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, 26 December 2013

A Good walk for the New Year !

Annual New Year Bird Count                             HALIFAX SCIENTIFIC SOCIETY   Est. 1874
Wednesday 1st January 2014  10.30am at  Clay House, West Vale,  Elland.

Approx. 7 miles walk. Muddy and uneven paths in places, through North Dean Woods and, weather permitting, to the Ladstone on Norland Moor. (Recently shown in “Last Tango in Halifax”.)

In 2013 we saw only 14 species of birds due to inclement weather, but we may be luckier this year. Some brief stopping is inevitable to enjoy birds / views, etc. Bring warm gear and provisions.

Contact leader, Steve, on 0771 500 5379 to confirm or email

First event of many in our special 140th year.  Please ask for a complimentary copy of the programme of walks and talks, or see tab at the top of this blog.

Stonechat I found on Norland Moor today.   

Walks and talks  -  suggested donations to HSS funds £2 non-members or £1 members.

We didn't see the Stonechat, Reed Bunting or winter thrushes, but we did get 18 species, four more than last year on 1st Jan 2013.
Some were in the home garden before setting off, and on the way to the meet, but all countable for a day list. These lists just give an idea of bird diversity on a rainy day in winter 2013-2014, and may be interesting in the future.
Five people who attended saw:
Coal Tit
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Carrion Crow
Feral Pigeon
Black-headed Gull
Grey Wagtail
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Common Gull
Mammals: Grey Squirrel(1) Roe Deer(3 together) Rabbit signs.

We completed the planned route, then three of us enjoyed drinks including pints of Wainwright Ale in the Star at Lindwell (Greetland).

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Roe Deer barking

Sat here at my laptop at home in Skircoat I heard a repeated, monotonous bark in the dark garden or the wood. At first I thought it was a fox, but it got louder and it didn't sound quite like a fox.

I did a search for "Roe Deer barking" and there is a u-tube clip of one making exactly same noise in the daytime in someone's garden.

There is some danger of male deer being aggressive to people when they are rutting.

It's the male fox that barks. The vixen lets out a blood-curdling scream worse than anything in a horror film!

A female Roe deer from Shibden Valley

Sunday, 15 December 2013

First record of a snake skin being picked up in Calderdale - but probably not a native snake.

Readers may remember a while back I posted a picture (below) of a skin a snake had sloughed at Ogden, which was passed on to Hugh Firman who kindly passed it on to me. I sent it to Matt Wilson, a Herpetologist with Manchester Museum, but his disappointing verdict is below.
At least one exotic snake has been photographed by a golfer on the course there. (an American Pine Snake I believe.)


Hi Steve,

"I received the snake skin in the post today and I've had a chance to have a close look at it. It is very difficult to tell because there is only a small part intact and this is around the ventral scales which doesn't give too much to go on. 

However, it is certainly not an adder, nor do I think it is a grass snake. Adders have very obvious keels on their scales when examined closely and so usually do grass snakes. There is a small chance it could be grass snake because looking at some skins I have from Yorkshire show that not all of the scales are keeled, particular those surrounding the larger belly scales. But I can say with about 90% certainty that it is likely to be some kind of common North American species, likely a large example of a Corn snake. Pity as I was really hoping it would turn out to be an adder.

Still don't rule out adders being up at Ogden. "

Friday, 13 December 2013

Update on new library/ new higher rent for existing library

(Peter below is representative of the Halifax Antiquarians)

Dear Peter and Steve

Just a quick note to update you on the position regarding the meeting room at the new facility and storage of your Societies’ collections.

We have received both of your submissions – for which many thanks. We’ll be taking them forward to the next Project Board which is on Friday 17th January 2014.

If you have any queries meanwhile please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

I look forward to seeing you both next Thursday for the Reference Group Christmas meet.

Kind regards


Carole Knowles
Library Services Manager
Communities Directorate
Calderdale MBC

Monday, 9 December 2013

Harlequin ladybirds

I'm not sure whether Harlequin ladybirds are becoming more common in our area but here is a link to an article about a parasitizing wasp. Pity it doesn't explain why the wasp mostly avoids the Harlequin.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

****** Xmas Social Time ******

I hope as many members as possible will join in with the Xmas Social on Tues 10th December at 7.15pm at the Central Library, Halifax. Any former members or friends looking in are invited too. Please pass this invitation on to friends and family, even if they may not want to join the HSS.

