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

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Autumn Crocus Sweep results.


Crocus nudiflorus
We visited 9 sites. Most of which held good quantities, but mostly flattened by the wind and rain:
Dean Lane
Deerplay Farm ( none found - never been refound here recently.)
Kebroyd river bank (Grassy Bottom)
Turn Lee House, Cottonstones.
Dog Kennel Lane (near Turn Lee House) - none showing here - everything bitten well off by Texel sheep.
Shaw Edge Pasture, Soyland
Soyland - top of Foxen Lane
Upper Cockroft House, Rishworth
Still no clue where Goat House is, where a colony is said to bloom each year. Must research it at the library. Think the house has been renamed.

There is still about 2 weeks of the flowering period remaining this year.

The owner of Turn Lee House was happy as usual to let us in his garden, (there were 3 of us.) where we were able to see the crocus blooming alongside the misnamed "Autumn Crocus", Colchicum autumnale, the one in the lily family with the lily's 6 stamens unlike the crocus's 3.
He showed one of our party inside his house to see the timbers which go back to wattle and daub construction times. The crocus is often associated with these mediaeval houses.

In the Halifax (Copley) area on the Calder banks at the Junior Sports Field, among the young oaks, there were plenty in the usual spots, but no blooms in the area where much crocus foliage comes up in spring, east of the flowering colonies.

You see this also at Kebroyd, where there is a non-flowering colony 60 paces downstream from the footbridge, on the edge of the Ryburn. (The main patches are up stream, under beeches and other trees, on the left bank, just below the weir. - left bank looking down stream.)
We kept a bird list for the trip: Grey wagtail, pied wagtail, dipper, goosander, kestrel and kingfisher being among them.

Clouded agaric
Fungi seen included a spectacular colony of clouded agaric, a broad dryad's saddle, a few amethyst deceiver and turkeytail.
Scientific names: Clitocybe nebularis, Polyporus squamosus, Laccaria amethystina, and Trametes versicolor.

Guitarist Brian May to front rally against badger cull

Queen guitarist Brian May is to front a public rally in Bristol against a cull of badgers in the West Country.
Picture AP
The Stop the Cull rally took place earlier at College Green.  (BBC News Story)

Taken yesterday near Gibson Mill

This series of pictures were taken by Michael Sykes. They are from Hardcastle Crags, Hebden Bridge.

Amanita citrina

Froth on the water

Laccaria amethystina

Lycoperdon pyriforme

Peltigera cannina (dog lichen)
Autumnal sun

Gibson Mill top dam

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Outing to view Crocus nudiflorus sites

I am leading a "Crocus Sweep" this Sunday 30th September 2012. All welcome. No charge.
Gather at County Bridge at Sowerby Bridge. 10.30 for 10.45. There is plenty of street parking around there. We can share cars from there if convenient. It's the main bridge over the river Calder. We will take small walks then drive on to the next site.

The intention is to visit as many as possible of the known sites in the Ryburn Valley (about 12 - a new one has come to light since "The Mystery of the Autumn Crocus" was published  in 2011- it's in the grass verge of the main road near 112, Oldham Rd.) Some of the colonies are tiny but need monitoring and action plans developing for.

Bring packed lunch and 2 big plastic bags for your walking boots (to put on your feet) if going in somebody else's car. ( Not that I'm really fussy about my car.) A couple of locations need to be walked to through long grass, so gaiters or leggings if it's a wet day. We could lunch on the parapets of the bridge at Soyland, with good views all round.

The Crocus Sweep is an unofficial HSS walk.

 The next one in the programme is the Fungus Foray to Jerusalem Farm and Wade Wood on 13th October, all welcome and no charge, donations to HSS welcome. This one is in conjunction with the Countryside Services Wildside Walk Programme. Bring a packed lunch and basket or tubs to carry fungi in for identification.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Calder in spate at Copley, Hollas Lane Bridge


The river is up to four courses of stone still showing of the old bridge whose demolition was summarily imposed upon us by the council, (far right.)  On the left four mallards have found slack water with good feeding opportunities.

Three drakes and a duck. One of the drakes hasn't completely come out of eclipse plumage. He still has a brown head and no curl on his rump. Or is he a bird of the year just getting his first adult plumage?

