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, 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.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Fungi at Ogden

One of my first this season and rather pretty fungi was seen at Ogden on Thursday on grass. My (wild) guess as to species is Coprinus plicatilis. I trust our local experts will correct me.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Fiorin and the Famous Orcheston Long Grass

In an earlier post, Steve had a picture of Creeping Bent Agrostis stolonifera and then he used the name of Fiorin grass. This name Fiorin was often used in earlier grass books but seems not to be mentioned in the modern ones.
The word Fiorin has some history behind it and was first mentioned by Dr W Richardson in the early years of the 19thC.  Richardson had land in Ireland near the Giant's Causeway and he learnt the name of this grass from local farmers. Dr Richardson noticed how highly regarded this grass was and he became quite obsessed with it.
He wrote a book in 1812 "New Essay on Fiorin Grass" which recommended planting this grass everywhere in Britain. (You can read this book on Google Books). He spent years proselytising about Fiorin and persuaded many landed gentry to grow it successfully.

Richardson noticed how the long stolons of this Bent grass were like long strings and he recommended propagation by laying these strings out and lightly covering with earth. He claimed that all these strings naturally grew Northwards as accurate as a compass. No one seems to know the origin of the word Fiorin but it was suggested to mean 'butter grass', on account of how the milk from cows that fed on this grass made tastier butter.

Fiorin is native to all of Britain and is mentioned in earlier grass books under its other name of "The famous Orcheston Long Grass". It became famous in the little village of Orcheston St Mary in Wiltshire, way back in the 17thC, when John Aubrey wrote of it in his book  the "Natural History of Wiltshire" in 1656.
This famous Orcheston grass grew long tresses of leafy stolons up to 24 foot long in the floating water meadows. It became so famous for its continuous, lengthy and lush growth that a 17 foot length of these tresses was presented to King James 1st.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Fly Id.

Hi all
This fly was seen recently in Todmorden. I have an inkling it may be one of the Ichneumonoidea. We would appreciate a closer Id if anyone can.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Beetle id please

 Can anyone help with an id for this beetle please, found on the Pennine Way footpath near where it intersects with the Calderdale Way above Makinholes.

It isn't in my books and I can't find it on the web either.

Monday, 18 August 2014

These people need their forest for its produce

People in Mahan, India are being intimidated and even arrested trying to save their forest against the ravages of coal mining.

Ahead of a village vote, they're asking for support - will you stand with them?

Friday, 15 August 2014

Parsnip Moth update.

Further to Peachy Steve's find of a colony of Parsnip Moth larvae at Sowerby Bridge I took half a dozen home to rear through. Just one of them managed to reach the pupal stage, the other five were all parasitised by a species of Chalcid wasp. At first I thought they had all been "stung" multiple times but in fact that was far from the case. I sent a couple of photos off to wasp expert Dick Askew and here is his reply:

"Hi Charlie,
The parasitoid larvae in the Parsnip Moth caterpillar look to me like those of Copidosoma. This is in family Encyrtidae (Chalcidoidea) and they are polyembryonic, a brood of very many individuals all of the same sex developing by division of a single egg. I do not know whether or not yours will overwinter, but if they do it will probably be as fully grown larvae (ie. much as they are now). Best to keep them in a shed or outhouse."

Above, you can clearly see the dozens of grubs through the larval skin - nice!
Below, one I inspected earlier to see why the larva wasn't pupating as expected.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Little Owl and Curlews

I found this Little Owl at Soyland after a morning on the moors with Matt the herpetologist from Littleborough.
I had a report of a snake on a path from a mountain biking friend. Needless to say we were unlucky and didn't spot one. It was a bit too cool and breezy.

If anyone hears reports of or sees a snake, please send exact details to the email at the top. Please keep them off the public blog as some people still have an irrational fear of them and kill them on sight. Lizards also, but these are not so vulnerable to humans, so can be put on the blog.

