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

Thursday, 26 December 2019

A Fragrance of Boxing Day!

The Winter Heliotrope Petasites fragrans.
Long known at King Cross, Halifax, opposite the Fire Station, in the graveyard.
We went to find it today and if we bent down the fragrance was gorgeous.
We agreed it was almonds we could smell.

A few years ago I came across this patch on the top of the wood above the Elland by-pass,
and we found it again this Christmas day, with flowers not yet open.
It must have been a garden escape from the adjacent Halifax Zoo,
reputed to have had beautiful gardens in the early 20th century,
now the pitches of Siddal Rugby Club.

The West Yorkshire Plant Atlas 1994 has only one site for the Calderdale area,
and only six others in West Yorkshire, all around Leeds or east of there.
It is an alien from the Mediterranean region.

The next flower to look out for is the White Butterbur, Petasites albus, a relative of the above.
This we go to find in the Colden Valley from late February - March, a more showy flower, but not scented, and another garden escape, originally from central Europe and the Caucasus.

The first outdoor meeting of the Halifax Scientific Society is on 1st January, meeting 10.30. Anyone who would like to join us is welcome.
Meet in front of Clay House, West Vale, Elland, HX4 8AN for the traditional New Year's Day Bird Count. (We count the number of species seen or heard.)
The walk is about 7 miles, through North Dean Woods (the woods are very muddy just now,) round Norland Moor, back by an alternative path through the woods to West Vale before dark.
A stop for a sociable picnic will be taken somewhere in the woods - bring a waterproof layer to sit on.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Welcome to our new program of talks and walks for 2020.
Click on tabs above for more details.
We hope you will agree that the council have managed to put together a range of diverse natural history topics
with emphasis on local ecology and broader environmental issues.
Overall the program aims to enlighten us all and our guests. 

 We rounded off 2019 with the successful social on the 10th December.
The newly elected chair Mick Harrop made everyone most welcome and presented Christine Eves with a gift on behalf of the council and members for her contribution as treasurer over the last 7 years.
Christine is passing on this role to Michael Brook.
A special thanks goes to Sarah Flood for organising a challenging but entertaining quiz.
Thanks to all who contributed to the food and nibbles for the evening.

 Reminders below of the first events of 2020.

 In February the talk by Alastair Fitter concerns the threat to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s first conservation site by developers near York. We hope that by the time the talk is given the site will have been saved! Please see the Calderdale Wildlife blog for many more details.

 Walk 10:30 to Dusk Wednesday 1st January
New Year’s Day bird count. Meet SB at Clay House, West Vale.
A walk through North Dean Woods and around
Norland Moor. HX4 8AN. Approx. 7 miles.

Walk 10.30 to 14.30 Saturday 11th January
Ten common Woodland Mosses.
Meet PS at Stansfield Mill Lane, Triangle. HX6 3JX. Approx. 4 miles.

Talk Tuesday 14 January
Adrian Horton and Rosie Holdsworth
Slow the Flow in Calderdale.

 Talk Tuesday 11 February
Alastair Fitter
Askham Bog: Yorkshire’s Biodiversity Hotspot.

 Reminder to all please that the annual membership fees are now due!

 Finally we look forward to seeing you all in the New Year and wish you all seasonal greetings and a happy peaceful Christmas.

 Laurence Sutton - Membership secretary - 07880 721330 

Friday, 29 November 2019


Heard an unusual bird-call this afternoon in Queens Park at Burnley and saw this couple of Paraqueets. Are they ring-necked? I presume they are male and female; is the male the scruffier one?

Monday, 18 November 2019

Commenting on posts

Does anyone else have any problem with replying to comments? I have no luck when I press "publish" and they just disappear. Apologies if any commenters seem ignored.

Thanks for commenting. I have tried again many times but my comment just disappears when I press 'publish'. Very odd.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Pampas Grass

I'm sure most people are familiar with Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) with its tall fluffy plumes. It originates in South America but there is also one that comes from New Zealand and has the common name ToeToe.

They look similar and both generally get called Pampas Grass without realising they come from different parts of the world.

My photo shows the New Zealand species, which you can see has a graceful curved stem with a more delicate flower head than the large plumed Pampas grass. These tussocks are at the entrance to Todmorden park. There is also a good one in a garden by the roadside at Springs, Mytholm.

Both species came under the genus Cortaderia but the New Zealand grass has now been put into genus Austroderia, (specific name richardii,  named after Achille Richard a French botanist).

What is remarkable is the hardiness of the New Zealand grass. Whenever I go over Holme Moss (elevation 1719 feet) from Holmfirth towards Woodhead, I always remark on the incongruity of just one large tussock at the roadside just over the summit. It is wild and windswept with severe winters, yet this hardy grass grows and flowers well amongst the moorland vegetation.
Someone must have been determined to plant it there!

By the way, be careful handling them as the leaves will cut you to the bone.

                                            New Zealand 'Pampas' ToeToe grass

                                                       At entrance to Todmorden Park

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Silent Fireworks

A town in Italy has banned the use of all but silent fireworks. Great!

