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.
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Sunday, 30 September 2018

Hardcastle Crags and Beech

The National Trust has a woodland management plan for the Crags which is available to view by searching -- and entering Hardcastle Crags in search box.

I was surprised to see that extensive work on the Beech trees has already begun within the last week or two. Quite a number of selected mature trees have had all the crown removed and a chainsaw version of ring barking to the lower trunk. The reason for leaving them like this is to provide standing dead wood. They will not recover; unlike Oak or Ash treated in this way would probably survive and some would thrive.

So far the older ones have been left alone and I do hope they are allowed to remain.

The tree works are taking place above Gibson Mill, near the 2 footbridges upstream; on left banking looking upstream.

There will be replanting but I do hope the numbers aren't excessive; it is the spaces between trees that make for a functioning woodland. A good experiment would be to leave an area to seed itself and compare it with an adjacent one that is planted.

Beech is a bit of a nuisance in the wrong place or in excessive numbers but there is no doubt it makes an impressive tree. We are seeing the last of the big Beech trees in the Calder Valley; photograph them whilst you can. The massive one at the junction of Mytholm steeps and the main road, just opposite the turning circle at Hebden Bridge, has been condemned and will soon be gone.


                                     Many in this area have had all the upper crown remove

                                               Ring barking as well as crown removal

                                                 More sunlight as crowns are removed

                                                                Tops taken out

Friday, 28 September 2018

Field Bird's Nest fungi

These have been present on my allotment for the past month or so, I thought they were just stunted, de-hydrated mushrooms up until today when I had a closer look a look at them. They range from around 6-11mm in diameter and are easily overlooked so I was pleased to have given them a second glance.

I think they are Field Bird's Nest fungi (Cyathus olla), judging by their size and trumpet shaped cups when mature. They have 3-5 eggs inside.

If anyone wants a look at them drop me a line - they're at Skircoat Green allotments.


Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Plant battle

Pendulous sedge (left) 'muscling in' on Woodrush

Portia is wondering if anyone else has noticed the effect of increased amounts of Pendulous sedge locally, muscling in on Woodrush in damp woodland. An area near her in Todmorden has no Woodrush left as a result.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Fig plant

Growing from the river wall in Todmorden is this Fig plant. It will be a Ficus but what species I don't know. Is wild Fig unusual in Calderdale---there is a colony of it in Sheffield.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

October's Talk and Indoor Meeting

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.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Hares, Short-eared owls, Twite and more...

The rather dismal, rainy start to Sunday September 16th culminated in a glorious evening while we were walking the area round Gorple reservoir. We were treated to the sight of  Short-eared owls (we counted four in total), which circled above fields of hares (at least 6!), rabbits, pheasant and grouse. Driving back along Edge Lane, we were lucky enough to see a flock of perhaps 20 Twite which landed briefly on a disused Delph. More about that later from Steve Blacksmith. For me, the joint highlights were the hares - I have never seen so many all in one go! - and the sight of those magnificent owls, their wings flashing a pure, bright white in the afternoon sun.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Autumn Crocus, a quick visit.

The number of the Autumn crocus, Crocus nudiflorus, blossoms in St John's graveyard at Bradshaw is 129. This one of my best totals for this site. The hot dry summer has not had any visible effect on these plants.


That's excellent Bruce, thanks for checking.

If anyone wants to see them, they are on the downhill side of Bradshaw Churchyard, along the perimeter wall under a row of trees.

TOUR OF SITES Sat 22nd September

There's an Autumn Crocus trip, consisting of short walks to see them along the riverbanks with short drives between, in the Copley and Ryburn Valleys on 22nd September. Meet PS and SB at Hollas Lane, Copley at 10.30am HX3 0UW.  If you are with us all day, bring a packed lunch.                                            (Report of the walk below)

This was taken last year of the colony at Strines Beck, Bradshaw/Holdsworth,  by Annie Honjo.  Julian Birkhead another of our members is in the picture.

Report of the Walk on 22nd September: Ten members attended plus two dogs.
We first went to the colony on the left bank of the Calder, near the junior rugby pitches at Copley. I was surprised to be shown by Peachysteve several odd crocuses and one clump actually on the playing fields! Those on the riverbank under the young oaks were blooming, but somewhat flattened by last week's wind and rain.

