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

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Happy New Walking Year !

My page in the Wildside Booklet . . . .

A regular count over the same walk builds up into a snapshot of birdlife in our time. In future those who look back may notice differences, or similarities.

This year (2014) the New Year Bird Count over this walk gave us 18 species : -

Clay House - through North Dean Woods and across Norland Moor to the Ladstone, and back.
Caol Tit
Great Tit
Blue Tit
Carrion Crow
Feral Pigeon
Black-headed Gull
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Common Gull
Grey Wagtail

There were five walkers plus two dogs. (Room for plenty more this time.)
Bring a packed lunch. It can be muddy in the woods and windy on the moor.
Contact me if you're on your way and can't find Clay House at West Vale.

Report on the Walk 1.1.15:

Eleven people turned up to my surprise, a good number. Some old friends and new.
The first part, through North Dean Woods, it was dry but overcast, and we were taking layers off - it was so warm.

We noticed the extensive thinning that has been going on near to Clay House. This might bring some summer migrants back, after the understorey has re-developed in the sunshine, like warblers and the two species of flycatchers which disappeared from there some time ago. 

The most prominent fungus was the Birch Polypore as usual, being big and noticeable to the non-mycologists on the walk. I also noticed a dog-chewed stick shot through with the turquoise of the Green Elf Cap fungus Chlorociboria aeruginascens; the one that stains the timber and makes it valuable to marquetry workers. (I searched for "fungus Tunbridge ware" and found illustrations of the work.)

At the disused church at Copley we noticed on the outer wall by the Lych-gate a luxuriant specimen of Hart's Tongue Fern, and beside it several plants of a corrugated form of it. One frond has a forked midrib.

We had all together 21 species of bird, three up on last year, despite missing out the Norland Moor section, due to a strong squall of wind and rain blowing up as we reached the top of Norland Clough.
Two grey squirrels were the only wild mammals seen.
Birds Seen:
(Some on way there.)
Blue Tit
Coal Tit
Collared Dove
House Sparrow
Great Tit
Goldfinch c.8
Carrion Crow
Fieldfare (2)
Large Gull - unidentified
Feral Pigeon
Mistle Thrush (2)
Redwing (1)
Black-headed Gull

Friday, 26 December 2014

Saturday Walk

We have in the programme an informal walk marked  for tomorrow 27th December.

How about going to Mixenden Reservoir and the mixed conifer/broadleaved plantation around it?

The walk can be lengthened if everyone is in agreement, up towards Ogden.

Meet 10.30 for 10.45 leaving from the fish shop area in the middle of Saville Park Moor, Halifax, or meet on the road below the Res, but let me know if meeting there as I may not come if no-one turns up.

This used to be a favourite walk of the HSS.

Saturday Evening 27.12.14:

Pictures from the walk:

Mixenden Reservoir
A Great Northern Diver was staying there. My pictures were poor, but some good ones are over on Calderdale Birds Blog. We bumped into Dave Sutcliffe, the original finder of the Diver. He had been caught with his family in the Sheffield Gridlock yesterday evening!

We set off to the next Reservoir, Ogden Water

We saw no other walkers until we got to Ogden Water

the smudges are dust in my camera

Crossing the polar ice-cap of Ogden Golf Course, we found the snow littered with conifer seeds drifting from the plantation. I think they were larch seeds.

We had company as we stopped for lunch. (A Carrion Crow and scores of people plus their dogs doing the circuit of the reservoir.)

The variety of ice formations is amazing. You could call this one  "Lace- ice"

We returned via the lanes of Ogden which were nice and almost traffic-free for a change

Returning through Mixenden Plantation
Frank Murgatroyd once saw a Woodcock on its nest here. He said the first thing he noticed was its eye looking at him. Our bird list today is below. (Three of us were on the walk.)

Great Northern Diver
Common Gulls
Black-headed Gulls
Woodpigeons (few)
Crows, Jackdaws, Magpies
Snipe (7 together)
Meadow Pipits (13 together)
Lapwings (20)
Pied Wagtail

And we watched a Roe Deer bounding through the snow in the fields. It stopped to look at us for a moment.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Decorative Lichens

Growing on a sandstone wall above Todmorden where the builder has cut nearly every stone using a portable stone saw - an unusual  technique.

So it's quite a young community of lichens . . .

They looked like the work of an inspired textile designer . . .
Click on the picture to enlarge.

Appreciating natural things for me starts with simple enjoyment. It's not necessary to know the names of the species straight away. 

