County of Caernarfonshire

Common Raven Corvus corax ©WikiCommons

Vice County No: 49

Caernarfonshire VC 49 is mostly within Gwynedd local authority, except at its eastern end, where a part is in Conwy unitary authority. It borders the vice-counties of Denbighshire to the east, Anglesey over the Menai Strait to the northwest, and Meirionnydd to the south. The largest settlements are Llandudno, Conwy, Bangor, Caernarfon, Bethesda.

Gwynedd is named after the old Kingdom of Gwynedd. As a local government area, it is the second biggest in terms of geographical area and also one of the most sparsely populated. Most of the population is Welsh-speaking. (The name Gwynedd is also sometimes used for a preserved county, covering the two local government areas of Gwynedd and the Isle of Anglesey. Culturally and historically, the name can also be used for most of North Wales the area covered by the Gwynedd Constabulary, corresponding to the approximate territory of the Kingdom of Gwynedd at its greatest extent.)

Conwy County Borough is a unitary authority area and the River Conwy, after which the county borough is named, lies wholly within the area: rising in Snowdonia (one third of the county borough lies in the national park) and flowing through Llanrwst and Trefriw en route to the Irish Sea by Conwy. The river here marks the border between the historic counties of Caernarfonshire and Denbighshire.

Birding Caernarfonshire

Gwynedd includes the scenic Llŷn Peninsula, and most of Snowdonia National Park. Gwynedd Local Nature Reserves spread across 1700 hectares of land, which protects important habitats and species. Much of Gwynedd is mountainous, with only a narrow strip of coastal plain in the north of the county. There is lower, but still hilly, ground on the Llyn peninsula to the west. The mountain areas have good numbers of Peregrine, with smaller numbers of Chough, while in May Dotterel on passage are regular. Bardsey Island at the tip of the Llyn peninsula has a bird observatory that welcomes visitors and is a site where almost anything could turn up. Buzzard and Raven are both present in large numbers and can be seen almost anywhere.

To the north is Conwy’s Irish sea coast, the entire length of which is home to the very busy A55. Despite this there are places, Llanddulas and Rhos on Sea for example, where you can enjoy waders like Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones along with the commoner Redshank, Dunlin etc. This same coast is also home in winter to large Scoter flocks; mostly Common, but Surf and Velvet Scoters are occasionally seen too. Seen also on the coast are various species of wintering Divers and Grebes.

Probably the best-known birding spot is RSPB Conwy which offers tremendous, year-round birding. There are a mass of ducks here in winter, Pochard, Goldeneye, Teal, Gadwall and more. The reserve is alive with warblers in spring and summer, in its woodland & scrubby areas and reed-beds. A feeding station in the Wildlife Garden often has Bullfinch among the commoner finches and tits, the odd Great Spotted Woodpecker with the winter additions of Long-Tailed Tits, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll. The views from the Coffee Shop here are absolutely stunning, both of the magnificent 13th century Conwy Castle plus the Carneddau and Tal-y-Fan mountains, after which hides on the reserve have been named.

Further up Conwy Valley is another must – Caerhun Church. It is an excellent site for the elusive but beautiful Hawfinch that shows here or in the surrounding area quite often. Llanbedr-y-cennin a little way up the valley, may even be more regular for Hawfinch. Llanrwst has also been good recently, although only part of it is in Caernarfonshire. Carrying on south from here will take you to the southern edge of Conwy County and deep into Snowdonia. Buzzard and Raven are very common in the area, Red Kite are encountered more and more as they venture away from their traditional haunts further south. Pied Flycatcher and Redstart breed in good numbers in the woodlands. Time spent here will pay the visitor back richly, both in quality and quantity of birds seen, in some of the most breath-taking scenery anywhere in Britain. Good views of waders and wildfowl can also be had at Lafan Sands further west. The mountain areas have good numbers of Peregrine, with smaller numbers of Chough, while in May Dotterel on passage are regular on the Carneddau range.

