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Wednesday, 30 May 2018

HSS walk 5th May to Windy Harbour

This is a digression but I hope anyone interested in maps, history and myth may find it of interest. (Google 'National Library of Scotland Maps" and you will have free access to 1st and later editions of 6" and 25" ordnance survey maps for the whole of England as well as Scotland--a fantastic resource).


The 5th of May meeting was at Windy Harbour Lane above Todmorden, just south of the Blackshaw Head road, to accomplish a plant survey in the nearby fields.

Later, I looked at old maps to see how the area had changed.

The 1st edition of the ordnance survey map (6" to a mile) was surveyed in 1848 and it shows the land area near Windy Harbour is named as "Olymphus". But in the second edition of 1889 the name has gone, never to reappear. However, the local farmer today still refers to the field by this name.

One of the survey fields has a number of scattered trees, mainly in one half towards the clough. Back in 1848 the whole of this field was covered in trees, both conifers and broadleaf. It was named as "Black Cam".

By 1905, half of Black Cam had been made into a meadow again and the remaining trees were known as "Black Common Plantation". The situation today has not changed and the same trees occupy the same half of the field. Which makes some of the trees not less than 170 years old.

There is mention of the word "Olymphus" in the book "The Travels of Sir John Manderville", which he wrote in about 1356.

"And there is a great hill, that men clepe Olymphus---And it is so high, that it passeth the clouds. And men say in these countries, that philosophers some time went upon these hills, and held to their nose a sponge moisted with water, for to have air; for the air above was so dry.  And above, in the dust and in the powder of those hills, they wrote letters and figures with their fingers.  And at the year’s end they came again, and found the same letters and figures, the which they had written the year before, without any default.  And therefore it seemeth well, that these hills pass the clouds and join to the pure air."

(clepe is now an archaic word but means 'give something a specified name')

Also of interest; there is a standing stone in the middle of the Olymphus field at Windy Harbour, which is not shown on the 1848 map but first appears on the 1905 map. This stone is still there.

It makes you wonder if the land owner took the Olymphus reference at face value and decided to mark the highest point as the home of the Greek Gods.     And why not.

                                           Black Cam trees and 2 botanists

                             Sycamore that is probably over 170 years old. 

The Guardian of the Olymphus Stone

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

A call to act on bloodsports, unless you believe they are harmless or beneficial.

I just signed the petition "Richard Flint, CEO: End grouse shooting on Yorkshire Water moors" and wanted to see if you could help by adding your name.

Our goal is to reach 2,500 signatures and we need more support. You can read more and sign the petition here:


(Brian is a trusted source for me - SB, and the link seems fine, not that I'm an expert.)

Colden Clough

The packhorse bridge at the top end of Colden clough has lost one of its giant slabs from the deck. A sycamore tree fell over due to waterlogging of its roots and knocked the slab into the water, breaking the stone in two.

Scaffolding and planks have made the bridge secure to use but there seems no sign of any repair work. It is a listed bridge.

I was enjoying the fields on the upper edge of the wooded clough, with all the buttercups--a sea of yellow. But not for long, as the farmer was busy with his tractor spraying all the fields via a long boom. Dare I hope it wasn't weed-killer?

Unhealthy Conifers

Walking in Colden Clough today I noticed many of the conifers on the opposite side of the valley looked unhealthy. As you can see from the photo, many are brown and possibly dying.

They would need a closer look to see what is happening but they don't look as they should.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Where are the bees and pollinating insects?

I reported on this blog a few days ago about the lack of bees and insects. I have spent time since then looking at all flowers I come across and have not see any of them with a pollinating insect. For instance, Rosa rugosa is normally full of bumble bees rolling about in the nectar but this year--none to be seen.

All the vast number of Hawthorn blossoms that I have looked at are totally lacking in anything--nothing at all is to be seen in any of their flowers.

I looked on the web and found an article from entomologists in Australia who are puzzled by the widespread decline of insects in their country. They have spoken to entomologists in other countries, who have reported the same decline in insect numbers.

No-one seems to have a clue why this is so, particularly as it is a worldwide phenomenon and so cannot be related to specific circumstances in one area.

Has anyone else noticed this lack of pollinating insects, or is it just me that is being unlucky at finding them?

A study from Germany was reported last October "In just 3 decades, insect populations in German nature reserves have plummeted by more than 75%, according to a new study".

Here is an extract from the Australian report, where even the controlled breeding of a butterfly species is failing.

