County of Gwent

Dipper Cinclus cinclus ©Chris Thomas

Vice County No: 35

Gwent VC35 covers the eastern, majority, part of Caerphilly, and the Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen, Newport and Monmouthshire unitary authorities. A small area of Brecknockshire north of Ebbw Vale is included within the Gwent bird recording area. The eastern and southern boundaries of the historic county and the current principal area are the same, along the River Wye and Severn estuary.

Birding Gwent

The county has some contrasting habitats from the hills in the north to the farmland and woodlands of the Wye Valley and large reservoirs. Magor Marsh is the last relatively natural area of fenland on the Gwent Levels. There are many sites of local importance for nature conservation. The Local Councils have been working with Gwent Wildlife Trust to identify Local Wildlife Sites and the trust gives management advice to the site owners.

Blaenau Gwent is a county borough with the main towns of Abertillery, Brynmawr, Ebbw Vale and Tredegar. Its highest point is Coity Mountain at 1,896 ft. Areas with potential for wildlife viewing include Cwmcelyn Pond, Cwmtillery Lakes, Festival Park, Parc Bryn Bach, Silent Valley Local Nature Reserve and St James Pond. Perhaps the best being Silent Valley – Once a farm with meadows and an old coal pit, this local reserve is now the highest and most westerly beech wood in Britain. The reserve is managed jointly by Gwent Wildlife Trust and Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council and some of the reserve has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Newport is a cathedral and university city and unitary authority located on the River Usk close to its confluence with the Severn estuary, about 20km northeast of Cardiff. It is the third largest city in Wales, with an urban population of over 300,000. The city forms part of the Cardiff-Newport metropolitan area with a population of a million people. The city is largely low-lying, but with a few hilly areas (Wentwood reaches 310 metres above sea level). Areas in the south and east of the county tend to be flat and fertile with some housing estates and industrial areas reclaimed from marshland. Areas near the banks of the River Usk, such as Caerleon, are also low-lying. The eastern outskirts of the city are characterised by the gently rolling hills of the Vale of Usk and Christchurch has panoramic views of the Vale of Usk and the Bristol Channel.

There are four nature reserves: Newport Wetlands, Allt-yr-yn, Solutia (linked by a footpath to Newport Wetlands) and Coed Wen (part of the Penhow woodlands NNR). The name Allt-yr-yn means ‘hillside of ash trees’ and you will also see birch, cherry, oak, alder and non-native trees such as horse chestnut and scamore. The site includes a five-acre meadow, three ponds, a canal and woodland areas intersected by a number of footpaths and bridleways.

There are several municipal parts too; Tredegar Park, Belle Vue Park and Beechwood Park and a few playing fields and other open areas worth keeping an eye on.

Torfaen (meaning ‘break-stone’) is a county borough  and the old name for the river, today called Afon Lwyd, which flows through it. The area has a population of around 91,000. Much of the southern part of the county borough around the Cwmbran new town conurbation is now urbanised, but the north is greener and retains extensive areas of countryside, especially on the route to Blaenavon.

There are ten local nature reserves including: Cwmynyscoy Quarry, Churchwood and Springvale Ponds, Garn Lakes, Torfaen Llwyncelyn fields and several run by Gwent Wildlife Trust such as Henllys Bog SSSI. Open areas include Pontypool Park much of which is given to woodland but there is extensive open grassland too.

Top Sites
  • Black Mountains

    Satellite View
    The Black Mountains in the north are completely rural. Turbulent rocky streams, small pastures, patches of alder, ash and oak woodland. The slopes (ffridd) between the enclosed farmland and the open moor are rough grassland with bracken and scattered hawthorns and rowan. The plateaux support heather and bilberry, moor-land and peat bogs. Rocky crags and cliffs, and disused quarries are also present.
  • Chepstow Park Wood

    WebpageSatellite View
    Chepstow Park Wood, at the right times of the year, has crossbill, nightjar, woodcock, redpoll, siskin. Goshawk can be seen in various locations, as can hobby.
  • LNR Cwmllywdrew Meadows & CP Parc Cwm Darran

