So why the Shat Birder?

I got a bit of stick for calling my blog The Shat Birder and contrary to the jibes it is not a description! Shat is actually (believe it or not) the local name for the village in which I have lived all my life, Skelmanthorpe.
Skelmanthorpe is on the outskirts of Huddersfield and in the 1870’s during the construction of the railway line (which is now Kirklees Light Railway), local unskilled labourers were drafted in to chip away at the rock that would later carve out Shelley Tunnel. These local lads were nicknamed stone “Shatterers” by the Irish navvies who had been employed to lay the line. The taunting from these “foreigners” actually ended in a 200 man mass brawl, which saw one of the Irish workers getting part of his ear bitten off! It was this incident that coined the phrase “Shat lug oyl biter” which when translated from broad Yorkshire is basically “Skelmanthorpe Ear Hole Nibbler”. Since then though, nearly 140 years on, Skelmanthorpe is still known as Shat! And all its inhabitants by the abbreviated “Shatters”!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

High Hoyland

With a few hours to kill, I thought a walk around High Hoyland church may be productive for mixed finch and bunting flocks. Before I’d even got there I had picked up a Green Sandpiper feeding around the edge of a pool in the old Emley Show field which had been created by the thaw. The hard part was finding a place to park up to view the bird from which didn’t already have a lone middle aged guy sat there in a steamed up car. Needless to say these guys weren’t birdwatchers. In fear of being shagged (or in recent weeks murdered!) I opted to watch the bobbing sandpiper from the safety of my car, which unfortunately was through a hedgerow, so didn’t really get the best of views. I seemed to be attracting quite a bit of attention too? Cars would slow down with some random guy staring into my car, look at me, then crawl away and park up. It was obvious I was getting invites to a woodland party that I didn’t want to go to. High Hoyland church here I come.
In recent years there have been massive mixed flocks of birds here which have included, Lesser Redpoll, Linnet, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Brambling. There were small numbers here today with only a handful of species seen. Small flocks of Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting would alight from the crops, joining Goldfinches before disappearing again with the graveyard holding good numbers of Blue and Great Tit with a pair of Bullfinches flitting around the headstones.

A small flock of Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting

A good scan of the trees didn’t produce any roosting Tawny Owl this time though. If they have any sense they will probably be tucked away in the warmth of the purpose built box. The odd Red Legged Partridge would flush from the hedgerows as I walked along the edge of the fields. The amount of feeding stations dotted around for the partridge makes me think the handful that I saw were merely the tip of the iceberg. They could be heard calling from most areas but the tall cover made them impossible to see. An unusually pale Buzzard caught my eye too and after much deliberation it was left at that, a Buzzard.
I will probably keep trying this area for the next few weeks to see if the bird numbers build up which may hopefully pull in a few Brambling. The one thing that has remained consistent from last year though is the number of Rats! The one I saw today was massive, so they are clearly living well!

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