"The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary in Kuranda, west of Cairns, has had difficulty breeding the far north's iconic Ulysses butterfly for more than two years.
"We've had [the problem] checked by scientists, the University of Queensland was involved, Biosecurity Queensland was involved but so far we haven't found anything unusual in the bodies [of caterpillars] that didn't survive," said breeding laboratory supervisor Tina Kupke.
"We've had some short successes but always failed in the second generation. "Ms Lupke said the problem was not confined to far north Queensland, or even Australia.
"Some of our pupae go overseas from some of our breeders here and they've all had the same problem," she said. "And the Melbourne Zoo has been trying for quite a while with the same problems."
I find all this extremely worrying. But where is the concern? Are we so enthralled by modern life that it doesn't matter to us? But matter it will, whether we like it or not, when the impact shatters our complacency.
Link to full article here

Friday, 25 May 2018


I wonder what these are in the buttercup?

Weather about to break so must have a look at
the Peregrines at Square Chapel Spire (Piece Hall or Library Spire to some.) Peregrines originally reported by AB this year I believe, also by MSt.

04.31 Male Peregrine appeared straight away, flew in and perched on the outside.
04.58 Male and female Peregrine flying round.
05.00 Male Peregrine flying round calling.
05.12 Female Peregrine flew out from spire and perched on the outside, preened.
If there is a Peregrine nest it could be on the balcony behind the north facing balustrade.
Fewer Jackdaws than two years ago when I counted birds prior to building work, when Kestrels were  present. Kestrels missed a year during building project.
One Jackdaw nest on east side, another over the yard in the Industrial Museum, and another in the Hughes Corporation building, just over the road.
05.15 One Pigeon flew out and back into the spire.
05.16 Male Peregrine flew out from balustrade ledge and flew directly north.
05.24 Pigeon flew away.
05.29 Female Peregrine had gone - didn't see it go.

(Edited notes - several other sightings of Peregrines circling spire.)

Female who came out to preen.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Where have they gone?

Is it just me or is there something very odd with wildlife this year. There are no bees, no insects, no House Martins.

I walked for miles along a floriferous canal towpath, with Hawthorn in profuse blossom and only saw one bee. None of the blossom had any insects. I stopped to listen for the usual buzz and it was deathly quiet.

That walk was in hot sunny weather and down near Leamington Spa. It was the same in all the nature reserves nearby--nothing to be seen apart from the occasional Orange Tip butterfly.

On arriving back home I walked round the usual places that are normally full of bees and insects but all the flowers were silent.

Tod park usually has a good colony of House Martins nesting under the Sports' Centre roof but not this year.

Please can someone reassure me that my experience is atypical.

Centre Vale Park Local Nature reserve

If you are squeamish; don't watch

I found the body of a dead fox by the horrible smell from some distance. It was being devoured by maggots and just look at the video to see how fast they move---creepy!

Also put the sound up high and listen to the lovely birdsong in our wood.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Lamprey? Worm? Leech?

We found this strange creature in a brook up at Shedden Clough on May 7th at around midday. It has the appearance of an earthworm, but it is very pale, almost white. What really stumped us was the lamprey-like mouth which you can see in the first picture and which in the second picture seems to be attaching itself to the rocks under the water. Does anyone have any ideas as to what this could be?

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Climate change as history

In case we thought that climate change was only suggested in recent times, here is a quote from c1840

" Alphonse de Candolle wrote to Asa Gray asking him about the effect of the destruction of the forests in America on the climate."

Asa Gray was the foremost American botanist of the 19thC and Alphonse Pyramus de Candolle was a botany professor at the University of Geneva. His dad was Augustin Pyramus de Candolle who originated the idea of "nature's war", which influenced Charles Darwin and the principle of natural selection.

For anyone interested in the forests of America, read "American Canopy" by Eric Rutkow. A fascinating book on the relationship between Americans and their trees. One of the best books I have ever read.


Bolton Abbey woodland has these unconcerned Mandarin ducks, probably fed by passing walkers. Good to have them much closer to see their beautiful colours.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Meadow Foxtail

Most grasses have all kinds of tiny creatures hiding on them. This Meadow Foxtail shows a larger one but I have no idea what it is.

                                                Showing full size of the spike for comparison         

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Mayflowers don't need a notice board

Our grass verges are always mown with traditional regularity but this year the first cut was much later than usual. What a surprise then to see the number of Mayflowers along the whole avenue and elsewhere, that have never been seen in decades.

It couldn't last of course. Today the workers moved in. I wish I could say the mowing was done with determination. But it was all done without passion as the cut Mayflowers were trodden into the ground.

Elsewhere, Councillors are investing in spraying areas of ground to sow colourful (but not necessarily native) annual displays. They are very proud of these and place notice boards to inform the public of their good deeds.

Perhaps Mayflowers aren't colourful enough, or maybe no-one recognises them anymore. They are gone now, with a sigh of relief that order is restored.

The Botanist of earlier times was known as a "Looker-Out". A good description for a world now forgotten.

But I know where the Mayflowers are.

                                                         Good to look at the flowers                                                 

                                                                But not for long

And now they are gone

Friday, 4 May 2018