Bwthyn Y Saer, Plas Farm, Cilybebyll, Pontardawe, Swansea Valley, SA8 3JQ, West Glamorgan Tel/Fax: +44 (0) 1792 864611
A Bird Watching Holiday at Bwthyn Y Saer Farm Cottage in Wales
Bwthyn Y Saer holiday cottage is ideal for those on a Birdwatching Holiday. The farm holiday cottage is situated upon the bank of the upper reaches of the River Clydach in the Swansea Valley, some five miles from Cwm Clydach RSPB Bird Sanctuary Nature Reserve.
The Swansea Valley region is a delight to birding enthusiasts and those on a walking holiday as it consists of a number of habitats in a small area - a sandy coastal strip gives way rapidly to forested valleys surrounded by high moorland. Bwthyn Y Saer holiday cottage is located on the edge of a forested valley some 8 miles from the coast. A walk to the high moorlands behind the cottage gives wonderful views of Swansea Bay and Brecon Beacons National Park.
Visitors are free to roam over 120 acres of beautiful countryside of delightful contrasts, home to a wide variety of birds from stonechats to swallows and nuthatches to buzzards. Visitors to Wales are amazed to find buzzards so common. Indeed, in some areas of Wales, buzzards reach the highest population densities in the world. Wales is also famous as being the home of the red kite, of which there are now approximately 180 breeding pairs.
The Swansea area boasts a mild climate due in measure to its proximity to the coast and the barrier against cold north winds created by the surrounding mountains.
1. Cwm Clydach RSPB Reserve
Cwm Clydach RSPB Reserve (SN 682053) is 5 miles from Bwthyn Y Saer Holiday Cottage. The kinds of wildlife you may see depending on season includes buzzard, sparrowhawk, raven, pied flycatcher, wood warbler, badger and fox. The reserve has a car park and hides.
2. Blackpill Mudflats, Swansea
Blackpill beach and mudflats (SS620900), 15 miles from Bwthyn Y Saer, is famous as the place where the
UK’s first Ring-billed Gull was found and is a must for any gull-watchers,
particularly during the winter, with a large gull roost including all the common
species - Common, Black-headed, Herring, Lesser and Greater Black-backs as well
as rarer gulls such Iceland, Glaucous, Little and Mediterranean Gulls as well
the Ring-billed Gulls. It is also an excellent spot for waders including
Oystercatchers, Grey and Ringed Plovers, Dunlin, Sanderling, Redshank, Curlew,
Whimbrel, Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits, Knot and Greenshank.
What birds will we see?
Bwthyn Y Saer Holiday Cottage is an ideal countryside base for those on a birding tour or walking holiday in the UK. The hillside farm is eight miles from the coast and contains a wide variety of habitats including an area of award winning broadleaved woodland, coniferous woodland, grassland, hedgerows and upland streams. The green pastures give way to high moorlands with superb views of Swansea Bay.
I. Around The Cottage
The River Clydach is home to a wide variety of wildlife. Bird watchers will quickly spot the Grey Wagtail, running easily over the water-washed rocks or sitting, tail wagging, on a branch over the stream to watch for passing flies. Trout swim upstream in the summer and may be seen leaping out of the water to catch flies, although frequent visits by a Grey Heron keep them on their toes. Other birds such as Blue Tits, Great Tits and Long Tailed Tits are often seen flitting impatiently from branch to branch along the river bank.
The gardens and lawns that surround the cottage are home to a number of beautiful species. This year, a pair of Greenfinch are nesting in a dwarf conifer outside the cottage. Chaffinch are numerous and the brief accelerating song of the male will become very familiar to visitors to the holiday cottage as will the delightful sight of a Goldfinch. A charm of goldfinches, flitting through the swaying thistleheads, filling the air with liquid twittering, is an enchanting sight. Other birds spotted around the cottage include Swallows, Swifts, Coal Tits, Nuthatches, a Green Woodpecker and on some evenings, a Tawny Owl. At twilight you may see the jerky fluttering of a Pipistrelle Bat as it catches insects by moonlight over the River, making short sorties from a roost in the farmhouse loft.
Mynnydd March Hywel mountain provides a striking backdrop to the cottage. Buzzards are often seen from the cottage patio, soaring over the fields and woods on their broad rounded wings. They usually appear singly or in a pair but sometimes as many as five or six may be seen, circling, floating and spiraling higher and higher in a favourable up-draft.
