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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Monday, 29 July 2019

Vapourer, or rusty tussock

Spotted this vapourer moth caterpillar, Orgygia antiqua, on a sanguisorba flower in my garden in Halifax this evening.
Over the years I've found them in the garden in the egg, caterpillar and adult stages. The adult female is flightless (see my post from the 12th of August last year
The male's erratic flight put some naturalist long ago in mind of someone who had 'taken the vapours' - i.e strong drink - hence the name.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Common Lizard

Came across this yesterday on Rishworth Moor. Steve notified of exact location for which he had no records.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Tulip Tree

The Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) in Centre Vale park at Todmorden is experiencing the best display of flowers for many a year. I think it was planted in the early 1930's. They are a fast growing species and do not flower as well 'up north' but this hot weather has encouraged it.

The large upright cup of the flower is from the time when this ancient species was pollinated by beetles and before bees had evolved. It was easier for beetles to blunder into a large and upright flower.

Introduced to this country from America about 1630. Called by the early settlers the Canoe tree, as it was the preferred tree for making canoes by Native Americans, being fast growing with a straight trunk.

There are only 2 species in the genus; the other is from the far east and called the Chinese Tulip tree.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Wyke beck seriously polluted.

As announced at the recent meeting, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has started a project on the streams of the mid-Calder and the HSS has been invited to participate in some of the practical work and also in providing records of wildlife.

Sadly, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's previous project in the Calder Valley, the Clifton Beck/ Wyke Beck catchment was dealt a serious blow recently. On Saturday13th July we were at the Wyke Beck just upstream of Bailiff Bridge. The beck was grey-white with household drain water and smelled strongly of drains.

It's very annoying because we have known this as a beautiful little trout stream with Kingfishers nesting in the banks. They almost certainly wont be there now.

I reported it on Saturday evening to the EA and got an incident no. 1718487 kindly given to me by an EA official. You can ring their pollution hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's easy to find online.

The point we saw the pollution in the Wyke Beck was just north of Victoria Rd., Bailiff Bridge, SE1467925534.

Pond creatures

Can anyone identify these which have just appeared in a muddy pond very recently? Picture not very clear but best I could do.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Nurseryweb spider

Pisaura mirabilis guarding her young today on waste ground in Boothtown. The female carries a silken egg-sac around under her body until the young are nearly ready to emerge, then spins a tent-like nursery in which she sits. When the dozens of young hatch she guards them from the outside of the nursery for a few days until they are ready to make their way in the world.

Notice she has lost a leg in her adventures, probably a fairly recent injury because it has not begun to regenerate. Spiders are able to grow back lost limbs a little at a time with each successive skin moult. A spider this size would moult several times in her life.

With a body of length 12-15mm this is a large and unmistakable spider (the clover flower behind her gives a sense of scale) and the only British species of the genus Pisaura, common in the midlands and the south but with a patchy distribution in the north. Over the moon to find this spectacular beast so close to home!

A mid-summer day dream

I am concerned about the lack of insects and wild bees. Perhaps I'm not observant enough and behind me there are vast populations which play hide and seek when I turn around.

The photo shows Clattinger farm meadows in Wiltshire which we visited recently. It is one of the best wild flower meadows in the country and a joy to walk through, with abundant blue damselflies at every step. But where was the summer sound of buzzing bees and insects; only a few individuals could be seen if hard looked for.

The situation differs little wherever I go. Flower rich fields and flower laden bushes are lacking in any pollinators.

In our wood as soon as July started, it was impossible to work because of the clouds of black flies that formed. I had to resort to a towel draped over my head to keep them at bay. This was the same every year without fail for the whole of July. But now there aren't any. All gone.

Maybe it was all an illusion and nothing but a dream of lying in the grass in Summer and hearing the soporific drone of insects. Now I have woken from that dream I certainly miss them.

Clattinger Meadows, Wiltshire

Friday, 12 July 2019

Big Butterfly Count - 11th July until 11th August

Anyone can take part ......

Please note that the Big Butterfly Count starts on 19th July until 11th August. Launched in 2010, it’s an annual nationwide survey run by Butterfly Conservation. Declines reveal the poor health of our environment – “WE NEED YOUR SIGHTINGS” is their appeal – ‘Big Butterfly Count’ type it into your computer and log all your sightings.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Some July finds I'm excited about

Giant Puffball found at Hanson Lane in a very urban garden. Now mostly eaten. It fries beautifully brown and absorbs other flavours.

Wood Tiger moth at Crimsworth Dean

Wood Tiger showing its underwings. I saw my first one the week before at Gibson Mill. I'd never heard of it before!  Seen on a butterfly survey with Hardcastle Crags National Trust volunteers.

Willow Warbler nest at Jerusalem Farm. It builds a roofed-over nest with a side entrance similar to its relatives the Chiff-chaff and the Wood Warbler. When we found it last week the adults were busy feeding chicks (Annie brought my attention to them) but the nest was on a steep bank, cleverly built among thick grass with thistles and Dog-rose, making it impossible to check the contents without beating a path up to it. So finding it empty today (we waited about 15 minutes to see if the adults were still feeding,) and no signs of predation I can record it at least as a successful nest with young fledged in the first week of July. I record nest histories for the BTO, but don't find many warbler nests!

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Cucumber Spider

Delighted to find this bright green little orb weaver Araniella cucurbitina or Araniella opisthographa in my garden in Halifax. It's impossible to tell which of the two commonest cucumber spiders this one is without microscopic examination, which I haven't (yet) carried out. I'll keep watching for any roaming males, which are quite different looking, coming to court her.

If you look closely you can just about tell how she is hooked on to her web, which was being buffeted by a strong breeze, by her tiny tarsal claws.