Monday, 24 September 2012

Extra walk took place

This was a casual walk, not in the printed syllabus of HSS.

It was a chill wind, but a fine day that  accompanied the 5 of us up to Hoof Stone Heights.
Some of the others considered the carving to be nearer an arrow shape than a hoof.

The vertical mark, which I see as the "frog" of the hoof-print, points straight at the summit of Pendle Hill, way off across the valley. Pendle is the most prominent landmark looking west.  A way- marker in times of low visibility? Part of the system of lay-lines some people say exists? Dave decided it had been done with an iron chisel, not with a small stone.

It wasn't clear enough to recognise any distant landmarks, except the feint shape of Pen-y-Ghent to the north.

On the way down we passed the Wolf Stones and pondered on the name. (I've read the last English wolf was killed in the Yorkshire Wolds, and by gun, so not that long ago - I think it was in the 17thC.)

Later, Dave ( Dr Dave) took us to Bridestones, and a bit past and below them, to Golden Stones. There he showed us a massive slab that has been levered up about 2 ft (60cm) and propped under one end with a smaller boulder. These occur throughout the Pennines ( about 7 of them, right up to Cumbria,) but no one knows why they did it. Some indistinct carved grooves are often to be seen on the rock below, as they are here.

These historical features may seem more the stuff of Antiquarian Society investigations, but they are the evidence of our ancestors who shaped the landscape and which now supports our particular wildlife.

A pair of peregrines was watched circling over Staups Moor, a snipe flushed near Bridestones, and several red grouse seen flying; noticeably silent at this time of year.

Very few flowers were out, and no insects. Only tormentil, a little heather, a few hawkweed flowers.

Fungi are beginning to show. There were two very different Mycaena, one black, another pale and very like common bonnet, but in totally the wrong habitat, and several magic mushrooms, also once known to past generations as liberty caps, Psilocybe, which the law has recently forbidden us to gather. Welcome to the free world.

Meadow Re-seeding

Email from  

Charlotte Weightman

Dear All

Fancy walking up and down fields close to the moorland edge in our spectacular countryside, broadcasting wildflower seeds from a bucket?  We are working with farmers in Calderdale to restore hay meadows next to the moor land edge to provide food sources for the endangered little Pennine Finch, the Twite.   [More info] 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Extra Scientific Society walk

There will be an extra walk other than those on the printed programme of rambles.

I will be leading a shortish but boggy walk to look at an old carving I found on a rock at Hoofstone Heights, which I'm sure is the source of the name.

It is a hoof-like shape with apparently a way-marking purpose. Come along and see where it points !

These rocks are said to be the highest point in Calderdale. You can see Blackpool Tower if the air is clear below the clouds. (Too hazy on a sunny day.)

We will be parking on the Long Causeway above Todmorden, but meeting up, perhaps to share cars, at Russell Deans car park, Mytholmroyd.

Dr Dave Shepherd, the archaeologist who is presenting a talk in October for us, has said he would like to attend if he can, but it isn't a lecture or tutorial, just a "walk with conversation".

If there is time, we may pop in to the Bridestones on the way back, which are very near the road, and bog-free. They may also have some archaeological secrets.

SUNDAY 23rd SEPTEMBER meet Mytholmroyd 10.30am for 10.45.
Bring a drink and packed lunch if you want.

Stop the Badger cull

Original post from Andy Kiz
The government has now issued licenses for the culling of badgers, despite scientific evidence given to them that culling would not stop the spread of TB but would in-fact increase it.

Please sign this petition and share wherever you think you can. We need 100,000 signatures to try get this decision reversed and we are a third of the way there.   Sign the Petition here: 

‘I think the most interesting observation was made to me by a senior politician who said, “fine John we accept your science, but we have to offer the farmers a carrot. And the only carrot we can possibly give them is culling badgers”.’
Professor John Bourne  (Chair of the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) on bTB)

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Old Hairy Legs

Probably Tegenaria duellica

Old Hairy legs has been living in my cellar for awhile now-don't know what he finds to eat?