I know a lot of people and children love the spectacle of rockets lighting up the early winter darkness, but I have long detested the war-like explosions.

There is a movement to spare our domestic animals this annual torture and since our woods have become repopulated with badgers, deer and foxes I imagine their panic when the deafening salvos start.

Monday, 4 November 2019

Grassland Fungi Survey - Broadhead Clough, Nov. 1st

Eleven of us turned out on a damp, mizzly kind of day including Peachysteve who organised the event and Andy Mclay from Natural England. To be honest, one look at the mainly long, sodden grass made me think that this was an impossible task to find anything of note but with so many keen eyes on the ground we had a pretty decent haul by the end of the trip.

This Glutinous Earthtongue was the first decent species and was extremely well picked out by one young lady. The head was so smooth and slimy you can even see my reflection in it.

Thirteen species of Waxcaps were found including this Goblet Waxcap.

.......and this rather pretty Spangle Waxcap.

A nice clump of Yellow Clubs

It's the first time I've had any pinkgills named for me so it was good to finally see this Mealy Pinkgill

......and this Priest's Hat Pinkgill (Entoloma infula). It had no English name until it was fancifully imagined by Peachysteve.

This unearthed Scarlet Caterpillarclub had an unusual amount of fruit bodies so I wondered if it was from a particularly large moth larva such as an Emperor Moth, but I was soon reminded that these pupate above ground. Turns out it was just a regular sized (noctuid?) larvae.

As expected the large amount of cow pats contained fungi including these "eyelash" fungi. Such was their abundance I'm fairly confident they're Cheilymenia fimicola - a very common species.

A lateral view shows smaller hairs on the underside of the cup.

Another highlight for myself were these much sought after Horsehair Parachutes. The caps measure around 3mm across and their stems are like, you guessed it, horsehair. I was already at the back of the party when I found these, so that when I'd finished photographing them I was all on my own, in an drizzly, exposed field in the middle of nowhere and the light was fading fast - quite surreal really.


Lunch was taken overlooking the Cragg valley - we all enjoyed the chocolate brownies one kind lady had baked for us.
Fungi expert Andy Mclay is on the left.


Clavulinopsis fusiformis Golden Spindles
Clavulinopsis helvola Yellow Club
Clavulinopsis luteoalba Apricot Club
Clitocybe nebularis Clouded Funnel
Cordyceps militaris Scarlet Caterpillar Club
Cystoderma amianthinum Earthy Powdercap
Entoloma infula Priest's Hat Pinkgill
Entoloma prunuloides Mealy Pinkgill
Galerina sp Bell
Geoglossum glutinosum Glutinous Earthtongue
Hygrocybe cantharellus Goblet Waxcap
Hygrocybe chlorophana Golden Waxcap
Hygrocybe coccinea Scarlet Waxcap
Hygrocybe conica Blackening Waxcap
Hygrocybe insipida Spangle Waxcap
Hygrocybe irrigata Slimy Waxcap
Hygrocybe laeta Heath Waxcap
Hygrocybe pratensis Meadow Waxcap
Hygrocybe psittacina Parrot Waxcap 
Hygrocybe quieta Oily Waxcap
Hygrocybe reidii Honey Waxcap 
Hygrocybe russocoriacea Cedarwood Waxcap 
Hygrocybe virginea Snowy Waxcap 
Laccaria laccata Deceiver 
Lactarius quietus Oakbug Milkcap
Lycoperdon nigrescens Dusky Puffball 
Mucilago crustacea Dog's Vomit Slime Mould 
Mycena epipterygia Yellowleg Bonnet
Mycena pura Lilac Bonnet 
Paneolus sp Mottlegill 
Psilocybe semilanceata Liberty Cap
Rhodocollybia butyracea Buttercap
Scleroderma citrinum Common Earth Ball
Stropharia semiglobata Dung Roundhead
Agaricus sp Mushroom
Tubaria dispersa Hawthorn Twiglet
Rickenella fibula Orange Mosscap
Cheilymenia sp Dung Eyelash Fungus 
Clitocybe fragrans Frangrant Funnel 
Boletus luridiformis Scarletina Bolete 

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Gorpley Clough musings

A few photos of Gorpley Clough taken in April this year to show aspects of woodland management.

Some of the mature Sycamores were "killed" a few years ago as part of the management of the upper clough and following this tubes were planted, which have been more successful than their contents, although some have saplings emerging shyly.

One small area has been successful with 14 oak trees appearing. One has to wonder why 14 were planted when there is only room on this ledge for perhaps 2 or 3 mature oaks. If left as is, they will all grow like spindles and none will make an attractive tree. Maybe there are plans to thin them at some later date--we will see.

Interesting way to kill the Sycamores. Not content with topping the trunk and removing all the crown, they have had 2 chainsaw rings around the trunk in an attempt at ring barking. Not satisfied with this, there was a more serious attempt at killing the tree by wholesale bark removal. But just to make sure, there have been ecoplugs drilled around the circumference. These plugs contain Glyphosate and kill the tree stone dead, preventing any regrowth. Of course, being drilled above the ringbarking they are useless as there is no sap flow connection to take Glyphosate to the roots. It all seems an expensive and bizarre way to create standing dead wood.

