Birding on the slopes of Mynydd Twyn-Glas

Mynydd Twyn-Glas to the left where the mast can be seen , Cwm Lickey sits between the other mountain called Twyn Calch on the right.

The view from the mountain slopes of Mynydd Twyn-Glas

During the lockdown I have been spending quite a lot of my spare time on the weekends walking the Penyrheol Common Land and the slopes of Mynydd Twyn-Glas in Pontypool. I have been doing some research to see if I can find out what Mynydd Twyn-Glas actually means in English. My best guess at the translation would be something like "Blue Hill Mountain". I would be really grateful if any welsh speaking readers could let me know. The one thing I have noticed that people have been doing - including myself is referring to the "mountain" as Mynydd Maen ("Stoney Mountain") but in fact that is incorrect,  there are actually four mountains making up the hill range - Mynydd Maen to the left and mostly above Cwmbran, Mynydd Twyn-Glas that sits above Griffithstown, Sebastapol and Cwmysncoy and then Mynydd Lllwyd ( Grey Mountain)  which lies to the right of Twyn-Glas and borders Hafodyrynys and then finally above Upper Race Twyn Calch ( Lime Hill).

The whole area has a lot of history of iron ore quarrying and coal mining using a type of open cast known as scouring. The locality also has a history of Brick Working. There used to be three reservoirs on the mountainside near the Cwm Lickey valley that is nestled on the eastern slopes of the mountain. There is only one reservoir left now and its known a Cwm Lickey Pond. The two other reservoirs fell into disuse. The largest Penyrheol has not been used since the 1980's , the water has completely vanished and instead there is a wood in its place and its all fenced off with black metal railings. The third reservoir used to lie near Cwm Lickey Pond and has now dried up. In its place there is now a bog with cotton grass growing in it. There is a lot more you can read  from where I reference this information I have used in the blog - I found this great Cwm Lickey walk guide  published by Torfaen Borough Council. Its free and available to download and worth a read.

Cwm Lickey Pond.

The area is mainly common land that is used for sheep and cattle to graze on. Vast areas of it are covered in gorse and heathland habitat with small pockets of woodland and later in the year large swathes of bracken.

There are numerous paths to walk all over the mountain and even when it gets a little busy with walkers, runners, mountain bikers and off roaders there is always a lot of space where I can keep to myself and enjoy the views and wildlife.

A view looking across the gorse land.

The gorse is a haven for breeding birds in the spring and summer. I have never seen so many Stonechats. They have been turning up all over the mountain not just in the gorse covered areas. You will find them up on the plateau of the mountain among the heather and whinberry bushes.

Using a little fieldcraft I was able to get close to a pair of them that were feeding chicks during one of my visits. Its interesting to see what insects they have been catching. They seemed to have a preference for chaffer like beetles and grasshoppers.

A male Stonechat with a beakful.

Another species that was also taking advantage of the protection of the thorny gorse were Willow Warblers. They are apparently the UK's most numerous species of migrating warbler. They were very accommodating to photograph. They had a preference for catching Crane flies to feed their chicks.

Willow Warbler

One of the hardest species to photograph for me have been Linnets and Lesser Redpolls. I have observed them often in the gorse scrub but they are not easy to get close to. The males of both species are particularly colourful. 

A very brightly coloured Lesser Redpoll

A male Linnet

I was pleased to find a pair of Reed Buntings in a thicket of ferns not far from the main gorse spreads.
They do not seem to be that common up the mountain.

I have not seen any Whinchats despite spending quite a bit of time looking all over the slopes. In the past I am sure I had a few sightings of this species that is becoming rarer all the time.

So, I have a updated species list to post for this area -

  • Stonechat
  • Linnet
  • Lesser Redpoll
  • Goldfinch
  • Bull Finch
  • Dunnock
  • Blackbird
  • Song Thrush
  • Jackdaw
  • Carrion Crow
  • Magpie
  • Raven
  • Collared Dove
  • Woodpigeon
  • Willow Warbler
  • Meadow Pipit
  • Skylark
  • Wheatear
  • Reed Bunting
  • Herring Gull
  • Lesser Black Backed Gull
  • Buzzard
  • Cuckoo
  • Robin
  • Starling
  • House Martin
  • Swallow
  • Pied Wagtail
  • House Sparrow
  • Great Tit
  • Buzzard
  • Wren
  • Chaffinch
  • Chiff Chaff


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