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, 26 December 2018

Beech wood and black lines--what are they?

A recently sawn Beech trunk that was dead and had just collapsed, shows curious black lines on its cross section. In my photo they are on the outer section and resemble a map of some unknown continent.

What we are seeing here is the demarcation between mycelia of different species of fungi. These mycelia don't like competition so where they meet a battle begins; each one trying to outdo the other.

A  stalemate develops and these ink lines are the defensive/offensive chemical barriers that form where they meet. High concentrations of chemicals, such as Phenols, are formed and actually increase decay resistance in the wood at this zone.

Look how the lines stop abruptly at the inner edge towards the centre of the trunk. The mycelia (in this case I think Turkey Tail) are only able to grow in the drier and dead outer zone.

Also notice at the base of the in situ broken stump there has grown a separate young Beech. It is quite independent of the dead tree and looks to have grown as a result of the trunk sending out aerial roots into its own rich decay compost. You can see the splaying roots connecting with the parent tree near the base.
It could have survived to form a new tree but all has now been cut and logged. But it does illustrate survival strategy and sometimes we don't see it or allow for it. Trees contain innumerable fungal spores right from being a sapling and remain dormant. They cannot develop in the anaerobic and high moisture content, particularly the sapwood.

Dormancy can last for decades or centuries. It is only when conditions change, such as a branch breaking off, that fungi are able to develop as the surrounding wood dries and oxygen is allowed in.

It can be said most fungi don't invade a tree, they actually spring to life and grow out.
A chemical barrier is then formed around the growing mycelia, walling it off from progressing further into the tree.

Black 'ink' lines on outer part of trunk

New independent Beech growing from base of parent stump

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Our 2019 programme is hot off the press - see our first indoor meeting below - all members and friends feel free to attend


A couple of bird sightings:
Seen out in the open at Withens Clough Res on Thursday 19th Dec. a Green Woodpecker, and a nice memory from a HSS walk back in the summer - a Little Egret at Copley Valley Industrial Estate, that's Wainhouse Tower on the hill behind, with the egret in the foreground.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Trees at Erringden Grange

Erringden Grange, on Kilnshaw Lane above Hebden Bridge, is an early 19th century listed farmhouse and barn. (Erringden thought to be of Norse origin "The valley of the high ridge"). It also has numerous adjacent fields with rectangular field patterns, as well as an old Hawthorn hedge now in need of some care and new saplings for continuity.

But what makes the fields unique in the Calder Valley are the small diamond shaped enclosures at all the wall intersections. Look at a map to get a better impression.

There are (or were) about 50 of these enclosures shown on the OS map of 1849 and each contains planted trees of mainly Beech and Sycamore. These trees are possibly over 180 years old.

Some of the enclosure wall 'diamonds' are now falling down or have been removed but most are surprisingly still extant. Many have the original trees but some are entirely bare, such as the ones near Rake Lane. Wouldn't it be good to see these replanted and keep this interesting landscape for the future.

     Sycamores by the side of Kilnshaw Lane

200 year old Hawthorn hedge. No berries for birds if not cared for

Another small enclosure. Wall now gone and stock able to damage the Ash trees.
Bark eaten away on one in the background.

Nearest looks like it may be a lapsed pollard.

Erringden Grange

Fallen Ash has recovered and sent out upright trunks.
Could last for centuries if treated as coppice (if Ash-Dieback doesn't see it off)

Erringden Grange. On the right in the fields is a tree enclosure

Tree enclosures--another 48 in adjacent fields

Ash; may have been a pollard

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

December's Scientific Society walk.

The walk in the programme was to start at Ogden Water and thread through the old lanes and secluded footpaths to Mixenden Reservoir, then back through the abandoned farmland and across Ogden Golf Course public footpath to Ogden Water. However the weather was a little moist, though very mild for December, and only two joined me. One of those was Meg the black Lab. So Peachy Steve and I made up our own walk and went to see if we could re-find the clubmosses on Ogden Moor we saw a few years ago on a tip-off from a Yorkshire Fern group member.

