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"View From The Pit Top"- Latest news from SK58 Birders
Updated 26 July, 2021


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est. 1992

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News Archive

! NEW ! 26/07/2021 We've added a new link to the latest page- Where you see the cameras sign, this will take you to an image of the bird in the record. We'll see how much time it takes to include higher resolution images. Any feedback welcome.

08/07/2021 Last night the Organisers of the group held a video conference. The main points covered are listed below.

  • Under latest guidelines, group events will commence in September (see Events page).
  • Midweek Langold Lake walks will commence in September BUT start at 0900, not 1000 as before (see Events page).
  • Subscriptions will run from January to December (April- March previously). Any monies already paid will be carried forward. Any subscriptions paid from now will expire December 2022. Subscriptions held at same price (see Membership page).
  • In memory of Ivan Keeton, we are looking into a commemorative plaque on a bench at NAPT.
  • Cancelled Tetrad Atlas Surveys in 2020 & 2021 will commence in 2022.

02/07/2021 Several members have just returned from Ivan Keetons' funeral. It was a dignified and simple service ending appropriately with Vaughan Williams "A Lark Ascending". The family expressed thanks to the group for providing an outlet for Ivan's natural history interests and for attending his funeral. No thanks necessary, Ivan will be missed especially on field trips.

17/06/2021 We've received details of Ivan Keeton's funeral. It will be held at Herringthorpe Crematorium on Friday 2nd July, at 1100. If any SK58 Birders wish to go, can they co-ordinate with Mick Clay-07759 531400, so we can ensure we comply with the latest Covid 19 restrictions.

10/06/2021 In addition to the WhatsApp SK58 Birders Bird News, which has been around for a while now, we've created a more general discussion WhatsApp group called SK58 Birders Chat . The differences are, the News group is specifically for immediate bird news, whereas the chat group is a general group for any bird related topics and general birdy chat. To join the new chat group follow the is link:


22/05/2021 Ivan Keeton

Ivan Keeton (front facing right) @ rspb Frampton Marsh, August 2018 © Andy Hirst

I am sure like myself, all the members of SK58 Birders will be sad to hear of the passing of Ivan. He was seen often with his inseparable dog Suie on North Anston Pit Top. He was knowledgeable in all forms of natural history, especially ornithology and botany. I loved to walk with him as he would pass his knowledge onto me. Despite his age he was extremely fit and would walk miles on group trips, often away from SK58, especially on the Sheffield moors where he loved to go.

Although his favourite place was Spurn Point. On one of our first ever SK58 weekend trips in the mid-nineties, we stayed at the Riverside Hotel, not knowing our evening there involved karaoke and a disco. At 2330 I left Ivan to go to bed who was smoking a cigar after who knows how many pints of beer, and yes, he was the first to rise and raring to go with no ill effects the following morning.

Only this past weekend I went to the Sheffield moors and said to Andy Murray "Now that things are getting better we will have to see if Ivan fancies a trip out here". Then on the Tuesday I found my first Dingy Skipper butterfly in Harry Croft's quarry and thought of Ivan as he had found my last.

He would often call me to find out what birds were around and would come on all the birding trips. I know we have all lost a great friend who will be sadly missed.

Mick Clay
Conservation Officer 20th May 2021

15/05/2021 We had to wait 24 years!, but we've had a Black Kite again in SK58. Mick Clay had one for 3 mins between 1148-1151, soaring over South Anston today, before it drifted off East. What was thought to be the same bird was seen continuing East over Woodsetts at around 1200 by Gareth Picton, who couldn't relocate it when he rushed upstairs to grab his binoculars, having seen "A large raptor, which wasn't a a Buzzard".

04/05/2021 With the cancellation of the Tetrad Atlas Survey this year, those longing to undertake survey work need not feel left out. The RSPB is undertaking a national survey of Turtle Dove. Although non of the allocated squares fall within SK58, they will let us take part covering squares where Turtle Dove once inhabited. We don't have the details of the survey yet, but I can't see it being arduous, and there aren't that many squares to cover, so if you want to get involved, let Andy Hirst or Mick Clay know ASAP.

