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”!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Bank Holiday Birding

Well it has been a quiet one in fairness; it was always going to be compared with the highlights of the previous weekend. That said, I have mustered another four names to the growing 2010 tally. With a few nice evenings in and amongst I had promised junior a night riding her bike around Pugneys. I set off on foot whilst she peddled ahead, occasionally stopping to see if I was still in sight. It gave me a good opportunity to scour the water, something that was rewarded with a pair of Common Tern’s resting on a wooden frame out on the boating lake. A few singing Whitethroat and Blackcap added a soundtrack and tick number two, Reed Warbler, belted its tune out from the reed bed by the hide, so all in all an enjoyable hour.

Male Reed Bunting

Female Reed Bunting

My Saturday morning was a strange one. Although I had fallen asleep the previous evening in the comfort of my home in Skelmanthorpe, it appeared I had woken up in Basra. Miss Piggy was pissed off, but for what? Had I cried out another woman’s name whilst asleep? She was answering me short and clearly flustered, her behaviour was begging me to ask what the problem was, and she would have been devastated if I had not asked. Turns out I had said something that really upset her… a dream! She was mad with me for something I had done in a dream!!! What the! You can’t carry it on into reality! She wouldn’t even say what I had said; just that it had upset her. I was like “but I haven’t actually said it? You can’t be mad with me for something I’ve done in a dream”? Unbelievable! She once busted me putting the bedside clock back a few hours when I had come home really late one night, so being mad with me for that is fine, caught red handed. Being mad with me for something I’ve done in a dream is just beyond my comprehension. She’s still funny about it now! For my own sanity I needed to head out and Ingbirchworth it was. The last few years around this time I have had a straggling Black Tern as it makes its way from the Gulf of Guinea, across the UK to its Eastern European/Russian breeding grounds. On this occasion there was no joy, I will keep trying though so watch this space. The Lesser Whitethroat was still singing in the hedge and the numbers of Swift had risen to around thirty so there was at least some compensation.

Great Tit

Sunday morning was freezing! A walk around Royd Moor Reservoir was cold, gloomy and miserable. This reflected in the bird life seen, the only birds of note were my first Garden Warbler of the year and a vocal male Whitethroat. Due to the stiff cold breeze a bird with any sense kept itself concealed, as did the Butterflies. Unfortunately there wasn’t much to write about from this outing.

It’s fair to say that should I get an hour to myself, I will quickly nip out, pick a local area and go birding. This attitude is reflected in the state of my garden, which I am trying to palm off as a Nature Reserve, just so I don’t have to cut the grass. It’s like Jurassic Park. Still being made to feel like I needed to make it up with Miss Piggy for something I hadn’t even done she “advised” me that I best do something about it. It did double up for some quality father daughter time though; junior brought out her Garden Wildlife book and wrote a list of what we found, ordering me take photos of them all, hence why there’s a few creepy crawlies thrown in.

Speckled Wood

Garden Snail

House Spider

With the grass under knee height, my work here was done, time for a quick run out somewhere. I ended up nipping to Harden Reservoir for a stroll, and I’m glad I did. Minutes after getting out of the car, my Dad who had come along for the walk, spotted what he thought, for the split second it was visible, was a Sparrowhawk, as we flushed it from the gorse. It flew out of view, and as we headed in its direction it became immediately apparent, as we rounded a small mound it was a male Cuckoo, which had now perched on the wall and begun calling. I slowly raised my camera, but it flew, like identical twins, the dejected sigh of ‘bastard’ emanated from our mouths. It was a great sighting though. A Snipe was drumming in the sky above us too, something you have to hear to believe, it is a vibration of sorts of its stiff outer tail feathers when it descends from its display flight. It’s like blowing a Kazoo, really strange.

Collared Dove

Dusk approached and my Dad was keen to get back to the Grove Inn back in Shat, a pub in the heart of the village and home to an array of interesting characters. A great pub if you are a local, but certainly an experience to the outsider! It’s probably not as bad as the Slaughtered Lamb in The American Werewolf in London but anyone in there (including myself!) who suffered from Tourettes Syndrome would probably never have their symptoms diagnosed. I’m probably painting a bad picture to be honest; there isn’t a guy in a flat cap playing a piano and a three legged Whippet asleep in front of an open fire, it is a bit more modern than that. That said, one of the locals once got hit by a caravan whilst on his push bike. He said later that it was obvious the car was going too fast but he thought he could beat the caravan!

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