We weren't lucky with the clubmossses (we were looking for two species growing closely together), but we did see this Orange Peel Fungus. Aleuria aurantica
Birds: Long-tailed Tits, Three Red grouse, Snipe, and a couple of  LBJs (little brown jobs) in the mist on the moors, probably Meadow Pipits.

The woods at Ogden Water and Mixenden Reservoir are plantations made on abandoned farmland. Their establishment was as a result of suggestions by a group of people in the early 20thC including our President, William B Crump. I have a booklet produced to promote the idea, giving statistics, advantages, suggestions for species, quite a long and detailed document. One of the main worries about making the investment was that trees would not survive the air pollution as by all accounts  palls of smoke hung over Halifax, Bradford and Keighley in those days. The opinion was that Ogden and Mixenden were far enough away that the trees would not be affected, and it seems they proved to be so. It was claimed that the main advantage of having trees growing there was so that Halifax Corporation could profit from the timber when they grew to harvestable size; no mention of visual amenity or biodiversity increase! Seems it was a different world then, unless the promoters knew how to make the eyes of the people on the Corporation light up with £££ signs!

Back in Halifax, I have been finding very large and broad Candlesnuff Fungus Xylaria hypoxylon, bigger than I remember it usually being. I've seen it on dead twigs at the base of a privet hedge, and on dead raspberry canes. There is another small, slender species worth looking for  that can be found sometimes on old beechmast on the ground. 

A "giant" form of Candlesnuff  (Xylaria)
Growing at the base of a privet hedge (Ligustrum) at St Augustines Community Centre, Halifax, yesterday.

I collected a little,leaving plenty. Also these Blewits (Wood Blewits?) smelling nicely of aniseed, but a bit too mature and maggoty to cook. These grew in the middle of West Central Halifax.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Wickerwork Archer in Skipton Woods

Visitors to Skipton may not be aware of the short canal spur that leads to a dead end below Skipton Castle. This spur was built specifically for the loading of limestone from a nearby quarry. The stone was delivered by a tramway and dumped via shutes 100 foot over the precipitous wall by the castle, into barges below.   80,000 tons a year--it's a wonder the barges didn't sink with that onslaught! The old quarry is now a housing site.

The first photo shows the footpath which gives entry to Skipton Woodland (managed by the Woodland Trust). The canal spur is on the left in a deep gorge below and the river is to the right of the path.

The woodland has historic features, including old mill dams. The more interesting older trees are on the boundary and the Limes on the upper path show this. The sprutting growth at the base is one of the best habitats for birds and home to all kinds of creatures. Public parks always cut away this epicormic growth (behaviour known as tidiness I believe), forgetting the importance it has for biodiversity.

                                        Canal spur in gorge on the left below Skipton Castle

                                               Boundary Lime with tremendous habitat

Wickerwork lady. A work of art.

                                                                 Wickerwork horse

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Some good pictures of a bat flying in daylight over on the Cromwell Bottom Site. (Tab at top.)

Pictures by Dave Brotherton posted on 4th Nov.

Reminded me of a small bat I saw flying over the canal last week that had much of one of its wings missing.

A lot of the web was missing, though the bones seemed intact. I guess a hawk had had a go at it.

Unlike Dave's pictures, mine were very small and blurred.  I only had my phone with me.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Butterflies - including a NEW SPECIES - Recorder's Report to the AGM on 13th November.

Halifax Scientific Society Big Butterfly Count at Cromwell Bottom, 14.07.18

Walk led by Steve Blacksmith. These records submitted by Brian Cain. Typed from Brian's notes by Annie Honjo. Andrew Cockroft is  now our Lepidoptera Recorder, but was unable to attend (Andrew joined us after the programme was set.) Brian is also a recorder, and our former lead recorder for many years.


