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, 27 April 2011

Good Friday

Thanks to William and Kate, booking time off work meant with the Easter weekend the fastest fingers first got eleven days off for the price of three. A bargain to say the least! Miss Piggy had girl shit planned on Good Friday so the week or so off got kick started with birding at Old Moor. A few migrants were on offer and were quickly picked up whilst on the connecting paths. Sedge Warblers sang from the reeds while Whitethroat and an elusive Lesser Whitethroat belted their songs out from the hawthorns. The Lesser Whitethroat got personal though, luring me into a test of will. I had narrowed the song down to a patch a metre square at most, but you just couldn't’t see it. Patience prevailed though and the bird broke first, showing itself briefly and gifting me the victory. It obviously knew I was prepared to wait!

Guess the duck! Feel free to leave a comment if you know what it is. If not, I will post the answer in a week or so. Sadly I don't have any prizes if anyone is successful!

Other year ticks came in the form of a pair of Common Terns and a late drake Pintail. I thought given it was a bank holiday it may be busier but the hides were quite sparse, which to be fair didn’t bother me in the slightest. A couple of hours though and I was ready to move on.

The plan was to finish off at Blacktoft Sands but given time was on my side, a stop off at Hatfield Moors could easily be factored in. I am quite a fan on Ten Acre Lake, a picturesque area which has been home to a Red Necked Grebe for the last few summers. Getting there though meant skirting around Doncaster, which is always a treat. It has been said that Doncaster isn’t twinned with anywhere in the world but has a suicide pact with Scunthorpe? There is a great sense of community though. It seems common practise for parents to leave longer gaps between children and it was great to see 14 and 15 year old girls helping mum and dad by taking their baby brothers and sisters out for a while, a caring and sensitive side to Doncaster that the hoards of tourists traversing the A1 simply don’t see. It’s touching in a way.

Small Tortoiseshell

The Red Necked Grebe showed well, as too did a three foot Grass Snake which in simple terms scared the fuck out of me, as I saw it quite late. This record shot is out of focus due to my hands trembling!

I have a severe dislike of snakes, but if knowledge conquers fear, experiences like this should go somewhere towards becoming a metre away from one, easier. I have been fortunate enough as a teenager to spend time in Mozambique and if the vivid memory of a Green Mamba falling from a thatched roof onto a table in a beach bar taught me one thing, it’s that they are far more scared of us than we are of them, if that’s possible? The snake took off amidst screams and breaking glasses as people trampled each other to flee the bar. An alarming couple of seconds to say the least! The speed of the thing was frightening, as too the Grass Snake. It disappeared as fast as it appeared but when a bramble tugged on my trouser it had me jumping like my shoes were on fire, even though I am fully aware they are harmless. An area of dead bracken though was a different story, the only way past was through, and it was like Snakesville!

A male Adder

I went slowly but loudly and tails were disappearing into the bracken left right and centre, and these were Adders? Again, they hate human contact, but it’s just the thought of walking through an area where there are snakes? If the experience taught me to be more relaxed around them, it also taught me that adrenalin is brown?

Grasshopper Warbler reeling his heart out.

Back to the car and Blacktoft bound, I had picked up two more year ticks before I had even entered the reserve. A roadside Yellow Wagtail by the entrance and a female Marsh Harrier hunting the adjoining fields got me off to a great start. Once inside, superb additions of a summer plumaged Slavonian Grebe, a showy Grasshopper Warbler and 100+ Avocets made for a quality finish to an already eventful day. I dipped on the Bittern which had been booming throughout the day, but I can’t grumble?


Synchronised Swimming

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