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"View From The Pit Top"- Latest news from SK58 Birders
Updated 2 January, 2024


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est. 1992

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News Archive

19th December Is a smart phone on your Christmas list? 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.

12th December Wishing members, organisers and visitors to the website, "A Very Happy Christmas! & Very Best Birding Wishes for 2024".

25th November In line with the BOU List, we've removed Feral Pigeon from our lists.

21st November The first of new series will show an archive image from SK58 Birders. The first is a Short-eared Owl from Dinnington Marsh taken in March 1993. In the early years of the group, members would meet up at dusk in the winter months, on the then 'mound' at Dinnington Marsh (before the trees took over) and look out over the whole marsh for owls emerging to feed. It was a great way to end the birding day.

Short-eared Owl emerging at dusk @ Dinnington Marsh © Andy Hirst (March 1993) click for pic

15th November In the New Year (date to be confirmed), we're hoping to run a bit of a mini conference here in SK58. We've emailed our neighbouring bird groups to gauge interest, to come together and look at different aspects involved in running a bird group such as ours. The aim of the conference is to look at sharing ideas or resources. We're all doing the same thing, it may be some of us have more experience, skills and resources involved & required in running a local group.

Its hoped to cover a variety of topics. Nothing is set in stone, but we hope to hold it in the Loyal Trooper. Of course members will be invited to attend. Watch this space.

1st November Christmas Social- 16th December. A break from the norm, instead of a formal Christmas meal this year, we opted for an informal get together for a drink and a meal for those that want to eat. Just in the bar of the Trooper, and maybe on to another local pub too? 16/12/23, 1900 in the Loyal Trooper, South Anston. Pop down for an hour, or make an evening of it. No need to book, just turn up on the night and we'll take it from there.

25th October The January meeting is also our AGM. Its your opportunity to quiz the group organisers about how they undertake their roles within SK58 Birders. Is there a particular topic you want to cover at an indoor meeting? Is there a venue you'd like to visit on a field trip, maybe a weekend away? Have a think between now and the New Year about anything you'd like us to do, or to do differently. This is your group, so you can decide how it develops and progresses.

Speaking of which, we are still on the lookout for a new Membership Secretary. SK58 Birders is run by a small group of organisers who have specific roles Contacts. None of these are particularly onerous, but coming together they effectively manage your group, providing members with indoor meetings, field trips, manage membership, manage the databases, organise surveys, look after the finances and speak up on conservation issues. It would be great to have a few more people involved. We definitely need an new Membership Secretary and it would be nice to fill the long standing Secretary role. Even just ad hoc help with one off projects would be a help. It would also be great to have someone specifically looking at promoting the group, via local media and social media for example. Do have a think, if you can help the group in anyway, it would be greatly appreciated.

11th October A review of species requiring a supporting description if recorded within SK58 has been amended. The following species no longer require a supporting description due to increased records in recent years: Great White Egret & Wood Sandpiper - Recorder.

28th September Over the weekend of 23rd-24th September the group held its 30th anniversary weekend away, visiting RSPB Frampton Marsh and Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust Gibraltar Point. Members arrived from 0800 onwards and didn't have to move far to begin birding in the cool light of morning. The main scrape yielded many waders including White-rumped Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs, which were the highlight of the day for many.

Main scrape @ Frampton Marsh © Andy Hirstclick for pic

By mid-morning 10 members had assembled and were enjoying the variety of wildfowl and waders. A Black Stork played cat and mouse with the group, but was eventually seen by some. It was noted the numbers of birds present, although still plentiful, wasn't the usual volume seen at Frampton, mainly due to a low high tide, so many birds remained on the Wash to feed. However a few laps of Frampton, taking in the hides, the sea bank and saltmarsh did generate a list of 50+ for most members, with some obvious omissions, no diving duck due to the shallow water levels and Heron for example! But plenty of waders such as 5 plus Little Stint, several Curlew Sandpiper, to name but a few.

