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”!

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Birdwatching - The Dangers

Well the plan this weekend was to be up and at em with an “early bird gets the worm” zest for life. That was the plan anyway? I was like the Tin Man on Saturday morning. My legs were so stiff I even had to be helped out of bed! The first team were a man short for squash, so being the good sport that I am I said I would stand in and help them out. Now anyone who has played any form of team sport knows that the step up from second to first team, standard wise, is a decent leap. End, deep and thrown were words bouncing back and forth in my head as my opponent, obviously used to playing higher calibre players, had beaten me in the warm up. What made it worse was the fact that after only a few minutes of hitting the ball to each other, warming it up, he knew he was going to kick my arse. The two scenarios available, were for him to have somewhere to go after the game therefore getting the game over and done with or thinking because it was Friday night and he didn’t have anything else on, he may as well have a good run? And run is what he made me do. The bastard had plenty of opportunities to win the rallies yet he kept the ball coming back and back and back making me run and run and run. Let’s be fair, my team mates weren’t holding out, I was doing them a favour, they knew I was the sacrificial lamb. He was clearly going to win so why not put me out of my misery. I felt like a young Elephant Seal being dragged from the shallows by a Killer Whale, only to be played with before the inevitable. As match ball was called and quickly won, I slid down the wall leaving a Snail like trail of sweat, only to look across to find he was hardly perspiring! I lay on the court floor waiting for the stewards to come and put the curtains around me to end it Grand National style, but unfortunately the stewards never came? Like a new born Wildebeest, I did eventually get back on my feet, but due to my lungs needing more air than I could fit in my mouth, words failed me, leaving me to mouth the words “well played” whilst shaking his hand.

With hamstrings so tight that I couldn’t even muster enough energy to push the clutch down, I was left to work the local patch. I took a walk along the railway embankment to search for any summer migrants that may have recently arrived.

Without even getting there I had chanced upon my first Swallow of the summer, seconds after leaving the door, so I couldn’t have got off to a better start and once I had reached the embankment a singing Chiffchaff alerted me to tick number two of the day. It wasn’t long before I had found the bird by the mouth of the tunnel. It flitted around the canopy but never really gave any noteworthy views, there will be plenty of time though this summer to try and get a reasonable photo.

Collared Dove

Apart from that, there weren’t really any other noteworthy sightings. There is still a 30 strong flock of Fieldfare in the area which seem to be feeding frantically. Building their fat reserves up for the return leg of their migration, which will no doubt be imminent? Now it has to be said that more often than not, birding your local patch can be fairly routine, the usual suspect’s week in week out, dependant on season. Unfortunately this weekends change in routine didn’t concern any birds whatsoever, common or rare.

The routine breaking event took place on a fence I have climbed over around a million times. There’s nothing dangerous about the fence nor is it hard to get over, it’s just a fence! As my right leg stood on the bottom rung, my left leg was nearly all the way over when what I can only put down to a moss or an algae of some sort, but my right leg lost its grip and slipped off. In the nano second I had to react for some subliminal reason I opted to save the camera. Probably the right decision but this left my knackers to take the full brunt of the impact. The next two or three seconds seemed to be in slow motion as I hyperventilated, eventually freeing myself from the fence and coming to a slow rest on the other side, laid in the foetal position in wet grass. Fortunately (or unfortunately) my accident hadn’t gone unnoticed as a lady out walking with her children had witnessed it all and rushed over to help. I think she thought I was temporarily disorientated as stagnant tears gave me blurred vision, making me reach out to grab things that weren’t even there, in attempt to get up off the floor. She even mentioned calling the emergency services but I reassured her in a gruff voice that I was fine, I just needed a minute. The poor lady became stuck in the middle as her children who had just seen a grown man broken into a million pieces, had started crying, probably scared? They had probably never witnessed this sort accident before at such close hand and didn’t know how to react? Back on my feet I praised her concern and sent her on her way, with head in my arms resting on the very fence that had so nearly ended such a pleasurable part of my life; I went through all the emotions associated with this sort of blow. Slowly the sense of sickness arrived, which worked its way down my body, morphing into an uncontrollable feeling of shitting my pants? I was experiencing the only known thing more painful than childbirth. I started to walk it off, following sharp intakes of breath with comments like “fuck that hurt”, shaking my legs out like a London marathon warm down. You know you’re hurt when you start talking to yourself! The whole experience showed just how dangerous bird watching is! A little knock like this won’t put me off though. Next weekend I’m going to wear my cricket box as you just never know?

Common Toad - Give us a kiss!

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