The refreshments are tea and coffee plus delicious cakes, etc bought or home made and kindly brought to share.
At the AGM in November I appealed to have AS MUCH HOME BAKED AS POSSIBLE, rather than bought, to avoid buying palm oil, which can come from palm plantations on newly-felled rainforest land. If you can't bake anything, please feel free to bring your favourite shop-bought goodies.

We need to have a group look at our library, and start some serious thinking about what we need in it. The Council has said that we are likely to have only half the space we have now when the new library is built. This job obviously can't be completed on the night of the Social.

There are displays of items from our collections, table sales for funds, etc.

Looking forward to seeing you there.

Chair      :-)

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Dr. Paul Ruffle 1951 - 2013

Paul, our President, died in hospital last Thursday. It is a great sadness to the Society that we have lost him as a friend and active member. He was kindly creating our new website  and the home page can be viewed at Only the tab that brings you to this blog had been finished before Paul was taken ill.

You can read about Paul's career as a graphic designer, web designer and astronomer at

I pass on the Society's condolences to his family, Rose, Lara and Andrew.

Rose's news of Paul's death is below :

I think most of you know by now that Paul died peacefully yesterday (Thursday) morning at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. He was cared for wonderfully at the hospital - both ICU and Ward 15 nurses became very fond of him. 
Paul left a clear note of his wishes:
"I wish to be cremated, and as a committed atheist I do not want ANY sort of religious service! If you can avoid the typical crematorium chapel, all the better!"
He went on to say that he'd like us all (or whoever feels able) to take turns talking about his life and what he has achieved, including telling at least a few of his worst jokes. This should be followed by a "thumping good party with plenty of good food and wine".

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Paul Ruffle Astronomer

I emailed Rose today to enquire if there had been any improvement in our President Paul Ruffle's condition, and got this very sad news - 

Thanks Steve.
Paul won't recover - he has significant brain damage which, with absolutely no change in consciousness in 2 weeks, clinically confirms that even if he woke up which is extremely unlikely, he could never recover.
So there will be no medical intervention now, and we can only hope that he dies peacefully.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Our new website - courtesy of Paul Ruffle

You can see our new website at Just the home page is finished, and very smart it looks. There is one tab working, the one to bring you to this blog.

The terribly sad news is that Paul, our President, who has been kindly building us the website has had a cardiac arrest during an operation. You may remember that he had a perforated bowel in October, just the day before he was due to fly to Borneo with his partner, Rose.

He was recovering from that when he had another perforation of the bowel which needed emergency surgery.
It was during this operation that his heart stopped. Rose says they started it again pretty quickly, but he may have suffered significant brain damage. He is now in a coma.

I have emailed Rose back and said that all our thoughts are with them.

You can see Paul's own website by searching "Paul Ruffle - Astronomer - Starry starry night".

Paul had brought us one amazing talk and visual presentation entitled "The Birth, Life and Death of Stars", after which we asked him if he would like to be our president, which he immediately accepted. He had planned to bring us another one on the "Physics and Chemistry of the Matter between the Stars" this May, but obviously we don't expect him to be able to do this now.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Hedgehogs in Calderdale

When have you last seen a hedgehog? Have you seen or heard a hedgehog rustling around in your back garden or woodland (or even a squished one on the road)? If so, Betony Atkinson, a student placement working with Countryside Services, would like to know. Please send details, including the location and date of the sighting, to to help her draw up a picture of their distribution in Calderdale.

photo – credit to Mrs. Pat  Morris, BHPS

Link to next BAP meeting at Mytholmroyd

Downloadable distribution map (click on link below)

HSS - Momentous Annual General Meeting last night.

At the AGM last night, apart from annual reports from Chair and Treasurer, Recorders of Mycology, Birds, Botany, Herpetology and Lepidoptera, the election of Officers for the coming year and the showing of some archive slides there was an appeal by our former Treasurer, Linda Kingsnorth, for donations to the Philippines appeal following the "Worst Storm ever recorded on earth" which has just hit that nation of so many already poverty-stricken people.

Members donated £40, which is increased to £50 by the Gift Aid scheme. Well done Linda.

