County of Brecknockshire

Black Grouse Lyrurus tetrix ©John Buckingham

Vice County No: 42

Brecknockshire (Brycheiniog or Sir Frycheiniog), also known as the County of Brecknock, Breconshire, or the County of Brecon is one of thirteen historic counties of Wales, and a former administrative county. The county is mountainous and primarily rural.

It covers 726 square miles more than half of which lies more than 305 m (1000 ft) asl. Brecknockshire is bounded to the north by Radnorshire, to the east by Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, to the south by Monmouthshire and Glamorgan, and to the west by Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire. The county is predominantly rural and mountainous with moorlands intersected by river valleys and farmland.

The Black Mountains occupy the southeast of the area, the Brecon Beacons the central region, Fforest Fawr the southwest and Mynydd Epynt and Elennydd the north – most of the Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park lies within its borders. The highest point is Pen y Fan at 886m (2,907 ft). The River Wye traces nearly the whole of the northern boundary, and the Usk flows in an easterly direction through the central valley. The main towns are Brecon, Beaufort, Brynmawr, Builth Wells, Crickhowell, Hay-on-Wye, Llanelly, Llanwrtyd Wells, Rassau, Talgarth, Vaynor & Ystradgynlais.

Birding Brecknockshire
Top Sites
  • Black Mountains

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    The Black Mountains (Welsh: Y Mynyddoedd Duon) are a group of hills spread across parts of Powys and Monmouthshire in southeast Wales, and extending across the England–Wales border into Herefordshire. Bleak hilltop areas that can hold merlin, whinchat, red grouse, skylark, passage Golden plover etc. (Also rumoured sightings of hen harrier & red kite)
  • Bullpit Meadows

    Satellite View
    Walk along river at Crickhowell: park in small lay-by on B4558 at SO214183. Cross over River Usk, and turn onto Bullpit meadows through the gate on the left. Footpath follows river for one and a half miles. Species which can be seen: Dipper, Kingfisher, Goosander, Grey Wagtail, Lesser-spotted Woodpecker, Little Owl, Buzzard, Hobby, Water Rail(easier in winter); Goshawk, Siskin, Redpoll, Treecreeper, etc.
  • Craig y Cilau Nature Reserve, Llangattock

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    Located off an unclassified road above Llangattock (I think park on the verge just after the cattle-grid) Path leads round the hillside on an old tram-road (loads of historical sites); past cave entrances (lesser horseshoe and Greater Horseshoe bat roosts); above a bog. Tawny Owls, Redstarts, Peregrines, the odd Kite in winter. Probably lots more.
  • Elan Valley

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    Common Scoter can be seen on the reservoirs and Ring Ouzel will usually visit on migration to feed upon the rowan berries. Winter visitors include Hen Harrieres and Short-eared Owls. The fast-flowing streams on the Estate are home to Dipper and Grey Wagtail. Common Sandpiper and Goosander can be seen on and around the rivers Claerwen and Elan, as well as the reservoirs.
  • Llangorse Lake

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    Famed for the Pied-billed Grebe twitch of a couple of years ago. At SO133261 there is a small parking area for 10+ cars. Walk west along lake. Hide at about SO 126263. Winter: ducks, grebes, the odd harrier. Spring: passage osprey, terns. Summer: water rail, etc. Large flock of Canada geese. Reed warbler, and lots more. There is a much larger area on the other side of the lake at SO128272, with sailing club, boat hire etc., which the footpath from eventually reaches. Llangorse village with a nice pub nearby.
  • Mynydd Ddu Forest

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    Forestry Commission land with: roding woodcock, tree pipits, redstart, long-eared owls, etc. The forest of Mynydd Du lies in the upper reaches of the Grwyne Fawr on the southern side of the Black Mountains. Until the 19th century the valley was intensively settled with over 30 farmsteads surrounded by small stone-walled fields.
  • Talybont Reservoir

    InformationSatellite View
    For winter ducks, grebes, etc.
County Recorder
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 267