Tag Loop 

From riverside footpath and through entry gate:

  • Small White, (f)
  • Gatekeeper (m)
  • Large Skipper (f)
  • Green-veined White (f) 


Reserve area:

  • Small Copper
  • Gatekeeper
  • Meadow Brown
  • Large White (f)
  • Small White (f) Meadow Brown
  • Possible Common Blue (f?) not close enough to ID

  • Ringlet
  • Small White
  • Gatekeeper x 3
  • Gatekeeper (f)
  • Small Copper (m)
  • Meadow Brown x 2
  • Small Whites x 3
  • Small Skipper, netted and examined in pill box; dark undersides to antennae = Essex Skipper

  • July Belle moth (Geometridae)

  • Small Skipper
  • Brown Hawker (Aeschna grandis)

  • Cinnabar larvae

Leaving the mound:
  • Ringlet
  • Meadow Brown

Woodland path:
  • Green-veined White

Back to gate:
  • Green-veined White (m)
  • Large Nymphalid flying past riverside trees, orangey-coloured 

North Loop 

Café: NB On former Common Blue site (built over!). Also Common Blue meadow towards canal completely mowed off!


  • Holly Blue

Lunch & drinks, approx ½ hour. Several ‘Whites’ passing, also Brown Hawker

  • Purple Hairstreak flying low overhead

Very good area of flowering brambles opposite café area. Numbers of Ringlets, Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns and Small Whites feeding on them. Also Green-veined White (m), Brown Hawker

  • Comma (Hutchinsoni)
  • Large White

  • Meadow Brown
  • Brown Hawker
  • Small Skippers x 3

  • Meadow Brown x 2
  • Small White (m)

  • Ringlet
  • Meadow Brown
  • Large White
  • Small White

  • Whites x 6+ (probably Small Whites)
  • Stand of Trefoil – Meadow Brown, Small White

  • 3 Cormorants in river
  • 2 x Meadow Browns
  • 2x Small Skippers


Cormorants have moved downstream, flock of Canada geese now on river

  • 2 x Six-spot Burnet moths (one f)

  • Six-spot Burnet (f)

  • Six-spot Burnet (f), also one caught in spider’s web. Also bird kill, probably by a Sparrowhawk.

  • Small Copper
  • Meadow Brown

  • Brown Hawker
  • Meadow Brown (m)

  • Small Copper on trefoil
  • 6 x Small Whites
  • 2 x Meadow Browns

  • Green-veined White

2.31 – back at the café, completed walk.

NB: the highest numbers of butterflies in one area, feeding on the bramble flowers, probably about 30+: Ringlet, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Small White, Green-veined White.

Total number of butterfly species recorded: 13

NB Essex Skipper is my first record for our area.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

National Trust meadow seed for sale

This is a message from Natalie of the National Trust:

We were able to brush harvest meadow seed this year!
We a few bags left for sale from this year’s mini hoard – £35 per Kg.
It might be a bit late now to sow this autumn due to the heavy frosts we have been having – but I may be a little pessimistic.
The seed will be great for spring sowing, however the yellow rattle seed would have just expired.
If you know of anyone who would like to turn their garden into a meadow please send them my way!

All the best,

Natalie Pownall
Academy Ranger
West Yorkshire Group
Hardcastle Crags & Marsden Moor
National Trust

Monday, 5 November 2018

Interesting fact

Trees are big and tough because more than 95% of their cells are dead. That's remarkable!

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

November's Indoor meeting

After the AGM and the Recorders Reports there will be a dvd called "A Bird for all Seasons" made by one of our Life Members, Gordon Yates. I think it is one of his best, and not ALL about birds. Members and visitors who want to chat instead of watching the video are invited to do this in the back half of the room.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Society Walk to Lydgate; some history notes

Adding to Steve's account of this walk, I have gleaned some info from 'Flora of Todmorden' published 1911. This flora was compiled decades after the deaths of Stansfield and Nowell, from records gathered by them in the early to mid 19thC.

But before I go on and in case the following article is not of interest, can I arrest your attention by mentioning a reference to a book by Mr. Stackhouse -- Map of Rocks published 1831, in which there are large lithographs and descriptions of many of the major named Rocks in the valley. I can find no reference to this book anywhere and I have searched the internet. If anyone has any knowledge of it I would love to hear.

For the aficionados; please read-on

The Flora of Tod states there is a calcareous grit outcrop in Harley Wood Scout (near to our walk) and "This stratum arrested our attention many years ago, in consequence of finding several calcareous plants growing upon it. These were Wall Rue, Maiden Hair Spleenwort, Carline Thistle and Wood Melic and some others" (pity they weren't listed). (I have never seen Wood Melic in that area).

