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SEPTEMBER is the month for waders: huge numbers of these long-distance travellers are migrating south from Arctic breeding grounds to African winter homes. The UK estuaries lie in their path and act as motorway service stations for tired and hungry migrants.

These habitats are vital to the survival of wading birds and are of great conservation importance.

The Cefni estuary on the west coast of Anglesey is one such place, so a visit there is always worthwhile.

We parked at the south end of Malltraeth cob and walked north to view the saltmarsh and mudflats. Curlew showed well on the near edge of the estuary, a whimbrel dropped in and a little egret flapped lazily by.

However, the main interest was further out on the open mud.

In the far distance hundreds of small waders were feeding, and setting up the telescope gave better - but not perfect - views.

We could see that most of the birds were dunlin, feeding frantically to replenish weight lost in migration. Careful scanning picked out two curlew sandpipers, from Siberian breeding grounds, slightly larger than the dunlin, with longer wings giving a tapered rear end.

Despite the poor light, three smaller waders were spotted, including possibly two little stints. But what was the third bird?

Try as we might, we could not make enough detail to identify the mystery wader. The whole flock took flight and moved even further away, so the bird remained unidentified.

At the pool there were more birds, including waders. We had great views of black tailed godwits and redshank, while a curlew sandpiper flew in to join some dunlin.

If only the mystery wader would do the same. Wigeon, teal and pintail all added to the scene. Turning our attention back to the estuary, some waders had come closer, giving better views of the two little stints and at least eight curlew sandpiper.

However, no further sign of the mystery bird.

The following day saw us searching the Great Orme at Llandudno for migrants.

Plenty of wheatears and meadow pipits, two goldcrest - and two robins!

Not going to set the birdwatching world alight with those.

My mobile rang: news of a rare wader!

A dotterel on the Great Orme, on the limestone pavement! We searched the area but there was no sign of this pretty wader. Twice in two days, we had been unlucky.

At 5pm on Sunday, my mobile rang again. Guess what? A rare wader has been glimpsed, this time at Carmel Head on Anglesey.

The bird in question was a buff breasted sandpiper, a vagrant from North America. This species holds special memories for me as it was the first species I ever twitched - that is, spotting an individual bird as opposed to looking for a species.

It was way back in September 1977 and, by a weird coincidence, at Cemlyn - only one mile from Carmel Head.

So, off I went to Carmel Head, setting off along the coast path with the sun sinking ahead of us, eventually enjoying great views of this stunning little bird.

At last, a rare wader - and in view. n This weekend sees a Binocular and Telescope Demonstration at Conwy RSPB reserve.

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Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 15, 2005
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