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.
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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Where to watch for Toads on Roads - this weekend looks like being warm enough on 4th-5th April at dusk. They don't seem to move much when temperature is below 8C.

These are three sites I know of and keep an eye on in Lower Calderdale;
(If you are in Upper Calderdale, then Calderdale Countryside Dept is co-ordinating the patrol volunteers.)

1. Washer Lane, Pye Nest (Sowerby Bridge)
This used to be a huge colony and needed lots of volunteers. Lots of cars use it as a short-cut or access to houses. Far fewer toads these days since the Copley Data Centre was built and some if not most of their breeding ponds were destroyed by residents near Washer Lane. Scope for a new breeding pond on the fields but who knows who owns the land ?
      Most toads cross Washer Lane near the junction with Fixby Avenue, going over to Clearwater Lake. They cross from right to left as you look up Washer Lane.

2. Boulderclough Dam, between Sowerby (Finkle Street area) and the back road to Luddendenfoot. Most toads cross at the bottom of the lane where the culvert from the dam goes under the lane. They cross from right to left as you look downhill from Sowerby.
Danger of pedestrians being injured in narrow lane, but fewer cars than at Washer Lane.  We walk up the side lane and deposit the toads over the wall onto the grass beside the water, as it is a private fishing dam.

3. Thornhills Beck Lane, Brighouse.
In Bradford Rd, after leaving Brighouse, shortly after the Police Station, the Lane is marked on the side of a mill. Turn right down there and drive through the ford at the bottom. Thornhills Beck Lane then leads you up to Clifton/Hartshead area, but the toads cross at the bottom, near the ford, and some above the old viaduct/disused railway.  They cross from right to left as you look uphill.
     We've not yet seen many toads here but others insist there are sometimes large numbers.

Common Frog (SB)

Common Toad (SB)

Monday, 30 March 2015

Calderdale Wild daffodils

I finally got round to going and having a look at the Calderdale wild daffodils on Saturday (28th) and quite a lot were in bloom.  I also called at Derby Delph on the way back, hoping for twite, but in pretty poor weather none were seen.

Regards, Chris Jepson-Brown

Songbird nesting started

My first was a Blackbird with 2 eggs (I had seen the female sitting earlier) on 19th March at Saville Park.

Today a newly built but as yet unused Balckbird's nest at Barkisland.

In the same garden I watched a Dunnock back to it's nest with material in its beak. It soon came out and when I looked the nest was complete and may have the first egg tomorrow. I won't go to it tomorrow, but in two days it is likely to have forgotten my visit today, if it saw me. Then when the clutch is started it is unlikely to desert as long as I don't visit every day. I will only visit once to check first egg date, secondly for total clutch size, a third time to check on whether nestlings have hatched, and then well after fledging time to check on success and for any addled eggs/ repeat clutch.

The turquoise colour of Dunnocks' eggs is marvelous, and recording details of common birds nests is valuable in Integrated Population Monitoring.

Nest records with only two visits are also valuable, as long as some change takes place between the visits, and the adults' behaviour noted.

Details at surveys

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Amphibian monitoring walk yesterday and new plant record for Cromwell Bottom

We did the annual walk around Cromwell Bottom with the amphibians in mind.
Six people turned up, four members of HSS, plus two friends, one from Robertown, the other from Leeds but a regular visitor to Sowerby Bridge. They found out about the walk through HSS publicity, one by word-of-mouth, and one on a Facebook page.

We saw a good amount of frogspawn this year, with about 40 clumps on Tag Loop, and a large raft on Brookfoot Loop, at the traditional site opposite the way in to Pixie Wood - about 100 clumps here.
We failed to find any toads - I have only seen 2 out so far this year at another busy site at Boulderclough.

A member of the public had alerted me to "about 20" newts in the path-side pond which is part of Tag Cut, just downstream of the iron-coloured spring. We saw a few, and one I netted was a Palmate.
I had taken it home the night before, so I had one ready to show people at the beginning of the walk. At home it ate 2 out of the three small frog tadpoles that were in with it. I had heard they did this; now I'm satisfied it is a fact.

These newts appeared in this pond in mid-March, which seemed early to me, but Matt Wilson of Littleborough blogged that they are one of the first amphibians to return to the ponds. Perhaps their strategy is to feed up on early frog tadpoles before breeding themselves.

I had a report of frogs having spawned in the wheel-wash where we look for newts at night in April, but we weren't able to get into the compound on this survey - I should have organised that.


New Plant Record - Bilberry.
In Pixie Wood* there are some young Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillis plants which is surprising as the fly-ash is said to be slightly alkaline. They must be growing in a thin acidic layer of humous.
*A recent name given to part of Brookfoot Loop at Cromwell Bottom LNR, where mature birches grow with a large colony of Fly Agaric mushrooms which show well most Autumns.

Saturday, 21 March 2015


Seen today in Centre Vale Park at Todmorden is this photo of a Liverwort in flower. I don't know liverworts but it looks very attractive with its spike 'flowers'.

On a steep shady bank in the woodland.

Native Daffodils etc.

