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

Friday, 29 March 2019

Friday, 22 March 2019

Help a toad across a road!

We need help with taking toads safely across the roads at Cottonstones near Mill Bank to prevent them being squashed by traffic.  We are collecting between 50 and100 per evening at the moment, and it would be wonderful if you could lend a hand.  All you need is warm clothing, high vis jacket, torch, bucket and a notebook to write down the numbers collected. We go out around 7pm for a few hours - but any time you can spare would be great.  Please contact Charlotte at or call/text 07801 968404 if you require more info.  Otherwise....see you there!

Tuesday, 19 March 2019


In the Conservation Land Management magazine there is an interesting article studying the effects of invasive Rhododendron on the ground flora. This study was done in the Atlantic oak woods of  Scotland which also has Birch, Hazel and Rowan, as well as a rich ground flora.

Under Rhodo there is little that can survive the deep shade. When areas were cleared of this noxious shrub the original ground flora never reappeared, even after 30 years. However the Bryophytes did return and carpeted the ground with mosses, which produced a novel ground flora for which there is no comparison in natural ecosystems.

They found the popular idea that Rhodo 'poisoned' the soil was not supported by soil tests and is a bit of a myth. They found the only way to return a semblance of the original flora was to reintroduce seeds and scarify the moss covering.

I read elsewhere that we refer to it as Rhododendron ponticum but in reality this country has introduced multiple species from different parts of the world. These have hybridized to such an extent the resultant shrubs cannot be named with any certainty as it is a mish-mash. This has made it more invasive than R. ponticum.

Rhodo is a prolific spore distributor of the disease Phytophthora ramorum, an oomycete pathogen, which arrived in this country in about 2002. It has killed millions of Larch trees. It also affects Beech and the disease has been confirmed in the upper valley, where mature trees are dying and collapsing.

It is difficult to understand why there is not more effort to clear Rhododendron. It is easy to cut down and just needs a bit of effort for a year or two to strip off any regrowth and the stump is dead.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Recent photo's

I took this photo of a bat species at a roost in Shibden recently.
Perhaps a Daubenton's but waiting for the experts to see if that species can be confirmed.

Also from Nigel G a nice shot of a Common Lizard in Crimsworth Dean on 4th March. 

Our March indoor meeting with speaker coming from Edinburgh

Thursday, 7 March 2019

A bit of colour in a rainy spell - Scarlet Elf Cup

Scarlet Elf Cup - Sarcoscypha austriaca 

This fungus disappeared from Calderdale for many years and started being found a little in the 1970s, then gradually more till it's now fairly common.
It grows on rotting willow branches on the ground, sometimes when they're covered by fallen leaves.

These were growing near Woodhouse Lane Todmorden, when it was fruiting like this in three places on  6.3.19

Old texts say it was once popular as a Christmas decoration, but in my experience it always appears well after mid-winter. Maybe they collected and dried it for the following  Christmas.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Linnaeus and his Unio pictorum

Most people have heard of Linnaeus as being the founding father of modern botanical names; all Latin binomials and nomenclature begin with his book Species Plantarum published in 1753. Binomials had been used by other botanists before him but he was the first to create a logical system.

But how many know Linnaeus was the first person in the world to produce cultured pearls? 

At that time the only method for finding pearls was to use the time consuming effort of looking for natural ones. He believed that a technique for culturing pearls would be more effective and profitable for Sweden.

He experimented with the Painters Mussel, Unio pictorum, so called because the shells were good for the mixing of paints by artists.  Linnaeus drilled a hole in the mussel's shell and inserted a small granule of limestone between the mantle and the shell. The idea was this 'irritant' would stimulate the growth of pearls. These mussels were then returned to the riverbed for 6 years and they produced the world's first spherical cultured pearls.

It wasn't as profitable a business as he had hoped but even so he was ennobled for his efforts by the king of Sweden, taking the title of von Linné.

The pearls, patent, and Linnaeus' secret were sold to a Swedish merchant but nothing came of it.

You then have to wait 150 years until the Englishman William Saville-Kent formed a syndicate in 1905 called "The Natural Pearl Shell Cultivation Company of London". This was the first commercial venture and took place in the Torres Straight which runs between the tip of Australia and New Guinea.

Monday, 4 March 2019

Amphibians waking up!

This weekend we saw our first frogspawn and mating toads on the move to their ponds.

Frogspawn in a swampy field near Sowerby Bridge 3/3/19
Ranger Natalie Pownall reported some the previous weekend at Gibson Mill, Hardcastle Crags, which was the first I heard of this year.

Toads spotted by Annie Honjo and picked up off the road at Copley New Road just after dark on 3/3/19. The smaller male often arrives on the back of the larger female, as here. 

Re: Frogspawn. This can be seen from a distance when freshly laid, as it tends to float high in the water. Later it sinks below the surface. You can estimate the number of pairs of frogs as each clump comes from one pair, and that is their lot for the year.

Toads: They usually appear later in the year than frogs, and cross the roads in swarms trying to get to their ancestral ponds, when they often get decimated by traffic. It has to be about 8C for them to move, and it happens just after dark very often. Their spawn is harder to see, as it is in long strings in deeper water. Many people go out in the evening to pick the toads up and save them from the traffic. This can be read about on the Toads on Roads website, part of Froglife.

Steve Blacksmith, Recorder of Amphibians and Reptiles for Halifax Scientific Society.