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

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Toad Migration over for another year - Counts.

The Toad Patrols went well at the sites that were monitored, with only a small proportion of toads seen being road casualties, which is what we are aiming at, though it would be nice to have none run over.

A single male and a female with a male clinging on her back "in amplexus"
Safely on their way to the pond.

Naomi's help organising the patrols in the Upper Calder Valley was much appreciated, and this gave chance for  Portia to carry on patrolling her own patch, having stepped down from the position of overall organiser for the Upper Valley.

Naomi was doing work experience with Hugh Firman of Calderdale Countryside Dept. We wish her well with her studies and career.

Sorry to anyone who wanted to help and didn't get called, (including Naomi's mum). My excuse is it can be quite unpredictable when they are going to start moving - a combination of day length and temperature. Please volunteer again next year.

There were 8 of us regular volunteers in the Lower Valley. Thanks to Kathryn, Martin, Lynn, James, Oden, Mark, and Steve Cummings. Apologies again if I missed anyone off.

In the Upper Valley there were Sam, Portia, Brian, Shirley, Gordon, Eileen, David, Cheryl and Karl plus three other ladies, names unrecorded.

Despite doing it for years, I learn something nearly every season. This time I experienced a rise in temperature after it had gone dark, when a blanket of cloud came over a clear sky. Also most movement was on dry nights, as there wasn't much rain.

Birds like the seven Dotterel yesterday are, not surprisingly, what get most naturalists started, but we had a great Tawny Owl year while out toading. They were hooting and squealing and making all sorts of noises at all three sites I attended, and one patroller got great views of two having a go at each other on a branch just above her head. It was a good breeding year in 2014 for Tawnies.

Two of us were also treated to a sight of Great Crested Newts as Chris Tindal passed by with some for the Cromwell Bottom Newt-night Experience, and stopped to have a chat. My buddy that night, Martin, had never seen any before.

Sam Moore and his helpers up at Portsmouth, Cornholme, had a big year again, but Sam suffered the disappointment of having the material he submitted to a Yorkshire Post reporter being garbled as often happens when general journalists try to write about nature. Sam did have the great success of getting the call of the male Common Toad on BBC Radio 4 as the "Tweet of the Day" (usually a bird).

Toad and other Amphibian Records. Spring Patrols 2015

Thornhills Beck Lane, Brighouse.
9th and 7th April only - Toads 52 moved 6 squashed (but Chris Tindal had moved some.)

Boulderclough Dam, Sowerby.
12th March to 11th April Toads 734 moved 49 squashed
                                        Frogs 17
                                        Palmate Newts 13

Lumbutts near Todmorden.
355 Toads moved plus 20 casualties. (Big drop from 2014 when 654 moved and 63 killed.)
Gordon reports significant daytime movement, also a feature of Hebden Hey Dam.

Washer Lane, Sowerby Bridge.
This site is much depleted, possibly because of loss of most of their ponds, despite our protests.
7th and 9th April - Toads 13 moved 1 dead. (One moved was a full-sized huge female.)

Dobroyd Lane, Todmorden.
Portia and Brian counted 290 toads,  with  only 20 squashed.
                                         27 frogs
                                         148 newts !
                                         Best year ever for this site.

Portsmouth Dam, near Todmorden.
13th - 20th April. Toads 1265 moved 43 dead.
Sam also reported 100's killed on the nearby A646 on 10th April, so more volunteers needed there.

Upper Shaw Wood Rd. (Todmorden area)
25 toads. David intends to more fully monitor this site next year. Thanks for the emailed form David.

Wood House Lane, Todmorden
138 toads plus 29 killed, great work and great spreadsheet Cheryl and co.

Well done everybody, apologies if I've missed anyone out.

Please let me know of any omissions or inaccuracies.


A new high level site for Toads has been seen at Upper Walshaw Dean Res. by Niall Roche, who reported Toads and Frogs squashed on 6th April. Probably too far out to monitor.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Interesting trees

This Sycamore lapsed pollard must be the largest girth of any I have seen within our area. It is not in Calderdale but at St Ives just outside Bingley. There are some impressive trees in this former medieval estate and it is worth a visit. Rather a shame there is no continuity of planting for when these giants leave us. (many have collapsed). But that seems to be the case in most places. Plenty of new woodlands being planted but no trees for the future.

The other picture is of a Hawthorn at Dobroyd Castle, Todmorden. The spiral trunk resembles twisted lianas and leads to wondering how it grew like that. Every spiral look like they could be separate columns of sapwood.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Old trees

These lovely old trees are near Sowerby town. There are many field margin mature trees nearby but these seem older than the others. Apart from the beech, the 2 sycamores and 1 ash appear to be lapsed pollards. The ash in the background shows good re-growth following a large branch collapse. The middle sycamore has the characteristic pollard head where cutting has taken place in the past.

