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

Monday, 27 February 2017

Do Ladybirds damage trees

Pehr Kalm (the Genus Kalmia is named after him) was the favourite disciple of Carl Linnaeus of Sweden and he was sent on a botanical mission to North America in 1748, subsequently writing a book of his travels there.

Kalm was delayed for 5 months in England whilst waiting for a ship to America and during this time recorded many observations, one of which referred to a Coccionella which damaged trees in Ireland.

The Coccionella are the Ladybird family. I always thought they just ate aphids but it seems some species do eat vegetation and the larvae graze the undersides of leaves whilst the adult beetle grazes the upper side.

The 24 spot Ladybird is listed as eating leaves but seems mainly recorded in East Yorks and the South. Has anyone ever noticed damage to trees locally by any leaf grazing Ladybird species?

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Feral Cat ?

We went up to Swalesmoor early this morning to try and see the Snow Bunting that has been found there (we failed to find it early on - though it was showing later,) and among the skips and containers at the waste meat factory we saw a dark, mottled cat. (Annie points out it was tortoiseshell.)  It rapidly slunk off under the metalwork, reminding me very much of feral cats I've seen in Scotland, in colouration and behaviour.

I've never heard of true feral cats getting established in this area.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

140,000 trees to be felled on the moors

The above title to this post is premature and may be an underestimate of numbers. But they do say you should plan ahead.

To explain and offer musings consequent on this:-

I suppose you have all seen the headlines about planting 200,000 trees on species poor grassland on Yorkshire Water land at Gorpley Reservoir Todmorden. As usual, these reports are copied from one news media to another without giving a clear idea of what is to happen.

The Lancashire Telegraph may have a better handle on it when it says that an initial 3,000 trees will be planted at Gorpley to begin the exercise. Then it goes on to say the magic figure of 200,000 may eventually be planted across the wider South Pennines area.

But I am not sure that is true either. All media reports say there will be 3,000 trees planted per hectare, so has the Lancs Telegraph got confused and used that number as a total? Who knows.

What may be a better number to look at is the spacing of 2 metres between saplings which the 3,000 per hectare represents.

For sound woodland management, prevention of soil erosion and excess water run-off due to shading, 140,000 of these trees will have to be felled/coppiced in the early decades if the new woodlands are to function as intended.

I would suggest a plan to pollard some of the suitable species. They would resist the wind on these high grounds, would not get eaten by deer and more importantly--survive.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Anyone got an interest in world habitat conservation ?

Shocking rainforest destruction linked to Pepsi

A new report is shining a spotlight on some of the most ruthless destruction of elephant habitat we’ve ever seen. And the massive forest clearance is linked to the suppliers of snack foods sold by companies like PepsiCo across the world.

A field investigation by our partners at Rainforest Action Network uncovered the devastating clearance of already endangered forests in the Leuser Ecosystem. The only place on earth where elephants, tigers, orangutans and rhinos live in the same forest, Leuser is considered one of the world’s top priority conservation areas. It’s also the source of drinking water and livelihoods for millions of people in the Indonesian province of Aceh.

But Leuser’s critical importance is apparently of no concern to rogue palm oil producer PT. ABN. The company has been illegally -- and rapidly -- turning lowland forests into palm oil plantations despite being ordered out by the Indonesian government. So who has been buying PT. ABN’s conflict palm oil? Wilmar palm oil refineries, supplier of brands like PepsiCo, McDonald’s, and NestlĂ©.

We can’t let mega-corporations like PepsiCo, Nestle, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, and McDonald’s sweep the destruction of this priceless ecosystem under the rug -- Watch and Share.

Monday, 20 February 2017


There have been reports of a cuckoo being heard near Hebden Bridge. Any thoughts?

Thursday, 16 February 2017

State of Nature Invitation : 16th March

I have been asked to circulate this invitation - please do come!  Please let Katie Aspin ( if you would like to attend and would like the official invitation (I'm so sorry, I have failed miserably in uploading the scenic invite it to the Blog!) Charlotte

'The South Pennines Local Nature Partnership, working with RSPB and Moors for the Future, invites you to an evening of presentations and discussion about the State of Nature in the South Pennines, on the 16th March in Marsden.

There will be an introduction to the South Pennines Local Nature Partnership from Robin Gray, Development Manager. The evening will also include presentations from Sarah Proctor (Moors for the Future) and Tim Melling (RSPB) who will give talks on what threats species in the South Pennines face, and what is being done to help.  Tim’s presentation will include a case study of Twite, and an update on the Twite Recovery Project. You will also have the opportunity to join discussions about how we protect and enhance nature in the South Pennines in the future.  

Please feel free to distribute the invite to people who you think may be interested in attending, the more the merrier!'

