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, 31 May 2012

Gall on Blackthorn

This was about 3/4 of the way along the hedge beside the River Calder at Cromwell Bottom, today. Each fruit has been affected along this shoot.
I did a search for "Gall on Blackthorn" and Wikipedia informed me that it's Taphrina pruni.  It's sometimes known as Pocket Gall, as the empty, flattened, elongated fruit is pocket-like.(See white object at the bottom of the shoot.)
The same fungi infects other Prunus species, and a similar one infects Alder.

I was looking for Dodder, a parisitic plant, which has just been reported by Portia Fincham, who found the Yellow Birdsnest at Todmorden. It was 6 years ago, she admits, and it was on this hedge near the furthest kissing-gate into Tag Loop. (Nearest the railway.) She did note it in July, so it was unlikely to be visible today, and it wasn't.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Tree tube shelters can be killers

I read that tree tubes can be a hazard for young birds. They get in them for insects etc but then find they cannot get out. Some tubes have been found with many dead birds. I am  not sure whether this problem is recognised in this country but in America tree tubes have to have a 'top' to prevent entry by birds.

With the many thousands of tree tubes in Calderdale, standing for years on end, does anyone know if there is a problem with dead birds locally?

Monday, 28 May 2012

Buzzards not welcome

In the Yorkshire Post, Country Week section, it reports that Defra is to fund £375,000 over the next 3 years in an experiment in Northumberland to harass Buzzards. This will include nest destruction and permanent off-site removal to a falconry centre.

Defra has had complaints from the game shooting business about buzzards taking young pheasants and this is Defra's response. The RSPB are naturally shocked by this venture.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Oats Royd Ponds

I was having a chat with two fisherman yesterday who have permission from the owner to fish the ponds at Oats Royd. When I told them that during my birding forays I used to see big carp on the surface in summer months upto and including 2011, they responded with some dismaying news indeed.
All the big fish and most other fish have now been taken from the ponds by poachers. One of them paid a visit recently and could find only two small fish in a period of hours. I mentioned on March 29 this year that I had seen two very unsavoury characters walking from the ponds upto Bradshaw carrying rods. They responded that it got more industrial than that - on one occasion a small trawling net was discovered submersed!

Two years back there were two domestic white geese happily esconced here and one evening I found the recent remains of one spread out on the bank. One of these guys told me he had actually fished the body of the bird from the water one or two nights before. It bore all the hallmarks of having been given a good stoning, which is what I feel the perpetrators should have done to them. The remaining goose has in the past 6 months or so got a new partner, for how long remains to be seen.
The landowner has declared the reserve is for everybody; obviously everybody is not for the reserve.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Hawthorn and Oak Gall

Hawthorn Blossom and Oak Gall in Sowerby Bridge this week.

Photos Michael Sykes

Stop Spring Hunting in Malta

Maltese birders have organised a petition to ban spring hunting. 

Sign this petition and make a difference. Why this is important

   In Spring-time, birds (Turtle Doves and Quails) are in their best and migrate from Africa to Europe. They cross the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean sea to mainland Europe to breed and raise their young.
Both species are in decline, and shooting them when passing through Malta in Spring is contributing to this decline. Many other protected birds are indiscriminately shot every Spring whilst the hunting season is open.  More information...  

Also for a film made by our own Steve Cummings about the issues out there go to visit this link and check out "Birds Bins and Bullets". 

Thanks Nick for the above link.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Dunlin at Soil Hill

Picture: David Franz

Friday, 18 May 2012

Dawn Chorus Event for any night-owls.

This young tawny owl was in Bankhouse Wood recently.

Any human night-owls who fancy a  DAWN CHORUS event can join the Scientific Society for a listen out in Cragg Vale on Sunday at dawn. This one's unsuitable for dogs.

Meet quietly at the public car park at Russell Dean's Mytholmroyd Showroom. 2.45am for a 3.00am start. SE014260.

 From there we will share lifts if required and park quietly at Dauber Bridge, a little way up Cragg Road. We'll walk up the track towards Broadhead Clough, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Reserve. We'll probably stop before the reserve and sit and wait for dawn, so you might want to bring a  waterproof something to sit on or a camp chair.