Lichens, especially the foliose (leafy) types can be extra plump and bright in the wet of winter, and are worth stopping to look at when there are fewer birds, insects, fungi and flowers distract.
The ones above are growing out in the open in full sun and the wind. Foliose types tend to grow on wall-tops under trees; sometimes on the twigs themselves

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Last Saturday's Walk to Pudsey Clough and upcoming Christmas Social

For those who like to keep their feet on dry carpet - this is a scene from the walk. It wasn't all hunching round tiny fungi in the grass - it also included agility-testing bog hopping and slippery stile climbing. My favourite spare time activities ! There was low cloud blanketing the moor above Burnley Old Road, unfortunately, so we didn't get to Hoofstone Height.

Birds we saw included Kestrel, Mistle Thrush and Raven, and fungi included beautiful Heath Waxcap, Meadow Waxcap and Crimson Waxcap  Also Amber Jelly growing all over the twigs high in willow trees, which looked like some kind of secondary re-emergence of leaves or fruit, with the light shining through them. A new fungus to me, pointed out and identified by Peachysteve.

Some of the other images that stick in my mind are of the gushing streams and waterfalls, made visible below the paths since the oaks have shed their leaves.

Christmas Social.

The equally important dry carpet aspects of the HSS's activities continue with the Christmas Social, which is on December 9th. 7.15 - 9.15 at our usual rooms in the Halifax Central Library.  This year, apart from eating cake and drinking cuppas, I have suggested we assemble our favourite fossils from home collections to talk about, photograph, and make a document of.

                   It's the last meeting of our 140th Celebration Year.

          And the programme for 2015, already at the printers, should be ready.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Saturday, 29th November Walk (see above)

As the forecast is for fog, I'll have to decide when reaching Burnley Old Road whether to venture onto the moor above. I could use a compass, but the views may be non-existent when we get to the Hoofstone.

From high up in Pudsey Clough

Anyway, if it's not too foggy, the views in Pudsey Clough and its dramatic cliffs, waterfalls and woods will be enhanced by the sfumato effect; an opportunity for photography, and it's going to be quite mild.

I've checked with Sutcliffe Furniture, and their big carpark next to the Waggon and Horses Pub at Cornholme is freely available.

See you all about 10.30 for 10.45 setting off.


There's one more walk in 2014, on Dec. 27th, to be confirmed. Then the New Year Bird Count on 1st Jan. 2015 at 10.30-10.45 meets at Clay House West Vale to go through North Dean Woods NR and across Norland Moor to the Ladstone.(In the Wildside Programme.)

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Amazing re-encounter with a bird by a ringer, from an email from BTO Demography Unit


Ringer migration confirmed by a Blackcap

Back in September, we posted about the large numbers of Blackcaps that were moving through the central and western parts of the country. We were contacted recently with a fantastic story of a chance re-encounter between a member of the Brewood Ringing Group and one of these migrants.

Colin McShane writes:

Over the last 8 years I have been leading an Autumn ringing trip to the Parque Ambientale, in Vilamoura, Portugal with support from Vitor Encarnacao who heads up the Portuguese Ringing Scheme. Our trips have been successful on several levels and many British ringers have joined us over the years to expand their experience.

We have also controlled a number of birds from northern Europe, including Reed Warblers from Belgium, France, Germany and Sweden, and Bluethroats from France. On 06 October 2014 during this year’s trip, I extracted a male Blackcap from one of our standard mist nets and was very pleased, although not too surprised, to find that it was carrying a BTO ring. Back at the processing station, Dave Clifton (who has been an ever-present fixture on these trips) was doing his stint as the scribe. Having announced to the group what I had extracted, I began to process the bird - first reading out the ring number several times for accuracy.

Dave went quiet. He quickly got onto the phone to his wife, who checked in his ringing book back home. Hey Presto!! The bird was indeed one (of only two Blackcaps ringed at the site) he had ringed at Duckley Plantation, on the north shore of Blithfield Reservoir, Staffordshire on 11th September 2014 - only a few weeks before we had left for Portugal!!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Aerial roots on grass

Steve in his comments on my pollard item mentioned aerial roots on young Ash saplings.

Below are photos of this also happening on Reed Canary grass - Phalaris arundinaceae. These roots appeared on an upper node on the stem but only on those stems that were bending low towards the damp ground. It as though the grass is anticipating contact with the ground.

I cut off this stem just below the aerial roots and grew it on and the last photo shows how it has formed a new plant with good fibrous roots.