Pictures & post - Michael Sykes.
Coprinus micaceus

The fungi and acorn were seen in North Dean on September 14th. There are very few fungi in the woods apart from earth balls. Never seen it so sparse. 


Sunday, 16 September 2012

Crocus we were looking for yesterday.

Autumn crocus, Crocus nudiflorus SB
I am leading a "Crocus Sweep" , part walk, part drive, to look at the sites we know of in the Ryburn Valley, (about 6 sites)  on Sun. 30th September, meet at County Bridge, the main bridge over the Calder at Sowerby Bridge. 10.30 for 10.45 start. Bring a packed lunch. Please book a place on the sweep - no charge, but places limited. Mobile 0771 500 5379
These autumn crocus in the photo were blooming some years ago at Oats Royd Nature Reserve, on the banks of the Strines Beck, Holmfield. Yesterday we found just three blooms higher up the beck at the large sycamore with a huge hole through its trunk. There have been up to 400 near the tree in recent years.
The main time of their flowering is usually mid-September to mid-October. It has been a very unusual summer, though, and a cold spring when the leaves would have been above ground.

There were also none showing in St John's churchyard, Bradshaw, where a few exist along the eastern boundary wall.

This area is documented as being at one time probably the richest area in Calderdale for the flower. Even in the memory of some of our senior members there were sheets of them in the fields in the background of the picture. No longer.

The literature says that the crocus-strewn hay meadows, field after field, once stretched for one or two miles, presumabely from the Ovenden Hall area, where there is evidence they once grew, all along Shay Lane, to Holmfield, Bradshaw and Oats Royd.

Their origin and the reason why this non-native plant flourished so well? It is native to the Pyrenees in South West France (I have travelled there to see it); English Kings ruled that part of France in the Middle Ages: the Knights of St. John were the Knights Hospitallers and would have needed supplies of saffron for their healing duties (it was considered a cure-all, as well as being a valuable dye); this same order of knights owned much farm land in Yorkshire, including around Holdsworth House, which still bears their insignia on one of the gable ends - a Maltese Cross. There's St John's Church - the present building is much more recent - and St. John's Close, a group of cottages at Bradshaw.

The evidence seems to point to the crocus being introduced to produce saffron. It would have grown well under the hay-making sytem. The fields are manured in winter. The crocus leaves come up with the grass in spring, but are not grazed or cut until haymaking time, when they have already shrivelled, in May, having completed the spring cycle when they gather energy. Then the aftermath or regrowth of grass in autumn was often closed off to animals for a source of winter grazing, and the purple blooms appear in this.

None of the 32 sites we have discovered or rediscovered in Calderdale (some of them tiny even when we recorded them) are now on land under the traditional haymaking system. We do have some sizeable colonies though, none more remarkable than a long swathe of them in a field at Cold Edge, Wainstalls, opposite the building that once was the Withens pub.

If anybody notices any of the blooms anywhere, please let us know here.  If you are not enrolled, you can email to the address above or use the mobile number above.

My booklet with further reading and photos "The Mystery of the Autumn Crocus" is available priced £6.00 inc postage, all proceeds to the Halifax Scientific Society.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

HSS Monthly Walk today

We had a great day to ramble from Bradshaw to Ogden, taking field paths and stiles most of the way, on to Soil Hill, then over and down to Oats Royd NR and back via Holmfield.

The main species we hoped to see was the autumn crocus Crocus nudiflorus which is down by Strines Beck below Bradshaw, and a few at Oats Royd, near the ponds. Unfortunately we were too early this year, only finding 3 blooms. (Forgot to take pictures.)

Written accounts, and some memories of our older members, say that many of the fields in the area were covered in the crocus in autumn. Changes in farming, mainly the demise of traditional haymaking, seem to have reduced them and they could be gone soon, unless we do something to conserve them.

With my increasing interest in butterflies and moths, I was looking for larvae to bring on to adults and the four of us on the ramble found a couple of interesting caterpillars.

Birds on Soil Hill were 2 skylarks and a distant flock of c.20 brown finches, thought to be linnets.
Other birds were a kestrel and a sparrowhawk at Oats Royd. No sign of the crossbills at Ogden. A moorhen had at least one juvenile on the ponds, and sadly a freshly killed moorhen was on the path about half a mile away nearly at Holdsworth House. Looked as if it had been killed by a dog.
Three swallow nests in a low shelter at Holdsworth House.