If its mild and calm with light cloud or the sun coming up, we will be in for a treat! Then we'll go home at about 4.30 - 5.00 for a lovely Sunday lie-in.

Back Yard Deer

I just had a big surprise when I looked out the kitchen window; two Roe Deer were in the back field staring right back at me! I grabbed my camera and returned, an action that took only 10 seconds but such is their wariness, they had scarpered. A quick dash upstairs into the back bedroom failed to turn them up, still it's a good memory to have.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Now, where did those sparrows go?

 This Sparrowhawk just missed out on a meal at my feeders today.

Tree planting affecting moorland birds?

I notice on the Calderdale bird blog there have been comments made about tree planting up Blackshaw Head and its possible effect on moorland birds. If anyone has access to that blog, perhaps they can post this link to a meeting that is planning where to put all these trees, courtesy of Pennine Prospects. If there isn't input from birders, we may get trees in innapropiate areas.

Mark Turner
9 May (6 days ago)
to Mark

Dear colleague I’d like to invite you to a workshop to discuss the development and management of woodlands across the South Pennines. This event follows-on from an earlier meeting held in Todmorden in August 2011.  The workshop will take place on Thursday 31st May 2012 at The Media Centre in Huddersfield ( and will bring together partners from the public, private and voluntary sectors. The workshop will run from 2:00-4:30pm.  The workshop will enable delegates to discuss and update the South Pennines woodland opportunities map currently being produced by consultants with resources provided by the Forestry Commission. So far a number of constraints on woodland creation across the South Pennines National Character Area have been mapped following one-to-one consultation with partner organisations. The workshop will provide an opportunity to ensure that we have correctly recorded the constraints on woodland creation and to begin to identify areas where woodland creation can best be targeted. The event will also provide an opportunity to hear about other potential woodland opportunities across the South Pennines and the development of a proposed South Pennines Local Nature Partnership.  I do hope that you are able to join us on 31st May. If you, or colleagues, would like to come along please can you contact Ann Atkins, Pennine Prospects company secretary (, and confirm attendance by Monday 28th May 2012? Places are limited so please try to book as early as possible. A more detailed agenda and further information about the venue will be circulated to participants ahead of the workshop.  With best wishes

Weeds--what's the problem?

Just had a few days in Linconshire and was struck with the relaxed attitude to the flora allowed to grow in all areas of the towns, in pavements, walls and every nook and cranny. All the large and small towns I visited were the same, not one had spent any money on spraying. It was a delight to botanise all these strange plants and it was so attractive. Good for bees, butterflies, birds.
This lack of spraying is a cultural thing as I have noticed the same thing in Linconshire many years ago before this current economic difficulty. Also a great majority of roadside verges are designated nature areas and managed as such. Wonderful flora for mile upon mile. In contrast, Calderdale has acres of mowed-to-death verges.

One has to ask why Calderdale is so keen on wasting vast amounts of money on spraying. This spring was terrible with brown, dead grasses and plants littering everywhere, Suburbia personified. Maybe we should change our cultural attitude and accept some of our annual flora. Goodness only knows why the base of large mature trees need the grass spraying, it makes a right mess. Leaving the grass long will prevent the root area from drying out, whereas killing the grass puts our urban trees under even more stress.
Time for a policy change? Anybody interested?

Monday, 14 May 2012


I saw my first damselfly today, a large red, at Sunnybank Todmorden. I was just leaving when I saw it perched on my binocular strap! It was very lethargic and unwilling to fly. Probably newly emerged.

Early morning Whimbrel

A Whimbrel flew over my house this morning calling loudly and woke me up. It was 3:30 am!
At least its a new record for the house.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

A beautiful walk in Park Woods

A beautiful walk in Park Wood, Elland yesterday revealed swathes of bluebells as far as the eye could see.

We couldn't have asked for more beautiful weather, wall to wall sun and a breeze to waft the perfume of the bluebells to our noses.

Steve gave information to the walkers about things other than bluebells which they were all appreciative of and after a slight (unintended) detour we made our way down to the canal and back along to our starting point.

