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Vale of Glamorgan County Borough

Common Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis ©Chris Thomas

Birding Vale of Glamorgan

The Vale of Glamorgan, often referred to as The Vale, is a county borough in Wales. With an economy based largely on agriculture and chemicals, it is the southernmost unitary authority in Wales. Attractions include Barry Island Pleasure Park (known for the BBC sitcom, Gavin & Stacey), the Barry Tourist Railway, Porthkerry Park, St Donat's Castle, Cosmeston Lakes Country Park and Cosmeston Medieval Village. It is also the location of Atlantic College, one of the United World Colleges. The largest town is Barry. Other towns include Penarth, Llantwit Major and Cowbridge.

Located immediately to the west of Cardiff between the M4 motorway and the Severn Estuary, the Vale of Glamorgan covers 130 square miles and has 33 miles of coastline. Much of the population inhabits villages, hamlets and individual farms. The area is low-lying, with a maximum height of 450 feet above sea level at Tair Onnen to the east of Cowbridge.

It borders Cardiff to the north east, Rhondda Cynon Taf to the north, Bridgend to the north west and the Bristol Channel to the south.

As the Glamorgan Heritage Coast faces westwards out to the Atlantic, it bears the brunt of onshore, westerly and south-westerly winds: ideal for surfing, but a nuisance for ships sailing up the Bristol Channel to Cardiff. As in North Cornwall and South-West Ireland, the fierce Atlantic gales created ideal conditions for deliberate shipwrecking, which until 100 years ago was very common along the coast.

Its best known nature reserve is Cosmeston Lakes Country Park.

The Vale of Glamorgan has a diverse range of plants, animals and habitats. Rangers are responsible for conservation work, on-site maintenance, public rights of way path maintenance, habitat creation, biodiversity recording and delivering an Environmental Education Programme to schools, are based at the Heritage Coast Centre, Cosmeston Lakes and Medieval Village and Porthkerry Country Park work across the Vale of Glamorgan..

Top Sites

Cosmeston Lake

Satellite View

An early morning visit is recommended here, so as to avoid the hoards of dog walkers, which come here. Walk swiftly away from the tame flock of Mute Swans and the motley collection of ducks on the first pond in front of the visiting centre, by following the boardwalk to the left. This crosses a small area of reeds, which has breeding Reed Buntings, Reed and Sedge Warblers. In this area it splits, but it doesn't really matter which branch you take, as both come out onto the same bridleway, in front of the second pool. This area of bushes is worth a few minutes, for birds like Garden Warbler, Blackcap and Bullfinch. This second pool is much better for birds than the first, being reed-lined in places and less prone to disturbance. Turn right along the bridleway until you come to a bridge over a small channel which connects the two ponds - this gives a good view over both ponds, and especially over the largest expanse of reeds at the far side of the second pool. Last winter this area of reeds held a couple of Bitterns and a Pied-billed Grebe. At the top end of the second pool, a path leads off left, and circles the whole pool, rejoining the bridleway at the mock medieval village near the visitor centre. This walk is a lot quieter than most of the rest.

Lavernock Point

Satellite View

This is undoubtedly the best sea watching spot in Glamorgan, outside the Gower. Although it can't really compete with spots on the south and east coasts of England, or even some of the Pembrokeshire headlands, it regularly produces small numbers of seabirds, including Gannet, Manx Shearwaters and skuas. It is also an excellent spot for migrants, in both spring and autumn, with good scrubby cover along the cliff top. Rarities are often recorded among the usual summer visitors, and have included Bonelli's Warbler, Richard's Pipit and Firecrest.


County Recorder

Philip Bristow - East Glamorgan County Recorder

2 Forest Oak Close, Cyncoed, Cardiff CF23 6QN

07769 973890


Useful Reading

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


Glamorgan Bird Club & Gower Ornithological Society


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…

South & West Wales Wildlife Trust (Glamorgan Wildlife Trust)


We have over 80 nature reserves in Glamorgan, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire. We look after bluebell scented woods, wild islands, plunging waterfalls, buzzing flower meadows and much more.


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

LNR Cosmeston Lakes Country Park


Satellite View

Cosmeston has a variety of habitats covering over 100 hectares of land and water, some areas designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest protecting the rare and diverse plant and animal species.

WTSWW Coed Garnllwyd


Satellite View

Amongst the varied birdlife are Buzzard, Tawny Owl, woodpeckers, Nuthatch and Treecreeper. Migrants include Garden Warbler in summer and Woodcock in winter. Dead timber within the woodland supports invertebrates and fungi including Scarlet Elfcups

WTSWW Cwm Colhuw


Satellite View

The scrub and hedgerows provide nesting habitat for a number of birds such as Bullfinch, Goldfinch, Grasshopper Warbler, Linnet and Yellowhammer, and also summer migrants such as Willow Warbler and Whitethroat. Kestrel breed on the adjacent cliffs and use the grassland for hunting, and Peregrine is regularly seen.

WTSWW Lavernock Point


Satellite View

Lavernock Point is established as a particularly fine nature reserve where wildlife interest is combined with historical interests in a dramatic and picturesque coastal reserve. The unimproved limestone grassland supports varied and colourful plants such as dyer's greenweed, devil's-bit scabious, common spotted orchid and fleabane. Butterflies have been observed and recorded by the reserve's warden for over twenty years and more than twenty five species have been identified.

Trip Reports


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…

Sheepleys B&B


Situated on the outskirts of the village of Llandow, near Cowbridge, Sheepleys is an ideal venue for exploring the Heritage Coast and the stunning countryside of the Vale of Glamorgan…


Jeff - Birders in Boxers


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…