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, 10 August 2010

A Few Days Off

With the cricket out of the way, thought I best post something bird related!

In an attempt to keep the youngster entertained this summer holiday we enjoyed a few days in Filey last week. The weather wasn’t up to much but I suppose it beats being at work.

Over the duration I managed to sneak in a few hours birding in here and there, visiting Wykeham Forest, Bempton Cliffs, Flamborough Head and Hornsea Mere. My trip to Wykeham Forest was in the hope of seeing a Honey Buzzard from the designated viewpoint but it was very quiet, mainly I think due to the overcast conditions. I did see a Goshawk though. A few guys hit on a distant bird of prey which they were sure was a Honey Buzzard but the views I had of the bird were non conclusive. There are Common Buzzards regularly in that area too and the range this bird was at I would be guessing if I said it was a Honey Buzzard.

My trip to Flamborough was to do a bit of sea watching, I got there quite early and enjoyed clear blue skies for the couple of hours I was there. I got my chair and scope set up and basically just relaxed. Kittewakes and Gannets were moving in large numbers with the odd Fulmar thrown in but the number of species seen was quite low, the wind direction was wrong though, pushing them out rather than pulling them in. The highlights for the morning were 30 Common Scoters and a single Great Skua all going north.

My chair and scope poised for a few hours sea watching, it was that warm I even took my shirt off! Birding at its most relaxed!

With gloomy but fairly warm afternoons we were always searching for things to do away from the beach and seen as we had already done the rides and arcades in Scarborough we decided to take junior to Bempton again as she’d enjoyed it so much the previous visit. The cliffs were much quieter with only Gannets, Kittewake and Fulmar left. Small rafts of Puffin congregated on the sea and a Corn Bunting sang its heart out from the stubble fields.



A nicely marked juvenile Kittewake

This ominous silhouette is a juvenile Peregrine just as it tucked up to stoop on Kittewakes coming in from the sea. Unbelievably entertaining in a morbid way.

The only other place I visited over the few days was Hornsea Mere, a regular haunt at this time of year for Little Gull and it didn’t disappoint either. There were five individuals present mixing with the Black headed Gulls, the number gradually builds during the day as birds come into roost. A local birder said that between 15 and 20 had been present the last week or so but numbers later in the year have been known to rise to around the 800 mark.

Little Gull

Common Terns getting a rest in on their journey south.

Skelmanthorpe CC - Sykes Cup Winners 2010!!!

I've often referred to cricket in this blog like another woman in my birding love life, but the punishing fixtures and subsequent lack of free Sundays to get out locally paid off this weekend when we beat Delph to be crowned champions. We knocked off a competitive 240 runs with two wickets down clawing our way back from 19 for 2 to sneak it off the penultimate ball of the game. Great game and a great night followed, hence writing this today, yesterday was a complete write off!!!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Blacktoft & Pugney's

I’d put my first cricket free Sunday away for a run out to Blacktoft Sands, somewhere I like to visit at this time of year, if only to try and see Bearded Tit. This Sunday didn’t disappoint either as I had five minutes watching a female feed a juvenile at the base of the reeds by the waters edge. Add to that, ten Spotted Redshank from the same hide, and as you can imagine I had a great morning.

Green Sandpiper

As birders were packed in along benches like battery hens silently peering out of the windows, in came Alan. I didn’t know him, I just picked up after twenty minutes of hell that that was his name. Everyone squeezed along to make room for him and his mate, Don. If it wasn’t a tight fit already, it was now, as the eighteen stone Alan took some sneaking in, I say eighteen stone? His beard probably accounted for two stone of that. Is it just me or are the loudest people in the hide generally wrong? I don’t know if it was the sheer stillness of the hide and all its occupants prior to the larger than life Alan’s grand entrance, that just made him seem extra loud, but the guy wouldn’t shut up. He kept referring to birds by shortened knicknames too which started to niggle.

Small Skipper

I got the impression that Don wasn’t as birder either as Alan pointed out even the most common of birds. It wasn’t long though before Alan was in full swing, “I’m on a beardy Don…..told you I’d get you one”. He spoke with a posh, Port drinking, Quails egg eating, North Yorkshire landowners twang, the kind you hear every year in Harrogate at the Yorkshire Show. He was barking directions out at Don to get him on the bird, “bottom of the reeds going right…..come down from the pylon Don…that pylon…now come down to the waters edge……still going right…..see the lapwing Don….no the one in the water, the one with the black head, the one with the tuft on its head….got it?.....right look in the reeds behind it……it’s coming ….it’s coming….now! It’s straight behind the Lapwing”. The bad thing is you just can’t help yourself looking either. Alan was still bellowing though, “are you on it Don…..are you on it?” Don confirmed it then Alan took it up a notch, “did I not tell you I’d get you a beardy…did I not tell you”. Now as a witness to all this I was stuck between a rock and a hard place, do I point out to Alan that the ‘beardy’ he has just tracked is in fact a Sedge Warbler or keep quiet, thus gifting Don a lifer that never really was. No need to worry, someone else piped up, “It’s a Sedge Warbler”. Alan back tracked. He was adamant it was a different bird. Alan was quick to re find it, barking its whereabouts once more only to have it confirmed again “yep….its a Sedge Warbler”.

Common Tern

With my eye to the telescope I couldn’t help but smile, it was sheer comedy. Much to the pleasure of the entire hide, the mighty Alan had been silenced. Naturally I’m perfect, the last time I was wrong was 1985 when I thought I’d made a mistake.

A bit of birding luck was on my side today too. Firstly, a Spoonbill had been present at Blacktoft for the last few days, and it had been seen that morning, but had decided to come to rest behind an island out of view. It had not been seen for a few hours, but within ten minutes of me being in the hide, a Marsh Harrier came in close over the reedbed, alighting everything underneath it including the Spoonbill. It circled for no more than 30 seconds before returning to the very same place, out of view again, once the Harrier had passed through. It was such a brief showing that birders looking through their scopes in other directions completely missed it. Some of which were well into the third hour of their Spoonbill vigil. Fortunately I was one of the lucky ones, as I’m sure that if it stayed in the same place for most of the day that plenty of birders would come away empty handed. There can’t be anything more demoralising than being one of those birders who have sat for hours, only to miss it when it briefly shows, then watch all the ones who did see it stand up and piss off…job done!

Common Blue Damselfly

The second element of luck that day was a promise to Junior that I would take her round Pugneys on her bike later that afternoon when I got back. I followed her on foot, taking a few photos of the Common Tern, which was on the boating lake and anything else really of interest. It was a bit gloomy for anything decent but after 10mins in the hide all was well when I landed a Black Necked Grebe, and the afternoon was well and truly brightened up. Was it too much to think I had found this scarce bird? Yes it was. Apparently it had been posted on Birdguides a few hours before so obviously other people had already seen it. For the walk back to the car park though until being told by other birders about the Birdguides post, I was happy to think I’d found it!

Sandal Castle

Got home to find this little fella on the lawn too.