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City and County of Swansea

Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus ©Sue Tranter

Birding the City of Swansea

Swansea, officially known as the City and County of Swansea is a coastal city and county in Wales. It is Wales' second largest city after Cardiff and the twenty-fifth largest city in the UK. Swansea lies within the historic county boundaries of Glamorgan. During its 19th-century industrial heyday, Swansea was a key centre of the copper industry, earning the nickname 'Copperopolis'. Situated on the sandy South West Wales coast, the county area includes the Gower Peninsula and the Lliw uplands. Swansea has started to expand into a larger region known as the Swansea Bay City Region. After combining with other councils, it now includes Tenby and other parts of West Wales, its population including these areas is around 700,000 people.

Swansea can be roughly divided into four physical areas. To the north are the Lliw uplands which are mainly open moorland, reaching the foothills of the Black Mountain. To the west is the Gower Peninsula with its rural landscape dotted with small villages. To the east is the coastal strip around Swansea Bay. Cutting though the middle from the south-east to the north-west is the urban and suburban zone stretching from the Swansea city centre to the towns of Gorseinon and Pontarddulais. About three-quarters of Swansea is bordered by the sea - the Loughor Estuary, Swansea Bay and the Bristol Channel. The two largest rivers in the region are the Tawe which passes the city centre and the Loughor which flows on the northern border with Carmarthenshire

The scenic Gower Peninsula (Penrhyn Gwyr) extends to the west of Swansea. Excluding the urbanised area in the south-eastern corner, the whole of the Gower Peninsula is part of an AONB. Swansea also has numerous urban parks, gardens and country parks and a number of local nature reserves such as: Bishop's Wood, Cadle Heath, Cwmllwyd Wood, Killay Marsh, Mumbles Hill, Pwll Du, Swansea Vale and Llanrhidian Marsh & Whiteford Burrows.

Top Sites

Blackpill

Satellite View

Leave Swansea southwards on the A4067 towards Mumbles. You will soon reach a pitch and putt golf course on the left-hand side of the road, and at the end of it you will see a pub on the right hand side. Cross back over the main road and walk past the paddling pool to the cycle track along the shore. This cycle track extends all the way from Swansea to Mumbles, and gives great access to the whole shoreline. This area of beach and mudflats at Blackpill is famous as the place where the UK's first Ring-billed Gull was found, and in fact this species continued to be seen here for a good few years before it was located elsewhere. This is a gull-watchers dream in winter, with a large gull roost including all the regular species - Common, Black-headed, Herring, Lesser and Greater Black-backs. Given this, and the regular attention the site receives, rarer gulls are discovered regularly, and as well as Ring-billed Gulls other frequent visitors include Little, Glaucous, Iceland and Mediterranean Gulls. But there's much more than gulls - it is also an excellent spot for waders, especially in winter where excellent views can be had at high tide of a number of species including Oystercatchers, Grey and Ringed Plovers, Dunlin, Sanderling, Redshank, Curlew, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits, Knot and Greenshank. Make sure you get the tide tables right though - here's an awful lot of mud to scrutinise at low tide!

Cwm Clydach

Satellite View

This is a really superb example of the type of broad-leaved woodland previously found throughout Wales, but now restricted to a relatively few fragments. From the car park, the patch follows the Clydach River, which is excellent for Dipper, Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail. After a while, the track crosses the river and enters a fabulous area of woodland, which contains all the species you'd expect from a Welsh broad-leaved woodland. Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts and Wood Warblers nest in good numbers, while other common birds include Cuckoo, Chiffchaff, Willow Warblers, Blackcap, Garden Warblers, Sparrowhawk, Jay, Bullfinch and Greenfinch. Green and Great-spotted Woodpeckers breed in good numbers, and there are even a few Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, although there are a lot of trees to search! Winter can be a good time for locating tit flocks - Blue, Great, Coal, Marsh, Willow and Long-tailed - together with Nuthatches, Treecreepers and Goldcrests, all of which breed on the reserve. Blackbird, Song and Mistle Thrushes breed, being joined by Redwing and Fieldfares in winter - these are easier to see in the fields surrounding the reserve, which can be accessed by continuing up the minor road past the entrance to the car park. These scrubby areas on the fringes of the main woodland are also good for birds like Whitethroat, Yellowhammer, Whinchat and Tree Pipits. Further along the road, you will enter an area of high moorland, where Meadow Pipits replace the Tree Pipits, and Linnets and Wheatears are common. I've also recorded Curlew and Lapwing breeding in these areas.