This is a link to show our donation, and where you can make further donations if you wish¤cy=GBP&rc=0

I explained in my Chairman's report that Calderdale Council suggests we should be able to pay full charitable rate for hiring our rooms. This would be phased in in two increases, they suggest. We have made a long submission all about the society and how we have with a fairly low membership at the moment. ( We have often had dips and peaks in our enrollment) and that we fulfill an important role in the town, but wait to hear back. Our submission has to go before the elected members of the Council.

However, the executive of HSS suggest that a more realistic subscription might be £15 instead of £10 for the year, with concessions for those on low incomes for whatever reason, and free for under 18s.

Three new members were elected: Graham Haigh (also Chair of Cromwell Bottom Wildlife Group), Johnny Turner (Bryologist) of Hebden Bridge and Peachy Steve (Botanist) of Sowerby.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

H.S.S. Annual General meeting - reminder

Tuesday November 12th. The A.G.M. with Archive slides to follow. In the Halifax Central Library at 7:15 pm

Friday, 8 November 2013

Lyme Disease warning in the Courier

I've had tics burrowing into me three times - each time after going out looking at wildlife.
(One each in Ireland, Cumbria and Scotland - my dog got one at Fly Flatts, Halifax.)
I'm glad I didn't get one carrying the disease, but just a warning for next Summer.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Pithya looking good

P. vulgaris is beginning to look good now and getting bigger although appears to be confined to a small area at the moment.

Emma, me and David saw the emerging P. vulgaris at Ogden yesterday - a first for David.
Thanks to Alison for alerting us to its fresh appearance. Last year was the first UK record since 1888.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Hardcastle Crags Sunday 27th October

This was from the Soil Hill walk a few weeks ago. It's a water plant - a hornwort from a deep semi-permanent puddle in the track on top of  Soil Hill. Geoffey Willmore of West Yorkshire Ecology confirmed its rarity away from the Wakefield/Leeds lowlands. Ceterophyllum demersum.

 We had a rainy walk in the top end of the Crags on Sunday 27th October.. Some fascinating finds, though, including this striking beetle, Nicrophorus investigator, which was burrowing among rotten fungi at the base of a tree.

 This moss hangs from branches creating a jungle effect. Possibly Hypnum mammilatum.

This erect moss has amazing twiggy branches. "Twangy" moss we called it. There was just this patch.

This beautiful lichen had come down from high in a Sycamore on a dead branch.It had a silvery reverse side.

We saw 2 dead rabbits (1 partly eaten by a raptor), and a dead bank vole very near this feeding site.

One lively Dipper Cinclus cinclus on the river.

Lots of very nice fungi, though mostly spoiled by the rain. See Mycology blog. (Link to the left.)

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Your Support is Needed

Cromwell Bottom Nature Reserve has been placed on a shortlist for a grant from Lloyds Community Fund. Please help us directly by voting online at:-  

then please check your inbox and click on the link.

Many thanks for your support.

Planning Application


I just wanted to inform your members that there is a planning application for a 60 bed 5 story Hotel on Wakefield road at Copley (opposite Lloyds banking group).

I know that this area is used by Deer and that otter have been spotted on the Canal. There will also be a vast number of trees which will be removed.

Here is the link to the application if your members would care to look and make their objections:-

Kind Regards


Monday, 14 October 2013

Speckled Wood Butterfly Caterpillar

                                         It eats grass in my kitchen after I found it in the garden.
                                         You can see one of the two white prongs on its rear end.
                                   I'm hoping it will pupate eventually and emerge as an adult which I will release.
                                                                   Pararge aegeria

Friday, 11 October 2013

Further finds on the Walk to Bradshaw, Ogden and Soil Hill on 6th Sept

Red Admiral Butterfly sipping Bramble juice at Ogden Reservoir
Click once to enlarge picture

Comma Butterfly doing the same
First time I've noticed this behaviour

 Cortinarius thought possibly C. flexipes by finder Steve beside Ogden Res.
Webcaps like this are poisonous. 

Rabbit at entrance to its burrow at Bradshaw

There was a steep south-facing bank near a cottage which had a tangle of wild plants, but with the soil showing through. It was alive with grasshoppers, said to be stridilating, but that's one natural sound I can no longer hear to my great regret. (Too many loud music gigs!)

With thanks to PeachySteve  for taking and forwarding the pictures.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Next Walk is tomorrow, Saturday

Sat Oct 12th    Fungus Foray, Jumble Hole Clough. 
Meet Jumble Hole Road, Sandbed SD970263 at 10:30 am. suitable for children.  

