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, 29 January 2018

Mosses in mind in a moist and magic valley - Colden Clough

We were privileged to have Johnny Turner along to guide us and introduce some of the many species of mosses and liverworts that grow in the woods in Colden Clough.  Peachysteve was there too and he is also very interested and knowledgeable. This was the Society Ramble on 27th January 2018.

The drizzle that started the day had the advantage that all the mosses and liverworts would be perked up and looking at their best.

First we headed to the calcareous rock outcrop that we have long known at the top of Eves Wood, on the top edge at the Heptonstall side.

Here we saw TWISTED MOSS Tortella tortuosa which makes compact cushions on rock that is not too wet and acid.

We discussed the rocks and how they appear also at Hardcastle Crags in one small outcrop which the National Trust carefully preserve, even removing small trees that prevent the sun getting in.

Mountain Melick was found recently at Hardcastle Crags by Annie Honjo after decades of it not being recorded and these rocks at Eves Wood also used to hold this rare grass. However Summer is the best time to look for it. The small ferns we often see in old walls with lime mortar - Maidenhair Spleenwort, Wall Rue etc. are also a feature of these calcareous outcrops and Ivy can indicate the rocks from a distance.

The party of nine plus Meg the Black Lab. (out of shot)

Soon we were off in search of a new-to-us outcrop of the same rock on the far side of the valley, which Johnny had reported to us. (So there are new things to report on geology in our area!)

On the way we found the remains of a fresh Woodcock, eaten by a raptor of some kind. The bird of prey had left the wings, part of the skull with the long, straight beak, and one foot of the Woodcock, where it had eaten it, beside the track.

Along the way we looked at many different mosses of which I can only list a few. We were shown LANKY MOSS Rhytidiadelphus loreus, which was not recorded during the industrial years, but has now become very common since the Clean Air Acts were passed.

It's relative the ELECTRIFIED CAT'S TAIL MOSS Rhytidiadelphus triquestris used to be known as BIG SHAGGY MOSS till many bryologists picked up the common name - very apt - from across the Atlantic. This is one of the aspects of bryology - the same species can be found right round the northern hemisphere, wherever the tiny spores are carried on the winds.


Tree growing implausibly on top of solid rock, as they often do in the Pennine Cloughs

Sphagnum mosses are most often seen on the moors in wet places, where they are valued for absorbing huge amounts of water and playing a part in flood prevention, but Colden Clough has a lot of SMALL RED SPHAGNUM Sphagnum capillifolium on its slopes.

A tiny liverwort we were shown was a rare one; FINGERED COWLWORT Colura calyptrifolia, which Johnny had found for the first time in Calderdale. He's not a fan of the new policy to give every organism a common name as well as the scientific one, but he's been doing it for so long he's got used to the latin/greek.
I think common names could help more people to get into it, aid awareness and thus conservation.

After another off-piste scramble we got to the newly found calcareous rock outcrop on the western side of Colden Clough. It's not as big as the one on the Heptonstall side, but has the same distinctive appearance.

We then walked along the contour to some huge rocks quite near the Blackshaw Head Road. Here there are overhangs and small caves in which Johnny wanted to show us the moss GOBLIN'S GOLD Schistostega pennata. This moss grows in the deepest shade where nothing else can compete. Chloroblasts in the leaves are actually mobile, and turn like tiny lenses to capture the maximum of the available light, which give the effect of shining greenish gold. However, it was such a dull day that the effect wasn't happening for us on Saturday. In Hokkaido there is apparently a shrine to this moss at one place it grows and is much admired by Japanese nature lovers.

I recalled that knowledge of mosses used to be more ingrained among members of the Halifax Scientific Society; I occasionally heard an urban myth in which one gentleman member "borrowed" someone else's girlfriend to go looking for the Goblin's Gold. Shocking!

All these mosses and the liverwort can be found online.

If anyone would like to hear a talk on Calderdale Mosses and Liverworts Johnny Turner is bringing us an illustrated lecture on his subject at the New Central Library, Halifax, at 7.00 for 7.15 on Tuesday 13th March. Entry is free with donations accepted to the Halifax Scientific Society.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Here is a wood we made earlier

This is a local woodland that was formerly unimproved pasture full of wildflowers. It is shown on the 1850 OS map as an open field within surrounding woodland.

