Clough cafe today, as they often are.
I had never noticed watercress there before. Perhaps it has escaped from the cafe! Also a smaller floating plant, possibly blinks ( Montia fontana.) Water plants are difficult to identify, many being very similar due to convergent evolution. These two could get washed away in times of high water.

Watercress occurs in a field pond at Oats Royd, near Holmfield, and was in great quantity in a ditch at West Vale, east of the garden centre, below the wall next to the main rd., till it was cleaned out. The plants gave shelter to a Water Shrew which could be watched feeding if you looked over the wall. The plants and animal could return.

Coincidentally, there has been a water shrew sighting in a small stream near the pond with watercress at Oats Royd. 

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Cromwell Bottom Meeting September 21st 2011

A reminder for those interested in the development of Cromwell Bottom LNR.

The meeting is this Wednesday evening September 21st @ 7:00pm.

Brighouse Adult Learning Centre – Church Lane Brighouse HD6 1AT Telephone:01484 714019

Click title for full info:

Friday, 16 September 2011

Walk to Stoodley Glen, Friday 30th September

A walk in Stoodley Glen to the Top (including a Fungus Foray).

Meet Steve Blacksmith from Halifax Scientific Society at 11.00 at the bottom of Stoodley Glen, Holmcoat Bridge, Eastwood, near Todmorden (grid reference SD965254) for a 2 mile walk looking at autumn fungi and two rare native crab apple trees. Donations welcome to Halifax Scientific Society.

An easy walk if you are moderately fit. Buses are available to the starting point. Bring some lunch.


Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Mink at Copley

Saw one of these yesterday in the canal at Copley mid-afternoon. It may have been kept from feeding by an angling match which had just finished. It had a go at a mallard which escaped.  It was the second I had seen in a couple of weeks, never having seen them before alive - only a couple of road casualties, except I had seen a fancy beige one darting through Brighouse traffic - obviously a recently freed one. I got a good look - it wasn't a ferret.  The first wild black one was in the Calder near the bridge in Stainland Rd. It dived in a couple of times, coming out with a fish in its jaws. Although it is the wrong animal in the wrong place, I had to admire something that small that can dive into a large river and catch a fish.  Ever tried to catch a goldfish in a bowl?!
Steve Blacksmith

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Dutch Elm disease

It seems a while since dutch elm disease passed through the valley and killed many mature elms. I have noticed recently a large mature elm has lost all its leaves and nearby a young tree has suffered crown die-back. Are we seeing the return of this disease? There are still some good mature specimens trees left, mainly wych elm. Let's hope they aren't at risk.

Friday, 9 September 2011

This Tuesdays meeting - a reminder

Tuesday September 13th at the Central Library, Halifax at 7:15pm

Shan Evans talks on plants at Scargill House in the Dales - their losses and rescue story.

All welcome to come along. The meetings usually finish at 9:00 pm

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Cromwell Bottom Meeting September 21st

This Document was originally sent from Robin Dalton.

An Interim Committee for Cromwell Bottom.
From previous walks/meetings, there is no doubt that there is much interest and enthusiasm amongst the many users/visitors to Cromwell Bottom to be involved in a local group, helping manage this Local Nature Reserve to achieve its potential.
However, to help get on the way to establish a (hopefully constituted) group, it would be great to have a motivated and interested people come forward and help form an interim committee. This committee would work towards holding an A.G.M. next year and formalising a constitution. If you are interested in being involved, but uncertain about the roles, don’t worry, as Hugh has a wealth of experience in this area and we will be there to help in every way. Ideally, at least chair and secretarial positions would be filled in the interim, but all support is welcomed.
 If you can help/are interested, it’d be great to see you on: 
Wednesday 21st September 7:00pm  at the Brighouse Adult Learning Centre, room 13

Brighouse Adult Learning Centre – Church Lane Brighouse HD6 1AT

Telephone: 01484 714019

Those interested in the future of Cromwell Bottom LNR then please follow this link for further information.

Link to document: and map of venue in Brighouse.