Broom Moth ?

Bruce's irresistable beard
ID help please. It was eating sorrel.
 There was more red on its spots than this shot shows.  Could it be the Dagger?

One footpath at Bradshaw was unuseable due to overgrowing herbage. Another near Strines Beck was all but impassable due to deep mud. At one time the landowners were responsible for maintaining footpaths across their land and could be fined for not doing so. Now they seem to engineer problems for us walkers to keep us away. One reason for our regular rambles is to keep the footpaths open. Use them or lose them !

Ogden Area

This picture was taken at Stod Fold today where I also saw my first Red Admiral for a long while; it flew away just as I was about to focus. About 3 Peacocks also seen this morning and ditto Speckled Woods.
Click here for birds seen.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Tree Sparrow Feeder Monitoring

What other species might be using the feeders put out for the Tree Sparrows ?

Image: Steve Blacksmith

This took place on 2nd September, last Sunday. We were concerned that though volunteers were filling up the feeders with red millet most days of the week we didn't know to what extent the seed was being eaten by other species.

More information and survey results...

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Next Meeting of the Society - Tonight

The next meeting of the Halifax Scientific Society is
tonight 11th at the Central Library, Halifax, at 7:15pm


David is a professional wildlife photographer with a stunning portfolio of images.
This event should appeal to all our local wildlife photographers. Its not to be missed. See our main page at:

Friday, 7 September 2012

Open Day at Brighouse Library and Art Gallery

For additional Info of events at Brighouse Library and Art Gallery: click here

A fun-packed free event for all ages is to be held at Brighouse Library this Saturday the 8th of September, 10:00 am until about 3:30 pm.

The Cromwell Bottom Wildlife Group will have a display and sale of photographs of birds and other wildlife to be seen at Cromwell Bottom. There will be information about the site and our goals to enhance the area for wildlife and people alike. There will be a "Big Butterfly Hunt" for  children (and bigger kids) in the library and grounds. Videos of birdlife and recordings of birdsong will be played throughout the day.

At the site itself, we have lots to do now autumn is here, so your help is needed. We have placed a memorial stone, bench and photographers' screen at the bird feeding station. Much more is to be done!

We are a voluntary group and desperately need:

Any garden tools, especially a petrol strimmer.
Bird seed and feeders - please bring whatever you can spare. 
Serviceable benches you may be discarding.
Donations to buy bird feed.
Old clothes for fundraising.
And last but not least - more members and volunteers! For more information email us at:

Brighouse Library is also hosting lots of other events for everyone on the day.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Trichomonosis in greenfinch

   Today a juvenile Greenfinch landed on our bird feeder, the first we have seen for some time. However it was obviously unwell. It tried to feed on seeds but did so without seeming to actually ingest any seeds and kept wiping its beak to clear it of seeds. It was lethargic, almost sleepy, and fluttered off into the undergrowth in the nearby garden. It returned some time later and went through the same actions.

I fear it may be suffering from  trichomonosis .
Greenfinch infected with trichomonosis
Picture -  R.S.P.B.

We used to get lots of Greenfinches, but this poor thing is the first we have seen in a long time.

Hope this is of interest.

Regards, Mavis,   Soyland

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Black Darter and Sun Fly ?

 Cold Edge Dams today.What i think are Black Darter and Sun Fly.

plant id help

I think the bottom pic id redshank/persicaria , Horse mint second pic and the top one is common but i dont know what it is,/?any help/comments  appreciated

Monday, 3 September 2012

Open Day at Brighouse Library

A fun-packed free event for all ages is to be held at Brighouse Library this Saturday the 8th of September, 10:00 am until 4:00 pm.

The Cromwell Bottom Wildlife Group will have a display...[more]

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Profusion of Butterflies

We have had at least 15 Small Tortoiseshell,2 Peacock and 2 Comma butterfly on our Buddleia in the last 24 hours. The best we have seen in 6 years.
Thanks to Colin Duke for the most probable I.D. of the Hover fly

Hover fly - Eristalis horticola 

tortoiseshell and Peacock