    The current (Dec 2023) county list stands at 267
Useful Reading

  • Breconshire Bird Report

    £7 to callers at Brecon Wildlife Trust Office, Lion House, Bethel Square, BRECON, Powys. LD3 7AY. £8.20 (including postage) from county bird recorder. ISBN: Buy this book from
Useful Information
  • Bannau Brycheiniog National Park

    Bannau Brycheiniog National Park was designated in 1957
  • Brecknock Birds

    Brecknock Wildlife Trust (now WTSWW Brecknockshire) species records collated and digitised by BIS. Many are on WTSWW BWT reserves or Wildlife Sites and include general surveys.
  • Brecknock Wildlife Trust

    The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales is one of 46 Wildlife Trusts across the UK. We cover an area of 9,787 km² in South and West Wales - including around half of Wales’ coastline! We own and manage 18 nature reserves

Abbreviations Key

  • CP Craig-y-Nos Country Park

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    This 40-acre country park forms part of the historic grounds of the Victorian Craig-y-nos Castle and is managed by the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority. The park offers a fun & safe day out for all the family. Easy to follow paths will take you on a gentle stroll past towering beech trees and alongside rushing rivers.
  • LNR Cae Bryntywarch Nature Reserve

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    Standing towards the top of the meadow gives good views of the surrounding farmland. Buzzards and red kites can sometimes be seen soaring overhead and in the spring the distinctive call of the cuckoo can sometimes be heard.
  • LNR Cae Eglwys Nature Reserve

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    All these wildflowers attract a wide range of butterflies and brown hare lie up in the dense grass cover. In winter birds come to feed on the seedheads still standing and on the many insects living in the sward.
  • LNR Cae Lynden Nature Reserve

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    In spring look for the bright yellow flash of the brimstone butterfly and in summer the grassland is full of ringlet, meadow brown and gatekeeper butterflies. The marsh fritillary flies in June laying eggs on devil’s bit scabious leaves. In August and September its caterpillars feed on devil’s bit scabious within their larval webs amongst mollinia tussocks. Late summer wildflower displays of purple flowering devil’s bit scabious and red ragged robin. Woodland birds in the oak woodland and snipe and woodcock in winter.
  • LNR Cae Pwll y Bo Nature Reserve

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    The globeflower is a member of the buttercup family and has beautiful, dense, yellow flowers. Over 2055 flowers have been counted here in early summer and this is possibly the largest remaining stand in mid Wales of this attractive plant. Elsewhere in Wales, its numbers have significantly decreased.
  • LNR Coed Dyrysiog Nature Reserve

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    A beautiful area of ancient woodland and unusually a registered common that slopes down to the banks of the Nant Bran. This is a lovely place to come for a peaceful woodland walk with just the sound of the Nant Bran below you and the woodland birds above you.
  • LNR Craig y Rhiwarth Nature Reserve

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    Upland Calcareous Grassland, Upland Mixed Ashwood.
  • LNR Darren Fawr Nature Reserve

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    Darren Fawr is the largest and most spectacular of the Trust’s reserves. It consists of a steep hill-side, covered with loose, grey limestone scree, cliffs and an undulating hill-top with good views of the surrounding landscape.
  • LNR Drostre Wood

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    The floor of this mixed deciduous woodland is dominated by mosses; in areas where this vegetation is less dense species such as yellow archangel, herb robert, wood sorrel and bluebell can be seen. A stream runs across the reserve, alongside which are a variety of rush species, willows and opposite-leaved golden saxifrage. Dead wood provides a valuable habitat for large numbers of fungi, including the birch polypore and scarlet elf cup and is relied upon by invertebrates for nesting, hibernation and food
  • LNR Llanddeusant Red Kite Feeding Station