19/04/2021 With the gradual easing of Covid-19 restrictions across England, subject to any setbacks or future restrictions, the group organisers, by email, decided to commence group activities from September 2021. We couldn't see much point organising any activities over the summer as we run indoor meetings from September to May, so no indoor meetings after the governments June 21st target date for easing of all restrictions. With folk unable to go away on holiday previously, we thought members would want to get away rather than attend local walks, so everything will commence from September. If you have any thoughts or comments to make on this please let one of the organisers know. Contacts.

We've yet to make a decision on subscriptions. As you may be aware we've not instated any subs from members during 2020 or 2021. Any new members that have joined during this period, their subs will be carried over from when we reinstate subscriptions. This will be from either September 2021 or January 2022 (To be determined).

We've removed Common Scoter from the list of species requiring a description. Although our first record of this species was only last year, through nocturnal recording and listening, it's now apparent this species migrates overland at night in flocks and could/ should be recorded annually.

29/03/2021 We've a had a rush of common migrants recently, so I've looked at the Earliest & Latest arrival dates page. 2020 saw earliest arrival dates for Hobby (20 years) from 26/04/00 to 19/04/20 and for Redstart (23 years) from 11/04/97 to 08/04/20. Not surprisingly migrants are appearing generally earlier.

24/03/2021 Following on from the installation of nest boxes previously made by Mick Clay (see below). He's has made another and is looking for wood to continue making more next boxes. Mick is going to make contact with local supplier Jewsons in the hope of obtaining some wood for free from them.
Our owl boxes and in particular our Barn Owl nest boxes have been particularly successful and in no small part, portably largely responsible for the expansion of Barn Owl locally. Until 2006 Barn Owl were rare, with no breeding pairs, just the occasional record of passage birds, or cold weather movements of birds in the winter months. We're not sure what happened in 2006, but we had a pair arrive and set up territory, utilising an owl box Mick and the group had erected. They successfully reared young in 2006 & 2007 then one pair became two pairs in 2008. Birds were seen at various locations within a mile or so of the two nesting sites, as the adults ventured out at dusk to feed their young.

Move on 15 years and you are now unlucky, if you go out anywhere in SK58 at dusk and don't stumble across a hunting Barn Owl. There can't be many Tetrads (a 2km x 2km square), which don't have Barn Owls in them now.

08/03/2021 Members Mick Clay, Andy Murray, Paul Bloor & Alfie Bloor were out this weekend replacing an owl box which had been up for years and needed replacing. Looks like a first rate job chaps- well done!

Paul Bloor & Alfie Bloor + Owl box @ Rackford Lane © Andy Murray

08/02/2021 Mick Clay reported the scrape at NAPT is very full. Lets hope it lasts, although we suspect, come May, it will have dried out.

Wader Scrape @ NAPT © Mick Clay

11/01/2021 Article on 2020 Local Birding:
As Covid19 continues to grip the world and particularly the UK, I'm speculating at what 2021 will hold from an SK58 perspective. Looking back at 2020, despite or maybe because of Covid19, in many ways we had an excellent year. We had a great number of species recorded, currently 2020 is at 141 species, with some memorable records. A Common Crane, the first for 24 years, record numbers of Stonechat with 53 records involving 90 birds, a smattering of Corn Bunting records, Black Redstart, Great White Egret and for the first time Common Scoter and Manx Shearwater to name but a few memorable records.

I've speculated on this before; was 2020 a good year bird wise because it was generally a good year, with lots of passage birds recorded throughout the year, or was it because of the various restrictions imposed, which meant more birders were birding and recording locally? I suspect it was a mix of the two and a result of both being a good year and increased observer effort.

One possible benefit of the pandemic is the national realisation, or reawakening of local patch birding on a grand scale, something the founders and members of SK58 have done for nearly thirty years, and continue to do so. The 80's and 90's saw twitching increase significantly with several high-profile birders clocking tens of thousands of miles seeing over 300 species within the UK in a year. But this has never been the norm in SK58. The group was founded on local birding, finding out about the locally breeding, passage and winter visitors, where they occur, recording this and comparing it with other years. Thus, building up a picture, and indeed an impressive list of what does occur within SK58.

