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, 2 January 2010

Well I hope everyone had a cracking Christmas and New Year and if it was anything like mine, you probably ate, drunk and slept too much. There aren’t many things better though than a belt adjusting Christmas dinner! Thanks for reading this too, it will just be a light hearted diary of the compilation of a bird watching year list. It will be totally random and in most cases grossly exaggerated! Thanks to my long suffering partner too, who will no doubt get her fair share of unwanted attention in these pages. There’s nothing anonymous about this but I thought it best she take on a deep and meaningful alias. Something, which after all these years is a statement about my love and passion? I thought Romeo and Juliet may be a bit too obvious so opted for another one of life’s famous sweethearts, Kermit and Miss Piggy. Miss Piggy will be chuffed to bits when she finds out about this. I’m not entirely sure she knows the web address for this? So could possibly be living in ignorant bliss. There’s a good chance too that if the Shat Birder blogspot is never featured on the X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing, the possibility of her never hearing about it are high!

Miss Piggy had actually spent the festive period with the “sniffles” wrapped in a duvet, clutching a Lemsip. I’d been fine. That was until the 29th! As I sit in bed, skim reading Flight Identification of European Seabirds, Miss Piggy gave me a look that suggested a pre new years kiss may be on the cards. As I flicked the light off and got the back of my roaming hand slapped she gave me a quick peck before rolling over with the lion’s share of the duvet. What I didn’t know at the time, was that the quick peck had infected me with a potentially life threatening disease. Within hours I was shivering, sweating and nauseous. She is adamant that it was the same virus she had had, when it simply wasn’t! The strain Miss Piggy had been harbouring for the last couple of days was far weaker, this had mutated upon my contraction to a warmth and energy sapping life form of its own. Had I not built up my fat reserves in the previous week it may have been a different story. A lesser man probably wouldn’t have made it. The next morning I had been reduced to cold lifeless husk unable to even protest slightly at the back to back episodes of Eastenders. All I wanted was to watch the Test Match in peace! I’m not sure whether it’s other people’s generosity or personal greed but this Christmas I seem to have put weight on faster than a Seal pup. Hopefully a few hikes along Filey Brigg will help turn this unwanted keg into the six pack I can so clearly see in my mind? It’s the finger food though that does it. On every table there are nibbles! I wouldn’t mind but every year I fall foul of the wolves in sheep’s clothing – Mince Pies. The crust never feels that warm! My one and only Mince Pie of this festive period had a filling that could only be likened to Magma. My lips blistered on contact making me reel away like a ten year old boy avoiding a kiss from his moustachioed Grandma. The burns cream that I found in the “medicine cupboard” (which was probably years out of date) frothed around my lips giving me a Kujo esque rabid St Bernhard look, which is not a good. The family kept their distance!

It is the first year that I have bought all my presents on the internet. No Christmas Eve dash to Meadowhall fighting the crowds. I got everyone what they wanted without leaving the comfort of my desk. Naturally that is what the internet at work is for, to be abused! It will probably be February now when I find out that my card details have been cloned by some Nigerian gang. I was actually the victim of identity fraud eight years ago. It was well over a year before I reported it as the criminals were spending less than Miss Piggy!

On the 30th though, and far from being myself, we got in the car and set off to Filey and the rest they say is history. On January 1st my 2010 list began with the first year tick being awarded to Herring Gull, a very vocal individual screaming out from a chimney pot as I pulled back the curtains. It had snowed a bit during the night leaving the ground lightly covered. I hadn’t had a drink New Years Eve as I still wasn’t match fit after my bout with Super Man Flu, so although not feeling 100%, I was still probably feeling a whole load better than if I had of sunk a few. This was probably a good thing as the steps down to Coble Landing would have been better tackled with a Bobsleigh! Once down, the beach area was fine. There was a good mix of the commoner gulls feeding around the surf and a few Cormorant and Eider offshore. A nice bird to start the year off was a Grey Plover feeding with Oystercatcher, Redshank, Turnstone, Knot and Dunlin. It is not a particularly rare bird but one never really seen it vast numbers. Just as I had got started I was unfortunately having to turn round and head back to Coble Landing as the snowfall had become harder making it impossible to bird watch.

It didn't seem to bother the lads collecting Cockles though!

As I did make my way back I could have been the hero by alerting the local authorities to the dorsal fin of Carcharodon carcharias, the Great White Shark destined in 2010 to wreak havoc on Filey’s Chief of Police. The distant shape moving through water actually turned out to be something even scarier. It was someone taking a New Years day dip! I was struggling to feel the binoculars in my hand it was that cold and someone was in the water! Insane.

Birdwatching over, it was into Scarborough for a walk around the Harbour which was welcomed upon parking up on Marine Drive by the imposing silhouette of the resident Peregrine Falcon on the castle hillside. Peregrines have an aura that commands respect and it is such a shame I couldn’t get a better picture to do it justice.

When the sea is rough Scarborough Harbour is very good for divers, particularly Red Throated, seeking refuge from the open sea. Today was fairly calm so there wasn’t much around, a couple of Cormorants and a Guillemot being all on the water with plenty of Gulls and Turnstone on the various jetties.

The weather forecast for today had not been too good so we decided we would head back to Skelmanthorpe at dinnertime giving us plenty of time should the roads be bad. This gave me a couple of hours on the Brigg to do a bit of sea watching and a good couple of hours they were too with Common and Velvet Scoter, Red Throated and Great Northern Diver, Long Tailed Duck and Fulmar being recorded. A bonus too was flushing a Woodcock from the side of Carr Naze whilst peering over the side looking at a Rock Pipit. The forecast was right and the snow started coming so it was time to head back and bundle Miss Piggy and Junior Shat Birder into the car and head for home!

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