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”!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Black Redstarts

With a failed attempt already under my belt it only seemed right that part of this weekend should be spent trying to locate one of the Black Redstarts at Langsett. A quality bird anyway! Never mind one in the Huddersfield area. I’d given it my best shot previously but wasn’t helped in the slightest by the weather so I was hoping for something a bit better and this morning was, clear blue skies just a bit chilly. I just headed to the right area and waited. It’s a strange one. Is the track leading up to and through the farm buildings where the birds have been seen private? Should I be there? Am I trespassing? I went for it anyway and strolled straight up. After twenty minutes though, my questions were answered. A 4x4 slowed to a halt beside me and the interrogation as to my reasons for being there begun. He was the typical old farmer, flat cap, bedraggled wirey grey hair, side burns like steel wool. I explained the rambler’s right to roam but he wasn’t having it. The exchange of words soured and he got out of the Land Rover. Luckily I got the first punch in which stunned him somewhat but he came back well catching me twice with a couple of beauties. He was one of the toughest seventy year olds I’ve ever fought, the hardest though being an extra on The Last of the Summer Wine a few years ago in Holmfirth, he was like a Kelly Doll, he just kept getting back up?

If I was to have any chance though against this enraged septuagenarian landowner, I had to fight my way, and get him to ground. Once we were grappling in the mud I just had to bide my time and let all the things I’d learnt as a teenager watching countless Royal Rumbles and Smackdowns come to fruition. It wasn’t long either before I had the old boy in a Figure Four, gradually forcing him into a submission. He soon tapped out and the whole thing was ended amicably, I dusted off and returned his flat cap before offering him my lens cleaner in a bid to stop the blood. He went on his way, leaving me free to bird watch.

Shortly after, I got my first glimpse of the Black Redstarts, two females flitting from dry stone wall to field and back, gradually working their way around the perimeter of the field, just sadly always out of range. I decided to have a slow walk back to the car and hopefully catch up with them again further round as it was that direction they were heading. A female Merlin came into view though, which diverted my attention for a good few minutes as it whizzed through the area. As I neared the opposite end of the field to which I’d started, the Black Redstarts kept gradually edging closer, so it was sit and wait time and after 10 minutes or so they were close enough to get some nice record shots. Lovely birds, and a nice Huddersfield tick too.


  1. Had a good morning by the sound of it, a scrap followed by 3 cracking birds, excellent photos after all!

    Incidentally are all the photos of the same bird?

  2. Hi David,

    Yeah when I text you I thought I was going to struggle, I picked them up quite quickly but they were always moving away from me. Took these from the bottom corner of a small cone shaped field below where the chickens, geese and camper van are, opposite side of the large field to the farm buildings.

    Honestly couldn't say if all the pics relate to the same bird? Both birds were never more than 4-5ft apart and from where I was waiting for them, if they were on the ground, they were hidden by the wall. As to which one was photographed when they flitted back up I couldn't say.

    I waited an hour for them to get to me! Tracked them with my binocs all the way round the field until they were close enough to get a few record shots. Suppose a bit of patience payed off in the end. Cracking birds. Three reported there today too.