29th August. Bird News Via Twitter

Rare Bird News Via Twitter

It seems like only yesterday since I took delivery of my very first pager from Birdnet. I recall that it was something the size of a fag packet that required funny sized batteries and didn't have the ability to be switched to silent so had to be stuck in a draw when you didn't want disturbing. I can even remember the very first message - 1st Winter Glaucous Gull (back when we called juv's 1st winters) at Broomhill Flash! Things moved on a bit with a pager that displayed more information took regular AAA batteries and had the ability to be set to silent during unsociable hours. This was all very modern in the early nineties, the internet was very young and even mobile phones were few and far between.
The pager was a revolution in birding. No more 0898 numbers (unless you didn't have a girlfriend, which many birders didn't) to the Norfolk rare bird cartel. You simply stuck it in your pocket and it fed your dirty rare bird habit. The pager had it's downsides, poor reception in some of the country's premier bird areas for one - though i most instances this has been solved it does mean that if you miss a message then you miss it completely!
Twenty years on since I first opened that jiffy bag from Buxton the technology hasn't moved on much at all. Whilst the pager has stood still mobile phones and the Internet have advanced at an alarming rate to the point at which you can't take a piss without someone 500 miles away knowing about it. After 16 years I finally became divorced from, among other things, my pager. It was a hard decision to make but I knew that something else would come along - something that would take its place and satisfy me just as much perhaps even more. It wasn't the cost that made me give her the push it was the outdated technology and constant breakdowns - I needed something fresh, something sexy and modern - the iphone.
The iphone gave me the ability to surf the rare bird websites, so I kept my RBA subscription going. It wasn't ideal. Unlike the pager I had to log on and browse, a much longer process than just scanning through the pager. Another downside was with the pager I had it set to alert me when a mega turned up, which meant that I could leave it on my desk and sometimes not look at it for days without getting paranoid. Had I made a mistake, had I been too hasty? I discovered the Birdguides email service at just a fiver per month. An excellent service with a great filtering system all I have to do is check my emails. I've used Birdguides with the iPhone for six months now and I like it. There is however a downside and none of them are the fault of Birdguides. Firstly If I just want notifying of megas I can set a filter to just notify me of them. There is nothing that I can do to set my email to just notify me of the megas but store lesser rares where I can browse them at my leisure. Like most birders I get a little excited at this time of year and it's good to know what's happening around the UK. To just keep the mega notification would mean me reverting to Birdguides website, again a bit of a pain particularly in poor reception areas. The main problem is that on the whole iphones email is slow and many occasions the fetch doesn't fetch and the push won't push. Jo's Blackberry email is quicker, but what I really want is an alert for megas and the rest of the info at my fingers quickly and without logging on. I'd conceded that this was how it was going to be until during a moment of boredom I logged on to Bird Boredom and discovered THIS
I've never used Twitter and probably never would, that is until now. In a nutshell the Twitter service, when used on the iphone or Blackberry is exactly like the pager. It doesn't alert you like a pager but you can set it up to text you for any of the regional, national or mega alerts. Texts from Twitter/Birdnet are free but your provider might charge your allowance per text. I've set mine to only text me for megas, but I can add texting at anytime. For instance if I was on the east coast for the day I could set up text alert in seconds and receive an audible alert for reports from the northeast region until I switched it off. Many mobile contracts and some pay as you go option have unlimited text so in theory you don't run the risk of exceeding your allowance.

The info is clear and in the same format as the pager service.
I chose National News, Megas and Northeast but you can choose all the available regions if you wish and unlike your pager there's no need to send your phone back to be reprogrammed when you want to switch regions.

Three screen shots. 1st shows how easy it is to switch the texts on via the Twitter website. 2nd The texts as you receive them. 3rd simply lick the 'stop texts' and you won't get anymore.


This is really what I've been waiting for everything that the pager did and more - no missing messages as even in poor reception areas you'll still receive them once you get your signal back. But best of all I won't be getting paranoid wondering what's about as a simple text will alert me of the latest mega.

I won't go into which service provides the most up to date or accurate info - I'll leave that kind of bitching to Bird Forum. For me they all have the good points and bad points, but if you are worried about the quality of this information you need worry no more. The information is provided by Birdnet, it's the same as what goes out on their pager service but at a fraction of the cost.

