County of Carmarthenshire
Carmarthenshire (Welsh: Sir Gaerfyrddin) is a unitary authority in the south west of Wales and the largest of the thirteen historic counties. The county is bounded to the north by Ceredigion, to the east by Powys, Neath Port Talbot and Swansea, to the south by the Atlantic Ocean and to the west by Pembrokeshire. The three largest towns are Llanelli, Carmarthen and Ammanford. Carmarthen is the county town and administrative centre of Carmarthenshire but the most populous settlement is Llanelli.
Carmarthenshire is mainly an agricultural county, apart from the southeastern part which at one time was heavily-industrialised with coal mining, steel-making and tin-plating. In the north of the county the woollen industry was very important in the 18th century. Nowadays the economy of the county depends on agriculture, forestry, fishing and tourism. The best agricultural land is in the broad Tywi Valley, especially its lower reaches. With its fertile land and agricultural produce, Carmarthenshire is known as the 'Garden of Wales'.
It is a large county with a very varied environment. The terrain is generally upland and mountainous. Fforest Fawr and Black Mountain extend into the east of the county and the Cambrian Mountains into the north. The south coast contains many fishing villages and sandy beaches. Much of the coast is fairly flat; it includes the Millennium Coastal Park, which extends for ten miles to the west of Llanelli and the National Wetlands Centre. The county is drained by several important rivers which flow southwards into the Bristol Channel, especially the River Towy, and its several tributaries, such as the River Cothi. The Towy is the longest river flowing entirely within Wales. Other rivers include the Loughor (which forms the eastern boundary with Glamorgan), the River Gwendraeth and the River Taf. The River Teifi forms much of the border between Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion. In the North East corner lies the region that was once Britain's last bastion of the Red Kite, while in the South West you have, in winter, the UK's largest flock of Scoters.
In addition to the top sites listed in the section below the following offer some great birding opportunities: Burry Port Harbour (waders, wildfowl, gulls, terns, etc.) Cefn Sidan Sands [Pembrey CP] (waders, Scoters, divers, etc.) St Ishmaels/Ferryside (waders, gulls, etc.) Laugharne (waders, wildfowl, etc.). Black Mountain [Mynydd Ddu] (raptors, Dotterel on passage, etc.) Llyn Y Fan Fach (winter wildfowl, passage migrants, etc.) Talley Lakes (wildfowl, grebes, etc.) Brechfa Forest (Nightjars, Kites, Crossbills, Redpolls, etc.)
Burry Port and Pembrey Harbours
4 miles west of Llanelli has large numbers of Oystercatchers, Dunlins, Sanderlings and Redshanks, smaller numbers of Greenshank, Turnstone and Bar-tailed Godwit. Occasional in winter are Long-tailed Ducks and Great Northern Diver. Spring brings passage terns, notably Sandwich. Autumn brings Sandwich Terns in hundreds, with occasional Common, Arctic and Little. Large numbers of Mediterranean Gulls and sometimes Arctic and Great Skua. Rarities have included Roseate Tern.
Cefn Sidan Sands
9 miles west of Llanelli is the 7-mile expanse of Cefn Sidan Sands. Up to 38,000 Common Scoters are offshore with occasional Red-throated Divers and Eiders present. Large flocks of Knots, Bar-tailed Godwits and Sanderlings in the winter. Rarities have included Cream-coloured Courser and Buff-breasted Sandpiper.
The banks of the River Tywi, six miles S W of Llandeilo, just off the B4300. Large numbers of geese occur mainly Canada and Greylag with occasional Pink-footed and Barnacle. Breeding Mute Swans, Little Ringed Plover, Sand Martins, Goosanders, Little Grebes, Kingfishers, etc. Winter: Flocks of Wigeon, Mallard, Teal, Mute Swans, Goosanders, Lapwings, Curlews; an increasing number of Whoopers here and at the next bridge upriver-Cilsan. In the car-park at Dryslwyn occasional Tree Sparrows, Siskins and Lesser Redpolls.
Enjoy a walk through enchanting alder and oak woodland, past fast-flowing, spectacular rivers. This reserve is set in the heart of the beauty of mid Wales. You should have no problem spotting a red kite, and in the summer there'll also be pied flycatchers, redstarts, common sandpipers, dippers and grey wagtails. As the trail is set in a steep-sided valley, some parts are rugged and steep, and can be slippery when wet.
Ten miles west of Llanelli, on the A484. A pleasant spot with free parking. A great site for waders and wildfowl, with semi-rarities occasionally turning up, ie Pectoral Sandpiper and at the sewage farm [Firecrest, wintering Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps etc.].
