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, 27 March 2020

More amphibians

Found this unusual colour morph of common toad crossing the lane to the pond.
It looks reminiscent of a brown version of the European green toad Bufo viridis.

Meanwhile, the smooth newts are having a nocturnal ball at the moment,
floating around in the water column, snapping at daphnia and chasing each other.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Fantastic Sky

Took a couple of photo's on 23rd March on the phone of the cloud (Cirrus I think) - very high cloud, with the added bonus of a 'Sun Dog' (second 2 shots) showing to the left of the sun mid morning.

Not sure how it will show up on the blog but I'll try.
Notice - no vapour trails !!

'Click the photo's to enlarge'

Sycamore and sapwood

This young sycamore has grown 'coppice' shoots after being cut down,
despite the decayed stem leaving just a ring of living wood.
Many ancient trees are hollow yet continue to thrive.

Decay is a natural process within a tree and the photo shows how little sapwood is needed to retain viability.

But why doesn't the sapwood also decay and this Sycamore tree is killed?

Most fungal spores cannot develop within sapwood as it is too high in moisture content and no available oxygen.
The tree also creates a chemical barrier zone, defending the expanding sapwood from the internal decay.
As long as the sapwood can grow and expand to keep pace with internal decay,
there is no reason why this Sycamore could not live for many years as a coppiced stool.

As I understand it, fungal spores are present within trees from their time as a seedling,
which means when fruiting bodies appear after branch removal or damage,
they have often developed internally and grown out of the wound and not,
as we usually think, by spore entry via the wound.


My son reported seeing lots of bats last night at Hollas Bridge.
When the new bridge was put in place it included built in concrete bat boxes.
Lots of flying insects yesterday so no surprise the bats were out.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Jumping Spider - what I saw on my 'daily exercise'

 There were several zebra spiders Salticus scenicus running around in the sun on my allotment shed door this morning. This one is on the hinge.

 This one is about to inspect a nail hole

 This is a male with his extra-large mandibles. Note the fangs folded underneath, like flick-knives.

 A typical pose, ready to jump

 Hard to spot, but the four points of light on the dark stripes on top of the head are backwards-pointing eyes

Sight hunters with excellent vision, this one seems to be fully aware of the camera lens.

Looking forward to seeing what these little chaps are up to if we get more sunny weather. Maybe I'll be able to observe their 'semaphore' courtship displays. 
Look out for them on sunny inside windowsills.

Monday, 23 March 2020

Toad pond restored

Very pleased to report the restoration of the toad pond in Clifton was completed last Friday.
It had been empty for months due to the winter floods damaging the bank and letting all the water out.
Some toads appeared last Monday to an empty pond,
but from now on they have somewhere to breed again.

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Common Lizard

Quite a surprise to find this lizard in the grass near Scammonden.
Thanks to Dan R for the report and photo's.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Talks, Walks and Social Dinner Cancellation

Due to the current virus pandemic the talks of 14th April, 12th May and 9th June have been cancelled.

We will review the situation in the first week of July with regard to the rest of the year’s programme.

The outside walks are also cancelled until such time as it seems reasonable to continue them.

It is in the same vein that the Social Dinner has been cancelled.

Please continue to add your sightings to the blog.
If you are not able to make posts please contact and request to be added.

We wish all members the best during this unsettling time.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Cherry Plum ..continued

From Peachysteves post recently on 8th March...(thanks for the prompt).
I eventually got around to checking for both Cherry Plum and Blackthorn species on Shroggs Road reclaimed landfill site. There is a large flat, and very boggy grassland area, which is very good for lots insects in summer but not a lot visible in winter.

There is one large planted tree area adjacent to Brackenbed Lane and another banking of planted trees alongside Shroggs Road. The trees in both areas were planted around 1989. Our son and pupils of Lee Mount Junior School planted the trees on the banking in liaison, I think, with Calderdale's Million Trees Initiative.

I found around 6 groups of Blackthorn, Prunus spinosa, all on the grassland side of the tree belt and looked for the green sepals between each petal along with the black twigs and sharp long thorns. the flowers are just starting to emerge on some plants whilst another group was in full flower.

Later in the morning I came across an isolated small tree on the same site, in flower, and carefully checked the twigs and flowers. I came to the conclusion this is probably the Cherry Plum - Prunus cerasifera
The flowers looked marginally larger than the Blackthorn. They were on green twigs and the sepals were curled back. Click on the images to enlarge.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Bumble Bees

Quite a few Bumble Bees out this afternoon at the old Milner Royd Allotments and my first of the year.

Monday, 16 March 2020

Frogspawn & Caterpillars

Estimated 15 clumps of frogspawn in a pond on top of Crow Hill, Sowerby and 2 Fox Moth Caterpillars? on Aaron Hill. No spawn in the small ponds on Aaron Hill where I’ve seen it before although these have a tendency to dry out by early summer.

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Natural History Secrets of Silsden - Postponed

This event is postponed until further notice

Sunday, 8 March 2020


Smooth newt numbers have been building up this week, lots at the surface last night plus one huge crested newt female full of eggs.

Cherry Plum

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) is not very common in Calderdale.
There are a few hedges around with plenty of Blackthorn in but then we don't have that many hedges.
There are also a few old Blackthorns here and there, presumably relics from very old hedges.
I don't think it is a local species.
Blackthorn flowers much earlier than Hawthorn and it flowers before it comes into leaf so it really stands out.

If you see what looks like a Blackthorn in full flower right now then have a closer look.
Even rarer in this area is Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera).
Cherry Plum flowers a little earlier than Blackthorn and the flowers open at the same time as the leaves.
So when I spotted this tree in blossom at Cromwell Bottom last week, across the river,
I had to find my way to it and see which it was.

So, I hear you cry, how do you tell which is which?
Well the twigs of Cherry Plum are green, they are brown/black in Blackthorn.
Cherry Plum lacks the long pointed thorns of Blackthorn
And Cherry Plum has reflexed sepals.
See here how the sepals are folded back and so when you look at the flower face on you only see the white petals.

But when you look at the Blackthorn flower you can see the green of the sepals between each petal.

I have very few records for this so please look out for it now and if you see it let me know.

Friday, 6 March 2020


2 Peacock and a dozen wild bees (not bumble) on our winter flowering heather today.

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Scarlet Elf Cup - Sarcoscypha species at Copley

This bright red cup fungus really stands out against the mossy branches it grows on.
 Three species are found in the UK, this is likely to be the common Sarcoscypha austriaca.
 Most commonly found on Willow branches.
 Sarcoscypha coccinea prefers calcareous habitats and is commonly found on Beech litter. 

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Monday, 2 March 2020

Bryophyte Walk at Hardcastle Crags - 7th March

Did you know Hardcastle Crags is a special place for Goblins Gold, Dog Lichen and Portuguese Feather-Moss?
Join Ranger Natalie and local bryophyte expert Johnny Turner on a guided walk to explore the wonderful world of lichens, liverworts and mosses.

Learn all about the different types of bryophyte in the woodland and find out how to identify them. 

Tickets cost £12.50 and places are limited so we recommend booking early. Booking is essential for this event.