On our walk it was mentioned that Frank Murgatroyd had a record for a Filmy Fern; but it seems no one had ever found it and doubts was expressed about the suitability of the habitat where Frank said it was.

I wonder if he was bringing to mind this early record from the Flora of Todmorden where there is a record of Tunbridge filmy-fern being common above Springs at Harley Wood (Lydgate). The book goes on to say this filmy fern was destroyed by the getting of stones for building the Burnley Railway (built in 1840's). Maybe Frank was passing on this record and perpetuating the plants existence? Although the site he mentioned was not near the stone quarry. Perhaps not all plants were destroyed? "The gametophyte is likely to be inconspicuous with a narrow ribbon-like thallus" --Wikipedia.

The walk went past the Orchan rocks. The Flora of Tod gives this info "We come now to the Orken, or Orchan stone: or as spelt in a deed of 1491 Ork-ndstone. The name as pronounced by the inhabitants is none other than the Gaelic word meaning incantation; or in the Irish dialect of the Celtic, 'Orcain', a murder or killing. In the ordnance survey the word is spelt Hearkenstone but we apprehend this is wrong. Though the name is applied to the whole group of rocks, the real Orchan Stone is the large, square, isolated block which stands nearly in situ, whilst the others around it have been tumbled down in the utmost confusion. The stratum a few yards to the north of the Orchan Stone, remains in situ and has only been disturbed here and there."

"Some years ago a number of masons and quarrymen laid siege to this fine mass of rocks, and it was at our earnest request , and from the good sense of the proprietor (the amiable T. Ramsbotham) that this piece of reckless destruction was prevented."

Mr, Stansfield also refers to ludicrous names given to these stones in the "History of the Parish of Halifax". Mr. Stansfield has the riposte "His informant must have been some ignoramus of the lowest grade, totally unfamiliar with the district".  (Todmordians have always been expressive in their opinions)!!

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Society Walk - Todmorden Walk Sat 27th October

The Autumn colour and woodland fungi walk went really well considering the dire warnings from the BBC of cold weather arriving. It should be  "The North Wind doth blow and we shall have sun" (NOT snow - or rarely.)

Fifteen people and two dogs turned up; we were pleased to welcome two ladies from Hebden Bridge with their dog Bibo, who were very welcome, and as usual Peachysteve's Meg accompanied us.

The mood was light-hearted as we set off, despite the early parts being steeply uphill. The views were amazing, and the Autumn colours rich and satisfying.

At Orchan Rocks we had the spectacle of approx 800 Pink-footed Geese going over in several skeins. The sight and sound was impressive, especially for those who had not seen wild geese migrating before.

We found fewer woodland fungi than hoped for, a single Elfin Saddle being a notable exception, but on the sheep pastures higher up there were interesting species of waxcap, and a group of Caterpillar Clubs, each one attached to an underground moth larva, as we proved by digging one up (and replanting.),

Other birds seen were large flocks of Fieldfares "chack-chacking" as they went over.

After the walk, five of us went  to Jerusalem Farm in Luddenden Dean, to check for fungi, including the rare Date-coloured Waxcap which I once found on a HSS/ Mid Pennine Fungus Group foray, (I was ignorant of its identity and  rarity) but we were unlucky, but did find the fragrant Cedar Waxcap, which smells like pencil sharpenings.

Looking back down into the Calder Valley

Distant view of Cornholme

View from Orchan Rocks

Part of Jerusalem Farm

Monday, 22 October 2018

Gosport Clough photos - Oct. 20th

The walk was very well attended and led by Peachy Steve whose knowledge and enthusiasm is infectious and inspiring in equal measure.

Despite it not being a classic year for fungi so far a very long list was racked up and recorded for the relevant organisations. My FUNGI highlight was this Spangle Waxcap in appropriate autumn colours.

I tend to only photography fungi new to myself rather than the more showy ones, a point well illustrated here with these Ugly Milkcaps - note the bruised gills dripping with milk.

I was surprised to find I hadn't recorded these Petticoat Mottlegills before either. The veil remnants on the cap edge being the "petticoat".