Lesser Yellowlegs @ Frampton Marsh © Allan Parkerclick for pic

Lesser Yellowlegs @ Frampton Marsh © Allan Parkerclick for pic

At the end of the day six members made the short drive to the Premier Inn, Boston for welcome freshen up & hot meal after a full day at Frampton. The only downside was the hour plus wait for food, but the conversation soon meant the hour passed quickly. Although Sue Cullen said "The Knickerbocker Glory was worth the wait!"

Knickerbocker Glory showing well @ Boston © Andy Hirstclick for pic

Given the forecast we agreed to still go to Gibraltar Point the following day. After breakfast the following day, the group packed up and headed for Gib Point, arriving to windy and dull conditions. It was decided to take the loop north along the dunes and back via the hides. There were few passerines, but the sea produced a good variety of species including Arctic Skua, loads of Gannet, Pintail & Common Scoter, passage waders and a few Red-throated Diver.

Group sea-watching @ Gibraltar Point © Andy Hirstclick for pic

The series of hides overlooking a large scrape provided views of hundreds of Black-tailed Godwit and Teal, with a few Shoveler interspersed. A nice skein of Pink-footed Geese over, reminded us winter wasn't far away. Returning to the centre by mid afternoon in improving conditions, we had a welcome drink and cake! Another 50 plus species recorded today.

It was reflected upon what it would be like in SK58's 60th year! what species we would have gained and lost, as well as reflecting on what a great weekend away it had been, with the variety of species seen at both Frampton & Gibraltar Point. Here's to our next weekend away, wherever and whenever that may be.

Group sea-watching @ Gibraltar Point © Andy Hirstclick for pic

Thanks to those who attended on the day and those who stayed over; Sue Cullen, Geoff & Lyn Facer, Andy Hirst & Allan & Sue Parker.

! NEW ! 22nd September We hate to mention the 'C' word, but Christmas is looming. In the past we've held very successful Christmas meals in lieu of a December indoor meeting. Covid threw a spanner in the works and since then there hasn't been much of an 'appetite', so to speak for a Christmas meal. So basically it's down to the membership- if you want a Christmas meal, usually early to mid December, on Friday or Saturday night, can you let one the organisers know. In previous years we've held successful events at the Loyal Trooper itself and in years past, at Zara's (Indian restaurant in Tickhill). But if you know or have a preference for an alternative, then let us know so we can gauge interest.

12th September Not long now until the new season kicks off. At our organisers meetings (September the first since the summer break), we plan our monthly field trips. We try to plan trips which offer a blend of local and regional locations, such as Spurn or Frampton. However if there's any species/ group of birds you'd like to see, a place or reserve you want to visit, just let any of the group organisers know and we'll try to incorporate the location into our calendar.

1st August If anyone is after a small camera bag our recorder has one which came free with something. Brand new- donation to SK58 Birders if interested.

30th July A further reminder that after twenty plus years of carrying out Membership Secretary duties, Lyn Facer is stepping down at the end of the year. This is an important role within the group, but not particularly difficult. If you think you'd like to help out or take over from Lyn, then by all means chat or email her at

We've also completed a new "Welcome pack" for new members. This has a welcome letter from the Chair, a note about resources available to group members, a document containing background information on the group and a recording sheet. This will be sent to out with the next newsletter, as it might be of use to members who've been in the group the while.

29th July A reminder of our 30th Anniversary trip to Frampton & the Lincolnshire Coast at the end of September. This will be a flexible weekend. Members can come for the Saturday, Sunday or make a weekend of it.

Saturday 23rd September- Frampton Marsh. Spend the day at the reserve.

Overnight in Boston at the Premier Inn. We are suggesting staying centrally in Boston at the Premier Inn. Stay there on the Saturday and have a meal together. Those wishing to to go, arrange their own accommodation. We will probably car share. If you want to go let Andy Hirst know along with what day(s) you are going and whether you can offer or require a lift.