Katie Aspin
Twite Project Officer (working hours Monday - Thursday)email :

 South Pennines Local Nature Partnership: The State of Nature 2017
Using modern Red List criteria, which identify species of the highest conservation concern, the State of Nature report published last year assessed 8,000 species. Of these, 15% are extinct or threatened with extinction from Great Britain. The South Pennines is an area of internationally important habitat for rare species, including birds of prey and waders. For example, this is home to the last outpost for breeding pairs of Twite ( our own ‘Pennine Finch’) in England and native species such as the Bilberry Bumble Bee.
What is happening here in the South Pennines to these populations ...and what can we do to help ?
Speakers include :
Tim Melling, Senior Conservation Officer, RSPB
Sarah Proctor, Community Science Project Manager, Moors for the Future.
RSPB State of Nature 
Moors for the Future South Pennines Local Nature Partnership  RSPB Twite Recovery Project

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Our next meeting - as usual on the second Tuesday of the month


Our activities don't consist entirely of these interesting talks, we also meet up for walks. They are of differing lengths, which we call ambles, rambles and hikes, and they are open to visitors just like the talks. 
To see our programme click on the "Welcome to Walks, Talks and Joining" tab at the top. This is also available in printed form at Halifax Central Library and various other points throughout Calderdale.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Another imported fungi

DEFRA has found the pathogenic fungus Cryphonectria parasitica in Sweet Chestnut Trees in Devon. Oak trees can get infected but they only suffer superficial damage (we hope) although they can spread the disease.

This is the same disease that arrived in America in 1904 on imported plants from Japan. In 40 years the disease had killed 5 billion American Chestnuts and the tree is now classed as 'technically extinct'.

The hyphae of the fungus produce toxic compounds, including Oxalic Acid. This lowers the PH of the affected tissue from normal 5.5 to 2.8 which is toxic to plant cells.

There are good populations of Sweet Chestnut - Castanea sativa in England, and many centuries old trees in the North of England. Below is a photo of 3 of them at Levens Park, near the Lake District.

Let's hope the containment notices stop the spread of this disease.

                                         Sweet Chestnut Trees

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Soil is the key to healthy woodland

In one acre of a typical British woodland system there are:
• 110 tons of trees
• 1 lb of birds
• 21 lb of large animals
• ½ ton of plants
• 1½ tons of fungi
• 4½ lb of small mammals
• 500 lb of earthworms
• 9 lb of beetles
• 50 lb of spiders
• 90 lb of slugs & snails
• 4 tons of bacteria
• 340 lb of protozoa

Or: “Each shovel of soil holds more living things than all the human beings ever born.”

“Soils often have between 1,000,000 to 10,000,000 bacteria per gramme.”

“A teaspoon of forest soil may hold more than 10 miles of fungi and 1 gramme of garden soil can contain around one million fungi.”

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Plants, a fungus and creatures around Elland

On cut oak branches, maybe a form of Turkeytail ? More pics on Calderdale Fungi (tab at top.)

Best picture I've got so far of a pair Goosanders which are becoming so numerous. (We saw 5 females with 2 males at Lee Dam, Todmorden last Sunday being very vocal.)

I predicted the Autumn Crocus Crocus nudiflorus leaves might be beginning to show as it has been a mild winter so far. These are at the Park Nook Lock site.

At this site they grow right down the bank towards the River Calder 

After missing it once, we found the other site along the Calder banks at Elland which I discovered     (I suppose re-discovered) a few years ago. They are about 475 metres East from the Park Nook Lock site.

Though it is very grass-like, the white stripe up the inside the stiff, folded leaf shows it is a Crocus.  

This Great Diving Beetle had died in the top pond on Tag Loop at Cromwell Bottom Local Nature Reserve. It was about 3cm (an inch and a quarter) long. Picture of the upper side was blurred. We left it in the water near the edge, so it might still be there.

Common Whitlow Grass Erophila verna at Elland Lock (side nearest the road by the Crematorium entrance.) Previously known in this area only 2 locks down at Cromwell Lock, where it also grows between the cobbles. One of the smallest flowering plants we have.

At the Calderdale Trees Strategy pre-consultation morning last Wednesday where Charlotte our President and I represented the Society, I made a strong case for favouring and establishing totally unobstructed trees allowed to grow with no other trees anywhere near them. This oak is throwing out its lowest branches within a metre of the ground. It is already a perfect climbing tree for kids and hopefully will be for hundreds of years - near Park Nook Lock.  Though tall straight trees in thick woodland are also beautiful, the great thing about trees like this one above is that there are open, sunlit glades around them which are so good for sun-loving plants and creatures.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

One sunny afternoon in Todmorden

I saw 7 Roe deer today in woodland only a few minutes from the centre of Todmorden. Ivy is the main preferred food source in winter and this photo shows a stone stoop, which only a few weeks ago was covered in bushy Ivy right to the ground.

You can now see it is eaten away to a definite browse line. Roe seem to be very lazy browsers and don't make much effort above nose level.

                                              Ivy browse-line

Nearby was a good number of Scarlet Elf Cup, Sarcoscypha austriaca. In fact I haven't seen as many in one place before (there were many others nearby) and all are on decaying Sycamore branches.

Scarlet Elf Cup
For an attractive winter grass, Miscanthus sinensis is lovely with its old seed heads. It is very hardy and needs no managing. It is a good substitute for Common Reed, which does not flower in Todmorden. Originally from Eastern Asia.
Miscanthus sinensis