Some grasses also modify their spikelets and instead of the usual 'flower' structure they produce modified leaves. Cocksfoot is a good example, particularly if flowering very late in the year due to warm weather; where you will often see proliferation of the spikelet in the form of odd shaped little leaves.

I think the theory is that grass flowers are in evolutionary terms just modified leaves, so in the case of proliferation they are remembering where they came from.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Water Shrew

Could not find the Black Redstart today but we did have another Water Shrew in the same tributary of Strines Beck as in May 2011.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Oak Tree Pollards

Here are 2 photos of Oak trees that have been pollarded at some stage in their life,

The first one is a lapsed pollard found in Centre Vale Park Todmorden, which has suffered greatly from the shading of self-seeded trees close by. Oaks need plenty of light and space.

This Oak would have been in the open when it was younger and is a good indicator of what the landscape was like before woodland arrived. It is full of character and one can look at it for ages trying to work out how it got those bulges and folds on the trunk.

The second Oak is in a nearby wood but is not subject to as much shade. It has been re-pollarded and shows the fresh spring of new shoots. These new shoots can be allowed to grow for any number of years before being re-cut but 10 to 20 years gives good sizes for lots of uses.

There are plenty of lapsed pollards of many species in the Calder Valley and it can be fun trying to spot them. Because of this method of management, the trees as they age create many more niches for wildlife than a 'woodland' tree.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Autumn Crocus in Calderdale

I was asked to contribute a small piece about the Autumn Crocus to BEAT (Balckshaw Head Environmental Action Trust,) so I thought I would let blog visitors read it.

The Autumn Crocus Crocus nudiflorus in Calderdale                Steve Blacksmith November 2014
The Autumn Crocus  flowers appear between mid- September and  mid-October, and come up in the grass, or the leaf mould under trees  with none of their leaves, hence nudiflorus. They are a strong purple, with, if you’re lucky to catch them in warm sun, prominent golden yellow stamens. Their “stem” is a long white corolla tube which Crocus have instead of a conventional stem.  The ovary remains underground. The leaves can start appearing as early as November, but are at their full length in spring. They make swards of greenery, looking like grass, because they come up from a dense underground mat of rhizomes and corms.

In Victorian times Halifax was a destination to see the “Halifax Crocus” as it was dubbed, with botanists taking advantage of the new railways and plentiful branch lines to get to the Crocus fields, where they could apparently stretch for miles, for example in one field after another in the Ovenden Valley up towards Bradshaw.  The easiest site to direct you to nowadays is at Cold Edge, on the way up to Ovenden Wind Farm, a field on the left, in front of the cream-painted house has a large colony visible without getting out of the car. SE046306

Some sites we have lost or not relocated are at Great House, Todmorden;  another at Hubberton;  and the third was said to be on the left bank of the Calder, above the bridge at Brearley.
It is not a native plant, but was introduced probably from SW France in the Middle Ages. It is said to occur in Lancashire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Shropshire and Staffordshire. There is much confusion among non-botanists with another superficially similar plant, Colchicum autumnale, which garden centres insist on wrongly labelling “Autumn Crocus.”

Confusion is compounded by the common name for Colchicum, Meadow Saffron. The spice only comes from crocus species. All parts of Colchicum are strongly toxic, though it is being investigated for medicinal uses. Saffron, once the most expensive spice, was used in medicine, dye, ink for manuscripts, and later as a food colourant/flavouring. The use of our local Crocus as a source of saffron is conjectural, though it was obviously cultivated in fields for some reason.

C.nudiflorus is a true crocus, with three, not six stamens as Colchicum has, and is one among a handful of species that flower solely or partly in autumn.  In the 1950s there were 23 sites known, but the Halifax Scientific Society surveyed  from 2003 to 2009 and increased the recorded sites to about 37.

The earliest record is in James Bolton’s Flora of Halifax, when in 1775 he noted a patch in Well Head Fields, which remained as fields up to the 1990s. They are now in someone’s back garden, and I don’t know how they are faring. This is opposite the Shay Football Ground in Halifax.
The survey culminated in a booket “The Mystery of the Autumn Crocus” which I produced with a grant from the Green Business Network. This included some practical conservation work as well. Some of the old colonies have been broken up into smaller ones, but we did add some more colonies to arrive at the increased total. The combined number of blooms, though, must be greatly reduced from the 19thC, and even the 1950s, so it is definitely a plant of conservation concern.

The20 page booklet with colour photos is available from Halifax Scientific Society price £5.00, all of which goes to the Society. Or by post, see our blog at Calderdale-wildlife.bogspot. It is free to members of Halifax Scientific Society.