About 30 years ago it was planted with trees (mainly Oak I think) and is now a good example of 'make your mind up' time.

Oak trees need plenty of light and space to grow. There is a good one in the foreground of the photo that would make a fine tree but not if left as it is. The ones surrounding need to be coppiced or pollarded to create a more structured woodland and release this Oak from shading. Not much work involved and all could be done quickly with these young saplings.

Other likely trees in this small field could be identified and the competing ones managed. The extra light would allow wildflowers to grow. If no intervention, then the likelihood is further loss of ground flora and a degenerating woodland.

There are new plantations springing up everywhere and I hope in future years that people are as keen to use a bow saw as they are a spade.

                                     Lovely vigorous new woodland but will it get too shady?
                                                          Can you see the extra one?

                                                                         Here it is

Friday, 26 January 2018

Animal Welfare

UK law is changing as we leave the EU.
The Government had planned to remove the concept of animal sentience which was enshrined in EU law but backed down after a public outcry.
A consultation is now underway that covers this issue as well as sentencing.
If, like me, you find animal cruelty appalling then you'll be pleased to hear that longer sentences are proposed in this draft.
If you care about the fate of our wildlife, farm animals and pets then please check the consultation.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Amazon Rainforest --- but perhaps more rain than forest?

We think of the Amazon rainforest as being untouched by humans, a wilderness of trees and bio-diversity. New archaeological and agricultural evidence is revealing this may be a myth.
It is estimated that up to 20 million people once lived in the Amazon but the population collapsed following the arrival of Europeans in 1492.
Diseases unknown in the Americas were introduced and it is thought that 90% of the indigenous population in some areas died as a result. They had no immunity.
More native people, both in North and South America, died from disease than in all the subsequent wars. 
Prior to this population collapse, many parts of the Amazon were probably as cultivated as regions in Europe. More than 200 species of trees are considered “hyperdominant” because they make up about half of the trees found in the rainforest. But many of these trees were probably cultivated on purpose.
It has implications for how much carbon the rainforests can absorb. All the tests  have been done in these relatively young areas of rainforest, which absorb much greater amounts of carbon. But this is not representative of the forest as a whole.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Lost Otter Cub at Hebden Bridge

If you click on the Calderdale Birds tab at the top you can get the full story of how it was rescued. There's an earlier post with the story, then a second post with a picture of it. (Now it appears two were found in different places!)

Correction: Apparently one young otter has been made into two due to confusion on Facebook!

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Tame Grouse???

Took my Scouts on our annual hike starting at Hardcastle Crags today. We were walking on the path under Shackleton Knoll when a Grouse turned up just a metre away from us chattering away to us. Despite my Scouts being noisy etc it stayed with us and then followed us when we moved off .

Call for Twite monitoring volunteers!

Katie Aspin of the RSPB has asked me to post this - please get in contact wih her direct if you are intersted in helping this spring!

 Vo    Volunteer Role Profile
Role Title:
Twite Monitoring Volunteer.  Project Title – Twite use of trial feeding habitats

South Pennines farms near to Ripponden, Marsden, Littleborough, Walsden and Hurstwood

March, April possibly into May

4 days minimum – each site will need to be visited at least 4 times over the monitoring period.

Why We Want You:
The twite is a 'red-listed' species whose population has declined substantially in England. To arrest this decline, trial management measures have been deployed at farms in the South Pennines to increase breeding season seed food availability. This project will collect bird and environmental data to evaluate the use of these habitats by foraging twite. 

What’s In It For You:

A chance to get some practical experience of conservation monitoring work on a very rare bird, plus spectacular views of the South Pennines landscape and plenty of fresh air!

The Skills / Talents You’ll Need:

We are looking for somebody with good bird ID skills, preferably with previous experience of twite ID, both visually and on call.  Excellent observation skills and a methodical approach to data collection will be key, as will patience and persistence.  You will need to be physically fit to cope with the demands of working in the uplands.  We need someone who is comfortable working alone in remote areas, but who can communicate effectively with landholders and project staff.

You will need to be able to travel to the farms, so your own transport is a must as most of the farms are in isolated locations.