Sunday 24th September- Frieston Shore and/ or Gibraltar Point, home Sunday evening.

24th July We've given Mick Clay, our Conservation Officer, a new email address- imaginatively; So any conservation issues, please use this email to contact Mick.

13th June We've found out the planning application for the solar panel array at Common Farm, Dinnington has been approved. The full application can be seen here.

9th June At last months organisers meeting it was agreed to run a 30th Anniversary trip to Frampton & the Lincolnshire Coast at the end of September. This will be a flexible weekend. Members can come for the Saturday, Sunday or make a weekend of it.

Saturday 23rd September- Frampton Marsh. Spend the day at the reserve.

Overnight in Boston at the Premier Inn. We are suggesting staying centrally in Boston at the Premier Inn. Stay there on the Saturday and have a meal together. Those wishing to to go, arrange their own accommodation. We will probably car share. If you want to go let Andy Hirst know along with what day(s) you are going and whether you can offer or require a lift.

Sunday 24th September- Frieston Shore and/ or Gibraltar Point, home Sunday evening.

17th May A reminder that after twenty plus years of of carrying out Membership Secretary duties, Lyn Facer is stepping down at the end of the year. This is an important role within the group, but not particularly difficult. If you think you'd like to help out or take over from Lyn, then by all means chat or email her at

16th May 2023 is SK58 Birders 30th year. We are hoping to run a 30th Anniversary weekend away to somewhere like Rutland Water in the late summer or autumn. Take up has been slow, so if you would like to go, or have an alternative venue, let Andy Hirst know ASAP, so we can firm up plans. At the moment we are looking at Rutland Water in early September, outside the school holidays. One, possibly two night stay (Friday to Sunday) in a good standard local hotel near Oakham. An itinerary will probably be Fri-Sat birding around Rutland and on the Sunday go to Stamford for a non birdy, touristy day.

28th April Our April indoor meeting ended up being a bit of a celebration, commemorating 30 years of SK58 Birders. Pete Brown gave his enthralling talk "Northumbrian Garden Parrot", but prior to this our first chairman, Rob Hardcastle was presented with a certificate, acknowledging his honorary life membership for his outstanding contribution to the group. Pictured below are all the past and present SK58 Chairmen.

Rob Hardcastle (1992-1997), Andy Hirst (1997-2002), Mick Clay (2002-2016) & Paul Tennyson (2017-) click for pic

1st April The final records are in for 2022. During the year we recorded 137 species in 5883 records from 35 observers. Why we record birds.

24th March Further to our 30th Anniversary year, the organisers discussed running a members weekend away. Suggestions included Rutland Water or the Farnes. Anytime is good for Rutland, so possibly a weekend in September. The Farnes would be more time specific, maybe June to early July (to avoid school holiday prices & subject to bird flu!). We could take a minibus. Accommodation would be in a local hotel or B&B. If you are interested or have alternative suggestions , then let one of the group organisers know.

22nd March As part of our 30th Anniversary year the Organisers have decided to make two members Honorary Life Members. This is something new for the group, in recognition of individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the group over the years.

Rob Hardcastle Rob was a founder member of SK58 Birders and instrumental in setting up the group way back in late 1992. Rob was also our first Chair and held the position until 1997, steering the group through those initial years, as the group developed and found its feet and voice. He instigated and wrote our early newsletters, which still today bear the name "A View From the Pit Top" (see the grey bar in the header above).

Rob also helped organise our initial surveys, the Woodland Survey of 1997 and our Common Bird Census which ran for several years in Hawks Wood by the Chesterfield Canal in the mid- to late 1990's.

Rob is still involved with the group, living in North Yorkshire, he analyses the data from our Tetrad Atlas Surveys and has several times talked to the group about the evolving trends the survey has revealed. Rob pictured, at "Bird Rock" in Wales on a weekend away. Note Andy Hirst's Capri in the background- shows how long ago that was! I'm sure you'll all agree, a worthy recipient of an Honorary Life membership.