You can also reach Matt on his well-illustrated blog - European Amphibian and Reptile Blog. He is a keen birder and general naturalist and recently saw a juvenile Little Owl with an adult at  the Quaker Lane owl site were we have seen them every April for 5 or 6 years in succession on the HSS April walk.

Later in the day there were six curlews probing the soft turf of a tee on the golf course at Ogden.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Amazing mimicry

Tawny Owl at Salterhebble this spring. (Spotted along with a young chick by both me and Charlie Streets independently.)

Yesterday, mid morning, I heard one of these in the garden I was working in.  I have heard them calling in the daytime before. So I stopped what I was doing and stared at the tree the sound was coming from.

A Jay flew out of the tree and across the garden. It flew to a sparser tree where I could see it, and I heard the owl call again. It was the Jay doing a perfect imitation of the juvenile owl's "Kyick!" call they make to alert their parents where to bring the food to.

Owl juveniles do this for almost the whole of their first year apparently. I wonder if other Tawnys I have reported as calling in the day time have been Jays. I suppose the best pointer is if other birds are mobbing or making alarm calls nearby. 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

What is this plant?

There are a few of these plants at Dobroyd railway crossing at Todmorden, growing in recently disturbed soil following the footbridge being built. I have looked in my books and cannot seem to find a match. I'm thinking they are annuals and in the cabbage family but what are they? Other plants nearby include a number of opium poppies.

Next Meeting

On Tuesday 12th August evening meeting we are breaking a long tradition and having a walk after a short indoor meeting at the usual rooms and time.

We are meeting in the room, having a short tutorial on bats  for those who want it, then taking a walk of about one mile round the bottom end of town to look for bats and listen for them with a  bat detector/ detectors. There were a few bats in the Piece Hall roof last year. Hugh Firman, Director of the Yorkshire Bat Group, had hoped to be with us but is not able to be there so it will be a member leading.

All members and prospective members including children are very welcome.

We will also be surveying the wealth of plant life/ flowers that are on the outskirts of town, both wild and planted, with a view to publishing as a report. This has never been done before.

If it is a poor night for weather we could still have a tutorial on local bats and then a social including a discussion on what we want to do for the programme of events in 2015, as it is about time to start thinking about it. We couldn't plan much at the Council meeting last night as only three members were available unfortunately.

(Great posts and pics below, Alison, Charlie and Peachysteve.)                      

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Canal Plants

Close to Tenterfields in the canal are stands of Reed Sweet-grass
which are also home to a variety of other plants.

Reed Sweet-grass (Glyceria Maxima)
Glyceria refers to the sweet tasting grains

A tall grass with a large inflorescence

Standing tall in the grass is Great (or Hairy) Willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum)

Large flowers with four notched petals and four lobed stigma

There is also plenty of Himalayan Balsmam (Impatiens glandulifera)
So called because the pod can't wait to shoot its seed.
We've all seen enough of that.
Hidden among it there is some Gipsywort (Lycopus europaeus)

Branched with distinctive jagged leaves and flowers in whorls

Also making it above the bank is Skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata)

With its pairs of trumpet like flowers

Further away from the bank you can see
Whorled Mint (Mentha arvensis x aquatica = M. x verticillata)
a hybrid of Water and Corn Mint

Differing from Water Mint in the lack of a terminal inflorescence
and having long pointed calyx teeth

A few Marsh Woundwort (Stachys palustris) line the bank
Stachys refers to the spike of flowers
Palustris the water loving habit

Differing from Hedge Woundwort by its long narrow leaves
and paler pink/purple flowers

Creeping among these other plants
Bittersweet or Woody Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara)

 With its purple and yellow flowers and red berries

Growing right at the base is Water Forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides)
Scorpioides refers to the coiled shape of the flowering stem
Like a scorpion's tail

Calyx tube divided less than halfway

And on the other side of the canal a Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
practises yoga balancing techniques