I haven't been paid for this or offered a free service, David Marshall, of Birdnet, gave me a weeks trial if you're interested give him a call on 01158712888

26th August. Yes Pieminister

Managed a bit of a coo today in that I blagged a sponsorship from the very excellent Pieminister. I won't go into what I get out of it, let's just say they gave me what I asked for! Please take the time to visit their website and salivate over the delicious pies. I will of course continue my independent pie reviews from all suppliers!

Despite the excellent clag conditions this morning there was nothing of note at Orgreave. An evening visit was slightly better with a decent flock of hirundines including at least 12 Sand Martins. A Wheatear, 4 Ringed Plover and a feeding Greenshank (they usually go straight through) provided some padding for the notebook - but that elusive scarce is still - well - elusive!

25th August. Movement, Scum and Pies

Nice to see the proper start of Autumn with some passerine movement, at Orgreave, over the last couple of days. Yesterday morning produced a Whinchat (patch tick) and a Wheatear, the latter always proving scarce on return passage in these parts. The southern movement was heralded by the almost complete disappearance of Common Swift and a fly over Tree Pipit last (another patch tick) Thursday.
This morning things were looking promising with two Yellow Wag's south and three Shelducks dropping in - that is until - I was distracted by these guys!!

Regular readers might recognise the moron in the green 'hoody'. Having taken the photo above I rang S Y Police. They were surprisingly helpful and said they would dispatch an officer immediately. Fifteen minutes later they rang me back, great thought I they're here. Unfortunately the operator on the other end of the phone was trying to work out whose jurisdiction Orgreave fell in! Somewhat bewildered I repeated the location and informed the operator that there was currently a white Greyhound pursuing a hare (fortunately it was unsuccessful). Typically the police arrived shortly after the gang had vanished in to thin air - but despite their initial sloppiness I was reassured that perhaps next time SYP will get their act together.

The leverets aren't as sprightly as the adults making them easy pickings.

Missed out on going for the 'Sharpie' at the weekend as we were at the V Festival (my body's telling me that I'm getting too old for this). Apart from the great music it also gave me the chance to sample the Pieministers finest fayre. Once again they didn't disappoint with two very mouthwatering pies, namely Moo and Blue (Steak and Stilton) and a delightful Minty Lamb. If you haven't sampled the Pieminister then I recommend popping into your local Sainsbury's where they stock at least three varieties including veggie. Don't be put off by the price they really are a meal on their own and definitely the finest pies currently available to the masses.

Pieminister. I recommend these to the house.

17th August. Bad Omen

Having had a nightmare journey back from Cornwall I was still a bit too knackered to head north, for the Eric Sykes Warbler that was gracing that well known rare curlew spot in the North East. I instead settled for a Tuesday visit deciding to head off on positive news.

The day didn't start well. One of the cats had angered the birding god's by presenting me with a fresh killed Robin. Apology's to the neighbours for my X-rated outburst in the garden at 06:30!

I had contacted Alan Tilmouth on Monday evening and begged him to text me as soon as he had any news. Alan kindly agreed telling me he would be on site at 6am. My plan was to hang around at Orgreave until I'd heard either way.

On arrival at Orgreave the dismal sight of a dog walker going round the edge with his shit machines was further evidence that the birding god's were making me pay for the cat's wrong doing. Fortunately the gulls must be getting used to it by now as they moved on to the water rather than heading off in various directions. I picked up a putative juv Yellow-legged among the Lessers (the Klaus Malling is in the post as we speak) but was distracted by my phone ringing. It was Alan, but the news was not good - actually it was what I expected- no sign! The call kept breaking up but I got the gist of what Alan was saying, a heavy downpour had occurred overnight probably pushing the Sykes off - oh well!

Whilst informing Andy of the pre-pager tip off I was pleasantly surprised to pick up a couple of drake Common Scoter, a nice (but overdue) patch tick. Perhaps the god's had started to forgive me!

The best I could manage before the battery died.

5th August. Time for a break

Little of note during the week a juvenile Peregrine at Orgreave on Sunday with the only wader of note (during the last two weeks) being a Green Sandpiper. Decided to avoid the Yorkshire Day celebrations (were there any?) with a trip over the border into Derbyshire. The highlights was a pair of Golden-ringed Dragonflies salvaging what I would describe as a nice birdless walk, if such a thing exists!

A couple of predictable adult Yellow-legs at Orgreave this morning and a sense of De ja vu hanging over me suggested that it's time for a break from all things local.

Apologies for the rather lame postings of late, though it seems that blog apathy is currently prevalent among fellow birders, even those cool cats are struggling as is evident here

Time to head southwest.