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, 21 November 2010

Pied Bill to Parakeet's

The last few weekends have produced some nice birding but very limited opportunities to photograph anything, I'm a birder foremost, that said, it's always nice to show off some of the sightings. Last Saturday morning I made the trip over the border to Hollingworth Country Park to see the Pied Billed Grebe. Over 100 people were present but the bird wasn’t half as obliging as it had been reported and photographed the previous days. It kept its distance, favouring the far side of the sheltered bay in which it had taken up residence, maybe due to the swelling numbers of visitors? I stayed for around an hour and a half but it never came anywhere near as close as some of the locals were saying it had done previously. Having seen some of the photos taken on other days, I would be embarrassed to post the record shots I took, which merely show it as a speck! They are up there with my King Eider photo!!!

I am normally chained to my desk at work, very rarely getting the chance to get out. This week was different though, I had to meet someone in London. To save the hassle of the Monday morning rat race I made the trip down on the Sunday night and stayed at my sisters. To cut a long story short, I had a meeting in the centre but then had to head out to Kingston Upon Thames. It was this drive that got me another sighting for the year, Ring Necked Parakeet. A few small flocks flew over parklands as I made my way out and I also saw a few perched in a dead tree quite close to the M25. It was a bonus year tick really.

Castle Hill

When two tectonic plates collide big things happen, so when I got invited out with two stalwarts of the local birding scene I was expecting a feast. With combined experience of 130 years, I am merely Daniel to their Mr Miyagi. They mentored me and chauffeured me as boy, passing on identification tips and local knowledge. They still do to this day. There isn’t a stone unturned by these two in Clayton West, Emley and Bretton. Both ex gang leaders, their paths met whilst sharing a cell in the big house, it was this chance meeting that would later fuse the foundations for a local birding super power. Whilst inside, the pair found the Christian faith, which would in time, carve the way for a premature release. Years on and they are still known in some circles by their gang names and bare visual reminders in the form of tattoos of the underworld life they have since left. Mick ‘the machete’ Sellars was arrested in the late eighties when his human trafficking ring was infiltrated by undercover agents and brought to the fore. For years he had made a tidy sum smuggling people from Flockton into Emley and was seen by some as a martyr, a modern day Robin Hood who risked it all to try and give these people from Flockton a better life.

Ian ‘Gonzales’ Rank, a Gambian bird expert, fell foul of his own fear as minutes before boarding a plane to Banjul, ‘Gonzales’ reacted badly to a patrolling sniffer dog in his close proximity. His phobia of dogs caused unease and his fidgeting behaviour was picked up by airport security. He was later found with three tins of snuff taped to the inside of his leg.

My mentors

The Machete and Gonzales are old school and that’s what I like about them, they are still phoning Birdline North East, I’ve tried my best to get them into the internet side of birding but to no avail. To be fair though, it was only a year ago that I thought a blog was an online diary for an American family to chronicle the trials and tribulations of their three sons Chad, Buck and Randy. I actually saw pro bull riding recently on ESPN and one guy was called Pistol! How tough is that! I best not upset anyone over the pond though as my brother in law is American. Luckily he’s one of the cool ones. He doesn’t clap and cheer when a plane touches down.

Great Tit trying to dislodge a nut

I tagged along with Mick and Ian to Bretton Lakes, taking in the High Hoyland church area, where finch numbers appear to be building again. Bramblings were amongst Chaffinch and Greenfinch, and small numbers of Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer were also present.

It was all the ‘usuals’ on the lakes, however three Gadwalls were present, not a species I have come across at all regularly in this area.

The aptly named Turkey Tail fungus

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