Harry Vilkaitis Harry is a long time member of SK58, joining way back in early 1990's. Harry was the groups original ringer and was always seen around the area in his little white Suzuki jeep, his ringing poles on the top. Often out early morning, members would bump into him at sites such as NAPT, with his nets set up in the reeds and rides, or maintaining & creating ringing rides at sites around the square.

It was through Harry's ringing efforts, we found the movement of winter thrushes through sites such as NAPT. Consistent counts of birds such as Blackbirds were initially thought to be the same birds over wintering, but ringing new individuals with no re-traps proved the constant numbers were actually birds replacing other birds which had moved through, in effect NAPT was a motorway services for thrushes. This the sort of data ringing yields. Harry also appeared in a promotional video for SK58 Birders back in 2000, his ringing skills caught on video.

Harry was involved with one of the last Barn Owl release schemes in the country. SK58 in conjunction with the Butterfly House released eight Barn Owl back in the wild, this before the population explosion in 2010. In retirement Harry returned to Austria where he enjoys birding around Neusiedl. Again, I'm sure you'll agree a worthy recipient of a Honorary Life membership. Pictured is Harry at the Butterfly House, about to release a Barn Owl in one of the last release schemes, in July 2001.

21st March Did you know we have car stickers to help promote the group? Collect yours at the next indoor meeting.

28th February We've had a request for help from our next door neighbours at the Sheffield Bird Study Group, with assistance with their Willow Tit survey- details below. If you can help let the group know and we'll pass on Richard's email address. (Members will have received this in an email).

"I just wondered if any of your SK58 members would be interested in helping with the SBSG's final year of Willow Tit surveying please? - there's one or two squares around Rotherham which we we could do with covering.

Full details below.
Best wishes,
Richard "

Dear SBSG member,

Thank you for previously showing an interest in, or taking part in the SBSG's Willow Tit survey, which we started way back in 2019 BC (Before Covid).

Having attempted to survey all 94 tetrads (2km x 2km) which contained Willow Tits during the Group's 2003-08 Breeding Atlas survey, there are just 18 remaining tetrads left to survey in order to finish the job. These are as follows:

SK27L - Baslow, Derbyshire

SK37L - Upper Newbold / Holmebrook Valley, Chesterfield
SK37X - Old Whittington, Chesterfield
SK37Z - Troway / Bramley Moor

SK38V - Birleyhay / Moss Valley
SK38W - Gleadless Townend / Frecheville
SK38X - Intake / Woodthorpe

SK39V - Wincobank / Meadowhall

SK47B - Brimington, Chesterfield
SK47J - Eckington, Derbyshire
SK47K - Markham Vale, Chesterfield
SK47Y - Barlborough, Derbyshire

SK48A - Ridgeway / Moss Valley
SK48F - Halfway
SK49D - Wentworth
SK49G - Central Rotherham
SK48J - Hoober / Wath Wood, Rotherham
SK49M - Aldwarke / Dalton, Rotherham

If you could spare some time between now and April and are interested in helping the Group get over the finish line, please do get in touch and I will provide you with a more detailed tetrad survey map - any help would be much appreciated in allowing us to complete this important survey - a full write-up of which will appear in a future SBSG annual report.

The RSPB methodology is provided below as a reminder:

1. A 2x2 km tetrad map has now been provided;
2. Create a survey route through your tetrad and identify points within any suitable Willow Tit habitat to stop and use playback around every 200m, but making sure all suitable habitat is within 100m of a playback point;
3. Walk the survey route - stopping at the playback points identified until all suitable habitat has been covered;
4. Ideally, two surveys should be carried out in each survey tetrad between mid-February and mid-April, although if you are only able to undertake one survey we will be able to use the results.
5. If no Willow Tits are found after two visits despite there being (potentially) suitable breeding habitat in the tetrads, please consider undertaking a third visit. Once the birds are serious about excavating and nesting they become very quiet, from mid-April.
6. Ideally, surveys should be undertaken on 'fine' days - if present, Willow Tits are much more likely to be detected on relatively warm days with no wind and rain. Willow Tits are more likely to respond to calls during the morning, and when not heavily overcast.
7. Make a note of any Willow Tit contact and count the individuals involved - be careful not to duplicate mobile individuals;
8. Playback points should be distributed so no suitable habitat is more than 100m from a point;.
9. To gain access to all potentially suitable habitat in the tetrad, it may be necessary to gain access to private land. If you are unable to gain access to all areas of suitable habitat in the tetrad, the playback point should be from the nearest public access.
10. At each stop the standard recording of Willow Tit call and song should be played for two minutes (this is the full length of the standard recording). A further two minutes should then be spent looking and listening for a Willow Tit response.
11. A response is recorded if there are any Willow tit vocalisations heard or they are seen at the survey point. If a response is achieved during playback the recording is stopped and you should move on to the next playback point.
12. Although the recording used contains Willow Tit calls and song, a wide range of species can sometimes respond not only Willow Tits. In particular, Marsh Tits and other tit species regularly respond
13. Send an email with your results to me with the following title "SBSG Willow Tit Survey 2023 - Tetrad SK XX X"
Thanks for your support so far.

Best birding wishes,
Richard Hill
Chair - SBSG

27th February Stone Curlew has been added to the SK58 Official List, following the submission and acceptance of a description.

21st February Just a quick reminder that subs are now due. See Join us page for rates and how to pay.

16th February I'm sure the "Friends of Firbeck Hall" won't mind us sharing this image of the newly refurbished Firbeck hall, now looking resplendent with a roof and new windows.

Firbeck Hall © Friends of Firbeck Hallclick for pic

7th February We've also received details of long time member Wilf Slack's funeral: The funeral is on Thursday 16th February at 1400 at Rotherham Crematorium.

6th February We've received notification of "The 12th South Yorkshire Natural History Day"

The 12th South Yorkshire Natural History Day
"What's Going on in South Yorkshire?" - A Festival of Amateur Natural History
Saturday 18th February 2023 at Treeton Miners Welfare, Arundel Street, Treeton, S60 5PW
The event is open to all and free, with no need to book.
Reasonably priced food (Sandwiches, cakes and biscuits) and hot drinks will be available at all breaks, the bar will be open from lunch.

09:45 Building opens and setting up of displays

10:30 Introductions and housekeeping

10:40 Bob Croxton - Rotherham Wetlands Bat Survey
11:00 Dave Gosney - The Birds of Rivelin and Loxley: past, present and future

11:30 Break

12:00 Joyce Simmons - Brockadale - a limestone treasure
12:30 Ken Balkow - Some less common plants in the Sheffield area

1:00 - 2:00 Lunch

2:00 Steve Byers - A Carrion Crow in close up
2:30 Paul Hobson - Leaf Mining Bees (To be confirmed)
3:00 Derek Whiteley - 50 Years of Mountain Hare Walks

3:30+ Informal chat and drinks. Dismantle displays.

An exhibition of wildlife wood carvings and taxidermy by Steve Toher
Wildlife Book sale
For full details please see the Sorby Natural History Society's web site

29th January Following on from the renewal article below, did you know you can bay by BACS/ online? If you use online banking, contact either our Treasurer or Membership Secretary for online banking details to enable a paperless transfer. If paying online, please use your surname & initial as reference so we know who you are.

24th January Just a reminder it's the AGM on 31st January- don't be put off! the formalities only last 20 mins, then It'll be our own Mick Clay, talking about his local patches within SK58. Also a reminder that subs are now due.

  • Individual Membership
£15.00 children under 16-FREE
  • Family Membership
£20 covers all at one address
  • Concessionary Membership
£10 retired, unemployed or student

11th January We've received the sad news that long time member Wilf Slack has passed away. Wilf was a member for over 20 years. May the group pass on its heartfelt condolences to his friends and family- and thanks to his son for advising us in person.