Over the almost thirty years of recording we have an immense record and knowledge of the status of local birds. Where populations have increased, although sadly outnumbered by populations which have decreased or indeed lost.

The ten km square SK58 was chosen as it was about the right size for small group to cover thoroughly. This has meant within four miles of the centre you can reach any point of the square. Being a square, this also makes surveys easy to manage. We use the tetrad system where twenty-five tetrads make up the ten km SK58 square.

I don't like to boast, but I like to think SK58 were ahead of their time. We were birding locally 30 years ago, green low carbon birding, which appears to be the in thing now. Perpetuated by the various lockdowns, birders are finding hidden locations close to home and enjoying finding local birds. I have to say even now I do still stumble across a path or copse or small area that was hitherto unbeknown to me, and that's in a ten km square after living here for nearly thirty years.

Now don't get me wrong, I like to go and see new rare birds just as much as the next birder, but if the weathers looking good for a fall of eastern migrants at let's say at Spurn, my first though is, "I wonder what It'll drop into the square?" Maybe over a weekend, visit numerous sites within SK58, with maybe a quick jaunt to Spurn if something that I want to see turns up. But there is definitely more of a buzz when you find something unusual locally, that glimpse of something good, and the anticipation of what it might me, then the realisation that it is unusual or rare. Granted rarer birds occur on the coast but the buzz is heightened when its local and you found it.

So, my message is, get out birding locally. Find a local copse, woodland or pond and visit it as often as you can. Yes, most days you'll be looking at the same birds, but birds move and the weather and seasons play a dramatic role on what you see daily. It won't be long before you pick up on trends within your local patch. Birds moving in or out dependent on the weather. Picking up on earliest arrival dates. There's an immense satisfaction in knowing your local patch. It's the old adage, the more you put in, the more you get out. And believe it or not there are still parts of SK58 which are under-watched, so grab a map, find a spot and go find out what's there. And once this pandemic is over, continue to watch your local patch. You'll be amazed at what you find.
Andy Hirst 19/01/2021

11/01/2021 For those who took part in the Christmas Quiz- here are the answers!
1. Bull o' the mire / Bog drum. BITTERN From its booming call.
2. Calloo / Coal-and-candlelight. LONG-TAILED DUCK Scottish, Calloo from its call.
3. Chiswick flyover. PIED WAGTAIL London birders name from its call.
4. Coulter neb. PUFFIN Folk-name. Also sea parrot.
5. Devil-diver / Water witch. SLAVONIAN GREBE Named from its red eyes.
6. Firetail. COMMON REDSTART Folk-name.
7. Furze wren. DARTFORD WARBLER Folk-name.
8. Goggle-eyed plover. STONE-CURLEW Old country name.
9. Gorse hopper. WHINCHAT Folk-name.
10. Heather bleat. COMMON SNIPE Folk-name.
11. Pyewipe. LAPWING A local variation of its call. Pyewipe remains a place name near Grimsby where it was once more familiar.
12. Rain bird. GREEN WOODPECKER The call was believed to herald rain.
13. Rain goose. RED-THROATED DIVER Once again, a bringer of rain.
14. Red-headed linnet. LESSER REDPOLL Old name.
15. Scribble lark. YELLOWHAMMER Named from the markings on its eggs.
16. Singing skyrocket / Nettle creeper. COMMON WHITETHROAT Country names.
17. Woodcock pilot. GOLDCREST My favourite. It was once believed that the tiny goldcrest was incapable of migration on its own. As they arrived in Britain around the same time as the woodcocks it was thought that they rode on the backs of the waders!
18. Blue Hawk. HEN HARRIER Old English name.
19. Screamer of the woods. JAY Welsh name.
20. Summer snipe. COMMON SANDPIPER
From its migratory habits.
The number of breeding red kites in Britain was thought to be possibly as low as 4 individuals which was believed to include only one female.

All answers were taken from the Radio 4 series book 'Tweet of the Day'.