Training will be provided by RSPB staff.

For more information, contact:
Katie Aspin – Twite Project Officer
Email –
Phone - 07736722177

Monday, 15 January 2018

There was an old Oak--.

My previous post was about Burnley's oldest tree in a field just outside Towneley Hall.

Contrast that Oak with this one about half its age, within Towneley Hall grounds. It has had drastic limb removal, no doubt out of safety concerns and nearness to a path. But the tree is unlikely to survive and I doubt they expected it to, even though there is some desperate reactive growth.
Note the ubiquitous mown grass around the trunk.

I didn't see the Oak before work was done but one has to ask if other interventions were considered, such as a progressive crown reduction, that may have allowed this tree to survive.

The Ancient Tree Forum has plenty of advice on how to manage older trees in order to avoid outcomes such as this.

There is no shortage of new woodland being created but is anyone actually planting trees? And will future generations have ones such as the Colden Sycamore to admire? (You may expect this tree to have a Preservation Order but I will leave that for you to discover!)

                                                           200 years and then this.

 Lapsed Sycamore pollard above Colden Valley

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Burnley's Oldest Tree

Many of you will have visited Towneley Park at Burnley but may not have seen this 400+ year old pollard Oak. It is not mentioned on any of the info boards or fingerposts within the Park. The only noticeboard is adjacent to the actual site and comes as a surprise.

But of all the people that pass by, I never see anyone looking at the tree. Perhaps people don't 'see' trees outside of a woodland.

This Oak perfectly illustrates the notion "You don't find Ancient Trees in Ancient Woodland". They have separate histories and keep at arms length.

My first photo was taken in June 10 years ago. The others in January 2018. Notice the long meadow grass in the earlier photo and the present sheep nibbled grass.

Maybe they will move the sheep out and let the meadow grow for the summer. I hope so---the tree will be nourished by the long grass and will keep the roots moist in a dry summer. Sheep congregate under trees and too much Nitrogen deposited via dunging can damage the essential soil-fungi/root relationship.

Seek this tree out if you are in Burnley--old trees benefit from being looked at. They get lonely otherwise.

                                                                       June 2008

                                                                      January 2018

Tree Planting on a Grand Scale

Most people will have read the Government announcement a few days ago about the 50 million trees to be planted to create a Northern Forest. It has been published in all the newspapers, on TV and everywhere.

But it seems Huddersfield has its ear to the ground; their newspaper published the same news in March 2017.

Sunday, 7 January 2018


This fungi was seen on dead trunk of a sycamore at end of December. Can someone suggest a name for it?

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Xylella fastidiosa

I first mentioned this bacterial disease as a cause for concern, nearly 2 years ago on this blog. It has now come to the attention of our daily newspapers and the plant industry, which are all warning of the dire consequences if the disease arrives in this country.

The bacterium was confined to the Americas and Taiwan until found in Italy in 2013.

It is classed as the world's worst plant disease and affects hundreds of species, including several species of trees grown in the UK; Oak is one.

It is unusual compared to most bacteria that cause plant diseases in that it can multiply within most plant species.

It is spread by sap-suckers such as frog hoppers etc. and produces symptoms similar to drought conditions ie leaf scorching, dieback and death.

There are now 4 known sub-species of the bacterium, one previously unknown that is now raging through Southern Italy, killing thousands of Olive trees, many of which may be a thousand years old. 

Some observers say the disease is likely to arrive at any time in the UK (an imported coffee plant with the disease has already been found and destroyed). The Forestry Commission says;-

"There is a heightened risk of its being accidentally introduced since its discovery in Italy, Corsica and mainland France. We therefore urge the public, especially tree and plant professionals, to remain vigilant for signs of it, and to report suspicious trees to us. Xylella fastidiosa is a quarantine organism, so there is an obligation to report any trees suspected of being infected by it. Please report suspected cases to us with our Tree Alert on-line disease reporting form."

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Proofreader needed

Hi all , I have been putting together the updated version of the Moth and Butterflies of Calderdale (including the first micro List)  . I have done all i can and now need someone to give it a read and pull out all the spelling / grammer mistake. (anyone who knows me  will know there will be many ). Any help greatly accepted .leave message below if you can help.....