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, 15 January 2012

Raptor Feast

Given Saturday was so clear and crisp, a few texts in the morning to Gonzales and Machete and we were M62 bound, on our way to Blacktoft Sands for what we thought would be a good raptor day. The early signs were good. Nearly every bush on the way there had a Kestrel, poised for anything that moved.

Blue Tit

Once there, as with most people, the plan was to start at the top end and work our way down, finishing at the best hide for the harrier roost. The hide was packed though, at one point totalling 30 birders. We couldn't even get a seat by a window. Instead birding from a bench at the back, through the back of peoples heads. Hence no pictures! The roost itself was good though. Around 15 Marsh Harriers came in whilst a very distant Barn Owl quartered the reeds, often out of view. The definite highlight though and the main reason for the journey, was both male and female Hen Harrier drifting in at dusk, at times in the same field of view through the binoculars. The female was picked out first and when the cry of 'ringtail' rang out, you could feel the buzz around the hide. Unfortunately due to persecution they are getting harder and harder to see, so it was a moment savoured.

Tree Sparrow

Second time lucky for the Great Grey Shrike wasn't to be, although it was a fleeting visit rather than a detailed search of the area. A skein of Pink Footed Geese were a nice sight though.

A shrike free zone, for me anyway!

Castle Hill shrouded by low cloud

A setting sun from Langsett Reservoir dam wall.

A short afternoon stroll yeilded Crossbill, Siskin and Coal Tit in the treetops and Red Grouse on the adjacent moor.

Sadly the places visited and birds seen haven't been too camera friendly to be fair. Distant harriers in the Blacktoft twilight, flushed partridges that were away like lightning and finch flocks in the highest pines! Ah well.

Monday, 9 January 2012

European Greenland From Tundra?

As per recent Christmas breaks, we headed over to Filey on the 28th to see the New Year in over there, before returning on the 2nd. Partly due to my return to work but more importantly to watch the World Championship Darts Final! Much to Miss Piggy's disgust.

A late afternoon visit to Bempton Cliffs on the 30th was the only pre New Year birding done. I was rewarded though with a stunning male Desert Wheatear, hence the visit. A bird that has been present now for some weeks. The only disappointment was the time it took for the bird to show, by the time I had locked eyes on it the light had faded fast. It ended up showing down to a few metres but it was simply too gloomy to take any reasonable photos. If it hangs around I may have another go?

The New Year came and I spent a small amount of time on the Brigg, at the Dams, and with the kids in Scarborough. Filey Bay was actually very quiet on the bird front and the tide times weren't favourable either. I nearly ended up on my arse twice trying to negotiate the mud slide down to the seawatching hide, in the end to see fuck all. The wind was howling in making the sea far too choppy for the sea ducks and divers, so it was a cold and empty handed trudge back compared to recent years.

Although I wasn't technically 'birdwatching' the binoculars came to Scarborough along with a quick stop off at Holbeck car park for the Mediterranean Gulls.

A nice adult Mediterranean Gull coming in for the bread

A first winter bird

The lobster pots dotted around the harbour seem alive with House Sparrows, a great place to hide from the gulls! A male on the lookout.

Herring Gull

A first winter Shag...ironically seen the day after my first winter shag. Which as always, ended in stale mate. Neither of us could think of anyone?

Once back from the East coast and sadly back to work, the following weekend saw me round the reservoirs. Huddersfield is in a purple patch at the minute thanks to some eagle eye local observers. Great Grey Shrike, Tundra Bean Goose, European White Fronted Goose and Whooper Swan were to name a few, not to mention the high possibility of the returning Ring Billed Gull still being in the recording area? So all in all some real quality. I have so far dipped on the Great Grey Shrike and the Bean Geese were second time of asking, so hopefully the Butcher Bird will come good?

Record shot from Ingbirchworth Reservoir, one of two Whooper Swans

The resident flock of Greylag Greese have played their part in what's turning out to be a great 'goose' winter by pulling in European White Fronted Geese. The remaining bird being present for a few weeks now at Royd Moor Reservoir.

A first winter European White Fronted Goose in with the Greylags

Pugney's and Angler's Country Parks, both in the Wakefield area have also done well with wildfowl this winter, but the best sighting of the day came in the form of a Red Kite drifting over Pugney's Nature Reserve. Angler's Country Park is currently sporting a nice male American Wigeon and Smew along with this White Fronted Goose of the Greenland variety.

Greenland White Fronted Goose

It's been an educational weekend comparing two differing varieties of the same species in fairly close quarters.

Welcome to the life of a sad bastard! I can hear my friends now.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Happy New Year

Well, after limping to 178 species with the addition of Desert Wheatear at Bempton just before the new year, my annual goal of 200 fell somewhat short. Boss Man's birth in February came with the dreaded news that the poor little mite would have to spend his first month or so in the Special Care Unit and unfortunately he's been back since, but nearly a year on he's looking as good as ever thanks to his doting Mother and Big Sister. So when I say limped to 178, it's tongue in cheek (as this blog always is), as some things are so much more important....I'm going to get to 200 this year though, you may just have to bare with me!

Better Late Than Never?

Given we went to Lanzarote in October I have been somewhat lacklustre in getting the few 'bird' photos I took onto the blog. It was two weeks of chillout, so very little birding was done, although I did keep my eye out. If I wasn't laid on a sunbed judging people through dark glasses I was in the sand pit arseholing kids at French Boules. A feat that earned me a certificate, a certificate that was presented on the show bar stage in front of 500 pissed up Scots by Dizzy the Dolphin and Shades the Shark. A proud moment.

Berthelot's Pipit

The hotel had a decent garden area which became a regular route if Boss Man needed settling. It was very good for migrants in particular, with flycatchers and warblers being present every day. The scrub around the hotel itself also bagged me Southern Grey Shrike, Berthelot's Pipit, Hoopoe and Trumpeter Finch.

Spanish Sparrow

Yellow Legged Gull