Secondly we went to the right bank of the Calder opposite the above spot, where Peachysteve recently found several patches of the leaves in spring. These also were flowering, but sparsely, showing it's much better to survey the extent of the colonies in spring, when the foliage comes up.

Next we drove along to Kebroyd and looked at the colony at Grassy bottom, by the weir, on the left bank of the Ryburn, among the beeches. Again there wasn't a great show, but the site is intact. There were some convenient fallen trunks here so we sat and had our packed lunches.

We made our way back up to the Oldham Rd through Ripponden via the football pitch and explored up Ryburn Lane, where all but Peachysteve had never been before. At the top, just after it ceases being a tarmac lane and changes to a bridleway, Peachysteve wanted to show us an immense oak, approximately 5ft diameter in its short trunk, with several large ascending smaller trunks. Philip Marshall thinks it is possibly the oldest oak in Calderdale. The "Ryburn Lane Oak" we decided it should be known as, and that it is imperative that it should be recorded and carefully protected.

After that we walked back to Grassy Bottom, via a single crocus at a small colony on the grass verge outside 112 Oldham Rd.,  to the Old Parade Ground, now overgrown with youngish trees, where there is another Crocus colony on the left river bank approximately 60 paces down stream from the footbridge. We confirmed that it is still there and saw a few bedraggled blooms.

Finally we all shared cars up to Dean Lane at Sowerby to see the colony in the field there, not far from Ryburn High School playing fields. These were the only undamaged blooms, and showed a large swathe of purple among the grass.

Other notable wildlife were a Little Egret at Hollas Bridge on the Calder, a beautiful white tufted caterpillar at Grassy Bottom, black in between a few segments, and with a pastel pink appendage sticking up near the rear, now identified on as  

Pale Tussock Moth (Calliteara pudibunda)

 and a Hedgehog, sadly a fatality on the main road at Kebroyd.   Also a single plant of Rustyback Fern on a garden wall along the main road, the only one known of for miles, and fungi were coming up in quantity and variety. The Ryburn Lane Oak had a huge, dripping beefsteak fungus on it, as well as an Artists Bracket.                                                                                                                              

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Unusual Grass species

I looked at the Incredible Edible raised beds in Todmorden railway station car park. There was some Sweetcorn but then a tall annual grass at the front looked of more interest. It was Cockspur grass, Echinochloa crus-galli, which flowers very late in the season and often in October.

The last time I saw it was Todmorden park in October 2010, a large stand of it occupying the lake of flood water. Cockspur originates from tropical Asia and Africa; in the paddy fields of the far east it is a real pest.

Cockspur grass is considered one of the world's worst weeds and can remove as much as 80% of the available soil nitrogen. Accidently introduced to many countries where it has become invasive but in the Calder Valley is rarely seen

Some varieties of Cockspur are grown for their edible seeds and young shoots, so it would be interesting to know whether Incredible Edible knowingly planted this grass or if it just 'popped up'.

UPDATE: Incredible Edible have said they didn't plant it. Good record then for this casual. It probably won't appear next year, so see it while you can if passing that way.

                                                                 Cockspur Grass

Close up of a raceme branch showing rigid hairs on the spikelets

In the 'paddy fields' of Todmorden Park 2010

Thursday, 6 September 2018

This Month's Talk

After the event: Andy brought us a fascinating talk, with plenty of hard science for the initiated, and interesting anecdotes to whet the appetites of beginners to fungus identification and surveying. We were interested to learn that the fields at High Greenwood, part of the National Trust Estate, are ranked very highly, in fact fourth in England for their score in fungus biodiversity

Our National Trust contact Natalie Pownall  invited us to a couple of events coming up:

  Woodland by night, wildlife watch at Hardcastle Crags. Here’s the link to the website. or FREE
Booking available for the night walk on Friday 14th September

-        Wax Cap Workshop study days 4th – 5th October. Meet at Gibson Mill 10am Thursday 4th October for morning training followed by an afternoon identifying wax caps in the field! Friday 5th October meet at Hollin Hall for full day in the field studying wax caps using keys. The aim is to provide training in ID skills and habitat condition assessment in order to enable future “in-house” monitoring of the Hardcastle Crags grasslands. Training and workshop are for interested parties able to commit to surveying wax caps at Hardcastle Crags annually thereafter. Maximum 25 people. Booking required via