Llanelli Wetlands Centre WWT
The WWT Llanelli (Penclacwydd) Reserve is on the A484, 2 1/2 miles West of Loughor Bridge, on the eastern edge of Llanelli. You have, of course, to pay to get in [unless you are a member]. Wales' largest flock of Little Egrets [50 - Aug 2000]. All the usual waders, including a resident non-breeding flock of Black-tailed Godwit; large winter flocks of Pintail, Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal, etc.; Brent [Db], the only reliable migrant geese and very few migrant swans; all the common warblers breed; SE and LE owls in winter; L Grebe, C Redshank, Lapwing, Greylag, C Sandpiper, Shelduck, etc., breed [L-r Plover?]. Rarities regular though sporadic [2000: Grt White Egret, American Wigeon, B-w Teal, etc.]. Peregrines ever present; Hen Harriers and Merlin regular.
Pendine is ten miles SW of St Clears, on the A4066 [via Dylan's Laugharne]. One of the best spots for observing [late October to mid March] the 15,000+ Common Scoters in Carmarthen Bay. A fair smattering of Velvet's is ever present; also small flocks of Red-throated Divers, with Great Northern and Black-throated Divers's regularly occurring [The Sands were once famous for the breaking of world land speed records!].
Maesteg, Capel Selon, Drefach, Llanelli SA14 7BS
01269 831496 or 07748 970124
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 312
County Bird - Red Kite Milvus milvus
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Carmarthenshire Bird Club - Clwb Adar Sir Gaerfyrddin
The Carmarthenshire Bird Club exists to promote the observation, study and recording of the wild birds and wild-bird populations of Carmarthenshire. The club also organises meetings for its members which include field trips and talks on wildlife topics.
The Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales
The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales is one of 47 Wildlife Trusts across the UK. We are the fourth largest in area, covering from Cardiff and Caerphilly in the east to Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire in the west, and include 3 of the West Wales islands amongst our 90 or so nature reserves - Nature Centre, Parc Slip, Fountain Road, Tondu, Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan CF32 0EH.
LNR Ashpits Pond and Pwll Lagoon
Part of the Millennium Coastal Park. Ashpits Pond is an important area for breeding wetland birds and the area of reed surrounding the pond provides shelter for breeding and resting birds. Mute Swan, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Coot and Moorhen all breed here. Reed and Sedge Warbler and Reed Bunting breed in the reed beds, whilst Cetti's and Grasshopper Warblers are found in the willow carr. Water Rail, Gadwall and Pochard occur in winter. Pwll Lagoon forms a wet woodland and fen community particularly rich in plant life.
LNR Pembrey Burrows & Saltings
The area is good for Snipe and Jack Snipe and wintering Hen Harrier, Merlin and occasional Short-eared Owls. Huge Swallow roost in reed-bed in late summer. Rarities have included Yellow-browed Warbler. It is renowned for its plant diversity and is home to many rarities including Dune Pansy, Dune Gentian, Sand Catchfly, Bloody Cranesbill, Fragrant Evening Primrose and Kidney Vetch. The insect life that relies on this plant diversity is also unique and you can find the Small Blue and Marbled White butterfly as well as many species of solitary bee and wasp such as the Brown-banded Carder Bee.
NNR Carmel Woods
This NNR is home to the only turlough (seasonal lake) in Britain, but it has many other habitats and wildlife to enjoy, too. Apart from broad-leaved woodland, Carmel Woods has heathland, bog, a limestone quarry, caves and species-rich grassland. Carmel comprises a mosaic of habitats with a distinct patchwork pattern of woodland blocks, with the intervening grassland rides kept open by grazing animals. Surrounding this grassland-woodland mosaic are a number of unimproved and semi-improved hay meadows which are also grazed after the hay crop is taken each summer. Parts of the reserve, particularly the western Pwll Edrychiad block, are covered in large areas of freely-draining species-rich neutral grassland which host different species including Common Knapweed, Bird’s-foot Trefoil and Devil’s-bit Scabious. The lower parts of this block also host marshy grassland and some of the upper limestone ridge is covered in a scrubby layer of Bracken and Gorse, which provides good habitat for reptiles. Dormice have been discovered in the south western corner of the reserve in the well connected network of wooded patches and hedgerows. A wide range of birds use the varied habitats including Willow Tit, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker and many more.
NRW Black Covert
Black Covert is a peaceful spot by the River Ystwyth which flows through this steep sided valley on its way to Aberystwyth. The Ystwyth Valley woodlands are a mixture of broadleaf and conifer mixes which gives good habitat for Red Kite.
NRW Brechfa Forest
Brechfa Forest covers some 6500 hectares and is looked after by Natural Resources Wales for the benefit of people, wildlife and timber production. Red Kite, Sparrowhawks, Peregrine, Goshawk, Buzzards, Merlins, Kestrels, Ravens, Curlews, WoodCock, Nightjar, Cuckoos, Barn owls, Little Owls, Woodpeckers (all 3), Goldcrest, Warblers, Crossbills…
Come to Carmarthenshire and enjoy a walk through enchanting alder and oak woodland, past fast-flowing and spectacular rivers. Set in the heart of glorious mid-Wales, the Gwenffrwd-Dinas reserve is home to all manner of birdlife including red kites, pied flycatchers, redstarts, common sandpipers, dippers and grey wagtails.
