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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Thursday, 29 March 2018

Can you guess what it is yet? (UPDATED)

Some of you may remember a caterpillar found by Julian on last September's walk to Bradshaw. It was unusual because of the foodplant it was found feeding on - Himalayan Balsam. It was for this reason I took it away to rear through. After spending the winter in my garage as a pupa it has now begun to "colour up" significantly with all manor of shapes and patterns appearing.

Originally I suspected it was an Angle Shades but due to the smaller than usual size for this species and the fact it hasn't overwintered as a larva I'm quietly confident it's the smaller cousin - Small Angle Shades. It's a rare species for me with not using a light trap so looking forward to the adult which should be out early next week.

Final instar - 30mm long

The pupa this morning

Bang on time the adult emerged on Tuesday morning. A quick record shot in the early morning gloom suggested this was a rather dull looking moth....

But another shot taken later that morning in more flattering light shows off all the intricate patterns and colours that so many moths have but which go largely unnoticed.

Just need a few million of them now to keep that Himalayan Balsam under control.

Thanks to Julian for finding the larva in the first place!

Sunday, 18 March 2018

One landscape many views but not necessarily so

I found this notice beside a lovely lake. Why is planting trees always seen as "the answer" to any problem, which in this case is erosion and lack of bio-diversity.

The newly fenced area has no room for any more trees as the ground is already severely shaded by the existing ones, which themselves are causing the erosion they are so concerned about.

Planting seems perverse when the answer is to remove some of the existing conifers. Biodiversity, plus the broadleaves at the pond edge, would then have a chance.

                                       Official notice. Logo says "One landscape many views"

                                           Existing deep shade, erosion and no ground flora

Monday, 12 March 2018

Elder-- but am I talking Tripe?

This is a most unusual Elder shrub layer in a parcel of woodland at St. Ives near Bingley and I don't recall seeing as much in any other woodland. Elder is not commonly planted and it is difficult to know why anyone would choose to plant so much as understorey.

It is similar to nettles, in so far as both grow better in nutrient enriched soil, which can indicate former human settlement or animal congregations.

I wonder if this particular woodland was formerly stocked with pigs. They would have dunged the soil and by rootling about, all vegetation would have been removed. Elder could well have taken advantage of such conditions.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

First Toads and Frogs out yesterday and Spawn today

The first toads were moved by Toad Patrollers across the roads of Calderdale on the evening of Saturday 10th March. This was at a number of sites in Todmorden and also at Sowerby.

Well done to all concerned for being on the ball!

Today two of us found frogspawn at Widdop Reservoir, typically in a flooded rut in the track.

We could see the small gathering of frogs under the water including some in amplexus (paired) but didn't hear their chorus if they were making it.

Widdop is also a Toad breeding site, like several of our high reservoirs, but none were visible today.

A group of six then a pair of Grey-lag Geese flying over and circling round below us as we traversed the ridge above the reservoir was a spectacular sight in the sunshine.

Frogspawn at Widdop today, my first for this year.
I would be glad to hear of any other early spawnings.

Also very interesting were stumps and branches of dead trees weathering out of the peat in three places. These must have grown before the peat started building up.

This looked very like an oak stump. The glove is there for scale.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

This Month's Talk

with thanks to Amin for the poster

Monday, 5 March 2018


My first Chaffinch of the year heard this morning in Centre Vale Park at Todmorden. Woodpecker drumming and Nuthatch singing. Good to know that Spring is on its way!

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Colden Clough

Excellent report and photos by Steve on the recent Colden walk. In it Steve mentions Beech that have been marked for felling near the rock outcrops, probably a while ago he suggests.

I remember Steve, myself and Hugh Firman looking for the rare Mountain Melic grass on those calcareous outcrops many years ago (was it 8 years?). We remarked that it was far too shady with the even aged Beech for most plants to survive, never mind the rare grass. So some Beech were marked up for felling but like lots of agreed plans, nothing has happened since.

Five years ago, most of Colden Clough gained a woodland management plan, which can be viewed on Forest Plans website   (Very little publicity was given to these plans, so the opportunity for comments was limited).

Under this plan, a few trees were felled near the lower bridge a couple of years ago and a few have been ring-barked but not much management has happened since. Yet many more trees have been planted to add to the numbers that need removing.

If you are in a hole stop digging--if you are in a dense woodland stop planting.

The potentially lovely wildlife dams in the Colden valley are extremely shaded by self-seeded trees, yet the simple work of coppicing them seems to be beyond all capabilities. There could be sunlight and dragonflies galore without much effort.

Why it is thought that more trees are needed in a woodland, when the very absence of new seedlings is telling the story that light levels are too low for this to happen naturally, is a puzzle equal to Fermat's Last Theorem.

                    Hundreds of new plantings amongst too many 'telegraph poles' with sparse crowns

                                         This is a better bit in Colden with spaced out Oaks