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

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.