County of Meirionnydd

Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla Website

Vice County No: 48

Meirionnydd VC48 is the southern half of Gwynedd unitary authority (south of the Afon Glaslyn), except for a small section in the northeast corner that lies in Conwy Unified Authority.

Meirionnydd is a mountainous area of Wales containing most of Snowdonia National Park. Most of the population is Welsh-speaking.

Birding Meirionnydd

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 in the southern edge of Conwy County, which is deep into Snowdonia.

Meirionnydd has mountains, three large lakes and many tarns as well as hidden river valleys. Llyn Tegid is a cold, deep lake, so bird interest is limited, but it’s also under watched. It holds typical water birds, mainly in Winter, but scarcer migrants can also be found, such as Scaup, Great White Egret and divers. Llyn Trawsfynydd is a high-altitude lake, used for recreational activities, so birding interest there is limited too. However, it attracts passage waders such as Green Sandpiper and waterfowl including Scaup and Common Scoter, as well as  Red Kite and Osprey.

Much of the slopes have been drained but there are still areas of unimproved pasture and bogs such as Arthog Bog, part of RSPB Mawddach Valley. Species typical of boggy habitats, including Cuckoo and Grasshopper Warbler in the breeding season, and Lesser Redpolls and Woodcocks in Winter. There are areas of Celtic rainforest, such as at the RSPB reserve at Coed Garth-gell, which is excellent for its plants and bryophytes. In Spring and early Summer, Redstarts, Pied Flycatchers and Wood Warblers breed, and Nightjars and Tree Pipits on the heath.

There are also extensive conifer plantations. 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.

Meirionnydd’s most famous site is the rock of Craig yr Aderyn. Its name – Bird’s Rock in English – indicates the historical association of this site with nesting birds. It hosts Wales’ only inland Cormorant colony, breeding Choughs, Peregrines and Wheatears. The mysterious Welsh Twites  have almost vanished, and Lapwing  and Curlew  have seriously declined, but both Goosander  and Red-breasted Merganser are now regular breeders, as are Hen Harrier  Osprey.

The Glaslyn river forms the boundary with Caernarfon vice-county, but the birds can be found on either side. It is best watched in Winter, with waterfowl including Wigeons, Teal and a small herd of Whooper Swans. Glaslyn Marshes attract passage waders in Spring and Autumn.

There is a coastal strip with dunes containing three estuaries that drain into the sea at Poerthmaddog, Barmouth and Aberdyfi. Small numbers of wintering waterbirds and waders, with seaducks – including Eider and Common Scoter – are often seen at the mouths of the estuaries.

  • Rhion Pritchard

    Bangor |

County Recorder
  • Jim Dustow

    Afallon, 7 Glan y Don, Rhiwbryfdir, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd LL41 3LW

    01766 830976

Useful Reading

  • The Breeding Birds of North Wales

    | edited by Anne Brenchley et al | Liverpool University Press | 2008 | ISBN: 9781846318580 Buy this book from
  • Where to watch birds in Wales

    | By David Saunders & Jon Green | Helm | 2008 | ISBN: 9780713674842 Buy this book from
Useful Information
  • BTO Local Rep

    Rob Morton Tel: 01341 422 426 Email:
  • County Bird Reports

    Meirionnydd is included in the Cambrian Bird Report, available from RSPB Conwy or from Geoff Gibbs, tel: 01248 681936 or email
  • Cambrian Ornithological Society - Cymdeithas Adarydda Cambria

    Facebook Page
    The COS is for all birdwatchers with an interest in the north-west Wales area; the new counties of Anglesey, Gwynedd and the western part of Conwy.

Abbreviations Key

  • Gwynedd Local Nature Reserves

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Local Nature Reserves Gwynedd Nature Reserves spread across 1700 hectares of land, which protects important habitats and species. All these sites are managed in partnership with Natural Resources Wales, RSPB Cymru, a number of town or community councils and other community groups.
  • LNR Gwaith Powdwr Nature Reserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    The woodland provides homes to nesting redstarts, pied flycatchers and tree pipits and, on a summer day, the grassy glades are great places to spot butterflies and wildflowers.
  • NNR Morfa Harlech

    WebpageSatellite View
    A coastal landscape with a vast dune system of international importance. The sand flats and salt marsh in the estuary are important feeding grounds for winter wildfowl while otters and water voles use the estuary’s waterways.
  • NP Snowdonia

    InformationSatellite View
    Snowdonia is a mountainous region in north west Wales and a national park covering 823 square miles. The English name for the area derives from Snowdon, which is the highest mountain in Wales at 3560 feet. The park is governed by the Snowdonia National Park Authority, which is made up of local government and Welsh representatives.
  • NRW Coed y Brenin (King's Forest)

    InformationSatellite View
    Black Grouse may be spotted on the forest fringes where the moor meets the trees.The males are easy to recognise with their distinctive black feathers and lyre shaped tail in flight. The females, however, are less easy to distinguish from Red Grouse which also inhabit the forest edges. Large and small raptors can be spotted all over the forest. Buzzards soar high above the valleys; Goshawks (known as the phantom of the forest) are more secretive and are extremely difficult to spot as they glide through tall mature trees and into thick undergrowth to catch their prey. Red Kites are also becoming more common as they distribute themselves north of their range. They are the easiest big raptor to spot with their large forked red tail. Peregrines are also present but not common. If you are really lucky you may spot a Merlin but you have to be quick…
  • NWWT Traeth Glaslyn

    WebpageSatellite View
    A good place to see estuarine birds throughout the year with a range of habitats from open water to woodland. A large estuarine site to the east of Porthmadog, part of the Glaslyn Marshes SSSI. It is especially interesting because it provides a good example of seral succession - the habitat changes from brackish open water, through mudflats, marshes and wet grassland to damp alder carr. Excellent views of estuarine birds can be had throughout the year, particularly good for winter wildfowl.
  • RSPB Mawddach Valley - Coed Garth Gell

    WebpageSatellite View
    Nestled in the spectacular Mawddach Valley, Coed Garth Gell is a woodland and heathland nature reserve which is internationally important for the rare mosses, liverworts and lichens which grow amongst the ancient oaks. Pied flycatchers, redstarts, wood warblers and lesser horseshoe bats all call this wonderful place home.
Sightings, News & Forums
  • 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!)
Other Links
  • Shell Island

    Although there are many birds to be seen in the Summer, the Winter brings in the wintering wild fowl. Ducks, Geese, Grebes, Cormorants, Herons, Lapwings, Oyster Catchers, Redshanks, Plovers, Snipes, Curlews, to name but a few, can all be found here.

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