Bird Watching (UK) - - Go Birding - DAVID SAUN­DERS

ACAUSE OF some con­fu­sion is the fact there are two rivers called Afon Honddu in Bre­con­shire, one in the east of the county, in the Vale of Ewyas, the other, having risen on the high ground of the Mynydd Epynt, flow­ing south­wards to join the River Usk at Bre­con, fringed at the last of its 11-mile jour­ney by the wood­lands of Pri­ory Groves. De­fend­ing the rivers’ con­flu­ence is Bre­con Castle, orig­i­nally built by the Nor­man knight Bernard de Neuf­marche at the end of the 11th Cen­tury af­ter de­feat­ing the Welsh rulers of South Wales, and now a ho­tel and res­tau­rant, so worth bear­ing in mind when plan­ning your visit. A town quickly fol­lowed and on the higher ground, im­me­di­ately over­look­ing the Afon Honddu, Bernard founded a church and pri­ory, which in the Mid­dle Ages was famed for its great golden cross, though like much else it was de­stroyed dur­ing the Dis­so­lu­tion of the Monas­ter­ies. Re­newal be­gan in the mid 19th Cen­tury, re­sult­ing in the fine cathe­dral seen to­day, which is al­ways worth a visit and in­cludes the en­joy­ment of watch­ing Black­birds on the sur­round­ing lawns, and even a for­ag­ing Green Wood­pecker. Ex­tend­ing north from the Cathe­dral and cling­ing to the steep slopes above the Afon Honddu are the Pri­ory Groves. Many a monk in me­dieval times would have fol­lowed the foot­path and one hopes ap­pre­ci­ated the birds en­coun­tered. Birds of the river, like Com­mon Sand­piper, King­fisher, Dip­per and Grey Wag­tail can be found. In the wood­lands are sum­mer vis­i­tors, like Black­cap and Chif­fchaff, and the res­i­dents in­clude Gold­crest, Nuthatch and Treecreeper.

1A short dis­tance from the town cen­tre is a bridge over the Afon Honddu on which to linger and hope­fully enjoy sight­ings of Com­mon Sand­piper, Dip­per, Grey Wag­tail and King­fisher.

2Climb the hill, and note the Pri­ory Well, a sa­cred spring, be­fore tak­ing the wood­land foot­path. This is Tawny Owl ter­ri­tory, though a late evening visit will be nec­es­sary to hear or per­haps glimpse it. The bats at such a time will in­clude both Dauben­ton’s and Pip­istrelle.

3Our most wide­spread mi­grant war­bler, the Wil­low War­bler, is joined by other sum­mer vis­i­tors to the wood­lands, in­clud­ing Chif­fchaff, Black­cap and Gar­den War­bler. Great Spot­ted Wood­pecker, Jay, Mis­tle Thrush, Nuthatch and Treecreeper are also res­i­dent.

Birds of prey in the wood­lands or over­head should be Buz­zard, Red Kite and Spar­rowhawk while one to look out for in the county is the Hobby.

4Sit qui­etly above the river­bank and, with pa­tience, you may well enjoy a sight­ing of Ot­ters

Grey Wag­tail Dip­per

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