It would not have mattered if there had been some coppice type regrowth from the roots; it's all leaves, shelter and greenery and could be coppiced again after a few years.

I have included photos of Alder not far away from the planted tubes. Look how these have grown into really interesting trees, fascinating to look at and full of wildlife niches. But this is because they have space to grow.

In the lower clough, an earlier planting scheme of possibly 20 or 30 years ago is doing well. But the redundant tubes are scattered about and some are still around the trunks.

Come on--this is an attractive and designated wood why does it need plastic and Glyphosate?

Glyphosate plugs, ring barking and bark stripping. You will die or else!!

Many Oak saplings but will any grow into a tree?

Alder tree. Characterful after enjoying a good life in the open

Space to stretch ones limbs

A tree as tenement and testament

Growing well but what about those tubes?

Steep to plant but too steep to collect tubes

Friday, 1 November 2019

Sweet Chestnut -- Castanea sativa

Showing the nutlets inside the split outer casing. You are more likely to get mature edible nuts in southern counties but maybe with climate change we will soon be eating them.

It was always thought the Romans introduced this tree to England but recent research suggests it was much later, in about the 13th century.

                            Can you see the face on the left casing, gazing intently at the nuts?

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Pale Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Saw this little fellow earlier this week, in Luddenden Dean.
Initially I thought it was a piece of sheep's wool, covered in luminous algae.
It really was this bright. My camera hasn't changed its colours.
I think it has a face like a cat without ears!
Charlie Streets said they are known as 'Hop Dogs', due to the havoc they wreak on hop plantations.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Rochdale Canal

We had a walk along the canal from Luddenden Foot towards Brearley this afternoon.

Several young Alders were growing out of the canal bank by the towpath
and we found these small beetles and, we assume, their larvae.
Lots of damage to the fresh leaves though we failed to find any on the mature alders.
All in all there were maybe 30+ beetles but we only found 2 larvae.

With apologies for the small images. Click on the photos to enlarge.

 We think they must be Alder Leaf Beetles - Agelastica alni

Also one from yesterday on the garage door - think it must be the species as described below ?
Hawthorn Shieldbug - Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale

Collared Earthstars

After a tip-off from Mick Harrop, Steve, Sarah and myself went to see these fantastic fungi
at Milner Royd Nature Reserve.
They're a little above the steps at the entrance to the reserve
by the recycling station/tip at Sowerby Bridge.

They were a lot larger than I'd expected, some around 3.5 inches across.

They were also more numerous than I'd expected
with dozens present on either side of the path and a little in to the woods.

The centres were much like delicate puffballs,
loaded with spores which they ejected at the slightest touch.
The outer rays being much tougher.

In amongst the earthstars were three clumps of corals
growing in the soil around deciduous trees
anybody any suggestions?

Monday, 14 October 2019

Holywell Green to Gosport Clough Fungi Survey

Several days worth of rain followed by a fine and pleasant Saturday resulted in another fantastic trip to what is fast becoming one of the best sites in Yorkshire to see grassland fungi. 
The strategy to maximise our chances of finding the most fungi was to form a line with a couple of yards between each other and slowly progress forwards. 
It worked very well most of the time but as you can see here everybody easily became distracted by the never ending supply of interesting finds 
(Photo by Steve Blacksmith).

Another of Steve's photos looking from Gosport Clough back towards Holywell Green.

Star of the show for many was this Powdercap Strangler (Squamanita paradoxa). 
It's one of our most remarkable mushrooms which is parasitic on the Earthy Powdercap (Cystoderma amianthinum).
It takes over the host and replaces the cap and gills with it's own but retains the original stipe,
creating in effect a hybrid between the two. You can clearly see the joint between the two species.
The only book I could find it in says it to be extremely rare!

This one was suspected to be another rarity - Hygrocybe lacmus
but on further examination it now appears to be a Yellow Foot Waxcap (Hygrocybe flavipes).
The lack of yellow base to the stipe prevented a more immediate diagnosis.
Still quite a rare Waxcap by all accounts.

A more "run of the mill" rarity was the now expected Violet Coral (Clavaria zollingeri)
which became even rarer when I inadvertently stepped on one clump :-(

A more common but equally stunning fungi was this Crimson Waxcap (Hygrocybe punicea)
one of four waxcap species new to me on the day.

It has to be said that without Peachysteve's knowledge and experience many of the most interesting fungi would have gone unidentified including this Oily Waxcap (Hygrocybe quieta).

The same could be said about this Orange Waxcap (Hygrocybe aurantiosplendens).

A nice group of Heath Waxcaps (Hygrocybe laeta) in the sunshine.

This tiny Ivory Bonnet (Mycena flavoalba) was my sixth new species for the trip.

An easy one to miss were these ubiquitous Hymenoscypha fagineus on fallen beechmast husks. 

Much more easy to find was this slug-eaten but picture worthy Bolete - possibly Red Cracking Bolete.

My little colony of very rare Yorkshire moths - the Lichen Case-bearer is doing well judging by this mammoth count of 17 larval cases in just one small section of wall.