17th December Firstly can we wish you all a Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year! Just a few notes from an extra organisers meeting held on Wednesday 14th December:

  • AGM A reminder the January meeting is our AGM. Currently all the current organisers are standing for re-election. However, if you wish to become involved, please step forward. We have a long-term vacancy (Group Secretary), currently covered by our Recorder, Andy Hirst and Lyn Facer, our Membership Secretary has indicated she would like to step down at the end of 2023. We are always looking for help towards the running of the group, and not necessarily in an official role, more ad-hoc help is also welcome, so any time you can offer to the group would be greatly appreciated.
  • Subscriptions January is also the month when subscriptions are due. Following an organisers meeting last Wednesday and despite rising costs, (mostly speakers fees), it was decided to keep subscriptions and on the door charges at the same level for 2023. However, attendances at indoor meetings have dwindled recently, which is a shame because we have had some first-rate speakers recently. Make the most of your annual subscription and come along to the Loyal Trooper. As well as top notch speakers you can have a drink. The upstairs meeting room is warm and comfortable and makes an ideal venue. It also means with more attendees we can offset the speaker's costs which have increased sharply in recent years.
  • Indoor Meetings Speaking of which, following a few hiccups recently with the Loyal Trooper booking system (or lack thereof), it was decided to change our indoor meetings to the LAST TUESDAY, instead of the LAST WEDNESDAY. We've held our indoor meetings on the last Wednesday since our inception 30 years ago, however conflicts with the newly created pool team, who drink far more beer than us, have been given priority of the room. Alternative venues were looked into, but it's financially beneficial to the group, and to stretch our income further, it was fiscally and simpler to change our meeting day. SO, FROM OUR JANUARY MEETING ONWARDS, INDOOR MEETINGS WILL BE HELD ON THE LAST TUESDAY OF THE MONTH. We hope we don't lose any members who cannot make Tuesdays, but conversely, we hope to gain a few attendees who previously couldn't make Wednesdays. Our Speakers Organisers will be contacting all the speakers and rebooking them for the last Tuesday slots. If you are a guest speaker, already booked for 2023, Janet & Michael will be contacting you shortly to rebook. Please note however our 2 monthly Organisers meetings will still be held on the Wednesday before the indoor meeting.
  • Membership We are always open to new members. As highlighted above, we have noticed a dip in attendances at indoor meetings, and we are acutely aware we have an ageing membership. New blood is always welcome. To this end we have car stickers available to group members, to help promote the group when you are driving around. To get yours contact our Recorder. We did have 500 leaflets printed, but since we changed the day of our indoor meetings to Tuesdays, these are now obsolete. We will probably have amended leaflets printed in the near future. Our costs are set- speakers fees, insurance, running costs etc... Therefore it would be great to spread these costs amongst a greater membership, thus making members subscriptions go further. If you have a local friend or neighbour who has even a slight interest in birds or the local environment, why not bring them along to the next meeting.
  • 1992 to 2022- 30 Years of SK58 Birders 2023 is our 30th year. We've no firm plans yet to celebrate, but at our November meeting (30 years almost to the day), those who attended were treated to cakes and buns, courtesy of Janet Gray & Lyn Facer. Thanks to both for their excellent baking- can we have these at every meeting (ed)? One thing we would like to do, maybe in the spring, is have all the past and present chairpersons gather for a 30th anniversary photo; 1992-1997-Rob Hardcastle, 1997-2002- Andy Hirst, 2003-2016- Mick Clay & 2017 - on, Paul Tennyson.
  • Records As we approach a new year, can we remind everyone to submit their records ASAP, so they can be entered and reviewed. Don't forget, we have our own Access Database and Monthly Excel Recording sheet. This makes entering your records simpler as we can simply copy + paste rather than re-type. The Recording sheet is available here to download. If you wish to have copy of the database to enter your own records see our recorder.

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

content & design by Andy Hirst