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”!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Birding Gold

This weekend was to be a quiet one, with absolutely nothing planned. Birding would feature though but I decided with the few hours I had to get out I would stay local, or local ish? I actually ended up at Anglers Country Park. It was quiet on the bird front with the only tick for the morning being a female Scaup, a powerboat went out though which more or less cleared the top reservoir of bird life, so I headed back to the main hide.

Every once in a while it’s a pleasure to be in the presence of greatness, bird hides give you the opportunity to meet a wide variety of characters, some blend into the background as mere pleasantry’s are exchanged, others are immortalised in my mind as sheer one offs. Guy’s who are amusing, guy’s who are great storytellers, guy’s who are generally wrong or guys like I met this weekend, blinkered towards their own superior field skills.


By his own admission he was a top top birder. A couple who were also in the hide were beginners, eager to learn, but had asked for a few birds they were uncertain about confirming, nothing out of the ordinary, just birds that had differing plumages, particularly at this time of year, to the pictures in their book. Now if someone asked me in a hide to take a quick a look at a bird to see what my thoughts were it would be a pleasure. That’s to say I would know what it is! There’s a lot more I don’t know about birds than I do! Unfortunately they didn’t ask me though; they asked the guy to other side of them? His response naturally was positive “of course” he said, “it’s your lucky day, you’re probably sat next one of the best birdwatchers in Yorkshire” he meant it too! And who am I to disagree, I just thought it was quite a bold statement?

Blue Tit

To prove this, he not only identified the Tufted Duck in question, he gave a breakdown of its plumage in a manner to which I had to have a quick look around to see if I hadn’t somehow found myself in a zoology lecture. All of which was completely over the couple’s head. He was on a roll though, and I was privileged to be a part of it, I had a box seat for a birdwatching master class. Every bird was now being identified, along with comments like “what you find with the aythya's is…..”? Obviously they didn’t have a clue what he was talking about, the second they went to say something he went “sshhh” whilst holding his finger up towards them in a don’t interrupt manner, and after a short silence would say “Linnet”. The best though was yet to come. He then went on to point out to the couple what he said was a Meadow Pipit, perched on a wire. You could hardly see the pylon the wire was connected to, never mind call the speck on it a Meadow Pipit! It would have had to be the size of a Woodpigeon to be even seen at that range! I actually felt like the couple were getting duped? So I enquired politely “how the hell can you tell that’s a Meadow Pipit from here” to which he simply replied “jizz”. For my family and certainly my friends, “jizz” is a word used for the outline shape of a bird. Jodrell Bank wouldn’t have identified this fucker never mind the pair of RSPB branded 8x32’s he was using!

Great Tit

I was actually toying with the idea of going to Spurn Point today but decided in the end to go to Bretton Lakes instead, the main reason being I slept in! The weather was as good as it gets for this time of year, which seemed to bring the place to life. It was the usual suspect’s bird wise however a very brief highlight was a sighting of a Water Rail, which flew from the island straight towards the hide, once it landed though it was more or less invisible. The odd rustle kept giving away its location but it was never in view. A Cormorant put an appearance in, as did two drake Pochard’s, but the rest was pretty much what you would expect. A very peaceful and pleasant two hours.


1 comment:

  1. Great Tit pic is a beauty, great composition. Decent weekend locally getting Scaup and Water Rail, 202 has to be Lesser Redpoll!