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.
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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.