WTSWW Coed Wern Ddu
Wern Ddu is a long strip of mature Oak woodland with a stream running the length of the site. Sessile Oak predominates with Wych Elm, and Downy Birch. A variety of bryophytes and ferns occur, including the rare moss Cephaloziella turneri. This woodland area provides a good habitat for birds, and several species of butterfly and moth, particularly during the late summer months.
WTSWW Cors Goch
Cors Goch is part of a lowland raised mire and is one of the last six large raised bogs in Wales. Alder carr and Downy Birch make up most of the southern boundary.
WTSWW Dynefor Castle Woods
Castle Woods is comprised of two areas of ancient semi-natural woodland with veteran trees on the steep south and west-facing slope that overlooks the River Tywi. Pendunculate Oak is interspersed with Ash, Beech and Sycamore, with 45% of the Elm having been lost to disease. The understory is comprised of Holly, Hazel, Elder, and Spindle. Breeding birds include Great Spotted, Green and rarely Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Redstart, Pied and Spotted Flycatcher. Resident birds of prey include Sparrowhawk, Buzzard and Tawny Owl. The floodplain grassland below the wood holds numbers of roosting wildfowl including Goosander, Mallard, Pochard, Shoveler, Teal, Tufted Duck with Pintail, Whooper Swan and Wigeon, in winter, and occasional Little and Great White Egrets.
WTSWW Ffrwd Farm Mire
Ffrwd Farm Mire lies 4 m above sea level inland from the extensive Tywyn and Pembrey sand dune complex. It is the least disturbed remnant of the fenland, which once stretched from Kidwelly to Burry Port. The open water habitats support a varied dragonfly population including the Hairy Dragonfly (5-6) and Variable Damselfly (6-7). The reed-bed supports breeding Cetti's, Reed and Sedge Warbler with Mallard, and Water Rail. The surrounding scrub and willow carr has Willow and Grasshopper Warbler, Lesser and Common Whitethroat, Willow Tit, also Water Rail. Winter brings Snipe and Teal, with rare visits from Bittern and Marsh Harrier. Water Vole is regular here.
WTSWW Nant Melin
The reserve is made up of 2.4 ha of deciduous woodland and about 0.5 ha of rough pasture in the upper Tywi catchment. The woodland lies on the steep Nant Melin valley side, the wet pasture above lying on a much gentler slope. The breeding birds include Cuckoo, Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Tawny Owl and Wood Warbler.
WTSWW Poor Man’s Wood (Gallt y Tlodion)
Poor Man’s Wood is a Sessile Oak wood with a Hazel understorey, on a hillside with a northerly aspect. The canopy also includes Rowan, Holly, Crab Apple, Sallow, Ash, and Elder, with a few Beech at the northwest end. There is a small quantity of Wild Service trees, a local species. The breeding birds are typical of this upland Oak woodland habitat; Blackcap, Buzzard, Nuthatch, Pied Flycatcher, and Wood Warbler, with both Great and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker having been seen. Buzzards also nest in the wood and mammals include Badger.
WTSWW Rhos Cefn Bryn
Rhos Cefn Bryn consists of unimproved acid grassland. This type of grassland is generally confined to west Wales and is a feature associated with Carmarthenshire and south Ceredigion. Such habitats are becoming scarcer resulting in the loss of important areas for many specialised species of birds, reptiles and insects. The reserve supports a thriving population of the endangered and declining Marsh Fritillary butterfly, which can be seen from May until September and the caterpillars can be found in larval webs most conspicuous during September and October. Ground nesting birds such as Meadow Pipit and Snipe feed on the plentiful supply of insects in the grassland, and Reed Bunting can be seen feeding amongst the scrub and Willow carr.
WWT Llanelli Wetland Centre
Llanelli Wetland Centre is a 450 acre mosaic of lakes, scrapes, pools, streams and lagoons adjoining the salt marshes and shore of the scenic Burry Inlet. The range of habitats makes the site a refuge for many different plants and animals with tens of thousands of migratory birds visiting every year. The lagoons nearest to the estuary are where birds gather in the greatest abundance, including black-tailed godwits, greenshank, curlew, pintail, shelduck, shoveler, snipe and teal. Little egrets – rarely seen in Wales before the centre opened - are regulars, too, and in ever-rising numbers.
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Places to Stay
A cottage holiday to remember is assured at our holiday cottage near Newcastle Emlyn, Carmarthenshire in south west Wales. The holiday cottage at Blaenfforest stands in a private and secluded situation, in a perfect holiday location convenient for Ceredigion and Cardigan Bay, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. The original Welsh stone cottage is surrounded by ten acres of idyllic countryside, rich with wildlife. There are shops, pubs and restaurants within 2 miles…