A really lovely walk in the woods. Thanks Steve.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Site Visit this Saturday 12th of April at Cromwell Bottom

Just a reminder that the Cromwell Bottom Wildlife Group is meeting in the main car park at 9:00 to 9:30
Lots to do and talk about. We hope to welcome some new faces as well!
The weather looks promising too. Plenty migrant birds to hear and see. Should be an enjoyable day. Everyone Welcome.
And for those who would like to visit the close by Bluebell woods in the afternoon, then visit this Link.

West Lagoon January 2012
See you all then.

Pennine Twite

For those that missed it, here is the Twite article that appeared on Countryfile.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

First ever Orange-tip here

A male Orange-tip visited some Forget-me-nots in my garden briefly mid-day today.
I thought they were only known to feed from Cuckoo-flower.

Small treasures like this make Calderdale a great place to live. We don't  have many national rarities.
Perhaps the Yellow Birds-nest plants at Todmorden and Cromwell Bottom Local Nature Reserve are the best candidates. Unfortunately Network Rail have informed that the one at Todmorden is on land where they would like to extend the carpark for Todmorden Station. They don't need planning permission! Sorry to be the poster of bad news. Must write to Network Rail tomorrow with my positive suggestions to save it.

Here are some of my target species to see soon, sad ommisions from my British "Life List", to borrow a twitching term.
Most will involve trips around the country, but some not very far.

I MUST see:

Mountain Hare (Pennines just South of here.)
Sand Lizard
Pine Marten
Scottish Wild Cat
Stoat in ermine
Most bats
Large Blue Butterfly
Lamprey  (Confidently claimed to have been videoed recently in the Ryburn.)
Ten-spined Stickleback
Sea Eagle
Smooth Snake
Edible Dormouse
Deadly Nightshade
Dryas octopetala
Death Cap fungus
Minke Whale (or any whales.)
Emporer Moth
Privet Hawk-moth
Stag Beetle
Feral Wild Boar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . more than I thought. Won't see them all this year!

Plantation Hare

The Hare reported previously (presumably the same animal) was by the side of the footpath at Ogden Back Lane this afternoon at approx 1340 hrs. I only noticed it when it decided to run so it must have been just 3/4 metres away from me in the grass.

Calderdale Wildlife: Plantation Hare

In the trees at Ogden Res itself, a Grey Tree Rat (Squirrel) was busy trying to raid a Tit species nest in one of the green boxes. It could only get it's nose in and gave up - naturally just as I had my camera almost primed. Judging by the two Great Tits that were acting up nearby, the box must have been their vessel of species continuity.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Newt Survey

If you have any records or sightings of newt anywhere in Calderdale then please contact:

Evie Bell
Ecological Records Officer
01924 306 793
     Distribution map of Palmate and Smooth Newt                              Distribution map of Smooth Newt

Click for  Identification of Palmate Newt                                        Click for  Identification of Smooth Newt
Male smooth newt
Palmate Newt


Monday, 7 May 2012

A Nice Surprise

At Tag Cut (Cromwell Bottom Local Nature reserve) today there was a Moorhen with its brood of 3 or 4 very small chicks.
Lets hope they all survive, and start a resurgence of this lovely species in the area where it used to be much commoner. Mink have been blamed for its scarceness.

Another plant ID please

This was growing in a water sink at the edge of some fields near Midgley

Strait Hey this morning

During a walk over Strait Hey this morning, before the rain set in, a Roe Deer was quietly grazing among the hawthorns.

The birds I saw during the walk included Curlew, Wheatear, Meadow Pipits, Reed Buntings, Lapwing, Linnet and Twite - details are on the Calderdale Birds blog.

Yesterday in Mankinholes I saw my first Speckled Wood of the year.

Soil Hill - Early Monday

Lots of linnets
2 Lapwing
4 Grey Partridge
No Wheatear seen
Crow, Magpie, rather quiet.

Good views of a pair of Roe Deer

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Wild Garlic

Allium ursinum

Michael Sykes sent this picture of Wild Garlic in Crimsworth Dene. The aroma must have been wonderful.

