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Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Amphibian watch at Cromwell Bottom

On 26th March we made our annual survey of  amphibians at Cromwell Bottom Local Nature Reserve.
Having the walk listed in the Calderdale Council's Wildside booklet usually ensures a good group of children; Easter school holidays also helps bring them out.
We had a brilliant total of 19 people including four children plus two dogs.

The kids are so enthusiastic, it brings out the energy in us big kids.

Many thanks to the members of Cromwell Bottom Wildlife Group who attended the walk with us or stayed back in the cabin with the kettle on ready for our mid-day break, a welcome innovation.
They also lent us some lovely new pond-dipping equipment which saw good use.

CBWG had been called on to rescue some frogspawn from Lloyds Bank Copley Data Centre, where it looked like it was going to dry out. They had placed some of this in various ponds on the reserve. There was also plenty of naturally appearing frogspawn clumps, though I didn't get a count of these. I'm relying on Allan, as he knows where the Copley spawn was put.

No adult newts were spotted despite much staring into ponds. We saw plenty last year on 28th March. However, when we got to Tip Pond, one of the boys, Dylan, made a sweep with his net and tipped the wet and weedy contents into one of the white trays being carried by an adult. What was at first thought to be a leech, then a small fish, turned out to be an immature newt, about 1.5 inches (4cm) long.

It had its four limbs (very filamentous) and still had its external feathery gills that newt larvae have. (See picture.) Annie commented on its similarity to a tiny Axalotl, which is after all, just a large amphibian. Dylan's newt would not yet have left the pond it developed from the egg in.


The species of newt that have been identified at Cromwell Botton NR are Smooth and Palmate, but no-one was prepared to have a stab at identifying this little one.

No frogs were seen, but when four us went to look at how the Sphagnum Bog had fared after the Boxing Day Floods, we found a dead Common Toad. I think it had possibly been crushed underfoot, as its tongue was  exposed, as when they are run over on the road. Another was spotted, very still, halted in mid-crawl and covered in white fly-ash.

At first we thought it had been poisoned by the alkaline ash and petrified, but I noticed its eyes were not covered, and it was slowly blinking occasionally. I took it to clear water at the nearby Wet Woodland and washed it, when after being photographed (see picture,) it swam away perhaps soon to find a mate.

The floods had poured into the Sphagnum Bog via Pixie Wood, disturbing the fly ash, and covering everything in a thick white layer. Some of the "quaking bog" effect had returned, long remembered by local kids, now grown up, as the "Wibbly Wobbly".

It was a very successful amphibian walk, with two species seen, and another seen to be present by its spawn.

Species mentioned: Common Frog Rana temporaria
                                Common Toad Bufo bufo
                                Smooth Newt   Lissotriton vulgaris (also called Common Newt, but scarce here.)
                                Palmate Newt  Lissotriton helveticus (this is the one we usually encounter in                                                                                                                           Calderdale.)

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Growing wild seed

This from Calderdale council's News Centre has just been issued. Large trays of wild flower seed are being given away for planting out; "Council is making sure that parks and grass verges will benefit too – especially in areas that have become overgrown or unused."
Are overgrown areas a good place for wild flower seed? I thought they needed minimum competition. I do hope there aren't disappointed people.  Like many things--the success is in the detail not the hype.

Monday, 21 March 2016

A bat feeding at mid-day.

Brian Taylor sends these observations and thoughts - "at Gorpley dam yesterday (Sunday 20th March) I came across a bat, which I took to be a pipistrelle as it was quite small, hawking for flies around the dam wall and the water treatment plant (particularly the pond), in broad daylight around mid-day. Presumably it had woken up hungry!  I wondered whether they might roost in the old mine adits?   Have others been seen emerging from hibernation?

On the moor nearby I've seen snipe recently, and yesterday a surprisingly confiding golden plover -with white underparts apparently indicating winter plumage, or a first summer male- and got to thinking its that time of the year when we need to be talking to dog owners about the need to keep their pets under close control on moorland.  There was an excellent article in the Rochdale paper recently by someone from Lancs Wildlife Trust.  He wrote it from the point of view of a responsible dog owner.  As you're no doubt aware, there's still/also a need for more and better notices at access points round here ..."

with best wishes, Brian.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Amphibians starting to breed.

On the toad front we had two on the road at Todmorden on Saturday, but none at the same site on Sunday, when the temperature dropped to about 7C.

