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”!

Monday, 4 January 2010

Pugney's and Bretton Lakes

Sunday morning I decided to head down to Pugneys to try and catch up with the Ferruginous Duck and Ring necked Duck which had hung on from Christmas time. Both birds were already on my 2009 list but would be great additions for this year. Due to the overnight sprinkling of snow, golf courses were closed so my Dad fancied a trip out too as he was now at a loose end. After parking up at the Swan and Cygnet pub we were greeted by another few birders. The ice had almost covered the lake, shepherding the waterfowl fairly close to the bank to a small area which had remained ice free. A few scans with the telescope couldn’t pick out either of the ducks on today’s hit list. The variety was good though, Little and Great Crested Grebes jockeyed for space with Coot, Tufted Duck, Pochard and Wigeon.

We headed over the road to the main country park where within five minutes of being there had located the Ferruginous Duck on a small patch of ice free water congregating with a few Pochards and Tufted Ducks.

Here it is shown at the back with two male Pochards to the right, two male Tufted Ducks to the left and a female Pochard in the foreground.

We could see that the Nature Reserve lake was fully frozen but gave the hide a try for 20 minutes as these are very good conditions for encouraging elusive birds such as Bittern and Water Rail to leave the reeds. The Bittern did show but all very briefly. After 30 minutes of scanning the reeds for any signs of its re-emergence I began seeing things that weren’t even there! Did that reed just move? Bitterns have this effect on Birdwatchers. Unfortunately we didn’t see a Water Rail, which are timid birds at best.

Word had got round that the Ring Necked Duck had been seen back over the road behind the Swan and Cygnet pub but on a different pool to the one previously scanned. Again, when we got there, plenty of birders were around as the Ferruginous Duck had made its way over too from the main boating lake. The Ring Necked Duck showed well, mainly because of the ice restrictions but was always a little too far away for any sort of decent picture. The added bonus came in the shape of a female Red Breasted Merganser which was associating with Gooseanders on the River Calder. We had tried this area on the off chance that a Smew which had been seen recently was maybe in the area. Sadly we didn’t find it. A fly by from a Mute Swan gave us some compensation though!

On the way back the light was still OK so called in for a walk around Bretton Lakes. The tree tops were alive with Nuthatches which seem to be thriving around the lakes.

The Treecreepers could be heard calling too. It was the second time of asking when we eventually spotted our first for the year. We had spent 10 minutes with necks cricked staring into the treetops trying to find the source of the sound before giving it up as a bad job. The second bird gave good views though once it was located. A calling Greater Spotted Woodpecker couldn’t be picked up either by the lower lake so I had take a photo of the two Highland Cows instead.

The light started fading so we headed back. There was still time to get a photo of the Crows coming into roost against such a vivid back drop.

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