Allow plenty of time to get there - road works. See comment below.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Rare plant in flower on Monthly Society Ramble

This is Hedgerow Cranesbill Geranium pyrenaicum, noticed and identified on the spot by Steve, our friend from Sowerby on the walk on Sunday 6th September. Its flowers are about 15mm  (5/8inch) across.

The only site mentioned in West Yorkshire Plant Atlas (Lavin and Wilmore 1994) is in Halifax -
Bolton (1775) 'At Lower Willow Hall, Skircoat.' Doubtfully native, with a first British record in 1762
(Clapham, Tutin and Warburg, 1962). An uncommon West Yorkshire species recorded very occasionally from hedgebanks, waste ground and field margins.

Steve spotted this - a single plant - on an unmown verge of a farm lane at Bradshaw. SE075306

Great find Steve, from Steve B. Will try and  get to look at your Hypericum at Sowerby Bridge.

Sunday's walk - Bradshaw, Ogden Water and Soil Hill.

One White Ermine larva was seen (above) along with several tawny coloured Buff Ermine larvae no doubt searching for pupation sites.

Steve (from Sowerby Bridge) found these attractive Blue Roundheads near Strine's beck.

Plenty of Magic Mushrooms about - I still haven't plucked up enough courage to try some!

Plums and Custard at Ogden on Pine.

A Parrot Waxcap (I think), from near Strine's beck, Bradshaw.

Not sure about this one from Ogden - either Grisette or Tawny Grisette?

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Fungi in North Dean Woods.

Fungi seen today in North Dean Woods,

and an unusual ladybird

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Brumation--have you heard it before?

I have just received the Woodland Trust e-newsletter and I quote this---

"Amphibians… Frogs and toads enter brumation as the temperature drops. They seek out spots at the bottom of ponds, under stones or logs or bury themselves in leaf litter."

Brumation is a new word for me. A lesser state of hibernation apparently.

Tree Bumblebee nest

Found in a bird box in Holywell Green at the home of Christine Eves, Scientific Society Treasurer, this Tree Bumblebee nest. They seem to like bird boxes as we have seen others this year in other gardens. This one had a solitary live bee in it.
Tree Bumble Bee Bombus hypnorum, which arrived from Europe and was first discovered in Wiltshire in 2001, is one of the commonest in Calderdale Gardens, having spread from the south.
You can see the typical bumble bee nectar cups they fill when they're working the
flowers. They don't thicken the nectar into honey by fanning it with their wings, as honey bees do.


Saturday, 28 September 2013

Spider Withens Clough 28-09-13

                                          I think it's an Orb Web Spider (Araneus quadratus)

And Still More

These are by the side of Strines Beck, Bradshaw. The field corner is carpeted with Crocus nudiflorus 

At a guess 300 to 400 blooms. There is a walk to that location on Sunday October 6th - See Header above.

This unidentified fungus is nearby

And even more...

Michael saw these at Withens, Halifax

A good year for these little beauties.

Autumn Crocus excellent year 2013

I just had a call from Sim at Cold Edge to let me know that the crocus up there are excelling themselves this year. He says they are a sheet of purple. They are in the field on the left going up below Withens Gap Farm and visible from the road. Please consider local residents if parking near there.

Autumn Crocus Crocus nudiflorus at Soyland

3 stamens below the Feathery Stigmas

If you think you've found Autumn Crocus, especially if it's in a garden, check that it has 3 stamens ( the straight club-shaped organs below the feathery stigmas, )
If it has six it will be Meadow Saffron Colchicum autumnale, a lily-relative sold by garden centres as "Autumn Crocus", which is poisonous and not to be used for saffron.

There are 37  known sites where the true Autumn Crocus grows, mostly in fields and along riversides in Calderdale.
They are spread between Elland, along the Ryburn valley,  North Halifax, the mid-Calder area, especially Luddenden Dean, and then, after what appears to be a gap around Hebden Bridge, they pop up again at Todmorden. Many were re-found  or newly-discovered recently with the help of HSS survey volunteers and members of the public.

We've lost some at Brearley, near the river Calder, which could still be there; also there are several other missing patches.

The 2010 booklet, with history of the plant and map-references to sites, is available from Halifax Scientific Society. ( See panel at the top.)

Any better photos than mine would be very welcome - I could put them on this blog.