Gower

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis ©Chris Thomas Website

Vice County No: 41a

Gower is the western part of Glamorgan VC41, which is treated as a separate recording area from East Glamorgan by WOS and local bird recorders. Gower VC41a covers Swansea and Neath Port Talbot unitary authorities.

Swansea is a coastal city and Wales’ second largest city after Cardiff.. 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 area includes the Gower Peninsula and the Lliw uplands. Swansea’s population is around 700,000 people.

It 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.

Birding Gower

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. Kenfig NNR is just across the boundary in East Glamorgan.

Neath Port Talbot is a county borough and one of the unitary authority areas of Wales. It is the 8th most populous local authority area in Wales and the third most populous county borough with a population tof about 140,000.

The coastal areas are mainly English-speaking, however there are many Welsh-speaking communities in the Valleys to the north of the borough. Its principal towns are Neath, Port Talbot and Pontardawe. It stretches from the coast to the borders of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The majority of land is upland or semi-upland in character, and 43% is covered by forestry with major conifer plantations. Most of the lower lying flat land is near the coast around Port Talbot. An extensive dune system stretches along much of the coast, broken by river mouths and areas of development.

The upland areas are cut by five valleys: Vale of Neath, Dulais Valley, Afan Valley, Swansea Valley, Upper Amman Valley. There are five local nature reserves at Eaglesbush Valley, Pany-y-Sais Fen, Swansea Canal, Bryn Tip and Cwm Du Glan & Glanrhyd Plantation. Crymlyn Bog National Nature Reserve is also a RAMSAR, SAC, SSSI.

Top Sites
  • AONB Gower North Shore

    InformationSatellite 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.
  • CP Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir & Margam Country Park

    InformationSatellite View
    This site doesn't look particularly exciting, with the huge Corus Steelworks forming the backdrop, concrete sides, and with considerable disturbance from boats. Nevertheless, it has a reputation for coming up with the goods, and is definitely worth a visit if you're passing by, especially in winter. Many birders combine a visit here with a trip to nearby Kenfig Pool. There are always a few birds present here - usually Little Grebes, Pochard and Tufted Ducks. In winter, however, pretty much anything can turn up, with birds like Goosander, Smew, Long-tailed Duck, Scaup and Great Northern Divers being reasonably regular.
  • LNR Craig Cilhendre Woods

    WebpageSatellite View
    The woodland has a diverse age structure particularly in the western part of the wood. A few dense areas near the entrance reflect where clear felling has occurred in the recent past. The woodland canopy comprises of a mosaic made up of Sessile Oak, Beech, Birch, Ash, Sycamore, and Alder.
  • LNR Llyn Fach

    WebpageSatellite View
    The nature reserve features a large nutrient-poor glacial lake, overlooked by dramatic north-east facing cliffs and scree, dotted with rowan trees.
  • LNR Mumbles Hill

    WebpageSatellite 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 Port Eynon Point

    WebpageSatellite 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.
  • LNR llanrhidian & Wernffrwdd

    WebpageSatellite View
    Nature has done an excellent job at reclaiming the site. The wildflower meadows provide food for pollinators and yellow meadow ants which make the anthills that you will see. The thick bramble offers safe areas for birds and mammals, as well as many delicious blackberries (you are welcome to take your share).
  • NNR Gower Coast National Nature Reserve

    WebpageSatellite 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.
  • NNR Kenfig

    WebpageSatellite View
    The reserve is one of the last remnants of a huge dune system that once stretched along the coastline of southern Wales from the Ogmore River to the Gower peninsular. Glamorgan's largest natural lake, Kenfig Pool, is set on the edge of this beautiful sand dune nature reserve with spectacular views across Swansea Bay to the Gower. The Reserve is home to a wide variety of rare and endangered species of plants and animals, including the Fen Orchid. The dune system makes up part of the largest active sand dune system in europe.
  • NNR Whiteford Burrows National Nature Reserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    Look out for birds on the Marsh including the oystercatcher, knot, pintail and golden plover.
  • RSPB NNR Cwm Clydach

    InformationSatellite 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.
  • SSSI Berry Wood, Knelston

    WebpageSatellite View
    Ancient mixed deciduous woodland. Status Notified SSSI and covered by Tree Preservation Order. Notified SSSI and covered by Tree Preservation Order.
  • SSSI Blackpill Wildlife Centre

    InformationSatellite 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!
Contributors
  • Gruff Dodd

    | Gruff@doddg.freeserve.co.uk

County Recorder
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: 9780952014610 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Birding in Glamorgan

    | By Alan Rosney & Richard Smith | Glamorgan Bird Club | £14 (plus p&p) from Alan Rosney, 10 Parc-y-Nant, Nantgarw CF15 7TJ. Tel: 01443 841555 ISBN: Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Birds of Glamorgan

    | By Clive Hurford & Peter Lansdown | Hurford & Lansdown | 1995 | Hardback | 228 pages, 30 col & 17 b/w photos, line illus, maps | ISBN: 9781872808344 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Useful Information
  • BTO Regional Representative