Gower North Shore

Satellite View

The whole southern shore of the Burry Inlet is an extremely important wintering area for shorebirds, geese and duck. However, it is one of those frustrating areas where there are huge expanses of salt marsh and exposed mud, but very little easy access. Some views can be had along the coast road west of the famous cockle-fishing village of Penclawdd (which still supplies cockles to Swansea market - excellent after a day's birding!). The best access point is probably in the extreme west at Whiteford Burrows (SS4597); owned by the National Trust. Park by the church in the small village of Cwm Ivy (SS4394). From here, a track leads northwards for over 2 miles through the wooded sand dunes of the Burrows, before emerging at the estuary at Berges Island, where there is a hide. The area is best in winter, with regular birds including the following - Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits, Snipe, Jack Snipe, Lapwing, Golden, Grey and Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Knot, Sanderling, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Curlew and Oystercatchers, Shelduck, Eider, Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Long-tailed Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Common and Velvet Scoter, Red-throated and Great Northern Divers, Brent Geese, Slavonian and Black-necked Grebes. Passerines are relatively few and far between, although there are plenty of Meadow Pipits around, winter thrushes occur at the right time of year, and a good selection of woodland birds nearer Cwm Ivy. Raptors occur, and in winter include all the species you might expect - Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Merlin, Kestrel, Buzzard and Short-eared Owl.

Oxwich

Satellite View

Drive west from Swansea along the A4118 which runs along the southern part of the Gower. At Penrice Castle, a minor road drops steeply down and crosses Oxwich Marsh before reaching the village itself. This is a great spot (an NNR); on the south coast of Gower. The main attraction is the large freshwater marsh, on both sides of the minor road leading down from the village of Penrice. A footpath runs out into the eastern part of the marsh, and eventually loops back to the road through Penrice Woods which form the northern border to the marsh There is a heronry in these woods, and Grey Herons are often seen flying backwards and forwards over the marsh. The extensive reed beds hold good numbers of Reed and Sedge Warblers, and smaller numbers of Grasshopper and Cetti's Warblers, with Bearded Tit and Water Rail being regularly recorded. Little Grebes and various ducks (Pochard and Teal) are common on the various open areas along the road. Bitterns have been recorded in winter, while Marsh Harriers are regular, and rarities have included Purple Heron. The beach at Oxwich itself has small numbers of waders in winter including Sanderling.

Port Eynon Point

Satellite View

This is the most southerly point in Gower, and a good sea watching location, offering a little shelter among the rocks. Drive along the A4118 west of Swansea, to its end in the village of Horton, park, and walk to the right along the rocky cliff line.

Worm's Head

Satellite View

This is a steep-sided rocky peninsula extending out from the southwest of the Gower, and accessed from the small village of Rhossili, where there is a large car park. It is connected to the mainland by a rocky causeway, which can be crossed on foot at low tide. However, be careful that you don’t become one of those regularly trapped on the wrong side when the tide rises - it is only traversable for a total of about 5 hours at low tide! Peregrines nest on the peninsula, and can be seen harrying the resident Meadow Pipits and Skylarks. Choughs have recently re-colonised for the first time in many years, but are still very few in number, maintaining a precarious foothold here. Other breeding birds include small numbers of most species which can be seen in much greater numbers further west on the islands of the coast of Pembrokeshire - Fulmar, Shag, Kittiwake, Razorbill and Guillemot. There are usually a few Eider and Common Scoter out in the bay, but their numbers swell greatly in the winter, when Velvet Scoter, Great Northern and Red-throated Divers may join them. The rocky causeway to the Head is one of the best places in Glamorgan for wintering Purple Sandpipers and resident Rock Pipits, while Black Redstarts have also wintered in the area. Finally, as a westerly facing point, the area has good sea watching potential, although there is very little shelter from the desirable strong westerly wind. Nevertheless, Gannets are regularly seen offshore, and birds such as skuas, Sabine's Gulls, Manx Shearwaters, Storm and Leach’s Petrels must be possible.