II. On The Mountain
Mynydd Marchywel (Hywel's Stallion) is a broad sandstone ridge some 1371 feet high. The summit may be reached on foot in an hour, although most walkers take a lot longer as the views are so good.
"Walking to the top of the mountain was wonderful. It took us about half an hour to reach the top of Plas Farm from the holiday cottage. We rested there and enjoyed the superb views of Pontardawe and the Swansea Valley before continuing through forestry owned moorland. We soon saw a pair of Buzzards - perhaps the same pair we had seen from the cottage, soaring on almost motionless wings, wheeling around in large circles above the prehistoric stone cairns that crown the mountain. Our attention was soon captured by the lively, sustained chirruping of a Skylark, circling with fluttering wings for several minutes before finally dropping silently to earth. As we walked through the sheep grazed fields on the edge of a forestry plantation, we saw several Meadow Pipits rising from the grass and descending parachute-like on stiffly spread wings a little further away. But the best was yet to come. As we rounded an area of young conifers we saw a Cuckoo perched on a fence post, being fed by a Meadow Pipit. It is a rare sight and one we will always remember.
We continued to the summit where we found the prehistoric stone circles and enjoyed splendid views of the Bristol Channel and Swansea Bay to the South and Brecon Beacons National Park to the North. On our return journey the mountain had one treat left in store for us. As we entered the upper field of Plas Farm, we heard a harsh "tchack tchack". We soon spotted the source of the noise - a pair of Stonechats sitting on a fence and periodically fluttering down to the grass for insects. It was a splendid day of birdwatching and we cannot wait to return."[Nikki & Shep 29/05/01]
On the 8th July 2001, a pair of Red Kites were spotted flying above the cottage for the first time. As they recover in numbers, they are moving further south from their stronghold in mid Wales and we hope to see a lot more in future. Mynydd Marchywel is also home to a pair of Goshawks that breed in the forestry.
3. Kenfig Pool Nature Reserve
Kenfig Pool (SS6982) is half an hours drive from Bwthyn Y Saer farm holiday cottage. Regarded as a rarity hot spot, the pool at Kenfig covers over 30 hectares and is surrounded by reed beds and sallows. Between the pool and the sea are the sand dunes which lead down to the rocky foreshore at Sker. There are two hides.A bewildering variety of species may be spotted at the sight. Kenfig’s position on the coast means that it is a natural magnet for migrants such as Wheatears, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Sand Martins, Swallows, House Martins, Cuckoos, Reed Warblers, Sedge Warblers, Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats, Whimbrel, Blue-tailed Godwits and the elusive Grasshopper Warbler. Waders and ducks can be found on the coastal stretch or around the pool such as Manx Shearwater, Fulmar, Gannet, Common Scoter, Skuas, Petrels, Storm Petrels, Common Terns, Sandwich Terns, Black Terns , White-winged Black Terns and Caspian Terns, Garganey, Cetti’s Warbler and Aquatic Warblers. Other rarities have included Little Whimbrel (a UK first), Pied-billed Grebe, Great White Egret, Purple Heron, Penduline Tit and the Rose-coloured Starling.
Summer breeding birds include Warblers, Stonechat, Linnet,
Yellowhammer, Great Crested Grebe, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Water Rails. In
the winter you may see Divers, Grebes, Sawbills, Whooper’s,
Bewick’s Swans, Bittern, Shoveler, Goldeneye, Gadwall, Pochard,
Tufted Duck, Ruddy Duck and Smew. On the dunes, Short-eared
Owl, Merlin, Peregrine and occasionally Hen Harrier can
be found. Other birds include Kingfishers, Snipe, Jack Snipe, Golden
Plover, Starlings, Finches, Lapland Bunting, Grey Plover, Turnstone,
and Sanderling. Purple Sandpipers.
Help Us to Record Birds and other wildlife on the Farm!
We are very keen to record all the birds spotted on the farm by visitors to the holiday cottage. Having become involved in woodland restoration, hedge laying and deploying nesting boxes in recent years, we are keen to record our progress and encourage the growth of bird populations following the years of decline attributed to the intensive farming practices of the 70s and 80s.
Wildlife recorded over the years at Plas Farm include foxes, rabbits, weasels, stoats, an American mink, a grass snake, adders, bats, badgers, moles, squirrels and many more. We welcome any additions to our list! Remember to log all bird and wildlife sightings in the Bwthyn Y Saer Bird Log Book!
