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, 22 March 2010

Dearne Valley

Had a run out to Old Moor RSPB reserve on Saturday morning. Probably spent more time perusing the books than I did in the hides, you can never have too many bird books! It was an awful day too, so I was literally scurrying between sheltered areas. I managed to get a couple of additions to the list too. It was all but seconds but I think this is the first year I have ever recorded Sand Martin before Snipe! Both species were there in good numbers too and it seemed to be particularly good for waders. I recorded Redshank, Oystercatcher, Green Sandpiper and another year tick, Ringed Plover. Unfortunately all the RSPB’s one million voices of nature seemed to be in the hide at the same time! I’m not convinced either that Shell Suits and trainers are ideal bird watching attire? It by no means annoyed me, people just need to realise there’s a reason it’s called a hide? As The Foundations – Build me up Buttercup ringtone sounded out I knew it was time for my exit. I was only one of two guys with a telescope too so I think I was giving off the RSPB volunteer vibes. The guy next to me who appeared to have Charles Darwin’s original binoculars, held together only by electrical tape, was starting to test me. “Excuse me what’s that?” “It’s a Tufted Duck”, “what’s that one?” “That’s a female Tufted Duck”, “is that a Tufted Duck?” “No that’s a Coot” etc. Everyone’s got to start somewhere though?

A drenched Little Grebe

Reed Bunting

Unbelievably I got past the book shelves without making a purchase and headed to the car. In only five minutes I was in the hide at Broomhill Flash and suddenly you feel like you’re home, these are my people. Wax jacket wearing Barnsley birders who sit in the hide for 12 hours a day, constantly in touch with their mates with walkie talkies. These guys keep you captivated with tales of past “patch” rarities, using phrases like “fon it” and “tha noz”, cracking cans of Skol open to have with their sarnies. Guy’s who talk of birding like it’s an affair their wife has found out about, constantly looking at their watches as they know that their tea is served at 5pm on the dot, but they just don’t want to go home, what if something turns up? There’s something about a bird hide that offers refuge from the outside world. Sadly it’s this feeling of escape that the RSPB hides are lacking. Commercial it has to be though; they can’t raise the money they need to carry out their work by keeping it a secret. I’ll keep my membership all the same as it’s a great cause, junior has the RSPB Young Explorers membership and the newsletters, games and stickers she receives have really made her aware of what’s around her. I only have to look at her to realise the RSPB are getting the right messages across.

A gloomy Broomhill Flash

I was seconds away from leaving when the decision to have one last scan with the scope came up trumps, a cracking drake Ruddy Duck had emerged from an area where it had been previously concealed. This is a sighting to savour as Ruddy Ducks are currently being culled; they are native to North America and originally came to the UK as part of wildfowl collections. When a few escaped, they bred and began to colonise areas of Britain, such has been their expansion that they have now reached mainland Europe, in particularly Spain, where they are hybridising with the closely related and already endangered White Headed Duck. Measures are now in place to control the species, hence the cull.

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