The picture is of them in their wild state in SW France, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, south of Foix in the Ariege district. Cattle and horses graze free range around them but avoid them.
With thanks to all who helped with the survey, especially Linda Kingsnorth, who took the picture.

I am constantly finding out new things about them, for instance this year the leaves have started growing in November, when we always thought of them as being up in February to May. It was a very early year for the blooms as well.  

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Fern Leaved Beech

Fern Leaved Beech, Fagus sylvatica 'Asplenifolia', is a grafted tree first cultivated in 1804 that often has both the common beech leaves and the cut-leaved 'fern' shaped ones on the same tree. 

You may know the one in the park at Todmorden but my photos also show one near Dobroyd Castle. It was planted about 1869 by Edward Kemp (who probably planted the one in Todmorden park). Notice the huge bulge near the base where the tree was grafted.

                                                Dobroyd, Todmorden

                                        Centre Vale Park

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Tree inscriptions

Many of you will have noticed names and dates etc scribed into the bark of trees, particularly Beech because of its smooth and thin bark.

I discovered this on a Beech in Todmorden and if you look closely it says "Charter Day 1896" and obviously celebrates the town gaining status as a Borough Council in that year. It's in an area away from the public so I doubt anyone has ever seen it before. Amazing that 118 years later it is still readable.

Can anyone beat that date for an earlier inscription? Maybe it should be on a local Notable Tree Register.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Change of Venue for the Tuesday 14th Oct Talk

The library is unavailable due to industrial action, so I have booked the Fire Station Community Room at Skircoat Moor Rd. King Cross, Halifax, usual times 7.00pm - 9.30pm.. Postcode HX3 1JF

It's opposite Wainhouse Tower.

The speaker is William Varley on the subject the Rocks and Landscape of the English Lake District.
Will is from West Yorkshire Geology Trust.

Walk to see Rock Art form Prehistoric times. Weds 8th Oct.

David Shepherd, our Archaeologist member, is leading us on an informal walk at Withens Clough Res tomorrow at 10.45am from the Res Car Park. ( Off Cragg Vale, Mytholmroyd.)

All welcome, no charge. Waterproof boots and a bit of lunch would come in handy. Over-trousers might be useful  too. The walk is easy/ moderate, and not a great distance.

This was postponed from the summer due to severe thunderstorms being predicted at the time.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Ash Trees

As a follow-on from the Ash disease posting, here is a very large Ash by the side of the canal towpath at Luddenfoot. It must be one of the largest girth maiden Ash we have locally and probably is as old as the canal. I hope someone is looking after it. We need a local Notable Tree Register to document these 'forgotten' specimens.

Luddenden Foot

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park at Bretton Hall has trees that hold my interest more than some of the sculptures. This Ash is individually fenced and is fantastic. It appears at first to be a complete tree until you look at the other side to see it is only a third of its original diameter. It must be approaching 6oo years old and the only reason it is this old is because of past management as a pollard. Not one other passer-by even glanced at it.

Pollarding is out of fashion and misunderstood by many people in the tree profession but look at this photo to see that as long as there is functioning sapwood, trees can survive. Pollarding rejuvenates the tree and re-sets the clock.

Ash looking 'whole'
Showing outer skin of sapwood

The tree is still pollarded regularly

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Ash Dieback Disease

This serious threat to Ash trees caused by the Chalara fraxinea fungus is getting closer; see this Craven Herald report

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Velvet Shield - Park wood.

I went looking for the Parasitic Boletes today in Park wood, Elland, without any luck but did find some nice fungi. Pick of the bunch I think were these Velvet Shields (Pluteus umbrosus).

The caps had a lovely, velvet appearance and the gills were pinkish, dark-edged and free. I feel confident on the ID but if anyone knows different please let me know.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Autumn Crocus Walk to Ogden, Soil Hill and Oats Royd.

There will be a walk this coming Saturday the 20th of September to see the Autumn Crocus. There should also be plenty Fungi to see. Meet School Lane / Riley Lane junction at 10:30 or Bradshaw Church at 10:45 for a 3 to 4 mile gentle stroll. Bring refreshments.  Bruce.

These are just below Dean Lane, Sowerby, only re-found recently.

The Autumn Crocus are very early this year, which Bruce alerted us to. Any sightings would be gladly received. Take care not to mix them up with Colchicum which is grown in gardens, and misnamed Autumn Crocus by some garden centres.