There are various parts of Calderdale where wild daffodils used to grow, even a Daffodil Wood in Shibden Valley, but now we only know one area, near Rishworth. I saw a little group of about 7 blooms in the next valley over, above Mill Bank with Frank Murgatroyd, but haven't been able to relocate these in recent years.

Many garden varieties are being planted out into the wild, or escaping down rivers in times of flood, which is ironic, because the loss of wild ones was probably due to collection for sale to gardeners.

Native Daffodil. The flower is quite small and the leaves are glaucous and have a twist.

A single King Alfred type, an old variety, susceptible to wind damage due to its tall stem and heavy flower. All the following are wash-downs on the left bank of the Calder, in the strip of woodland above North Loop at Cromwell Bottom. An interesting area until the Balsam buries it - the seedlings have already germinated in this picture

Tete-a-tete, a modern multi-headed short variety, very commonly planted in public parks now

A tall, pale yellow variety on the edge of the Calder.
A large Mink swam past, giving me a start - I thought it was an Otter for a moment.

And a surprise find of more Autumn Crocus Crocus nudiflorus
There is some a couple of hundred yards upstream, near Park Nook Lock on the canal, but this single compact patch is nearer the old record which says near Rawson's Pool, which is presumabely the wide part of the canal below the Rawson's Arms (now offices for the clay works factory.)

Evidence of the area once being farmed, and now the marker for this new-to-me patch of Autumn Crocus.
Calder and Hebble Canal in the background.
Photos taken Wednesday 18th March.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Partial Eclipse 20-03-2015

Following on from Steve's post here are a few more pictures of the partial eclipse.

Partial Eclipse of the Sun today

Just starting - the sun's image is partly overlapping the shadow of the telescope.
You can see the bite out of it on the right of the bright disc.
Dark mark below it is dirt inside my camera.

I used an old 30x straight Optolyth telescope. I got a good image of the transect of venus across the sun a few years back, which I marked on the paper with pencil rather than photographing.

Minutes later the clouds cleared again and the bite is bigger. 

It was even possible to view it directly through a veil of clouds.
It's possible to see sunspots with binoculars in these weather conditions.
(I've had a quote for cleaning my camera - £40! Don't think it's worth it.)

Camera on full digital zoom (Lumix TZ18 compact.)

Some of the best images were reflected in the tinted (and dirty) back window of my car,
but the camera didn't pick them up.  

The moon soon passes across.

Compared with the total eclipse, which I experienced under thick cloud in Cornwall in 1999, it didn't really go dark. Then the blackbirds all went to roost, making their "jink-jink" call, and some sheep stampeded in panic, but today just two blackbirds started their evening song. It wasn't too dark to carry on weeding the garden in between taking the pictures, though there was an eerie gloom like a storm coming, and it went cooler.

Anybody else enjoy trying to record it ?

Monday, 16 March 2015

Eclipse of the sun this Friday about 8.00 am, then on Saturday, you may still get a place on this :

caring for bats

Bat care

Every year volunteers across West Yorkshire rescue hundreds of injured bats, care for them and return most to the wild. The West Yorkshire Bat Group is looking for volunteer bat careers, especially in the Calderdale area. Do you, or somebody you know, have time to care for bats? A free training course will be held on Saturday March 21st from 10am until mid afternoon in the Countryside Education Centre at Ogden Water Country Park and Nature Reserve. For more information or to book please or Maggie

Friday, 13 March 2015

Toads out at Boulderclough

There were two toads out at Boulderclough last night; none at the Washer Lane or Brighouse sites.

There were more frogs inc about 25 males waiting in the water in a small round pond in the corner of a field at Boulderclough, among about 16 clumps of frogspawn.

We had frogs and a toad in one bucket at one point and a male frog got into amplexus with a male toad! I felt I had to get the frog off, as it was my fault. It had a surprisingly strong grip!

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Birds in Centre Vale Park

There are 2 male and 1 female Greater Spotted Woodpecker flying round and 1 drumming regularly in Centre Vale Park woodland at Todmorden, also a Tawny Owl occupying a large rot hole in a mature Ash tree. 3 Nuthatches chasing each other and a pair of mallard in the stream.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Hard Shield Fern

I found a number of Hard Shield Fern (Polystichum aculeatum
plants today growing around a bridge in Norland Clough.
A glossy evergreen fern which is known in only a few locations in Calderdale.

The fronds are relatively long and narrow and form a fan shape.

The pinnules look like mittens with the thumb pointed upward.

Winter Flowering Heather

While searching for the Bilberry/Cowberry Hybrid on Norland Moor
I came across this winter flowering heather.

This heather is in the Erica family like our local heathers
Cross-leaved Heath (Erica tetralix) and Bell Heather (Erica cinerea)

This is a hybrid called Darley Dale Heath (Erica x darleyensis)
It is of garden origin but has naturalised on a few moors around the country

It has very prominent anthers.

 Another flower adding a splash of colour on the moor top.