Trees such as these should be cared for and cannot be replaced in our present landscape. Many of these type are collapsing locally and are not regarded for what they are. They are suitable for being managed to last for many years and are local treasures.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Elland Park Wood 15/04/2015

Michael had a walk through the wood today and found a wonderful display of Bluebells in flower so hopefully anyone who attends the walk on Saturday will not be disappointed. 

Michael's gorgeous photograph.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Cromwell Bottom

If you follow this link to Calderdale council webpage you will read about plans to "Unlock the potential" of Cromwell Bottom. It sounds like there are a lot of new ideas and plans for this area.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Colden Valley trees

There has been some woodland management in the Colden Valley by ring-barking a small number of Sycamore trees. The first photo show one that has also been topped and then a coronet cut made on the end of the remaining trunk.
This technique was originally developed for branch reduction on ancient trees to try and mimic a natural break, the theory being the tree responds with new growth better than when cut cleanly across. Not sure what the purpose of this coronet cut is in the Colden situation.

The second photo shows one of the most interesting Sycamores in Colden; I do hope they leave this one alone. Characters need preserving.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Last Chance to see one of Gordon's films!

Tuesday 14 April             Talk
 Irreplaceable Gordon Yates with his ultimate film
  “Snowy Owl, King of the Arctic” Not to be missed. In the Central Library, Halifax at 19:30hrs

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

First flowering grass

When you are in the limestone area of Yorkshire, the first grass of the year to be noticed is the Blue Moor grass---Sesleria caerulea. This flowers from early March and whole hillsides can be turned blue; it is quite striking in its electric blue colour and anyone not familiar with grasses will wonder what plant it is. I do not know of any records in the Calder Valley as it is strictly a plant of limestone strata.

                                 Blue Moor Grass near Grassington

Sunday, 5 April 2015

First flowering grass and butterflies

Our first local perennial and common grass to flower in spring is Meadow Foxtail--Alopecurus pratensis. I generally see this appear the last week in March but this year it is late and not seen until today.

If anyone is learning grasses, now is a good time to start without being confused by other grass species being around. Meadow foxtail is the first, with Sweet Vernal in a week or two.

Also seen today at Sunnybank, Todmorden were 12 small tortoiseshell butterflies, plus another 4 in the garden at home. A single Brimstone then flew by which made my day.

                  Meadow foxtail inflorescence just emerging from its sheaf.

Nocturnal Naturalists

Some of us in Calderdale out rescuing Toads, Frogs and Newts form traffic have had the following counts so far.

The main movement of Toads started on Friday 3rd April, when it warmed up to about 10C as it went dark. More were moving to their breeding ponds on 4th. These are very near the same dates as last year 2014 when I had a big count on 1st April.

Dobroyd Lane, Todmorden totals to date:
4/4/15 - toads 150, frogs 40, Palmate Newts 32, reported by Portia.

Portsmouth Dam, Cornholme
4/4/15 - 36 toads, one killed , one male Smooth Newt. From Sam.

Lumbutts, Todmorden
3/4/15 - 67 toads with no casualties, 4/4/15 44 with 2 dead. From Gordon.

Boulderclough, Sowerby
3/4/15 - 122 toads but another 10 killed, one frog, and one Palmate Newt.
4/4/15 - 85 toads with 6 killed despite 6 people patrolling (shortage of torches), 2 Palmate Newts.
(Me, Kathy, Steve Cummings, plus three others.)
5/4/15 - 118 toads but 12 killed, 4 Palmate Newts alive and one squashed. (SB and KE).

They could be coming out at dusk for  maybe a week or more if it stays mild.
Helpers need bright clothing to avoid being hit themselves, gloves such as rubber gloves, torch, a tub or bucket.
The main period of movement is about an hour just after dark.
See my earlier post for sites in lower Calderdale.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Widdop Common Lizard, 4th April 2015

A lovely coppery coloured common lizard, by Slack Stones, Widdop, early this afternoon.  Having seen a couple of common lizards on the Calderdale uplands in recent years, I started thinking how wonderful it would be if adders were present in the area.  I'm aware of a population over in Rossendale, which isn't that far away. 
I also saw a wimberry bumblebee (Bombus monticola), that flew into my car and landed on my yellow Christmas tree air freshener.  Alas it flew off as I fumbled for the camera.

Regards, C. Jepson-Brown

Friday, 3 April 2015

Elland Park Wood 01-04-2015

Michael managed to capture the first blooming Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) in the wood yesterday. Hopefully this year there will be another fantastic display in a week or two for everyone to enjoy.

Michael's lovely photograph.