A good display of them for less mobile people is usually in a roadside field on the left just before the former Withens Pub above Wainstalls at Cold Edge. They have been known there for over 100 years. Steve.

Beautiful Yellow Underwing

 One of the many poetic moth names.

Caterpillar of Beautiful Yellow Underwing c.3cm long

Found on Whirlaw Common, Todmorden, on Sunday last among the Bilberry and Cowberry, where it was put back.

The name is apt for the caterpillar as well. 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Ring Necked Parakeet

There were 2 of these birds seen over Mytholmroyd last Thursday and today there is one calling and being chased by 2 Jackdaws over Todmorden near the Tudor Chippy.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Autumn Crocus Walk to Ogden, Soil Hill and Oats Royd.

There will be a walk this coming Saturday the 20th of September to see the Autumn Crocus. There should also be plenty Fungi to see. Meet School Lane / Riley Lane junction at 10:30 or Bradshaw Church at 10:45 for a 3 to 4 mile gentle stroll. Bring refreshments.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Latest update on Hedgehogs in Calderdale

A big thank you to everybody who got in contact with their hedgehog records and a special thank you to Hugh Firman, Steve Blacksmith and Laura Price who have helped and supported me along the way and by creating all the wonderful maps! I'll be leaving the countryside team to return to university but all your records are still in high demand so please send in your sightings with its location/postcode and date to

Downloadable distribution map (click on link below)


Earlier post
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

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Radio Programmes

Book Of The Week: Sapiens - A Brief History Of Humankind

Ep 1-5/5
Tuesday 9 September,Thursday 11 September,Wednesday 10 SeptemberFriday 12 September and Monday 8 September
Adrian Scarborough reads from Yuval Noah Harari's ground-breaking account of humankind's remarkable history, from insignificant apes to rulers of the world.
100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Far-reaching and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human - ending with a look at what lies ahead for humankind.
Abridged by Penny Leicester.
Reader/ Adrian Scarborough,  Producer / Gemma Jenkins for the BBC
BBC Radio 4 Publicity

Heard this today - very thought provoking - especially after our meeting last night with Neil KIngsnorth's talk on Fracking and Climate Change. Steve B. (Don't know why the schedule is garbled on the right, but you can look it up if you're interested.)

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Pure white Rose-bay Willowherb seen last month

 Chamerion angustifolium (White variety )

This patch has been known a long time at Ogden. We used to look for it with Frank Murgatroyd who had seen it, but it never seemed to be there. I refound it shortly before he died. It's in a little overgrown quarry at the junction of Keighley Rd. and the Ogden Golf Course turn-off.

On the same day, just after refinding the Ogden patch I found another just 1.5km away in Mixenden. It's not so extensive. The light was going when I visited it this year, but you can see the white flowers against purple heather.

I tend to drive east from the M74 to the Ardrossan ferry port when going to the Hebrides along a winding road, the A70 from Douglas, with many patches of Rose-bay. You can tell how big some of the patches have got, each from a tiny flying seed, as they vary in the pinkness and sometimes flower-spike size. But there's no white along that long road. I've never seen it anywhere else in the wild, and only once in a garden where it was being cultivated. It's probably possible to order it from specialist nurseries.

If we didn't already have the Autumn Crocus, it could be Halifax's Flower.
 (Somebody is going to tell me there's loads of it in Bradford.)

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Canary Grass; Phalaris canariensis

This Canary grass photo was not taken in Calderdale but just over the hill at Ball Grove Country Park at Cottontree. It was growing in 2 patches at either side of the path. I haven't seen this grass for a while but it is worth looking for it in pavements cracks and stony ground at this time of year.

It is an annual and is mainly seen in gardens, or where bird seed is scattered. To look at, you wouldn't connect it with the same genus as the common Reed Canary Grass Phalaris arundinacea, as it looks entirely different.

Originally from the Canary Isles and Africa, it has been in this country for 400 years and was grown commercially in the early 19thC for bird seed.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Luddendenfoot Park 20-08-2014

Oliver and I found the Scarlet Pimpernel just on the outskirts of the park. It isn't common within Calderdale and I do not know where else it can be found in our area so it made our day to find it. Apparently the flowers contain no nectar or scent so very few insects visit it which is surprising considering it so magnificent and bright. The flowers only open between approximately 08.00 and  15.00 and no do open in dull and wet weather and it has been regarded in the past (before we got watches and a weather forecast) as a combined weather gauge and clock.

Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis)

Opposite pairs of leaves.

 It has a five veined capsule that will open transversally by a lid when mature.