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The North-East Wales patch


Biological recording within the British Isles has traditionally been carried out on the basis of Watsonian Vice-counties. These are a geographical basis for recording which has been in use since 1852 and is maintained to ensure consistency of recording over time. The North-East Wales patch covers the Vice-counties of Denbighshire (VC 50) and Flintshire (VC 51). See Figure 1, below, which shows marked the majority of the 10km squares in the area. This area is broadly similar to that covered by the unitary authorities of Denbighshire, Flintshire, Wrexham and Conwy east of the Afon Conwy (see Figure 3). Also included is a very small part of Powys just north of the Afon Tanat. See Figure 2, below.



The Clwyd Bird Recording Group (CBRG) was formed in 1989 but Clwyd ceased to be in 1996 when local government reorganisation brought in the current unitary authorities. Within Wales, the Welsh Ornithological Society encourages the use of the Vice County boundaries that had been in use for over one hundred years prior to 1974, when Clwyd was formed.

However, since I took over as the County Recorder I have become aware of several issues about boundaries that were not known, or not clear, at the time when the bird report for 2003 was published. I am grateful for discussion with, and information from, David Ballance, that has helped with clarifying these issues. In the report for 2004-2006 there are three maps to clarify the boundary issues that are reproduced here: firstly, the Vice Counties shown with rivers and major inland waters included to give some notion of place (Figure 2) and a map showing the current Unitary Authority boundaries (Figure 3).

Figure 1: Map of NE Wales - Vice counties

When I took over the role I used an Ordnance Survey map (Sheet 107, printed 1962) for my knowledge of the northern boundary between VC49, Caernarfon, and VC50, Denbighshire. This showed a boundary that came north up the western bank of the Afon Conwy to a point near Benarth Hall, then a distinct turn to just north of east across the estuary and following the line of a stream entering the estuary at about SH803772. The boundary then gently curved north to the coast in the middle of Penrhyn Bay. After taking over the role, I found that research on behalf of the National Biodiversity Network, showed that the boundary goes north up the western bank of the Afon Conwy, past Benarth Hall to the level of the railway bridge, then east on what is now the line of the A55 dual carriageway. It then follows the line of the previously understood boundary until just south of Penrhyn Bay when it veers to the east passing north of Llandrillo-yn-Rhos, but south of Rhos-on-Sea, reaching the sea to the north west of the Colwyn Bay, approximately opposite the middle of the current breakwater. This is also shown on the map at the back of HE Forrest, 1907, The Fauna of North Wales, London: Witherby. See Figure 1 for a map of the Vice County boundaries as I understand them.

This explanation is here because of two consequent changes to the area that is our duty to report. Firstly, the positive difference means that nearly the whole of RSPB Conwy can be considered as being in VC50, Denbighshire, but the downside is that we have ‘lost’ Rhos-on-Sea and Rhos Point to VC49, Caernarfon.

The Cambrian Ornithological Society has decided no longer to record birds at RSPB Conwy, except for any records in the north-east corner (which is in Caernarfon). John Barnes agreed that the salient of Caernarfon that is east of the Afon Conwy in the area around Maenan, should be considered to be in VC50, Denbighshire, so we use the river as our joint boundary.


Figure 2: Map of NE Wales - Vice counties


Figure 3: Map of NE Wales - Unitary Authorities

Above is Figure 2, a more detailed map of North-East Wales showing Vice Counties. NB the enclaves of Flintshire around Marford and the larger one east of the Afon Dyfyrdwy (River Dee) are counted as VC Denbighshire for biological recording purposes. The brown shading shows the areas over 400m in altitude.


The Recorder for Meirionnydd, likes to include all of the Migneint in Meirionnydd, although there is the long extension of Denbighshire into that area of mountains. We have agreed to double record the area, though in reality the main source of data, currently, is from RSPB surveys. Having thought about the issue of the north-eastern corner of Meirionnydd (that takes in Bod Petrual in Clocaenog Forest), I think it would be best for me to accept any records from that area (as a part of Clwyd) but to pass on those records to the Recorder for Meirionnydd. Otherwise, we will report on records from within our VC area.

That leaves one last area of double-recording. The Recorder for Montgomeryshire (VC47) needs to keep an account of records that occur within the Unitary Authority of Powys, and its modern boundary comes to the north of the Tanat Valley, whereas the southern boundary of VC50 extends to the south of the Tanat Valley. I collect records for the VC Denbighshire and we shall report on those records, but I shall ensure that I pass on the records that are within the modern Powys boundary to the Montgomeryshire Recorder.

Above is Figure 3, a map of North-East Wales showing the post-1996 Unitary Authorities.


There is one last problem that I cannot do anything about – the western edge of the recording and reporting area for this report is inconveniently in the middle of the new county of Conwy. See Figure 3 for the Unitary Authority boundaries. This is awkward for many reasons, mainly to do with reporting on local biodiversity issues and organising surveys or projects.

For members of the public, or any birdwatchers who are not especially interested or knowledgeable of these boundary issues, the key thing is for records for North-East Wales to be sent to me. I shall pass on any that are of interest to a Recorder in a neighbouring area.

Despite all that I have said about our boundaries, above, each 1 km square is tagged with at least two different types of county within the Recorder 6 database. So, if say, a Biodiversity Officer of one of the new Unitary Authorities wanted to know about the distribution of a species in their UA, I am able to search in that way and provide such records (for bona fide purposes). 


The map, right, shows the tetrads from which I have received bird records over the years 2004 - 2012. For some sites there have been many hundreds of records, for others there has been just one record.

Acknowledgement: The maps have been produced using DMAP by Dr Alan J Morton, click to find out more.


Figure 4: Map showing tetrads with birds records

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