Also for your interest:-
Off road usage.
Signs are going up to warn off trials bikes/quads from trespassing onto the Reserve. Barrier enhancements are also planned for the metal ‘gate’ by the Calder.
North Loop.
Look out for an e-mail in the near future for an evening meet about the plans for North Loop, as the Council moves towards re-capping the land fill in 2012.
Work Parties.
Saturday practical work parties will be starting again over the autumn. I’ll send out a start date in a couple of weeks for anyone keen to get grubby!!
Audio trail.
An audio trail taking you around Cromwell Bottom can be downloaded from the Natural England website following this link (ctrl and click):

Many thanks for your interest and support.



Robin Dalton
Area Countryside Officer - Lower Valley
Safer, Cleaner, Greener

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Soil Hill

I had my biggest flock of Goldfinch ever here.
There were at least 47 in one flock - lots of thistle heads.
2 Wheatears, 4 meadow pipits, 3 linnets around a dozen swallows,
the usual corvids, 3 common gulls and a possible Spotted Flycatcher at a distance.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

A Skircoat-found chrysalis

Produced this.
I.d. anybody?
Closest I can get is a species of swift ?
It survived the attentions of the curious fingers of a four year-old granddaughter .


We may have to get used to a new name for our out of control R. ponticum. A new study says that our 'wild' Rhodo in this country is such a mish mash of hybrids that it should be called Rhododendron x superponticum.

See article and click on the 'naturalised rhododendrons' link.

Quote: "Differs from wild R. ponticum in that it is
extremely vigorous and invasive and has a wider range of corolla and
corolla-spot colour".

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Soil Hill

A visit to Soil hill this morning produced just a few birds.
3 kestrel
1 Stock dove
3 Skylark, 1 singing
a few mipits. Jackdaw, Crow

Lots of swallow activity at Cock Hill Gate Farm (SE071304).

The top is becoming quite green now, lots of growth,
worth following its progress. The down side is its
becoming even more hazardous to walk over as the
bricks and wire are hidden.
I expected a pond or two, none seen on top, just
water in the ruts and on the path.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Geology Meeting

There will be a meeting of the YGS/WYGT Yorkshire Rock, Fossil and Mineral Day on Saturday September 24th at the National Coal Mining Museum, Wakefield.

West Yorkshire Geology Trust Site link

and National Coal Mining Museum link

We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible on
September 24th.

Document link on this Blog (YGS page)


Alison Tymon
Yorkshire Geological Society
West Yorkshire Geology Trust

Friday, 19 August 2011

Walk This Saturday 20th August

Discover rural Lightcliffe and Till Carr with Miss B. Kirk. Meet top of Stoney Lane at 10:30am for a 10:45am start.
Meet at SE139253 Map

Thursday, 18 August 2011

What's going on?

A scene in my shed.

Can anybody tell what is happening in this picture. Enlarge to see. A bit blurred - it was a hurried photo.

Amphibius Bistort

Amphibius Bistort (Persicaria amphibia) at Oats Royd NR, Holmfield.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Red Admirals and Peacocks

There were 2 Red admirals and 3 Peacock butterflies together on Buddleia in the garden today. They were all very fresh specimens.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Evening Walk to Highroad Well Moor, Thursday August 11th

There will be an evening walk this Thursday 11th August to Highroad Well Moor.
The walk is easy but uneven. 
Meet at the junction of Vicar Park Road and Paddock Lane, Norton Tower at 6:45 pm for a 7:00 pm start. Easy parking.   Map

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Horse Chestnuts

I have seen the damage to Horse Chestnut leaves, caused by the leaf miner, in other parts of the country. The trees look drab as all the leaves turn papery yellow as they are eaten from the inside by the grub.

I can't say I have noticed any problems locally (have you?) until the other day when I noticed a Horse Chestnut in Todmorden with similar blotchy leaf symptoms.

The leaf miner doesn't kill the tree but can severly weaken it and make it more susceptible to the effects of Bleeding Canker, which is killing thousands of HC's in England.

We have lost many Horse Chestnut trees in Tod from this bleeding canker and it could soon become quite a rare species.

This Tuesday's Talk

A reminder that our next talk on AUGUST 9th at the Central Library, Halifax @ 7:15pm

Hugh Warwick, zoologist and author of "A Prickly Affair", recounts his life with hedgehogs. (Book signing session after).
This is a special meeting of the Scientific Society and we expect this to be a well attended evening. Hugh is a national expert on hedgehogs and he is travelling from Oxford to give this talk.