Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Wild Snowdonia: Ten Top Spots for Watching Wildlife in Snowdonia

The entire Snowdonia region is rich in wildlife; indeed, the Snowdonia National Park boasts more National Nature Reserves than any other UK National Park.
Gorse lines many of Snowdonia's roads and paths, providing an important habitat for birds and insects; birds of prey are often to be seen performing their aerial acrobatics overhead; and the 200-mile coastline is home to a huge variety of wildlife, from molluscs and fish to birds and sea mammals like seals, porpoises and dolphins.
While the entire Snowdonia region is a treat for wildlife watchers, there are several spots that are extra-special, and ideal for getting up close and personal with Snowdonia's wildlife; here are ten of our favourites.
1. Gwaith Powdwr Nature Reserve
At Penrhyndeudraeth, on the Dwyryd Estuary, is the Gwaith Powdwr Nature Reserve - a decommissioned explosives works, donated to the North Wales Wildlife Trust to be managed as a nature reserve. The Reserve's habitats - woodland, scrub, heathland, bare rock and open water - support a wide array of species including polecat, barn owl, the emperor dragonfly and seven species of bat.
2. Uwchmynydd
At the tip of the Llyn Peninsula is Uwchmynydd, one of the best places in Snowdonia to see the chough, a red-billed, red-legged member of the crow family whose image is the official emblem of the Llyn Peninsula. The Uwchmynydd area is a great place for spotting porpoises, dolphins and seals down in the sea below, and the headland at Braich Y Pwll is the only known location on the UK mainland of the spotted rock rose. Look out, too, for peregrine falcons, kestrels and puffins.
3. Enlli (Bardsey)
Enlli, or Bardsey in English - the burial place of 20,000 saints, according to tradition - is an island off the tip of the Llyn Peninsula where as well as discovering the island's long and fascinating history, you'll see a rich variety of seabirds, including kittiwakes, razorbills and the Manx shearwater. There are also rare species of plant on Enlli, including the rare ciliate strap lichen, golden hair lichen and rock sea lavender. Boat trips to Enlli depart from Aberdaron and Pwllheli - keep an eye out, during the trip, for porpoises, dolphins and grey seals.
4. Glaslyn Osprey Project
The RSPB's Glaslyn Osprey Project at Pont Croesor is a wonderful wildlife attraction for the whole family, where you'll be able to watch ospreys fishing and rearing their young. There's a large hide and three widescreen plasma monitors bringing you intimate views of the family life direct from the nest.
5. Shell Island
As its name suggests, Shell Island is a great place to find shells; there are around 200 varieties to be found on the beaches at Shell Island, including scallops and cowries. But it's also a great place to see wild flowers and plants, like wild strawberries and sea thrift.
6. Snowdon
The highest mountain in England and Wales, Snowdon is home to all sorts of fascinating wildlife. As well as the birds, which include skylarks, meadow pipits and peregrine falcons, the plant life on Snowdon is also very interesting. Look out for Arctic alpine plants, and the rare Snowdon lily.
7. Cors Geirch
Cors Geirch is an extensive wetland site between Nefyn and Pwllheli on the Llyn Peninsula. The wetland reserve is an important habitat for rare plants and invertebrates, notably the narrow-leaved marsh orchid and marsh fritillary butterfly, and is one of just a few rich fen sites in North Wales outside of eastern Anglesey.
8. Cwm Idwal
Wales' first National Nature Reserve, Cwm Idwal received its designation in 1954 and forms part of the Glydeiriau and Cwm Idwal Site of Special Scientific Interest. The cwm is home to several species of Arctic alpines and the Snowdon lily, ring ouzels and peregrine falcons, rare beetles and herds of feral goats.
9. Craig-yr-Aderyn
Speaking of feral goats, you may also see them at Craig-yr-Aderyn, also known as Bird Rock. Inland from Tywyn, Craig-yr-Aderyn sits in a valley that was once under the sea in Cardigan Bay. Although the sea is now miles away, Craig-yr-Aderyn is a great place to spot seabirds, including cormorants that still nest on this former sea cliff (this is one of only two inland cormorant nesting sites in Britain). Look out too for choughs, which also breed and roost here.
10. Coed-y-Brenin
We've talked about Coed-y-Brenin before, in its capacity as a top mountain biking venue. But the forests here are also great for a nature ramble. Coed-y-Brenin's wildlife includes deer, black grouse, red kite, pine marten and insects such as the pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly. Coed-y-Brenin's rivers contain the very rare pearl mussel - and if you're very lucky, you may even see flecks of Welsh gold.

About the Author

Steven Jones is Senior Tourism Services Officer at Cyngor Gwynedd Council, a Welsh local authority whose not-for-profit Snowdonia Mountains and Coast website provides visitors to Snowdonia with a wealth of useful information about the region. Visitors to the website can also find out more about things to do in Snowdonia.

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