Contributor

Gruff Dodd

Barri, Cymru / Wales

Gruff@doddg.freeserve.co.uk

County Recorder

Mark Hipkin (Gower)

6 Holly Road, Neath SA11 3PE

01639 638475 07875 431917

markhipkin1@gmail.com

Philip Bristow - East Glamorgan County Recorder

2 Forest Oak Close, Cyncoed, Cardiff CF23 6QN

07769 973890

phlbrstw@gmail.com

Useful Reading

An Atlas of Breeding Birds in West Glamorgan

by DK Thomas | Gower Ornithological Societ | 1992 | Paperback | 160 pages, b/w illus, maps

ISBN: 0952014610

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of Glamorgan

Clive Hurford & Peter Lansdown | Hurford & Lansdown | 1995 | Hardback | 228 pages, 30 col & 17 b/w photos, line illus, maps

ISBN: 1872808344

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Organisations

Glamorgan Bird Club & Gower Ornithological Society

Website

The Glamorgan Birds Website, a joint venture between the Glamorgan Bird Club and Gower Ornithological Society. The main function of these bodies is to produce the annual bird reports for the East and West of the county of Glamorgan. This website features a number of online services aimed at making your birding in Glamorgan much easier. There are links to a number of pages that will be useful to anyone with an interest in birds, from the casual birdwatcher to the keenest of birders…

RSPB Cwm Clydach Wildlife Explorers Group

Website

Welcome to the website of the RSPB Cwm Clydach Wildlife Explorers/Phoenix Group – more commonly know as Kites and Dippers. Activities include nest box building, arts and crafts, games and talks from visiting naturalists. Outdoor activities include pond dipping, conservation work, flora and fauna surveys as well as bird watching, nature walks and many other wildlife and nature topics.

RSPB West Glamorgan Local Group

Webpage

This is the website of the West Glamorgan Local Group. RSPB local groups are a great way to meet friendly, like-minded people in your area while learning more about birds and wildlife…

Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales

Website

Reserves

Abbreviations Key: See the appropriate Continent Page (or Country Page of those used on country sub-divisions)

LNR Mumbles Hill

Webpage

Satellite View

Habitats present on the hill include maritime heath, limestone grassland, limestone scrub and woodland, each supporting different plants and animals. Over 200 species of plants and fungi, 40 species of birds and hundreds of species of butterflies, bees and bugs have been recorded on the hill. Small mammals such as voles, foxes and shrews also can be seen. Resident birds include green woodpecker, skylark and jay whilst migratory birds include house martins, swallows and garden warblers.

LNR Pwll Du

Webpage

Satellite View

Comprising of a narrow strip of flat land on top of the cliffs and the slope down to the sea washed rocks, Pwll Du Local Nature Reserve supports a variety of important habitats and plants.

LNR Bishop's Wood

Webpage

Satellite View

Bishop's Wood Local Nature Reserve is comprised of 46 acres (19 hectares) of woodland and limestone grassland.

LNR Cadle Heath

Webpage

Satellite View

Cadle Heath Local Nature Reserve is one of the best examples of urban heath in the country. Heathlands are a declining resource in the UK and are a priority for conservation. In addition to wet heath the 11.5 hectare reserve has areas of species rich grassland, ponds, scrub and woodland. It provides a home or habitat for a wide range of plants and animals including butterflies and dragonflies, frogs, skylarks, heather, southern marsh orchids and whorled caraway. Skylark, stonechat, garden warbler, tree pipit and whitethroat were amongst those recorded during the breeding season. The most notable species recorded to date is the marsh fritillary butterfly.

