Birdwatching Guide: September

Yellow autumn leaves in September

With summer behind us, most migratory species will now have left our shores. While that means there are less birds out and about, it does give us birdwatchers the opportunity to lavish a bit more attention on native species which can get a little overlooked in busier months.

This month will see hedgerows start to get busier again after the dearth of activity over the summer. That's because there start to be less caterpillars and worms wriggling about, and more berries on the hedges. That means this month is great for garden birdwatching if you've got any suitable bushes!

By September, most birds will have finished moulting, and grown in their winter feathers. However, you might still spot the odd garden bird looking a bit scruffy. If you do, then you might want to consider leaving out some high-protein feed for them.


Knots are little fat wading birds, similar in appearance to a sandpiper. Like a lot of wading birds, knots spend the summer in the Arctic circle to breed, and start to return to Britain around now. In summer, they are quite the sight, with a bright red breast that gives them almost the appearance of a large (if unusually shaped) robin. However, unless you go on an Arctic cruise, it's unlikely that you'll see them with this plumage. By the time they return to our shores, they will have moulted into their winter plumage, with a white breast and grey top.

While they might not be the most visually exciting birds, there is something interesting about them. In the tip of their bill, they have a special sensory organ that helps them find oysters and other shellfish that might be hidden under sand.

Common Scoter

If you think that ducks are only to be found around rivers and ponds- think again! The common scoter is a breed of seaduck. Goth ducks, in fact! Male scoters are all black, as you can see in the picture below, with just a splash of yellow around the nostrils. Females, meanwhile, are mostly brown or grey, with a white patch around the cheeks and neck.

In theory, scoters can be found anywhere along the British coast. However, with only 10,000 breeding pairs left, and with them being social birds like many breeds of duck, it's much more common to find them concentrated in a few spots. Typically, they gather off the North Norfolk coast, around Carmarthen bay, and in Liverpool bay.


Like knots, snipes are wading birds. But while knots are found on the coast, snipes prefer freshwater wetlands, meaning they're more commonly found inland. They are quite shy birds, and have a well-camouflaged plumaged, they can be tricky to spot unless you are patient. They are worth the wait, though, as they have remarkably long beaks which they use to forage for food- particularly earthworms. If startled, then they will give off a distinctive "scrape" cry, and fly off in a zig-zag pattern to deter any potential pursuers.

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