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, 26 April 2010

Migrants Galore

Well what a weekend this has been, I know I harp on about how good the local bird life is but the last few days have just been class. I’ve managed to get out for a few hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and enjoyed every minute of it. It’s really been a weekend dedicated to migrants. Having dipped on the Ring Ouzels the previous weeknights it was third time lucky, and luck was with me, I hit on a male and female minutes from leaving the car as I headed along the track toward Cheesegate Nab. They are very timid birds, always keeping their distance. The rocky patches and gorse give them plenty of cover and the male was concealed the majority of the time I was there, the female did oblige, if only just to get a record shot. The same area held 3 Wheatear, which were the first sightings of the year for me.

Ring Ouzel

I went home via Ingbirchworth and had ten minutes stood by the wall scanning the water when a lone Swift sped past which then mingled amongst the growing number of Swallows. I watched them for a few minutes before a Lesser Whitethroat caught my attention, singing from the hedgerow. It skulked around, occasionally alighting from the hedge to snatch a fly before finding cover again. A female Whitethroat was also metres away in the same stretch of hedgerow offering a rare chance to study plumage differences with both species being in such close quarters. As a Friday evening went, it was a beauty. I didn’t think things could get much better over the weekend either but it just went from strength to strength.


Swift - Like trying to photograph a bullet!

Saturday morning was twitching time; a Wood Warbler had been reported on Friday evening in trees behind the In Focus shop in Denby Dale so I headed down there first thing to see if it was around, and luckily it was. Its distinct call is likened to a spinning coin coming to rest on a hard surface, an acceleration of clicks. Fortunately the bird was vocal which helped me immensely when locating it. It didn’t show particularly well, opting to stay in the canopy, but a cracking year tick only a couple of miles from home none the less. With the few hours I had spare before having to depart to Barkisland to play cricket, I opted for a quick walk around Langsett where the trees were simply alive. Good numbers of Goldcrest, Treecreeper and Siskin paved the way for two more additions to the list, Redstart and Tree Pipit. I had been reliably informed that morning of a singing Tree Pipit so knew just where to look. I am lucky enough to have the assistance of a superb local birders eyes and ears and his findings are duly texted. Sadly for him its one-way traffic, I never seem to find anything he doesn’t already know about!

Tree Pipit

On my way to the Tree Pipit site I took the long way round taking in the Little Don Valley with the hope of a Redstart. I could hear a male singing ahead of me but it was a female I actually saw first, perched on a fence post possibly being wooed by the song? As I neared though the male came into view, beating his tune out from a treetop, a stunning bird. With time against me and not wanting to leave Langsett without a piece of mars bar corn flake cake from the café (sheer class) I had to rush back. We got our opening day blip out of the way and recorded our first win of the season at cricket, so it rounded off a great day.

With no cricket on Sunday and Miss Piggy and Junior out for the afternoon, I headed out to check a few local sites taking in a range of habitats. Forgive me for being sketchy regarding the locations of the birds I saw but sadly for every 1000 birders out there who just want to enjoy the wildlife there is a minority who just want to take their eggs.

I had an hour of sheer bliss, sat on a fallen tree in the middle of a wood, watching a pair of Pied Flycatchers flitting around the branches. They even tried out a few nest boxes for size. The male is wearing a ring too, so it would be fascinating to find out where his journey started, who knows?

Pied Flycatcher

As much as I didn’t want to leave, I pulled myself away to drive to an area of moorland to basically just sit and wait. The heather was dry so it was remarkably comfy. Red Grouse were flighty and vocal along with displaying Meadow Pipits and an opportunist Buzzard was mobbed by Curlew and Lapwing as it scoured the moor. All good but not what I had come to see, after three quarters of an hour I had my first glimpse of the main event, a Short Eared Owl wing clapping as it displayed to it’s mate. Superb! I watched it meander along occasionally plunging into the heather until it drifted out of view. The whole thing only lasted ten minutes but what a ten minutes. Something I will never tire of seeing and the icing on the cake to a great weekend.


  1. Fantastic photos of great birds, particularly the Tree Pipit, brilliant stuff!

  2. Many thanks, your comments are much appreciated. So glad I'm reaching my target audience.

  3. Very good post. It's nice to learn that there are so many migrants about at the moment. Some nice spots there, no wonder you're pleased! I'm yet to see either a Ring Ouzel, Tree Pipet or Flycatcher - must get out more!

  4. Thanks for the offer SB. I only really get the chance to go out on weekend mornings but if you're around next weekend (or any after that) I'll have a drive over.