September Tomorrow And Migration Will Be in Full Swing Quickens The Heart Beat

RSPB Conwy Sept

The Conwy Estuary at Glan Conwy at high tide looking south to Snowdonia.

Although August provides great birdwatching, with plenty of birds on the move, September is the real Autumn and my heart beats faster at the thought of millions of birds on the move! It is perhaps the most exciting month as so many birds are moving from northern breeding grounds to southern wintering grounds. Of all the birds that are making this mass migration it is the waders that are my personal favourite, though so hard to choose, these birds make the most fantastic journeys and because of these extreme migrations some of course become lost and almost any species can turn up anywhere! It is also an exciting challenge to identify these waders as they are often in their juvenile plumages and I really love sorting through a mass flock of waders looking at each individual intern and working out which species it is and its age, can easily spend many happy hours doing this. It is a great stress buster to, concentrating on the wader flock leaves no room in my brain for all the “stuff” that I usually worry about. Of course in September there is also a higher than usual chance that I might find a scarce or rare bird amongst them, just that thought is enough to quicken the heart beat and make the day fly by. I love birding at migration time!

One September day will always live very long in the memory. It was the 22nd September 1989, a long time ago but still fresh in the memory. I had finished work and knew it was high tide on the nearby Conwy Estuary, go home or go birding? Of course I went birding.

It was grey day so the light wasn’t great but it was September and I was determined to get out at every opportunity. This was before the days of RSPB Conwy so I headed down to Glan Conwy village where a good view over the estuary can be had from the railway station platform. The tide was still high when I arrived so all I could see was water, but then off to the right I noticed a flock of waders roosting on the concrete wall by the railway line. Focuses the telescope I could see they were Common Redshank and tightly packed together. Then another bird lifted up from the flock and dropped back down out of sight, what was that? I strained to see it again, nothing, did I imagine it? Then it appeared again on the water’s edge but still in the flock, a train, a bloody train, pulled up right in front of me! All I could see was the side of a carriage! Unbelievable timing! I waited, impatiently, and finally the train pulled out flushing the waders as it did, no!

The Redshank flock circled low over the water and there was my bird amongst them and now my heart was pounding this looked rare! A phalarope? But didn’t look right? The flock landed and the mystery bird landed on the water alongside them a phalarope all right and I could barely believe my eyes a Wilson’s Phalarope!! A very rare vagrant from north America fantastic and here on my local patch the Conwy Estuary. The light was fading fast so no time for anyone else to see the bird that day, very frustrating.

After a pretty sleepless night worrying about if the bird would stay and not wanting it to be a “single observer record with no photographs” I was back at Glan Conwy at first light. Two other birders joined, yes just two those were the days, and we scanned the mudflats, just Redshank. I was gutted, that horrible feeling when the rarity has moved on and no one else saw it, did people really believe me? Oh so just you who saw it then? Just before dusk you saw? Oh so no time for anyone else to come and see it hmmmm. I knew the score had heard it often enough when arriving to see a rare bird that had gone.

I kept scanning more for something to do than real hope but then there it was the Wilson’s Phalarope! It had just come up out of a creek with two Redshank huge relief! Luckily the two other birders were still there and both quickly saw the bird and punched the air with delight!

As it happened this wonderful wader stayed around and became the longest staying Wilson’s Phalarope every recorded in the UK! It stayed from 22 September in December! Hundreds if not thousands of people enjoyed watching this lost American wader as it fed with the Redshanks on the mudflats at Glan Conwy. So September is a month to get out at every opportunity and watch birds and the miracle of bird migration and maybe, just maybe, find something very special. We have space on our Best of North Wales Birdwatching Trips tour this September why not join us? Great birds and great fun!

Here are some great birds to look out for this September we hope to see many of them here in North Wales and our tours to Yorkshire and Norfolk in September.

Juvenile Black-tailed Godwit perhaps on its way south from Iceland.

Juvenile Bar-tailed Godwit all the way from Arctic Canada - mind-blowing journey.

Juvenile Curlew Sandpipers all the way from Siberia, a September bird for sure.

A juvenile Little Stint, this tiny bird all the way from Siberia.

A young Ruff feeds in the shallows at RSPB Titchwell in Norfolk.

A juvenile Spotted Redshank from Scandinavia always worth checking wader flocks for.

If your luck is really in maybe a juvenile Buff-breasted Sandpiper - wow!

We would love you to join us on our wonderful Birdwatching Trips please see our tours pages for all the trips coming up or drop us a line here....

We are here to help you plan your own perfect Birdwatching Trips tour. We look forward to sharing great birds and great fun with you soon!

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