Top Sites
  • RSPB Conwy

    WebpageSatellite View
    Most of the reserve is in neighhbouring Denbighshire. Pochard, Goldeneye, Teal, Gadwall and other ducks in winter, Warblers in summer and rarities almost anytime.
County Recorder
  • Rhion Pritchard

    Pant Afonig, Hafod Lane, Bangor Gwynedd LL57 4BU

Useful Reading

  • Best Birdwatching Site: North Wales

    | by Alan Davies & Owen Roberts | Buckingham Press | 2007 | Paperback | ISBN: 9780955033940 Buy this book from
  • Birds of Caernarfonshire

    | By Rhion Pritchard | Cambrian Ornithological Society | 2017 | £12 | ISBN: Buy this book from
  • Cambrian Bird Report

    from RSPB Conwy or from Geoff Gibbs, tel: 01248 681936 or email Bardsey Wildlife ISBN: Buy this book from
  • The Breeding Birds of North Wales

    | Editor Anne Brenchley et al | Liverpool University Press | 2013 | Hardback | £45 | ISBN: 9781846318580 Buy this book from
Museums & Universities
  • Bangor University

    Zoology with Ornithology BSc - This three year BSc degree course puts birds at the forefront of your studies; birds have a high profile as model organisms in zoology, and are the focus of growing conservation concern due to the alarming decline of many species. There is a growing demand for professional scientists with specialised knowledge and skills relating to birds.
  • Bangor Bird Group

    Meets every wednesday during Autumn and Spring university terms
  • Cambrian Ornithological Society

    COS is the county bird club for northwest Wales and produces the annual Cambrian Bird Report for the counties of Caernarfon, Anglesey and Meirionnydd. COS is affiliated to the Welsh Ornithological Society, which hosts these pages.
  • North Wales Wildlife Trust

    We are the only local organisation dedicated to conserving all habitats and species across North Wales for the enjoyment of people and the benefit of wildlife. Founded in 1963, we have grown into an important voice for wildlife, and for local people who care about the future of their natural environment. With over 4,000 members in North Wales, and working with 46 other Wildlife Trusts, we are part of the largest UK voluntary organisation dedicated to conserving the full range of the UK’s habitats and species, whether in the countryside, towns or at sea.
  • Welsh Ornithological Society

    WOS is the national body which aims to unify birdwatchers and ornithologists across the whole of Wales. To do so, we actively support bird conservation in Wales, by funding research and encouraging publication of papers and articles related to birds in the Principality. WOS represents affiliated local and county bird clubs and groups with the country agencies and Welsh Government to help conserve birds in Wales. We encourage students to present their studies to a wider body of birders with an annual Student Award. This is presented at our Annual Conference. We also support young and older birders alike, through Small Grants for research and fieldwork.

Abbreviations Key

  • FP Gwydyr Forest Park

    WebsiteSatellite View
    The forest is rich in raptors and Buzzards Goshawks, Peregrines and Merlin have all been sighted here…
  • LNR Lôn Cob Bach

    WebpageSatellite View
    The nature reserve is situated right in the middle of the historic town of Pwllheli. The present landscape was formed by draining large tracts of land from the estuary of the Rhydhir river, when the Cob embankment was built in the eighteenth century. The town expanded to cover most of the best reclaimed land, leaving behind wet pasture and salt marsh to the south of Lôn Cob Bach. To the north of the road, lies an area of intertidal mud and reed beds known as the Backwater – an important habitat for a number of different species such as the kingfisher and otter.
  • LNR Morfa Aber

    InformationSatellite View
    Morfa Aber is a nature reserve managed by Gwynedd Council and forms part of Traeth Lafan, the 9.5km-long expanse of intertidal sand- and mud-flats stretching from Llanfairfechan to Bangor. Traeth Lafan has been designated a Special Protection Area, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Local Nature Reserve. There is a public bird hide, where you can sit and relax whilst watching flocks of curlew, widgeon, and ducks. If you're lucky, you might also catch a glimpse of the kingfisher or otters as the feed in the fresh water pools.
  • LNR Morfa Madryn

    WebpageSatellite View
    A mixture of primarily wetland habitats – woodland, coastal pasture, fresh water pools and reed beds. Three bird watching hides where a variety of birds can be spotted.
  • LNR Parc Dudley