    WebpageSatellite View
    The reserve is made up of two hay meadows, an ant meadow, two ponds and a small alder woodland. The Ant Meadow is home to over 300 Yellow Meadow Ant anthills. Green woodpeckers can be seen feeding here. Both the Common Blue and the Small Pearl Bordered butterfly can be seen from early summer. In the Fen and Pond Meadows Marsh Marigolds bloom in the spring, Common Spotted Orchids and Devil's Bit Scabious bloom in the summer. Grass Snakes, Toads and newts live around the ponds. If you are lucky you may see a Barn Owl hunting in the evening for voles and mice. Pied Flycatchers nest in the woodland.
  • Llandegfedd Reservoir

    InformationSatellite View
    Llandegfedd Reservoir is more important for wintering wildfowl. There is sailing on part of the lake in the summer. Again, many good spots are too small, and too numerous to list.
  • Penallta Marsh - Ystrad Mynach

    WebpageSatellite View
    Penallta Marsh is a small, marshy grassland dotted with anthills amongst the Purple Moor Grass. Heath Spotted and Southern Marsh Orchid and Devils Bit Scabious provide colour in the summer. Alder and Willow trees flourish in the swampy conditions with Bulrush, Hemlock, Water Dropwort, Hemp Agrimony and Hairy Willowherb all providing an excellent habitat for warblers.
  • The Wye Valley

    Satellite View
    The Wye Valley is a region in itself, with steep, wood-clad slopes, and is a Mecca for botanists. Symonds Yat viewing point is a well-known for Peregrine.
  • Trefil Quarries

    InformationSatellite View
    Trefil Quarries used to have Ring ouzel, raven, peregrine etc, but the quarries are in active use again. Use an OS map, and discover for yourself dipper, grey wagtail, common sandpiper, sand martins ,buzzard and sparrowhawk of course, raven, pied flycatcher, wood warbler, all 3 woodpeckers, common redstart, all the tits (except crested); red grouse are sparse.
  • Usk Estuary

    Satellite View
    Peterstone Wentlooge (ST270200); Uskmouth and Goldcliff (ST320820); Collister Pill (ST450850); Black Rock (ST510880) are known for passage waders, some sea-watching, etc. There are small numbers of breeding Redshank, lapwing and curlew on the Levels. Magor Marsh reserve, run by GWT (ST4286). Reedwarblers, etc, breeding Little Grebe. There is to be a new wetland site at Uskmouth to replace the Cardiff Bay. It is not yet clear exactly what habitats will be provided.
  • Wentwood Forest

    InformationSatellite View
    Wentwood Forest, at the right times of the year, has crossbill, nightjar, woodcock, redpoll, siskin. Goshawk can be seen in various locations, as can hobby.
  • Ruth Brown

County Recorder
Useful Reading

  • Birds of Gwent

    | By WA Venables, AD Baker, RM Clarke, C Jones, JMS Lewis and SJ Tyler | Helm | 2008 | Hardback | 416 pages, line drawings, 32 pages of colour photos, distribution maps | ISBN: 9780713676334 Buy this book from
  • Birdwatching Walks in Gwent

    | By Gwent Ornithological Society | 2013 | Published to celebrate the Society’s fiftieth anniversary, the book details over 60 walks of varied lengths covering all of Gwent’s bird habitats | ISBN: Buy this book from
Useful Information
  • BTO Regional Rep

    Richard M. Clarke. Tel: 07977 698255. Email:
  • County Bird Reports

    You can order our Annual Reports or pay to become a GOS member here. Simply add to the basket and view basket to checkout. You do not need a PayPal account in order to pay for the items or memberships. Please contact if you have any questions regarding your payment.
  • Gwent Bird Club

    See Gwent Ornithological Society
  • Gwent Ornithological Society

    Secretary - Trevor Russell - The Pines, Highfield Road, Monmouthshire NP5 3HP 01600 716266
  • Gwent Wildlife Trust

    Gwent covers the lower Wye and Usk river valleys and the Severn Estuary in South East Wales. In the last fifty years Gwent has lost two thirds of its ancient woodland and the lowlands surrounding the Severn Estuary are threatened by industrial development
  • Monmouthshire Meadows Group

    Our aim is to conserve and restore flower rich grasslands in Monmouthshire by enabling members to manage their own fields and gardens effectively

Abbreviations Key

  • CP Sirhowy Valley Country Park

    WebpageSatellite View
    Sirhowy Valley Country Park for woodland birds, Mynydd Maen ST260970 (pronounce the y as in but, southern English accent, dd is th) and Mynydd Garn clochdy SO2805 for moor-land species: possibilities include Merlin, whinchat, Wheatear, meadow pipit, skylark, tree pipit
  • Gwent Nature Reserves

