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, 30 January 2014


Badger culling could come to Calderdale!

If you would like this to be avoided please sign the petition and give your opinion to the council.

The culling of badgers is cruel. There are other ways to do this if badgers must be controlled. Science has proved that this is not the way to go. 

The Scientific Society feel that individuals should have the chance to voice their opposition.  Members may have varying views on the cull and by posting this the Society is not voicing the opinion of the Society as a whole.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Walk Report

Last Saturday, 25th January, the Mosses and Liverworts walk went ahead in Hardcastle Crags. There were 5 of us on the walk including an employee of English Nature invited by Johnny Turner, the Brylogist who was leading us. (Johnny has recently been welcomed as a member of Halifax Scientific Society.)

A liverwort - Plagiochila asplenioides

Liverworts were not my favourite plants for many years as a gardener, having to weed them from the compost around plants in pots, until I learned that many of them are as attractive as mosses, and all grow in their own particular habitat. The one above carpets rocks in damp, shady woodland. It needs slightly less acid rocks. I didn't realise how frequent these are in Hardcastle Crags.

The moss - Dicranum majus - the one I find most attractive of the many we saw. This one was at the base of the top dam at Gibson Mill.

Johnny uses common names whenever they exist, for instance Catherine's Moss, which was also there, named after Catherine the Great of Russia, who claimed it was her favourite moss. 

Among birds we saw were the reliable Dipper on the top dam, along with 8 Mallards, which never used to frequent Hardcastle Crags. Perhaps they are trying to escape the mink of lower waters.

At the two Heron's nests high above Midgehole Road I witnessed a change-over on the nest as I walked up from Hebden Bridge, showing that at least one pair are incubating eggs already. 

We passed by a large and beautiful Tsuga, probably Tsuga heterophylla, the Western Hemlock, a conifer from North America, I had never noticed before, at the top side of  Hebden Hey. It was raining heavily by then, so I didn't take a photograph. 

It was a brilliant field meeting despite the rain that came on at the end, and a subject I think many people would get a lot of satisfaction from, with a good introduction as we had, and a little study. 

Saturday, 25 January 2014

We have just done our annual cleaning of the dozen nestboxes and 2 of them had been occupied by wasp nests. Some of the cells still have emerging (dead) wasps.

Our design of the box shows it is hinged for opening at the front, rather than the top. The box is thus easier to clean and inspect and the top can then be made watertight with roofing felt. Hinged roofs are a phaff to make and can now simply be nailed down.

The front hinge is just a nail at either side of the top of the front 'door'.  The box is loosely hung from a large head nail via a similar size hole at the back of the box. The flange of the nail head stops the box falling, yet the box can easily be lifted off the nail for inspection or repair. The 'door' is held shut by a single protruding nail through the side, in an oversize hole for easy removal by hand.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Help save our Ancient Woodlands

Biodiversity Offsetting: Please sign this petition and help save these irreplaceable woodlands and all the species that live there.

Why is this important?

Our Ancient Woodlands have evolved over hundreds of years and cannot simply be replaced by new plantings of trees, no matter how many trees are planted for every one destroyed in an ancient woodland. Read more and please sign here:-

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Walk to explore Mosses and other Bryophytes in Hardcastle Crags Saturday 25th January

Meet expert Johnny Turner to see new discoveries and follow in the footsteps of the old botanists in this scenic valley long known for its Bryophyte flora. Johnny is a brilliant communicator.

Meet by the warden's hut in the Midgehole top carpark at the bottom of the valley. 10.30 for 10.45. The National Trust charges about £3.50 for parking but there are buses from Hebden Bridge. Donation to HSS welcome, suggested £1 members £2 non-members under 16s free. Bring packed lunch, a damp-proof sitting sheet and dress warmly for a non-strenuous ramble. (Approx. 3 miles.)
A hand lens would enhance the experience and any spares would be greatly appreciated.

Hardcastle Crags

Migrant Bat

Friday, 17 January 2014

Crimsworth Dean 15-01-14

Whilst Peachysteve and I were having a walk through Crimsworth Dean we came across this pair of Mallards which appeared to be asleep and did not make any movement whilst we passed by with the dogs - Basil and Lace. At the time we did not notice that they had one eye open as they were on the far side of the dam and Steve used the zoom on his camera to capture them. Peachysteve mailed me later after doing some research and said that they were in a state of unihemispheric sleep, where one cerebral hemisphere sleeps whilst the other remains alert and this is widespread in birds and in just a few aquatic mammals. This is an evolutionary process that protects birds from predators and aquatic mammals from drowning. 

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Hazel catkins

At the weekend I noticed in Todmorden that the Hazel 'lamb's tails' catkins were already opening to shed pollen. Notice also the tiny scarlet female flowers.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Bramblings at Sowerby Bridge

Peachy Steve got these superb shots of a male Brambling in Dodge Royd Wood on 5th January. The flock was feeding on beech mast on towards the Triangle area.

You can see how the the head feathers are black closer to its skin, and will give it the black head in spring when the grey feather tips wear off. This is a common way of changing colour in birds' plumage. It avoids them having to grow a new set of feathers.