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

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Plant ID

Can anyone identify this for me please. 

Growing quite extensively on a wall in Upper Greetland near The Sportsman (Dog Lane).
Looks like it should be a garden escape? Nigel O

Ashy mining bee

Came across this ashy mining bee Andrena cineraria on Sunday. It was hovering over bare patches of soil on a west facing slope and stood out as being quite distinct. Apparently its a female looking for a site to dig a burrow and lay eggs. They are nationally common but I've never seen one before.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Tadpoles at three weeks old

The fourth post showing the progress of the frog tadpoles in my garden pond.

The changes this week have been much less dramatic. Their mouths seem to be bigger and stronger as they forage among the vegetation. They also vary hugely in size, even though they all seem to be at a similar stage of development and all came from the one clump of spawn. 

They are also getting more difficult to photograph as they seem to prefer the murkier areas that are becoming choked with blanket weed. It doesn't seem to impede their progress, they just swim straight through it, and I think they are eating it, but they mostly nibble at the algae at the side of the pond or in the detritus at the bottom or on dead leaves.

A colony of tiny, worm-like animals attached to the side of the pond. They wave around constantly and vigorously and retract immediately when touched. 

A kind of hydra?
Any information welcome.

A tadpole barging straight into them but the 'worms' didn't retract. If they are hydra they sting and feed on small invertebrates like daphnia.

 Wolf spiders on the stones around the pond edge. This is a female, one of the Pardosa genus, probably monticola or palustris.

A male, you can just see the black palps between the front legs. I watched one yesterday displaying by raising and vibrating his palps to a seemingly entranced, if touchy, female - fascinating!

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Calderdale Odonata

Calopterygidae Demoiselles
Calopteryx splendens BANDED DEMOISELLE
Lestidae Emerald Damselflies
Pyrrhosoma nymphula LARGE RED DAMSELFLY
Coenagrion puella AZURE DAMSELFLY
Enallagma cyathigerum COMMON BLUE DAMSELFLY
ANISOPTERA Dragonflies
Aeshnidae Hawkers
Aeshna juncea COMMON HAWKER
Aeshna grandis BROWN HAWKER
Cordulegaster boltonii GOLDEN RINGED DRAGONFLY
Libellulidae Darters, Chasers, Skimmers
Orthetrum cancellatum BLACK TAILED SKIMMER
Libellula quadrimaculata FOUR SPOTTED CHASER
Libellula depressa BROAD BODIED CHASER
Sympetrum striolatum COMMON DARTER
Sympetrum sanguineum RUDDY DARTER
Sympetrum danae BLACK DARTER

Shroggs landfill - another querie !

Yesterday I came across  14 dead bees on a short (50m) stretch of woodland footpath. The bees were more or less intact except that their abdomens had been cleared out to look like empty eggshells.
This morning I checked the path again to find another 11 dead bees with the same condition.

I can't work out what has happened to them to be be dead in such a short area of fairly open woodland. It left me with a few questions.
Was it that cold easterly wind that affected them and they took shelter ?
But then why were the abdomens cleared out so cleanly - and by what ?

Perhaps a bird but I suspect birds would have demolished the bees completely. Maybe a parasite another insect or maybe even a small mammal. More questions than answer's for me. 
They looked all like the same species of bee but I'm not much on identifying them !

Any ideas ?

Click photo's to enlarge

Shroggs Park - querie !

I found this small white 'blob' on an old oak tree last week. Wondered what it was and on closer inspection it looked like  a cluster of small eggs - baffled !

The following day the look like a cluster of eggs had gone and there was a thin skin over it. Then another day on I noticed a small entrance hole at the lower end of it. I saw no activity at all and everything has disappeared now.
Any ideas ??

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Shroggs Park Oaks

(Sorry, I can't manage to post in 'comments' section)

Those are amazing photos David and well chosen Oaks. They are the type of trees we need to record as veterans of Calderdale and very important as a record of past management and land use, as well as ideal habitat. 

Most appear to have been coppiced and then neglected, leading to those huge stems. Some may have just been damaged by the falling rocks. Generally speaking, in the past most of our local trees had to work for a living and our present idea of 'woodland' would have seemed quite alien.

To produce those gnarled and spreading trunks/branches they have grown in the open for a long while. You wouldn't get that kind of growth in a closed woodland. Oak trees in particular need plenty of light and space, being a pioneer tree and depending totally on Jays planting the acorns in open spaces. 

We must cherish characterful Oaks such as these, try to understand them and prevent needless loss.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Tadpoles at two weeks old

The third post showing the progress of the frog tadpoles, which all hatched from a single clump of spawn, in my small garden pond. 

Two weeks old today. They are now very vigorous swimmers,
exploring every area of the pond and wriggling from one place to another, reminding me that the seventeenth-century naturalist Thomas Browne called them 'porwiggles'. Norfolk dialect, I think.

Their eyes are much more developed and their external gills have disappeared.
They have golden speckles.

A view of this one's underside as it breaches the surface for a gulp of air. The black spot is its open mouth. The intestine is visible beneath the skin.

An iridescent aquatic beetle among the dead leaves on the surface. One of the so-called water scavenger beetles. Perhaps Helophorus griseus.

Springtails on a floating oak leaf. 

A gathering of hundreds of daphnia, tiny crustaceans, in a more open and sunlit area of the pond. The tadpoles seem to show no interest and swim straight through them.

