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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Please contact us about any sensitive records before posting on the blog

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Ash Die-Back update

According to new research by University of Essex, the Ash disease may spread more quickly and affect more trees than expected. Even worse, it is possible the fungus may evolve to attack other species such as Privet, Lilac and other members of the Oleaceae family.

Read why here

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Colden Valley

In the Colden Valley today I walked through the short section that is mainly mature Beech trees. As a contrast to the surrounding mixed woodland it is very attractive. I noticed that a couple of the old trees were suffering badly from bleeding canker, Phytophthora, but not determinable to species without laboratory testing. Many Beech throughout the Calder Valley are dying from the effects of bleeding canker.

                                   Colden Valley Beech trees

                               Bleeding Canker killing the tree
                                Another nearby with same disease
 Porcelain fungus - Oudemansiella mucida, specific to Beech woods
Sycamore cut down but still on its two feet
 And sending out new growth. Supported sapwood is all it needs to keep character in the woodland.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Ancient Oak Tree

This post, although not about a Calder Valley tree, has relevance to our attitudes to ancient trees.

Whilst travelling on holiday, I prefer to meander down the by-ways and try and see what remains of the countryside. On this occasion there was a rare WOW! moment. At a junction of two quiet lanes there it was, a massive ancient Oak tree that is "well over 400 years old", according to the linked website here

My photos show a recent large stone inscribed 'Vernons Oak', which must have cost a fortune to quarry and inscribe with gold lettering. I prefer the Gothic Scripted notice board which you can see on Google Street View here:-,-1.7732217,3a,90y,310.1h,77.81t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s7SJ3qUyLuudohp-wUG6pqw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!6m1!1e1.

It is very rare for any ancient tree to be marked on a map or have any sign on the ground. Most are 'just there', unrecognised for what they are. Sometimes better for it as 'attention' can often be fatal.

Highways, in their usual casual indifference, have recognised the significance of this rare tree by putting a drunken road sign in front of it.

Someone nearby seems to have a penchant for mowing all the adjacent verge like a lawn. Ancient Trees don't need mowing. As most tree roots are near the surface a dry hot summer can create desert conditions where there is no long grass to keep the soil cool and moist.

According to the link, it is "One of the Counties most celebrated trees". Yet, as you can see from my photos, the tree is struggling to survive. It is surely not a co-incidence the decaying rear of the tree is shaded by the overtopping young Beech trees. If nothing is done, Vernons Oak may well be relegated to the archive as "One of the Counties lost celebrated trees".

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Wildlife welcome in Halifax Town Centre

We were informed at a meeting today that the swift boxes we were promised to accommodate them in Halifax's New Central Library have been built into the top roof-edge. 

Also bat boxes in the refurbished Piece Hall. 

Thanks to CMBC managers Carole Knowles, Andrew Pitts and David Garner for taking up my suggestion for the swifts, an idea that came from Leeds Council via Dave Sutcliffe.

Another tree disease to worry about

Following the Ash Die-Back disease, there is another that affects Oak trees that is just as worrying. It has nothing to do with 'Sudden Oak Death' (Ramorum), which as far as we are concerned should be known as 'Sudden Beech Death'.

Confusingly, this new disease is called Sudden Oak Decline and is affecting many trees in the South and East of England. The Forestry Commission say this new condition has the ability to affect the landscape in the UK as much as Dutch Elm Disease in the 1970's.

There is a lot of money and research being put into finding the cause of this Oak decline (affected trees can die within 5 years). This photo of a notice board at Burghley Park explains it well. Also this link has good info and a video

The board was impossible to read as it was covered in dirt but a wipe with tissues soaked in pop did wonders.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

A rare and spectacular bird ! Hoopoe at Cottonstones.

A resident photographed a Hoopoe in her garden and kindly contacted Dave Sutcliffe to let the birders know on the text grapevine. She also posted some pics on the Calderbirds.blogspot site. (Toggle above.)

Strangely enough, a rare Woodchat Shrike also turned up near there last year.

The Annual Report for 2015 from the Halifax Birdwatchers Club, edited by Nick Dawtrey, is available now at Woodlesford Newsagent, Pellon Lane, (high up the lane on the right.) Price £5.00.

