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, 31 January 2019

Saturday, 26 January 2019


Roe Deer numbers are at their highest level in the Country for at least 1,000 years. Until about 20 years ago they hadn't been seen in the upper valley for centuries and at one time were nearly extinct in England.
Their present numbers make the practice of coppicing a difficult activity when all regrowth is constantly nibbled back. Piling brash on cut stumps does help to a certain extent but not for long.

Fencing an area of land is expensive and time consuming; it is also ineffective as the Deer always find a way in. Of course when they are in it is almost impossible to get them out! In effect you are creating a perfect inclosure where deer can happily browse.

So how to manage woodlands when thinning out the trees and expecting them to coppice is a frustrating failure?
Pollarding could be done as it is a practice that goes back into the mists of time and probably predates coppicing.

It has the advantage of being better for wildlife and all regrowth is above the browsing height of deer. The trunk increases in girth each year, providing many vertical habitats for wildlife not available on coppice. The cycle of cutting regrowth from the bolling opens up the woodland floor to sunlight, benefitting flowers and butterflies.

One has to query why it is totally out of fashion. There is a lot of misunderstanding of the practice but it could be part of any woodland management plan.

By cutting a pollard Oak the sapwood is rejuvenated and dormant adventitious buds are stimulated into growth.

Second photo showing Hawthorn hedge just layed and since then all the thorny brash has been piled alongside to keep the Deer from browsing new growth.

                     Recently cut pollards first done about 30 years ago and now in their 3rd cycle

Newly laid Hawthorn Hedge, ideal for birds.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Annual Meadow Grass

If you want a grass species that is easy to identify, choose Poa annua (annual meadow grass). It is nearly a certainty that you will have no difficulty because in deepest winter this grass will be the only one in flower. Look at any pavement or roadside edge in urban areas and you will see it everywhere.

Frosty weather makes no difference to its flowering. It is normally self-pollinating and seeds are viable within only a couple of days.

It is a highly variable species and can be annual or a short term perennial. Annual Meadow Grass is actually a hybrid of Poa infirma and P. supina, a fact only verified in 1957 by Prof. TG Tutin. It was a puzzle to think how these 2 species had hybridised, as supina is found in the mountains of central and northern Europe and infirma is found in arid Mediterranean regions.

It is suggested the 2 species got together in the Quatenary ice-age when climate change caused glaciers to move. So Poa annua is a relatively recent hybrid formed 2½ million years ago!

Unlike other grasses, P. annua has an innate ability to resist herbicides. It also seems to be able to develop specialised adaptations and growth forms which enable it to grow on dry golf courses or paddy fields.

It is the only non-native plant to have successfully established in the Antarctic and because of its close association with human activity, has spread throughout the world.

Sorry--no photo. Non needed, just take a look on the pavements.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Hebden Bridge Park today (Calder Holmes Park)

This must be the broadest trunked Spruce in Calderdale. I believe it's Norway Spruce, Picea abies, the one that used to be the most popular for Christmas trees till we found Nordmann (Caucasian) Fir, Abies nordmanniana had advantages. The tallest Norway Spruces we have are perhaps those along the Hebden Water in Hardcastle Crags, downstream of Gibson Mill.

The blue around the red of Robins' breasts seems more noticeable in winter. It even continues over the front of the crown. Hunger drives the Robin nearer us on frosty days, and the cold causes them to fluff up their feathers for insulation.

This Birch beside the Calder in the park hosts more and bigger Witches Brooms, caused by the fungus Taphrina betulina, than any other I've seen.

There were c.110 Mallards on the Hebden Water in the town centre, only one showing signs of hybridisation, and on the Calder beside the park there were five Goosanders, along with a very elegant Heron in full breeding dress, its plumes wafting in the breeze.

Friday, 4 January 2019

First Indoor Meeting and talk of 2019 this Tuesday 8th Jan.

See poster a few posts down.

All welcome, including members of the public.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

New Years's Day Bird Count, first walk of the year.

Seven members and friends joined in. We had a record 32 species of bird on the day. Previous record 31 on 1.1.2017.  We walked from Clay House through North Dean Woods, round Norland Moor and back through the woods by a different route.

With many thanks to MH for the Little Owls.

1          Jackdaw
2          Blue Tit
3          House Sparrow
4          Dunnock
5          Robin
6          Collared Dove
7          Blackbird
8          Magpie
9          Great Tit
10        Long-tailed Tit
11        Coal Tit
12        Feral Pigeon
13        Crow
14        Redwing
15        Dipper
16        Chaffinch
17        Black-headed Gull
18        Wren
19        Woodpigeon
20        Bullfinch
21        Raven
22        Buzzard
23        Nuthatch
24        Jay
25        Pheasant
26        Stonechat
27        Mistle Thrush
28        Starling
29        Little Owl (2)
30        Rook
31        Mallard
32        Song Thrush