    Facebook PageSatellite View
    A mixed woodland that's full of hidden wildlife resting on the lower sheltered slopes of Moel Smytho. You can walk amongst native species of hidden birds, plants and animals – some uncommon such as the pied flycatcher which travels all the way from Africa to nest. Located on the lower part of the reserve is a small circular walk near the car park and picnic area. There is a 1 km circular path around the rest of the woodland, which in some parts is rather steep, and can be wet under foot at certain times of the year.
  • LNR Parc Y Borth

    WebpageSatellite View
    Parc y Borth is situated high on a hillside above the sheltered bay at Borth y Gest and contains both oak woodland and wild flower meadows. The park has an extensive network of wooded paths which will lead you to the top of the hill, from where you can take in the views of the Glaslyn and Dwyryd estuaries, and round south to west past Harlech and Cricieth castles, and to the Llŷn Peninsula. For children there is also a way-finding course – which is available in the village shop. In May, you might catch a glimpse of the pied fly catcher which nests here, or hear the drilling of the woodpecker.
  • LNR Pen y Banc

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Coastal rocks, secluded sandy coves and mixed woodland. It is a popular site for families in the summer. A number of birds can be seen in the estuary – the curlew, redshank and black-necked grebe during the winter, and large flocks of sandwich terns can be seen in summer. In the mild climate, a variety of vegetation can be seen, ranging from coastal heath species such as gorse and heather, through to blackthorn, crab apple and birch and oak
  • LNR Pensychnant SSSI

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Pensychnant works with many local naturalists and local and national wildlife and conservation organisations to foster the public’s appreciation and understanding of nature and to record and safeguard the wildlife and natural beauty of North Wales
  • LNR Traeth Lafan

    InformationSatellite View
    A mix of shoreline habitats, and approximately 2,500 hectares of intertidal sand and mud flats which are exposed at low tide. A number of conservational designation including Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Protection Area, and Special Area of Conservation. An important areas for a number of species, including moulting great crested grebes, oyster catchers, red breasted mergansers and golden eye.
  • LNR Y Foryd

    InformationSatellite View
    Y Foryd is a partially enclosed intertidal bay on the Menai Strait – at low tide, 250 hectares of sand and mud habitats can be seen, which are important feeding habitats for a number of native and migratory bird species, such as shell ducks, waders, oyster catchers, curlews, lapwing and large flocks of over 5,000 widgeon.
  • NNR Bardsey Island Bird & Field Observatory

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Bardsey Bird & Field Observatory is one of only two accredited bird observatories in Wales and is one of a network of 20 around the coast of the UK and Ireland. Founded in 1953, the Observatory has been monitoring the island's birds and wildlife ever since.
  • NP Snowdonia (Eryri)

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Choice or Welsh or English - Eryri or the Snowdonia National Park was designated a National park in 1951, the third National Park to be created in England and Wales under the 1949 National Parks and Access to the countryside Act. It is the second largest National park in England and Wales, covering some 2,171 square kilometres (838 square miles) of north west Wales, and including the Carneddau, and Glyderau mountain ranges as well as the Highest mountain in England and Wales (1085m/3560ft)- Yr Wyddfa (the Tomb in welsh), or Snowdon from which the Park takes its (english) name. The welsh name Eryri means 'place of the eagles'.
  • RSPB Conwy

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Wildfowl, waders and rarities.
Forums & Mailing Lists
  • North Wales Birding

    Twitter Feed
    Visit the North Wales Birding Forum for all the latest sightings in the area. All are welcome (and it's free!)
  • We Bird North Wales

    Sightings Group - This multi-contributor blog is a reel of North Wales bird news, ID discussion, and any other trip reports and useful information added by birders regularly out in the field. Please contact me at: robinsandham (at) if you want to contribute or report any notable sightings.
  • We Bird North Wales

    This multi-contributor blog is a reel of North Wales bird news, ID discussion, and any other trip reports and useful information added by birders regularly out in the field. Please contact me at: robinsandham (at) if you want to contribute or report any notable sightings.

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