    WebpageSatellite View
    Gwent Wildlife Trust manages 30 nature reserves across the Gwent. These include wetlands, meadows, and ancient woodlands.
  • LNR Allt-yr-yn

    WebpageSatellite View
    Allt-yr-yn, or ‘hillside of ash trees’, is one of Newport’s two Local Nature Reserves, designated in 1994 and lies between the Monmouthshire-Brecon Canal and Allt-yr-Yn View, NP20 5EH. OS Grid Ref: ST 300 889. Areas of the woodland have been identified as ancient semi-natural woodland, meaning that it has been continuously covered with native trees since the 1600s, making it particularly important for wildlife.
  • LNR Branches Fork Meadows

    WebpageSatellite View
    Branches Fork Meadows lies below the conifer plantation of Tranch Wood and along the Torfaen cycle path. This small reserve supports a variety of habitats including a pond, damp heathy grassland, willow scrub and young oak woodland.
  • LNR Flatwood Meadows

    WebpageSatellite View
    By day, Kingfishers and dippers commute up and down the river collecting food for their young. If you are really lucky you catch a glimpse of an Otter on the Sirhowy.
  • LNR Graig Goch Woodland, Cwmfelinfach

    WebpageSatellite View
    Graig Goch is an ancient oak and beech woodland set in the Sirhowy Valley Country Park. The best time to visit is in the springtime when the woodland floor is carpeted with Bluebells. Springtime also brings the woods alive with birdsong; redstarts, flycatchers and warblers can all be heard as they look for a mate.
  • LNR Henllys Bog

    WebpageSatellite View
    Valley mires are areas of water-logged peat in valley bottoms, with characteristic plant communities. Many of these wildlife-rich habitats have been lost through drainage, and they have become very rare nationally. Of the handful of valley mires left in Gwent, Henllys Bog is the best one for wildlife. Henllys Bog is actually fed by springs, and the brook that runs along the edge of the reserve does not supply it with water.
  • LNR Magor Marsh SSSI

    WebpageSatellite View
    Magor Marsh is the last relatively natural area of fenland on the Gwent Levels. From the fleeting glimpse of a kingfisher, to the sight of colourful dragonflies darting over the reens, this is an inspiring place to visit. In autumn and winter the reserve is particularly attractive to birdwatchers, as the pond provides a sanctuary for wintering wildfowl and passing migrants.
  • LNR Parc Bryn Bach

    WebpageSatellite View
    Set in 340 acres of idyllic grass and woodland with a stunning 36 acre lake at its heart. Wildlife at the park is diverse and thriving. Water fowl are abundant and many species can be seen throughout the changing seasons. A special area has been set aside for attracting lapwings to the park that will hopefully soon be home to a resident breeding colony. It is hard to believe that in 1980, this was an industrial wasteland, exploited by the excavation of coal. Now Parc Bryn Bach is a beautiful nature reserve enjoyed by locals, visitors and wildlife.
  • LNR Parc Coetir Bargod

    WebpageSatellite View
    Created from three collieries and surrounded by the communities that worked in them, Parc Coetir Bargod is Caerphilly’s newest country park. Enter the park through one of 11 sculpted gateways, walk to and follow the Rhymney River and it’s hard to believe that this quiet and natural place was once the site of the highest coal tip in Europe! You can explore the fragments of old woodland that escaped the ravages of mining. The river, once trapped in a huge tunnel, is now alive with Dippers, Herons, Kingfishers and if you are lucky Otters.
  • LNR Silent Valley SSSI

    WebpageSatellite View
    This beautiful woodland reserve has been designated a Local Nature Reserve in recognition of its importance to the local community as well as its precious wildlife. With far-reaching views across the Ebbw Valley, Silent Valley is constantly changing – it is a reserve that merits several visits throughout the year.
  • NNR Lady Park Wood