This is one of three Scarlet Caterpillar Clubs we found. I couldn't resist excavating it to find the host just below ground level - a moth larva.

And the dissected larva full of mycelium.

And anyone who knows me will know that this was my highlight of the trip - a Barred Sallow resting by day, appropriated enough on a Beech leaf - it's foodplant. One of a group of autumn species well marked to blend in with fallen leaves.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Invitation to October 27th Walk - Report on the recce we did today : Autumn colour and woodland fungi in the Harley Wood area of Todmorden

 Hopefully it will be dull, calm and misty. This is when the Autumn colours really smoulder and look so fabulous; far preferable to bright and garish  New England !

All these images taken on the way back downhill. On the way up we pass the Orchan Rocks. There are some longish steep lanes to get up there, but we will go at the speed of the slowest.

To my eyes the most scenic area of Calderdale; deep drops and spectacular but uncrowded tree views

Our route is on safe footpaths all the way, but a little nimbleness may be needed on some rocky downhill paths

From Lydgate on the Burnley Rd we go up as far as Hartley Royd on the Todmorden Centenary Way, then back down a different route.

Our phones told us we walked about 4 km, but I don't know if this allows for the  undulations.
We should be back by 3.30pm easily.

We sat under beech trees to eat our picnic when the drizzle threatened to penetrate. Lovely real outdoor weather!         Birds seen included Kestrel, Goldcrest, Fieldfare, Brambling (1).
Meet 10.30 at Lydgate Post Office (beyond Centre Vale Park, just after a car wash.) Park on Church Street, or on Burnley Rd.
If coming by bus I'll meet you at the fish shop just over the river bridge at Tod Bus Station. Let me know what time your bus gets in. Two spare seats at the moment. 0771 500 5379

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Bradley Wood

I was given a splendid tour of Bradley Wood by Mick Harrop. It is ancient woodland containing bell pits showing a former use by digging for coal.

The woodland is an interesting mix of tree species as a result of planting over recent decades by the Scout Camp and Activity Centre. But when you filter these out an older landscape emerges, which includes large Hazel coppice stools and many fine Oaks.

One of my photos is of a Beech which is large in both height and girth and looking remarkably healthy. It could easily be 200 year old, an age which is rare for this species in our area. Notice the graffiti carved in the bark high up the trunk.

A most intriguing tree is a large multi-stemmed Oak growing from an old coppice stool. Just how old is it? Looking at the width of the base and how it could have spread outwards with each coppice cycle is it fanciful to think in terms of 400 years old?

There are also some American Red Oaks (Quercus rubra), with leaves showing the natural variation in shape which caused me confusion when trying to identify them.

Before we went to Bradley Wood, Mick showed me an Oak in the middle of a field near Warley Town. It is the kind of tree that stands out in the landscape; with its spreading branches being evidence for it always having been an open grown tree.

To keep this Oak from losing its character and help it live longer, it is important not to let it become part of a woodland. If pollards were created from the young Oaks nearby---their present branch structure being ideal for doing this---both young and old would benefit. The many burrs contain dormant buds, which are just waiting for the right conditions to enable new shoots to grow. This is an Ancient Tree of the future.

                                                          Ancient Oak of the future

                                                        Beech tree at Bradley Wood

                                                      Beech tree at Bradley Wood

                                                       How old is this Oak coppice?

                                              Wide variations in leaf shape on Red Oak

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Larinioides cornutus, Bradshaw

Lovely to find this female Larioides cornutus near Bradshaw Lane this Sunday, shown roused from its weather-proof 'silken retreat' by a gentle poke from a pen nib.

The retreat is closely woven with an entrance near the bottom.

A smaller spider is using the same dried stem, probably a Dictyna which tend to haunt the dead heads of plants
Both common species but amazing beasts. The cornutus often live near water, sometimes climbing beneath the water surface to escape danger.

October's Talk on 9th. Please note this replaces the Geology talk from Will Varley in our printed programme and elsewhere on this site. (Due to an error on my part.) SB

If you are a gardener you will be perhaps taking stock on how well it did this year. This talk will help you to make decisions to improve your plantings if they could be better for the bees and other nectar-loving insects next spring and summer.