Bird Spotting in North Wales, Top 5 LocationsPublished on 8 May 2013 by Gwion Llwyd
Describing these places as the Top 5 locations for Bird Spotting in North Wales might be a little cheeky. A better title might be ‘5 nice places that I’ve visited and enjoyed spotting birds despite not being a real expert’. But I didn’t think that was catchy enough.
Ynys Hir, Machynlleth
The RSPB nature reserve at Ynys Hir near Machynlleth has been a favorite site of bird watchers for a long time. There are up to seven hides available to the public as well as a visitors centre, picnic area and nature trails. A combination of Welsh oak woodland and saltmarsh means there is a wonderful variety of birds to be spotted. These include the feisty Lapwing, the unmistakable Redshank and the noisy Wood warbler. The BBC’s Springwatch series has been based in Ynys Hir in recent years.
Glaslyn and Dyfi Ospreys
North Wales can now proudly boast two pairs of breeding ospreys and hopes are high that this success might continue in future.
The newly formed Dyfi Osprey project have an excellent visitor centre as well as a hide and spotting telescopes, and always lots of very friendly volunteers at hand. This enthusiastic group also have a fantastic website which includes a live webcam overlooking the nest. Well worth a look at the moment especially, link below.
Further north the Glaslyn site is a mile or so to the west of Llanfrothen on the B4410. Again, friendly volunteers will gladly help you with the spotting scopes and answer any questions you may have. You could combine your visit with a ride on the Welsh Highland railway, as the there’s a station nearby. (Some lovely pick-nick tables by the river too.)
Traeth Lafan or Lafan Sands is one odf the most popular locations for bird spotting in North Wales. The area runs along the North Wales coast between Llanfairfechan and Bangor. This huge expanse of mud flats can attract up to 15,000 birds in winter. These include Curlews, Oyster Catchers, Redshanks and the Great Crested Grebes. It can be a little difficult to get down onto the flats. But the best places to view the birds include Morfa Madryn near Llanfairfechan, Morfa Aber near Abergwyngregyn and Aber Ogwen near Penrhyn Castle just outside Bangor.
Ynnys Enlli – Bardsey Island
Ynys Enlli or Bardsy Island lies just of the westernmost tip of the Llyn Peninsula in North West Wales. 20,000 saints are said to be buried on the island and the site of a 5th century monastery continues to be a place of pilgrimage for some. Many more visit the island for the wildlife these days however. The absence of any land predators such as cats, dogs makes the island a haven ground nesting birds such as Guillemots and Kittiwakes. Oystercatches and the rare Chough also nest on the island but many more breeds pass through on their annual migration routes.
Day trips to the island can be arranged from Pwllheli and Aberdaron. But be warned, the crossing can be a little choppy. (I can still remember my cousins Dewi’s face just before he reached over the side to be sick.)
Coed Garth Gell in the Mawddach Valley
The nature trails through the woods of Coed Garth Gell are located within the beautifull Mawdhach valley, about a mile east of Bontddu. This forgotten nature reserve is home to all three of the UK’s woodpeckers as well as Redstarts, Wood Warblers and Pied Flycatchers.
Abandoned and ruined buildings bear testament to the gold mine that once thrived in this area. So keep an eye out for anything yellow that catches the light in the river. The path up to the top of the reserve is quite a climb in places but the effort is well worth it as visitors can enjoy spectacular views across the valley towards Cader Idris once out of the trees.