Thanks Mike

2012 Toads at Hebden Hey

Toad season seemed to drop off sharply this year, and by mid-April Hebden Hey, like the other upper valley toad sites, was bereft of sightings. At Hebden Hey the patrol only operates on Fridays and over the weekend, to correspond with the times that the Scout Huts are booked and the road busy. Therefore the numbers below should only reflect a small proportion of the toads that use the site.

In 2012 numbers of toads helped were up, with volunteers helping 221 (174 in 2011) and 80 Palmate Newts (95 in 2011). There were still casualties however, 75 toads (67 in 2011) and 30 Palmates (11 in 2011) not making it to the other side of the road. The higher numbers of casualties this year may be as a result of some particularly busy evenings with lots of traffic.

On the 21st April a 'Toad Talk' was held for upper valley volunteers to discuss their experiences in 2012. In general it appeared that the Todmorden sites all saw the same drop in activity that was noted at Hebden Hey. The site in Portsmouth, previously not patrolled, saw over 600 toads helped, while Lumbutts (last year another site with over 600) only had about 350. It was the general consensus that nobody quite knew what to expect when the weather conditions changed dramatically (remember that snow?) before Easter.

If anyone is interested in getting involved with the patrol at Hebden Hey, or elsewhere in Calderdale, please contact Hugh Firman from Calderdale Council who can put you in touch with local patrollers.

Thanks to everyone who got involved this year, and as we pack away our toad buckets, here's hoping for a good year in 2013!


"Into the Woods Week"coming up!

The bluebells are just at their incredible blue-est at the moment in Elland Park Wood. I am leading a walk there on Saturday 12th May. Meet 1.30pm.

There are wide glades of solid blue in places, and the swathes of them go on right through the wood. Gordon Yates, the well-known photographer and film-maker, has called it "one of the finest bluebell woods in the North of England".

The walk is a Halifax Scientific Society monthly ramble, in conjunction with a Countryside Service Wildside Walk for "Into the Woods Week". All are welcome, and no need to be put off by our name; we are the local natural history society and all our walks are open to the public. No snobbery about knowledge or experience. We all had to start from the beginning. No charge and no packed lunch necessary. (Though a small donation to HSS would be gratefully received by our Treasurer.)

Meet at the bottom of Plains Lane, just on from the the Barge and Barrel Pub towards Brighouse. Meet 1.30 for a 1.45 start. It will be a 2 to 3 hour walk. The paths can be muddy and steep in one or two places. I find a stick or pole useful. We will go right through the wood and return via the canal towpath to Plains Lane.  MAP.

I saw a pair of Treecreepers in the wood today, with the female building her nest behind some loose bark.  Other birds that have been seen this year include Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and up to four Buzzards soaring together!

Friday, 4 May 2012

White Stork at Luddendenfoot last Saturday

Dave Wilson of the Countryside service first reported it and Hugh Firman passed it  on. The small metal ring on its left "ankle" is not the usual scientific ring. Those are put above the main joint and have a number large enough to read with binoculars. We have yet to hear if it is a wanderer from Harewood Bird Garden, the other side of Leeds. Some research needed there.

Whether it was from there, or a genuine migrant on its way back to, say, Sweden, it probably arrived as a result of the easterly airstream we have had. The field it was in was next to the local heronry (about 6 or 7 nests along the riverside trees,) so a wandering bird could have been tempted down by the sight of large nests, a bit like its own.

It was finding lots of food, including at least one, possibly two, frogs. I have videos of it eating these, but my system doesn't want to upload the videos to the blog.

While we were there, a pair of crows attacked and ate one of a pair of mistle thrushes also in the field. Whether they were newly-fledged I didn't notice, being absorbed with the stork. I saw a pair of crows kill and eat a fledged young blackbird in a field at Mill Bank once.  

Jeff Cox got a great shot of the stork taking flight - see Calderdale Bird Blog.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Hang on kids, suppers coming!

The male and female usually alternate between feeds. The male generally picks up 3 or 4. The female has about 10 meal-worms.