Close up you can see their one eye and the limbs with which they filter feed and flick themselves around.

Until next week...

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Shroggs Park - Woodland Oaks

I have taken the opportunity this last few days to take my local walk through the woodland here.

The banking is very steep and the soil is gritty and full of rocks and there is little vegetation.
I wonder how these oaks have not only survived in the extremes but produced such interesting shapes.
Perhaps a hard life getting established there or maybe, not sure,
if there has been some pollarding or damage to the leading shoots when they were at a young stage.
I'm amazed by them !

Click on the pictures to enlarge

This last one looks as if there were two leaders at one time, no signs of damage,
that gradually over the years grafted themselves back together.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Snakes in Calderdale! but the wrong ones.

This story seems to have made its way into the Yorkshire Post,
certainly was a talking point on Facebook.
Last week my wife gave me a call to say there was a snake hanging out of the viaduct wall on Thornhill's Beck Lane near where I live.  I walked down hoping maybe we had our first adder or grass snake.  Unfortunately it was a very torpid royal python, a native of tropical Africa.  A settee had been dumped the night before so I assumed it had been living in there and the perpetrator had unknowingly dumped their escaped pet with it.  The next morning a neighbour called to say there was four snakes in the lay-by about half a km further up the lane.  Luckily, working at Calderdale College I knew some animal technicians that could come and rescue them.  On a hunch, I thought I'd go back down to the viaduct and do a search.  I soon found another three snakes, two in the wall and one under a bin liner.  The next day another turned up slithering across the lane near the lay-by, and three more turned up by the viaduct, rescued by neighbours.

In total we've found twelve, but I guess we'll never know how many were dumped.  Four have died, but eight are doing well and will be re homed in time.  As you all know the last thing we want are exotics out on the loose.  These wouldn't have lasted long in our climate, but had they been temperate species then the impact on native wildlife could have been negative.  Quite why some one did it we'll never know either, but I guess its somehow linked to the current corona virus situation.

Monday, 13 April 2020

A comet is coming

Information on a comet which may soon be visible can be found here

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Tadpoles at one week old

As I posted some pictures of the newly-hatched frog tadpoles in my garden pond last week I thought I'd take some more to see how they're getting on.

They've grown rounder and the larger ones have much less conspicuous gills. Filaments of blanket weed have also started to grow in the warm weather.

Their eyes are more distinct. This one seems to have lost a piece of its fin.

Most of them have kept in a tight group around the empty egg mass but a few of the most well-developed are definitely 'tadpole shaped' and swimming strongly here and there, apparently exploring their environment.

I hope to post an update each Sunday till they leave the pond.

A tiny fly resting on a water hawthorn leaf

 A snail munching on the vegetation at the edge of the pond. It kept putting its head under water but withdrawing its eye-stalks first!

A damselfly larva which seemed to be tackling a white worm.

Thursday, 9 April 2020

New-to-me Toad Crossing

This came from a cyclist via his mother who is one of our members at Halifax Scientific Society.      
"Hi Steve, Daniel has just cycled up Cragg Rd and has picked up toads crossing to a pond on the right.
He reports a lot of squashed toads and surprised to see them out in the daylight."

So that's the Cragg Vale road.
Is anyone in that vicinity and feeling like patrolling it without breaking social distancing rules?
Although Daniel reports toads crossing in the daylight, by far the majority set off across the road after dark in the early part of the night.

Sunday, 5 April 2020

Another jumping spider

This intriguing creature was sitting behind the hasp on my garden shed door this afternoon. Fortunately it didn't go far while I ran indoors to get my camera.

I could see from its shape that it was a jumping spider, but even smaller than the zebra jumping spider (see my post on this blog, 25th of March ). This is a male, body 3-4 mm long.

I think he's a Pseudeuophrys erratica, a species which has a decidedly northern and western distribution: South Pennines, North Wales and parts of Scotland but described as 'nationally scarce' in the British Arachnological Society's field guide.

They live on walls and piles of stones and leaf-litter. Their bodies are iridescent and, like other jumping spiders, the males use their legs in courtship displays.

To be sure that he isn't one of the other two Pseudeuorphrys species examination under a microscope is necessary (if I can catch him!). I'll pass my pictures on to the Arachnological society and get advice. Nice to think that I might have a nationally scarce species in my garden in Halifax!

I'll post any more information when I have it - they'll probably say 'P.erratica? oh, no, nothing like it!'.

Pleased to find a lovely and interesting spider, whatever species he turns out to be.

First Tadpoles

These frog tadpoles in my garden pond hatched en masse overnight. I found them catching this morning's sun, wriggling a little but otherwise mainly staying put on top of the spawn mass.

There has only been one clump of spawn in the pond this year, laid on the 9th of March or possibly one or two days earlier. That makes 26-28 days gestation. How does this compare with other members' observations?

Feathery gills. Don't appear to have eyes or a mouth yet

Springtails were jumping all over the dead leaves and on the surface tension of the pond, sometimes jumping on the backs of the taddies. They are not harmful to them, mainly feeding on rotting vegetation and detritus. In fact the tadpoles will soon learn how to eat them!

A springtail, a big one at about 1 mm long
They have a tensioned spatula-shaped appendage under the abdomen with which they flick themselves away from danger.