    WebpageSatellite View
    Lying in the midst of the swathe of ancient broadleaved woodland that sweeps down the Wye Valley from Goodrich to Chepstow is the environmental gem of Lady Park Wood. Described by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) as being 'an oustanding example of near-natural old-growth structure in broadleaved woodland', this site has been the subject of studies and long-term monitoring and has provided many clues about the history of our native woodlands as well as valuable guidance on how we should conserve these habitats, which are of such value to both our wildlife and ourselves. Leaving fallen or standing dead wood in place provides ideal habitats for fungi and invertebrates to thrive, and the Wye Valley woodlands are also home to nearly all our woodland bird species as well as mammals, which include the Dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius and some rare bat species.
  • NNR Penhow Woodlands

    WebpageSatellite View
    This nature reserves extends over three areas of ancient semi-natural woodland although only one of them, Coed Wen, is open to the public. The predominant tree species in the woods are Ash, Small-leaved Lime, Wych Elm and Wild Cherry. Management of the site includes coppicing the trees regularly in order to maintain a reasonably open canopy that allows plenty of light into the woodland for the benefit of the woodland flora beneath the trees. This woodland reserve is situated on the tops and slopes of the limestone hills just outside Newport, and this site is an example of an increasingly scarce habitat in the UK. The special plants in the woods reflect this unusual environment and are similarly scarce in Britain. Penhow Woodlands NNR is an excellent place to see our visiting and native breeding birds in spring and summer.
  • NNR RSPB Newport Wetlands

    WebpageSatellite View
    Newport Wetlands National Nature Reserve lies between the Severn Estuary and the River Usk on the South Wales coast. It is owned and managed by Natural Resources Wales, working in partnership with RSPB Cymru, Newport City Council and others, for the benefit of wildlife and people.
  • Welsh Water: Llandegfedd Reservoir

    InformationSatellite View
    Wintering wildfowl include large numbers of wigeon, teal and pochard, as well as goldeneye and ruddy duck, and Bewick's swan and goosander regularly use the reservoir as a roost, the swans feeding by day on Olway Meadows and the goosanders probably coming from the River Usk. Divers and rarer grebes are occasional visitors, as are sea duck (notably long-tailed duck). Numbers of common gull, herring gull and black-headed gulls roost, and siskin and redpoll occur in the waterside trees. Residents include great crested grebe, sparrowhawk and buzzard, while cormorant and grey heron are regular visitors, and merlin, peregrine and goshawk have been recorded. A variety of waders pass through, with ringed plover and little ringed plover, oystercatcher and common sandpiper and green sandpipers being among the more likely. Other migrants have included osprey and hobby. Breeding summer visitors include yellow wagtail.
  • Wentwood Forest

    WebpageSatellite View
    The 353-hectare (873-acre) section of Wentwood owned by the Trust is part of a much larger area of forest, stretching over 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres). Once part of the hunting grounds of Chepstow Castle, it offers a wide variety of walks with some breathtaking views over the Severn Estuary. And its diversity of habitats means it’s home to some wonderful wildlife.
Sightings, News & Forums
  • GOS Sightings

    Please do not post reports of nesting birds or sightings of rare or Schedule 1 breeders. Sightings which might lead to disturbance will be removed.
  • South Wales Birding

    Latest Sightings
Places to Stay
  • Parva Farmhouse Riverside Guesthouse & Restaurant

    Parva is a 17th Century former farmhouse idylically set just 50 metres from the banks of the River Wye, next door to the medieval St. MichaelÆs Church and less than a mile from the historic Tintern Abbey. This small, friendly, guesthouse oozes olde worlde character and comfort in an informal atmosphere where you can relax and put the pressures of your daily routines on hold while you enjoy our hospitality and the surrounding countryside…
Other Links
  • Ebbw Vale Owl Sanctuary

    The sanctuary is in Ebbw Vale, Gwent, and it is run by a man called Malcolm. He doesn`t charge a penny for entry into the sanctuary, you are free to donate anything you might wish to, whatever you can afford. All his owls are rescued birds which have suffered some horrible fate, or been injured at some time, and Malcolm takes them in and looks after them…
  • Friends of Henllys Local Nature Reserve

    A voluntary group who help maintain and improve Henllys Local Nature Reserve for the benefits of wildlife and users. Holder of 8th Green Flag Community Award.
  • Steve Williams - Valley Naturalist

    A blog for the 'new generation' naturalist in Gwent and sometimes a fraction over the border. Promoting observation, free range exploration, sense of place and citizen science, through the field notes of a naturalist.
Photographers & Artists
  • Chris Thomas

    British bird photographs, British bird pictures

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