Other rarities could have arrived in Calderdale, as we have had a long period of easterlies right at the height of migration.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Fungus Foray this Sunday 9th October

Meet us at Shaw Park car park, Holywell Green. Go down Station Rd. and turn right into the car park.
Peachysteve is the expert and he will be leading. Meet 10.30 for 10.40 and bring something to eat when we all sit down together for our picnic lunch.

Last year we discovered, as well as many other notable finds, two clumps of the very rare and beautiful Violet Coral. (Inedible.) Previously recorded at only one other site near Hebden Bridge.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Toads and other Amphibians

Lots on BBC R4 this morning about the plight of toads inc the concept of toad tunnels under roads and how they DO work. Also the fact that roads can actually become dangerously slippy for traffic when large numbers get squashed.

We should push for amphibian tunnels e.g. under the new road at Copley while the builders are still in.

It will be next March when toad patrols start again. Ask for a good torch for your Christmas present if you want to get involved. Volunteers are needed at Sowerby, Brighouse, Todmorden, Hardcastle Crags, etc.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Ash Die-Back (Chalara fraxinea) but name now changed to Hymenoscyphus fraxineus

Ash Die-Back disease seems now to have established over a wide area of Park woodland and other areas in Todmorden.

It is mainly visible on saplings a few years old, where the upper leaves have died and gone black and drooping like an umbrella; the upper stems looking blotchy and either dead or discoloured. On some, just the side branches have died and the fungi then spreads both up and down the stem, creating characteristic diamond shaped lesions on the bark.

The asexual stage attacks the bark and encircles twigs and branches, cutting off sap flow. The sexual stage grows during Summer on the previous years fallen leaves and spreads the spores.

The disease is easy to spot at the moment as it stands out amongst otherwise green and healthy ash saplings. It would be interesting to know if anyone has seen signs of the disease from elsewhere in the valley, although there is little that can be done to prevent the spread.

I have seen mature trees affected the otherside of Whalley so expect more signs next year.

Forestry Commission don't visit to confirm as the disease is now so widespread.

                                  Diamond shaped stem lesions

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

This month's talk and indoor meeting

All welcome to this excellent talk. It will be one of the last before we move when the Central Library closes and we move (hopefully) to the New Central Library next to Square Chapel, near the railway station.

So come along and if you have never been yet, see what impressive rooms we've been operating from since we moved down from the previous Central Library at Lister Lane in 1984. 

It could also be a last chance to see our library, started in 1874, all in one place.
(That is the Scientific Society's own library.)


Saw this fungi at base of a Turkey Oak tree today. I am guessing it is Pholiota squarrosa -- Shaggy Scaly Cap -- but can anyone confirm this?

Free survey training : Buds, Berries and Leaves

Friday 14th Oct at

Jerusalem Farm, Booth 10.30 am - 3.00 pm
Learn the skills to undertake upland plant surveys

Help track effects of climate change

Indoor presentation

Outdoor session to practice survey method

Book your free place / find out more:

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Ancient Trees and fungi

Just been on the Ancient Tree Forum meet at Lowther Park, looking at the landscape which still retains the banking on which would have stood the Park Pale of 1283. Lovely trees, centuries old, and much wood-pasture being re-created.

Wood Pasture is thought now to have made up much of the English landscape in the time before man had a great influence on it. The traditional idea of squirrels being able to jump from Lands End to John O' Groats without touching the ground is a myth, although modern tree planting seems to be trying its best to rewrite history.

Fungi are the driving force behind trees, some even say that trees are merely a support system for fungi! It seems that many fungi are latent within trees for decades and co-exist happily. Slight changes to the tree's environment, or such a thing as branch loss, can stimulate them to 'wake up'. Often when we see fungi erupting on trees, they haven't 'entered the tree' through branch wounds but are actually finding their way out in order to spore. Co-existence with fungi is the norm for a tree.

If you can get this link it suggests that fungi micorrhizae are capitalists and compete with each other to corner the market in storing nitrogen, keeping trees short of the stuff and only releasing it in exchange for Carbon. It's a jungle down there, if you will forgive the pun!

                                           The Lowther Oak