LNR Cwmllwyd Wood

Webpage

Satellite View

The 7 hectare woodland became a Local Nature Reserve in 1981. It is well known for its bluebells which are at their best in May. The reserve consists mainly of oak trees which are about 100 years old and were planted after a previous clearance. There are also many birch, holly, willow and rowan as well as some large apple trees near the coal workings which may be the result of miners throwing away their apple cores. The area has history of coal mining since the 17th Century and the remains of about 35 bell pits can be seen within the reserve boundary.

LNR Swansea Vale

Webpage

Satellite View

The 6 hectare reserve is one of the few remaining areas of wetland habitat in the City and County of Swansea. Wetlands are amongst the most threatened natural habitats in the UK. They are being lost to development and through lack of management. It is home to a large variety of plants and animals, from orchids to otters and many are a priority for conservation. Swansea Vale is a highly diverse site with a mosaic of habitats ranging from swamp to marshy grassland, scrub, semi-improved and unimproved neutral grassland

NNR Whiteford Burrows & Llanrhidian Saltmarsh

Webpage

Satellite View

Whiteford Burrows is seen as one of the best dune systems in Britain and have an excellent series of dune habitats. Whiteford Sands lie to the east of the Burrows, punctuated by the dilapidated cast iron lighthouse (not NT owned) at its northern end. There are views across the estuary towards Pembrey Sands and Burry Port opposite. Llanrhidian Marsh is one of the best examples of a salt marsh in Britain and is of international importance for its enormous population of wintering wildfowl and waders. The award winning Saltmarsh Lamb, a local delicacy, is reared on Llanrhidian Marsh.

NNR Oxwich

Webpage

Satellite View

Oxwich National Nature Reserve is situated on the Gower coast, approximately 20 kilometres from Swansea. Although it is a fairly small reserve, it offers a bewitching combination of beach, sand dunes, saltmarsh, freshwater lakes, woodland and limestone cliffs, together with all the diverse wildlife which such a range of habitats supports.

RSPB Cwm Clydach

Webpage

Satellite View

Cwm Clydach is a nature reserve on the outskirts of Clydach, near Swansea. This broadleaved woodland is easily accessible and home to breeding wood warblers, grey wagtails, dippers and spotted flycatchers. In winter, buzzards, red kites and ravens rule the cold and steely skies.

WTSWW Killay Marsh

Webpage

Satellite View

Killay Marsh covers covers 21.3 acres (8.62 hectares) and comprises of a mosaic of habitats and has some superb examples of many threatened and protected wetland habitats.

WTSWW Kilvrough Manor Woods and Redden Hill

Webpage

Satellite View

Ancient Ash woodland and Beech plantation. Kilvrough Manor Woods comprises two areas of woodland, on either side of the A4118¸ south Gower road in the Parkmill Valley. The woods are mostly ancient semi-natural and broadleaved, made up of a canopy of Ash, Oak, Beech, and Elm, with a Beech plantation making up a large part of the southern woodland. There is also a small amount of Larch planted in some areas. Home to Buzzards, The woodlands provide suitable nesting habitat for a range of woodland birds such as Chiffchaff, Robin, Great Tit, Treecreeper, and Willow Warbler with other species such as Buzzard, Great Spotted Woodpecker, and Woodcock regularly seen in winter.

Trip Reports

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

Places to Stay

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Carlton Hotel

Accommodation

This highly recommended seafront location, family run hotel is ideally situated in Mumbles close to all the facilities both the Mumbles and the beautiful Gower has to offer…

Worm's Head Hotel

Accommodation

A family run Hotel with stunning views of Rhossili Bay & the Worm's Head. The perfect place to get away from it all Its magnificent setting is wild yet peaceful…

Blogs

Birders in Boxers

BLOG

Adventures of Glamorgan birders, who sit in cars in their underwear … well two of them do after dipping on Dotterel on a wet and misty Garreg Lwyd…

Other Links

Caerlan Birding

Facebook Page

Birdwatching around Caerlan, where the Rhondda ends and the Ely begins..... and some other stuff.

Photographers & Artists

Photographer - Jeremy Inglis

Gallery

Photographer and nature lover, living in South Wales in the United Kingdom…