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, 1 March 2010

Ring Bill's & Red Neck's

With Miss Piggy away Friday night and all Saturday morning, me and junior shat birder were fending for ourselves. We were meant to get up and go for a walk but the conditions were a mixture of rain and sleet so that got put on hold. The only walking we did was to the co-op and back for supplies which kept us going until Miss Piggy returned at dinnertime. Fresh from a night out on the lash she had the glazed look of Amy Winehouse with the hair of Russell Brand. Apparently she had consumed enough alcohol to tranquilize a Rhino, this was confirmed by a quick kiss which actually stung my eyes as the vapour was so strong. It was like snogging and onion, an onion pickled in Vodka! Afraid to drive as I presumed I was now way over the limit, I put the footy on just in time for the most eagerly awaited handshake or no handshake in recent years. As time passed and the weather seemed to improve I decide on a quick check to see if anything was around. With reports of a Ring billed Gull at Mirfield, and the Red Necked Grebe I had dipped on the previous weekend at Wintersett now seemed to have relocated to Pugneys, it was on, two hours of twitching before it got too dark.

Having never been to Sands Lane Gravel Pits before, I was unsure where to go, I knew roughly where it was but in the end I need not have worried, around twenty people stood at the roadside with telescopes poised, confirming I was in the right place. I was ten minutes too late, the Ring Billed Gull which has been present for a few days now had just been seen flying off north, this wasn’t unusual behaviour though, so it was a case of sitting tight and waiting for it to return, and return it did, around half an hour later. Now this has to rank as a very very good bird, not only is it native to North America and it has been found in Mirfield, the fact is, it has been found! Bearing close resemblances to our very own Common Gull, this bird could have been so easily overlooked. When you actually see it for the first time and study it, you pick the slight differences out, but that’s only because you know it’s there. The finder of the bird couldn’t have possibly known that on that particular day he would stumble upon a North American vagrant on a pool of water behind the Ship Inn in Mirfield. That’s what makes the find so special, rather than scanning a group of gulls and dismissing them as the commoner species which are regularly found, the smallest detail down to the colour of the bird’s iris has been noted, determining a different species all together. Superb birding, and just rewards for what could potentially be years of fruitless visits to the same place. Seek and he shall find, inspiration to all birdwatchers that work a local patch.

With light fading it was time to warm back up in the car and head to Pugney’s, as the Red Necked Grebe had been reported there on the boating lake. This was easy birding, drive in, park up, extend tripod legs, attach telescope, scan water, find grebe! Unbelievably it did happen in that sequence too! Found it almost straight away, it favoured the area just off the sluice gate and congregated with three other Great Crested Grebes, it was a lovely bird. It was a shame that both birds today were in most cases too far away for any sort of decent picture and not only that, it was just so dull!

Sunday morning was better though; it was as if spring was in the air. I spent the whole morning at Bretton lakes, it was cold but very fresh and in some ways very refreshing from the poor weather we have had of late. Grey Herons were busy rebuilding nests and pairs of Canada Geese were staking claims to the best nest sites, one pair even lining an area on the island with downy feathers. I spent a good hour in the hide snapping away at the Nuthatch’s, Blue Tits and Great Tits, which have become very confiding. Birds on the water were Pochard, Tufted Duck, Teal, Goosander, Mallard, Canada Goose, Mute Swan and a very nice summer plumaged Great Crested Grebe.

During my time in the hide I came across a fellow blogger whom I now know as the Bungling Birder, check his site out at the following address or click on the link.

His 500mm lens put mine to shame! It was like showering with the West Indian cricket team.


Blue Tit

Great Tit

The one that got away!

As I completed my figure of eight around the lakes I came across a cracking Willow Tit, a bird you can never guarantee seeing locally so it was a real bonus to the morning along with a striking male Green Woodpecker.

As February closes, the quality of birds, which I have so far recorded this year in a radius of say 10 miles from my home, has been phenomenal,

Ring Billed Gull
Great White Egret
Ferruginous Duck
Ring Necked Duck
Red Necked Grebe
Red Breasted Merganser

Long may it continue!!!

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