    Lyndon Jeffery (West Glamorgan). Email: norma.jeffery@virginmedia.com Tel: 01792 874337
  • Gower Bird Club

    Website
    *Gower Ornithological Society is one of the oldest in Wales, covering the western part of Glamorgan. Indoor meetings are held each month in Swansea, with field trips around the county, and beyond. For details of membership, click here or contact Membership Secretary, Jeremy Douglas-Jones, 14 Alder Way, West Cross, Swansea SA3 5PD. Tel: 01792 551331. E-mail: Jeremy Douglas-Jones *Affiliated to the Welsh Ornithological Society.
Organisations
  • Gower Ornithological Society

    Website
    The aim of GOS is to promote the conservation of wild birds through promoting the study of all aspects of ornithology, including supporting national bird surveys and local ornithological research, arranging guided walks and educational talks, collating, maintaining and publishing bird records for the Swansea and Neath Port Talbot areas. For over 50 years the Society has published collated ornithological data in an annual report, Gower Birds. This provides an indelible record and helps confirm our charitable status. GOS is closely associated with the Gower Ringing Group which collects long term data sets at sites throughout the recording area.
  • Gower Ringing Group

    Webpage
  • RSPB Cwm Clydach Wildlife Explorers/Phoenix Group

    Webpage
    Welcome to the website of the RSPB Cwm Clydach Wildlife Explorers/Phoenix Group – more commonly know as Kites and Dippers.
  • RSPB Swansea & District Local Group

    Webpage
    This is the website of the Swansea & District 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
    We are an independent charity with a mission to save wildlife and wild spaces and to make nature part of life, for everyone. We are working to create and enhance wildlife havens, create Living Landscapes and Living Seas and manage some of the region’s most precious wild places from magnificent islands to ancient woodlands.
Reserves

Abbreviations Key

  • LNR Bishop's Wood

    WebpageSatellite View
    Bishop's Wood is a classic example of limestone woodland, which is relatively rare in Britain. Part of the wood is classified as ancient woodland which means it has been wooded since at least the seventeenth century as indicated in the 1673 survey of Bishopston Manor.
  • LNR Cadle Heath

    WebpageSatellite 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 Cwm Du Glan & Glanrhyd Plantation

    InformationSatellite View
    These broadleaved woods, part of the beautiful Cwmdu Glen, are directly accessible on foot from the centre of Pontardawe. Alternatively, buses stop in James Street, right on the edge of the trees. You can take a circular walk during which you should see waterfalls, bluebells (in Spring!) and herons. Dogwalkers welcome.
  • LNR Cwmllwyd Wood

    WebpageSatellite 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 Eaglesbush Valley

    InformationSatellite View
    Eaglesbush Valley is a steep-sided wooded valley located in the Melincryddan area of Neath. The site is a mix of ancient semi-natural woodland habitats dissected by the Crythan brook. The 11 hectare site is protected in recognition of its importance for biodiversity and to the local community
  • LNR Killay Marsh

    WebpageSatellite 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.
  • LNR Mumbles Hill

    WebpageSatellite 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

    WebpageSatellite 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 Swansea Vale

    WebpageSatellite 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 Cors Crymlyn (Crymlyn Bog)

    InformationSatellite View
    Cors Crymlyn is a nature reserve and a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest of international significance, near Swansea,. It is the largest area of lowland fen in Wales and lies immediately to the eastern side of Kilvey Hill just north of the industrial area of Crymlyn Burrows. The reserve is a haven for birds. Predatory visitors like the hen harrier, buzzard, hobby and the occasional marsh harrier visit the site regularly. The site provides an important refuge for a range of wetland birds like the bittern, water rail, sedge and reed warblers, bearded tit and grey heron, which can often be seen or heard there.
  • NNR Oxwich

    WebpageSatellite 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.
  • NNR Pant y Sais

    WebpageSatellite View
    Pant y Sais National Nature Reserve shares many similarities with the nearby – but much larger – Crymlyn Bog to the west. The reed and sedge beds are home to a range of wetland plants, birds and insects. The best way to experience the reserve is to follow the boardwalk into the heart of the fen.
  • NNR Whiteford Burrows & Llanrhidian Saltmarsh

    WebpageSatellite 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.
  • RSPB Cwm Clydach

    WebpageSatellite View
    https://www.rspb.org.uk/days-out/reserves/cwm-clydach
  • WTSWW Kilvrough Manor Woods and Redden Hill

    WebpageSatellite 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.
Forums & Mailing Lists
  • GOS Sightings

    Webpage
    Please could we ask that detailed locational information that may lead to the disturbance of the nest sites of species listed under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act (1981) is omitted from any posts. This may otherwise lead to an offence being committed.
Other Links
  • Caerlan Birdwatching

    Website
    Birdwatching around Caerlan, where the Rhondda ends and the Ely begins..... and some other stuff.
  • NPT Wildlife

    Facebook Page
    Bywyd Gwyllt Cyngor CNPT; Lle i ddarganfod rhagor am fywyd gwyllt a natur yng Nghastell-nedd Port Tal (A place to discover more about wildlife and nature in Neath Port Tal)

Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND

Skip to content