Thanks to everyone who has so far signed the petition, some really good comments in there keep them coming.

All future information and any developments will appear on a separate page accessed by the link above.

11th August. Chinese Whispers


If you've got more time on your hands write to the leader of Rotherham Council and make your feelings known

Chinese Theme Park Threatens Pit-house West

As reported several weeks back plans are afoot for the development of a Chinese Theme park on the Pit-house West site adjacent to Rother Valley Country Park. Most local birders will be aware of the history of Pit-house West (PHW) that after several years of opencast it was sympathetically landscaped in preparation for it being absorbed into the adjacent country park.

Looking south towards the Chinese Bridge (ironic that we call it that!)Looking west towards the 'Bittern' Pool from the extensive gorse bank

For over a decade the site began to mature alongside the existing water courses and woodland. A reedbed steadily grew and within a several years attracted its first wintering Bittern albeit a rather elusive individual. At least one Bittern has wintered there for the last nine winters usually arriving in September and departing in mid March.

Birds are the main attraction at this site with notable records over the years including the first record of Cetti's Warbler in the Sheffield area, Firecrest, Bearded Tit, Hobby, Woodcock, 3 species of Owl, 3 species of Woodpecker and Woodlark. There are several birds featured on the RSPB's Red List that breed at PHW namely Grey Partridge, Lapwing, Cuckoo, Skylark, Song Thrush, Grasshopper Warbler, Willow Tit, Linnet, Lesser Redpoll and Yellowhammer, any kind of development would have an adverse affect on these.

There's plenty of other wildlife with a good population of Grass Snakes, Smooth Newt, Common Frog, Pygmy Shrew, Common Shrew, Water Shrew, Brown Hare, Stoat, Weasel, Badger and Fox (these are just the ones that I've found).

All the above pictures have been taken at Pit-house West over the last few years. RMBC are desperate to offload the site because they can't afford to maintain the public footpaths, fences and basically look after the site - a site that was given to them by British Coal, who presumably as part of a deal to extract the coal were required to restore the land.

Is it too much to ask that Pit-house West remains as public-open space not just for birders but for everyone? Do we really need a Chinese Theme Park in Rotherham? Do we really need 380 more minimum wage jobs? The Rother Valley had over a hundred years of heavy industry and heavy pollution, industries that created real jobs and communities around them. What's there now is a legacy of those industries. Actually it's not a legacy it's a thank you, a thank you for those years that we took from the land. To put it back to what it is today is an achievement to take that away would be a bloody disgrace.

Please take a moment to sign the petition. If you've got more time on your hands write to the leader of Rotherham Council and make your feelings known

7th August. The Pies Have It

One or two returning waders over the last week - actually 5 Greenshank, 3 Whimbrel, a couple of Black-tailed Godwits and a handful of Common Sands - raised some hope that the big (ish) one was just around the corner. Sadly it wasn't, so I had to settle for a very plastic looking Red-crested Pochard. Pete proclaimed that eclipse males actually look more plastic (than any other plumage state) as you have a brown duck with a stupid looking red bill that looks like it's been glued on by a child. Despite looking shit it made itself onto the SF list - as Roy would say "they're all the same size on the list."

Desperate for a change of venue and some decent birds we had a run out to Old Moor and Blacktoft on Saturday - we did at least have the change of venue!

The trip to Old Moor was however just a cover for a spot of, what I can only describe as pie twitching. I received a tip off some months back from the Bard of Broomhill that the best pork pies were to be found at Elmhursts in Goldthorpe. So with Old Moor not opening until 9:30 (which frankly is shit) we diverted to the former mining town of Goldthorpe armed with only a pocket full of change. Being Barnsley's equivalent of the Wild West I stayed and guarded the car whilst Jo went in for the savoury delights on offer.

Note the window full of pies

Jo returned with 4 small (8cm diameter) pies and a large pork and black pudding pie, the sum total of which was £5! We had clearly been undercharged or do they still operate in 'old money' in the Dearne Valley. True to my information the pork pies were tremendous, but the pork and black was outstanding, quite possibly the greatest pie I have ever eaten.

I ate all the pies

6th August. Birdguides iPhone App

I heard a while ago that Birdguides had a new clever iPhone app up there sleeve that would blow the socks off any of the competition. So when it was officially released yesterday I jumped in and paid the £5 Bird News Anywhere fee (for 1 month).

First impressions are a little mixed, with some good features and some lacking ones

Firstly it gives you the ability to filter your alerts, much the same as the Birdguides web access does. That way you don't have to trawl through a wedge of minor scarce to get to the good stuff.

The 'recent' feature gives you everything reported

Setting the filter is straightforward.

And you only see what you want

A 'report' feature makes it very easy to submit all your sightings, removing the *gibbering idiot from rarity reports left on answer machines. I tried this feature last night on a handful of Yellow-legged Gulls and Red-crested Pochard at Orgreave, within five minutes they had appeared.

*I hate talking to answerphones and phoning a rare in when your adrenalin is pumping is even worse. I think most panicking birders, breaking the news, probably sound like Boomhauer from King of the Hill.

The killer feature for this app is the 'nearby' feature. Using the iPhones built in GPS it selects all the records that are, as the feature states' nearby. I can imagine this being very useful particularly for holidays and day trips.

Now the downside:

No Push Notifications. With this feature Birdguides would have created an app that would have sounded the death knell for the pager - at least for those pager holders with iPhones. I can't deny that when I saw the app advertised I did think this is it, a dedicated bird news app that I can setup notifications to text me when a mega is reported. Downloading the app, which is free by the way, and paying my £5 (BNA monthly fee) I clicked on the settings icon only to find that the expected notifications setting wasn't there. I was slightly disappointed to say the least and without this feature feel that apart from the 'nearby' feature it's just an easier navigable version of the Birdguides website. I could of course subscribe to the text alert as well for another £40 per annum.

In fairness, I mentioned this to one of the Birdguides staff who suggested that push notifications will be available when Apple release iOS 5. However rumour has it that iOS5 won't run on 3G and 3GS iPhones! So if you want the ultimate news service it looks like an upgrade to an iPhone 4 will be on the cards. Also in the meantime it doesn't look like Android users will get a look in, though given the popularity of these a compatible app must surely be in the pipeline.

The photo gallery is a nice touch if you're sat on the bus and want to look at some nice pictures, but other than that I can't help that the effort put into it could have been spent elsewhere.

In conclusion.

A smart app that lets you submit sightings, instantly find what's nearby and an excellent filter system. But let down by the lack of push notifications and availability to only iPhone users. At least for the foreseeable future I'll stick with the Birdnet Twitter service. However those already subscribed to Birdguides will find this app a real bonus.

If you've managed to get this far down (it did get a bit techie a few paragraphs back) click HERE for a review of the Birdnet Twitter service I did last year.