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  • LNR Llandefaelog Wood

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    In March to April the path along the southern side of the reserve is surrounded by beautiful wild daffodils. Later on in May, the floor of the reserve is carpeted with the blues and purples of bluebells with their wonderful scent. These contrast with the fresh greens of newly opened leaves. Look out for the occassional white bluebell.Bluebells carpet the woodland in late spring The distinctive piping call of the nuthatch and the laughter-like "yaffle" call of the green woodpecker can often be heard across this beautiful woodland. In spring and summer, the delightful pied flycatcher can be seen with its distinctive black and white colours. Children from nearby Cradoc School have made nest boxes for these birds which can be seen attached to the trunks of trees.
  • LNR Pen y Waun Nature Reserve

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    A Brecknock Wildlife Trust nature reserve, these two small meadows are a haven for wildflowers with over 350 flower-spikes of common-spotted and heath-spotted orchids showing in the summer.
  • LNR Pwll-y-Wrach Nature Reserve

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    The woodland is particularly beautiful in early spring when white patches of wood anemones merge with a yellow carpet of lesser celandines. In late spring bluebells fleck the woodland floor with shimmering blue and the white flowers of wild garlic give the air a pungent smell.
  • LNR The Byddwn Nature Reserve

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    Watch out for mallard, grey wagtail and dipper. The disused railway is an important feature in the landscape for commuting and foraging bats, including the rare lesser horseshoe bat. In the spring and summer the repetitive call of the chiffchaff, the musical warble of the blackcap and the soft, descending call of the willow warbler can be heard.
  • LNR Trewalkin Meadow Nature Reserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    A Brecknock Wildlife Trust nature reserve, this wildflower meadow is a delight to visit at any time of year, with cuckoo flower in the spring; common spotted and early purple orchids in the early summer; globeflower, betony, ragged robin, great burnet and meadowsweet in mid summer and devil's bit scabious in the early autumn. Also look out for brown hare and butterflies.
  • LNR Vicarage Meadows Nature Reserve

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    Many years ago, the local vicarage owned Vicarage Meadows. The fields provided a hay crop and a place to graze horses and cows. The small stone barn was used as a shelter for milking cows. Today we continue to use traditional management methods with a hay crop being taken off one field and Exmoor ponies grazing the whole site, giving the reserve’s many wildflowers the chance to flourish.
  • LNR Ystradfawr

    WebpageSatellite View
    Marsh fritillary adults flying in June, the caterpillars feeding on devil’s bit scabious in August and in mollinia tussocks in September within their larval webs. The spring and summer wildflower displays are stunning. The rhos pasture has purple flowering devil’s bit scabious in summer. The species rich wildflower meadows have magnificent displays of ragged robin and angelica. Grass-snakes, slow-worms and common lizard can be seen basking in the sunshine. The wet woodland is inhabited by many woodland birds. It is a good site to hear the well known call of the visiting cuckoo.
Other Links
  • Gilgrin Farm Kite Feeding Centre

    The Red Kite Centre is located in the most beautiful countryside, in the heart of Mid Wales, overlooking both the Wye and Elan Valleys, and just half a mile from the market town of Rhayader. The Kites are fed once daily. We have general hides for you to watch from, as well as specialist photographic hides, all of which are just a few metres away from where the Red Kites are fed daily. The meat is currently put out at 3pm (until the end of October when the clocks change) and the farm opens at 12.30. There is a car park, coffee shop (serving delicious cakes, ice-creams, snacks, hot & cold drinks), gift shop, picnic site, and farm trail on site. Everyone is welcome. We cater for families, specialist photographers, film-makers, schools trips and coaches.
  • Brecknock Birds

    Welcome to Brecknock Birds. This site has been set up to encourage interest in bird watching and ornithology in Brecknockshire.
  • Brecon Beacons Birder

    My name is Steve Wilce and I am primarily a birdwatcher, however, my main hobby these days is attempting to photograph the birds I see and all images on this website are of genuinely wild creatures. I have had numerous images published, most recently in Iolo Williams's book on wildlife sites in Wales. I live in the heart of the Brecon Beacons, pictured above, where most of my nature watching is done. In the Gallery there are a selection of bird and other wildlife photographs taken mainly in Mid and South Wales but also in Norfolk which I have visited in Spring and Autumn for over thirty years.

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