Please leave your messages in our GUEST BOOK
Useful Bird Watching Links
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III. The Farmyard and Paddock
The farm buildings are a haven for perhaps our best loved summer visitor, the Swallow. Having spent the winter in Africa, individual swallows return to nest in our sheds and outhouses, often making for the shed in which they were reared. The twittering song, often uttered as the bird perches on a wire outside the cottage or in a courtship chase through the farmyard, is particularly sweet and attractive. Parties of Swifts are often seen swooping gracefully in the sky above the swallows.
The farmyard is also a favourite haunt of the Pied Wagtail which may be spotted taking a short bounding flight up to the roof of the cowshed, running nimbly along, and fluttering up to take the dancing midges. Later in the year, the cowshed roof may be occupied by a flock of Starlings, displaying their extraordinary medley of whistles, squeaks and chattering noises. They add to the effect by flapping their wings as they sit, singing away.
Come evening, take a short stroll onto the paddock outside the holiday cottage and it is likely that you will see a Song Thrush hoping around amongst the mole hills looking for worms, or twittering Swallows swooping low amongst the idle cows and chirrupping House Martins chasing insects. The trees that surround the fields are often occupied by members of the crow family - the "krah" of a Crow and "chak" of a Jackdaw are often heard. Occasionally, a Pheasant will be seen wandering aimlessly and following rain, it is not unusual to spot a pair of Mallards, standing in a large puddle that forms in a slight hollow in the field.
IV. The Oak Woodland
Visitors are free to roam a six acre area of broadleaved woodland through which the River Clydach flows. In 1997 we embarked on a rhododendron clearance program within the woodland to prevent loss of habitat and ensure regeneration of the woodland. This led to a Forestry Commission Wales Award for Woodland Management as native species such as bluebells, honeysuckle, hazel and holly spread into the previously densely shaded areas of the woodland. We have placed oak benches in the bluebell woodland for walkers and are currently installing bird nesting boxes to encourage the bird population. Rare varieties of rhododendron, in varying shades of red, pink and white have been spared and may be enjoyed by May/June visitors taking a riverside walk to the woodland. We are grateful to all visitors who help us to identify new species within the woodland, be they birds, trees, wild flowers, grasses, fungi or other animals.
"Our walk to the woods began at the weir, some 20 yards from the holiday cottage. Here we spotted between ten and fifteen rainbow trout swimming in the pool below and a grey wagtail bobbing around at the top of the weir. As we continued along the river bank, we passed some enormous beech trees in which we spotted a pair of nuthatches, plucking aggressively at the moss coated branches. We then walked through a yew tree archway and past some badger sets before stopping to rest on an oak bench on the river bank to enjoy the tranquility. Within a few minutes we saw a pair of spotted flycatchers perched on a prominent dead branch, their upright stance and pale breasts looking unfamiliar at first, but a quick twisting flutter after a passing insect soon gave them away. A speckled wood butterfly fluttered past. The males occupy sun-flecks as territories, while the females fly high in the canopy, choosing from the dancing males illuminated beneath them. A squawking jay disturbed the peace temporarily and a mouse like wren captured our attention as it crept along the forest floor searching for insects. We also saw some beautiful wild flowers including red campion, birds foot trefoil and a splendid yellow flower on the river bank that we identified as yellow archangel using the nature books provided in Bwthyn Y Saer."[Richard 23/05/01].
"I was attracted in the direction of the old pond area by the unmistakable song of a chiffchaff. It was perched high above the flowering rhododendrons on a prominent dead branch belonging to a tall Sycamore tree. Having failed to locate the source of a repetitive warbling song coming from the bushes, I ventured into the woodland. A male bullfinch landed on a rotting stump some 10 feet from the path and a female blackcap moved among the branches of a sweet chestnut, hard to see amongst the growing foliage. I saw a nuthatch, a pair of spotted flycatchers, a chaffinch, a blue tit and a pair of great tits before stopping at the oak bench. I sat listening to the stream and looking into the woodland. A treecreeper spiraled its way up a big oak tree on the other side of the river. I crossed upstream and walked through the bluebells towards the Norway Spruce plantation. I stopped to watch a thrush in full song on the stone wall that bounds the woodland. On my return to the holiday cottage, I couldn't resist popping back to the old pool area. I was suprised to see and hear (for the first time) three buzzards having some sort of a disagreement before they dropped behind the trees. I have never been that close to buzzards in the wild and it was great."[Catherine 07/06/01].
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