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.

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