05/01/2021 Despite or maybe because of the ongoing Covid situation, 2021 looks set to be as good a year as 2020. So far the square list for 2021 stands at 67 species. Don't forget to send in your records for 2020 and 2021, ideally on a recording form PDF or recording form Excel Sheet to the recorder

03/01/2021 We've heard the gates at Harry Croft's Quarry have been smashed open again, a dumped 4x4 in the quarry and fencing pulled out. We would advise people to be wary of parking by gates as we've been told a car has been broken into there- please be wary.

Did you receive a smart phone for Christmas? Did know SK58 Birders has it's own Bird News Service? We have a "WhatsApp" group dedicated to broadcasting immediate bird news to members. It works on either iPhone and Android phones. Simply search, download and install the free "Whats App" app from the store on your device- then let our Recorder have your mobile phone number. You'll be added to the group, and then you'll receive news and updates on SK58 Birds straight to your phone as well as being able to broadcast to other members, any good birds you find within the square.

25/12/2020 Mick Clay reported he picked up this character (Black-headed Gull - see below), from the main road in Thurcroft, after stopping the traffic to retrieve him/ her. Mick suspected it had been clipped by a car, but after resting in the warm and dry, was successfully released at Axle Lane the following morning.

Black-headed Gull recovered @ Thurcroft © Mick Clay

17/12/2020 January usually sees the group hold its AGM. Currently all meetings are limited to 6 people outside. However we'll let technology solve the issue and hold our first ever online AGM. The rules will still apply, we'll need a quorum of 15 members, and organisers will give reports. Details of how to attend and log on will be emailed out to members. As usual if you wish to stand for any post, then do let any of the organisers know ASAP. Currently there is a vacancy for Secretary.

16/12/2020 We hit a milestone today- the SK58 Records Database now holds over 200,000 records. Mick Clay left a 'dollop' of records which took us over the 200,000 mark. We won't know the exact figure just yet as we'll have to rinse out any duplicates.

08/12/2020 Thieves acquired a case of OCD by neatly parking the vans they stole and subsequently torched, in Harry Croft's Quarry recently.

Burnt out vans @ Harry Croft's Quarry © Mick Clay

07/12/2020 An easing of lockdown and return to tier 3, and the resumption of SK58 walks, following guidelines, saw three members walking along the mineral line at Dinnington to Thurcroft Pit Top. The weather was far from ideal, being wet and murky. But undeterred the group made their way along the old railway line. Along the line were good numbers of winter thrushes, particularly a lot more Blackbird than usual. A couple of Buzzard and some finch & tit flocks entertained the group as well as 3 Treecreeper, plus a Cormorant over and 2 Common Gull. Plenty of Bullfinch with 4 along the Mineral line and a flock of 8 at Thurcroft Pit Top. Also here were 12 Herring Gull, 8 Black-headed Gull and a Great Black-backed Gull, as well as 5 Snipe and a pair of Stonechat and an impressive 100+ Lesser Redpoll feeding on seed heads Walking back towards the Mineral Line, we flushed a Woodcock, topped off by a festive tree!

SK58 Birders @ Mineral Line © Andy Hirst

21/11/2020 With a different Christmas on the cards for 2020, something's never change, and that includes an SK58 Christmas Quiz. See Below- answers to by 23rd December- there is a terrific prize!
What are the proper names of these birds which have been known (or still are) by the following local or folk names?

1. Bull o' the mire / Bog drum.
2. Calloo / Coal-and-candlelight.
3. Chiswick flyover.
4. Coulter neb.
5. Devil-diver / Water witch.
6. Firetail.
7. Furze wren.
8. Goggle-eyed plover.
9. Gorse hopper.
10. Heather bleat.
11. Pyewipe.
12. Rain bird.
13. Rain goose.
14. Red-headed linnet.
15. Scribble lark.
16. Singing skyrocket / Nettle creeper.
17. Woodcock pilot.
18. Blue hawk.
19. Screamer of the woods.
20. Summer snipe.
In the early 20th century, what was the lowest number of breeding Red Kites in Britain feared to be?

A group dedicated to recording the bird life of a single 10km square between Sheffield, Rotherham & Worksop

content & design by Andy Hirst