My first sight of Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) this year.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

caring for bats

Bat care

Every year volunteers across West Yorkshire rescue hundreds of injured bats, care for them and return most to the wild. The West Yorkshire Bat Group is looking for volunteer bat careers, especially in the Calderdale area. Do you, or somebody you know, have time to care for bats? A free training course will be held on Saturday March 21st from 10am until mid afternoon in the Countryside Education Centre at Ogden Water Country Park and Nature Reserve. For more information or to book please contact or Maggie

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Newts return and Shallon in the woods

Newts have returned to the pools at Cromwell Bottom. They arrive before the anurans (Frogs and Toads), but breed later.

This one is either Palmate Newt or Common (also known as Smooth) Newt.

Not to create confusion, but to dispel it, the Common Newt isn't the commonest in Calderdale. Far more records come in of Palmate Newts.

The Great Crested Newt doesn't ever seem ever to have been native to Calderdale. It's illegal to catch and move around the Great Crested. They are endangered and probably won't fare well if introduced into new waters.

                                                       Spot the newt competition.

                                                      It's above the camera shadow!

I saw three today. A member of the public looking for them on Sunday with a net for his children had seen about 20 in one of the Tag Cut pools.


Peachysteve was interested in the Shallon, Gaultheria shallon long-established for game bird food (berries) and cover in Park Wood, Elland, then I failed to find it for him last winter. I re-found it today. It's native of North America. This patch hasn't grown much in 10 or so years. I think there's only one patch!

It also grows in Akroyd Park, Boothtown, along the sunken drive to the museum, and there's a patch below Booth Wood reservoir. I've never seen berries produced. It's in the Ericaceae, related to Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus  but has much larger leaves.

                                           Some older leaves have been attacked by a weevil.

Cafe Scientifique

In the light of the recent reporting of Ash Dieback Disease by the Yorkshire Naturalists Union, who saw it on one of their field trips near Scarborough, this is a very current topic.

To make it clear to visitors to this blog, Cafe Scientifique is an international movement, unconnected with Halifax Scientific Society, but Dean Clough who host Cafe Scientifique in Halifax, are very supportive of the Society, and several of our members attend these lectures. You need to get there early to get a seat; it's sometimes standing room only at the back.

A CaféScientifique presentation and debate:
Fungi: Friend or Foe?
With Dr. Robin Sen, Manchester Metropolitan University
Wednesday March 11th 2015 at 7:30 pm
The Cooking School Café, Dean Clough, Halifax HX3 5AX
The recent arrival of ash dieback disease caused by a fungus, Chalara fraxinea, has undoubtedly raised public awareness to the destructiveness of members of the fungal kingdom. Agrochemical and pharmaceutical industries have spent large fortunes developing fungicides and fungal antibiotics to protect crop plants, livestock and ourselves from soil borne fungal diseases. Yet these broad-spectrum antifungals lose efficacy over time and are highly toxic to non-target animals and humans because of close inter-kingdom ties between fungi and animals that share a common eukaryotic cell physiology.
I will argue for the need to take a more pro-fungal stance – to fight fire with fire, if you will. The weapon of my choice, among a massive arsenal of beneficial soil fungi, is a fungal group that was not only instrumental in the establishment of land plants over 400 million years ago but now holds urgent promise in driving a new ‘sustainable’ agricultural revolution.
Cafe Scientifique is part of a national array of voluntary talks and debates based on scientific themes to which EVERYONE is welcomed. There is no admission fee, although donations towards the speaker's expenses are requested at the end of the evening.
Café Scientifique: evening event menu
Food served 6.00 to 7.00pm. Pre-order on 01422 366516  to avoid disappointment or via
Ciabatta Pizzas with mixed salad
Choose from:
• Roasted vegetables and halloumi cheese topped with mozzarella – £6.50
• Slow roasted pulled pork with BBQ sauce, peppers and topped with mozzarella – £6.50
• Spanish chorizo, salami, red onion with mozzarella and black olives – £6.75
Chicken Korma Curry
Served on a bed of boiled rice, accompanied with warm pitta bread and homemade chutneys – £ 7.50
Vegetable Rogan Josh Curry
Served on a bed of boiled rice, with warm Pitta bread and homemade chutneys – £ 7.50
Sharing Platter for two
Onion bhajis, vegetable samosas, lamb koftas, naan bread, olives with mixed salad and fresh yogurt dip – £9.50
Dr. Robin Sen is Reader in Soil Microbial Ecology and Biotechnology at Manchester Metropolitan University. His scientific career began at Rothamsted Experimental Station (now Rothamsted Research) in 1978 he worked with pioneers in soil microbial ecology and plant growth promoting root symbiotic mycorrhizal ecophysiology of crops. From 1987 to 2003, he worked at the University of Helsinki, Finland gaining a Ph.D and Docentship in forest soil microbiology. He went on to establish a forest microbiology research group at the Viikki Biocentre and was later awarded a 5-year Senior Research Fellowship (Academy of Finland). Between 2004-2005, he worked at the Macaulay Institute, Aberdeen as a Senior Scientist on forest soil food-web microbiology before taking up a Senior lectureship at MMU.
The next Cafe Scientifique will be on 8th April 2015 at 7:30 pm
Stephen Andrews: “The Science of Arson”
More information on