Frogs: on the impromtu walk yesterday (3 turned up - see below) we saw  c.40 frogs having a great get together among  c.20 clumps of spawn at Cunnery Wood, near Shibden Park, and I now have 6 clumps in my tiny garden pond, where it appears about one per night, with no sign of the frogs!

We have a good team of volunteers at Boulderclough Dam, near Sowerby, but need people at Thornhill Beck Lane, Brighouse. If you can go just a few of the warmest nights (around 10C seems optimal - or warmer) that would save a lot of toads.

There are also sites at Todmorden where volunteers would be welcomed, plus one at Hebden Bridge, at Hebden Hey to be exact, where I'm not aware of anyone intending to go along.

Please try to count your toads if helping them across roads, and send me your records at the end of the season (in about 2 to 3 weeks depending on temperatures.) Count squashed ones as well please.

Steve 0771 500 5379

p.s. though we see many toads, we don't often see their strange strings of spawn, so different from that of frogs. I will endeavour to find some this year, and organise a visit for those toad patrol volunteers who are curious to see it. One year it was very prominent at Widdop Res, in the channel along the side, and also in the main reservoir itself.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Impromtu Walk Sunday 13th March 1pm. up Beacon Hill.

Some of us hope to walk up Beacon Hill. The path is cobbled - the "Magna Via" - it is thought to be the original main track into Halifax from Wakefield in the Middle Ages.

Meet at the phone box outside the Railway Station, opposite Square Chapel. We will be in sight of the new library which is really progressing now.

Meet at 1.00 for 1.10pm. Snacks and refreshments might be a good idea as we pass no shops or cafes.

If we make good time we might go over the top and down the other side slightly to Cunnery Wood; though we will go the speed of the slowest up the Magna Via, with stops to look at things. Distance c.3 miles, but with a big hill.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Calderdale Barn Owls 07 03 2016

I Was watching a Barn Owl Locally on 07 03 16 when another flew nearby, the two were close together at one point,certainly been quite a few sightings Locally over the last few Years .I know Phillip saw 2 outside our area,recently,and a few of us have had some great sightings Locally in the last few Years.So watch out if anyones out and about late afternoon onwards,there could be more than we realise.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Will this disease arrive here?

I had never heard of this bacterial pathogen until recently but it is another very real threat to our trees and shrubs. I follow with a few quotes which should alarm us all.

"Plant disease Xylella fastidiosa could wipe out the English oak in the same way as ash dieback is killing the UK's ash trees"

The lethal bacterium, already widespread on mainland Europe, has not yet entered the UK. "But if plant material keeps coming across from the Continent without any thought to bio-security it is only a matter of time before this menace becomes a reality".

"The European Food Safety Authority currently lists more than 350 plant species susceptible to Xylella fastidiosa, while the European Commission has called it "one of the most dangerous plant bacteria worldwide".

"The potential for Xylella will blow Chalara (Ash Dieback) totally out of the water - it is the unknown. We've seen it establish itself in France in a very short period of time, and maybe it's already in the UK. I would be very surprised if it is not more prevalent than it is at the moment".

Friday, 4 March 2016

Navelwort and Polypody

On the large wall near the canal opposite Sowerby Bridge cemetery is this Navelwort - Umbilicus rupestris. Next to it is a clever re-use of a stone gatepost, still with its former pintle on the side. The head of the gatepost now has a let-in iron hinge for a new gate. Nothing wasted then. Looks like Wall Rue is lurking in the shadows above the pintle.
I remember about 20 years ago Calderdale Council had a contractor pump in grout to all the drystone roadside walls from Todmorden to Eastwood. Every hole and cavity was filled in, presumably as a cheap way of stabilising them. Goodness knows how many mammals and birds etc were made homeless. With all this flooding we need to make sure our old walls aren't stabilised with similar methods but rebuilt properly. They are a great history book and home to allsorts.
Also Common Polypody-- Polypodium vulgare, in a wall at Mytholmroyd, showing the lovely orange sori underneath.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Glaucous Gull at Cant Clough Res. 29.2.16

Cant Clough is just over the watershed from Upper Gorple Reservoir.

The gull comes in about 4pm and roosts alone an the otherwise deserted reservoir.
It's quite confiding, and appears to be a small individual, maybe slightly smaller than the average Lesser Black-backed.

With thanks to Ian C. for the tip-off.