Are you potty about Puffins? Do you know your Red Squirrel from your Grey Squirrel? Ever seen a murmuration at the Welsh Wildlife Centre? To celebrate the New Year and Visit Wales’ 2019 year of discovery, The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales have listed our top 10 wildlife experiences for you to discover this year.
1. A Wild Night
Book an over-night stay on Skomer and/or Skokholm Island for an unforgettable experience. Witness half of the world’s population of Manx Shearwaters as they swoop into their burrows under the cover of darkness, avoiding predators. August and September is prime seal pupping season on Skomer and their haunting calls can be heard around the island. Seals can be seen all around Pembrokeshire’s rocky and twisted coastline. But only on Skomer Island will you hear them sing. Their melancholic siren songs travel far and wide. Up to two hundred seals gather to moult at North Haven, entertaining visitors with their squabbles during the day, and haunting their night time walks.
2. Tree Top Hide
Take a deep breath and scale the heights of the beautiful ancient green Oak tree that guards The Welsh Wildlife Centre. Relive your childhood, and venture into the canopy to discover the elusive purple hairstreak butterfly. With multiple hides, explorer backpack hire and amazing events help at the centre there’s plenty for everyone to do. There are a number of wild trails around the reserve and a lovely cafe and shop inside the centre where you can unwind after a day of wildness.
3. Reptile Ramble
Over the summer months, join Wildlife Trust staff at Parc Slip Nature Reserve in Bridgend on a reptile ramble through the wildflower meadows. Experience the wonderful sight of a Grass snake or a Common lizard in its natural habitat.
Join us for the survey of the reptiles and amphibians where we will be going out to survey the reptile refugia and other likely reptile habitats. You will be able to enter study areas of the reserve that are usually closed to the public. Everyone is welcome and no prior knowledge is needed- just an interest in wildlife! As we hope to get up close to these amazing animals in their natural habitat, a camera is recommended. Keep an eye on our events page for reptile ramble events near you.
4. Flutter away
In the mid-summer sun the paths at Parc Slip and Teifi Marshes are alive with colour and the air is full of beautiful butterflies, buzzing bees, hawking dragonflies and fairylike damselflies. Wander along the paths through the wildflowers and see if you can spot the tiny Small blue on the Kidney vetch, or the impressive Brimstone, with its leaf-like appearance.
5. Age, Weight and Height Please!
In August, accompany the Wardens on Skokholm Island as they measure and weigh the rarely seen (and incredibly cute) Storm Petrel and Manx Shearwater chicks. Learn about their amazing instinct, predators and incredible journey once they leave the safety of the burrow.
Lying in the Celtic Sea two miles off the south west Pembrokeshire coast, Skokholm has its own charm and sense of remoteness with tall, sandstone cliffs and a wild landscape.
6. The Cardigan Bay Big 3!
Get up close to the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre’s Big 3; Harbour Porpoise, Bottlenose Dolphins and Atlantic Grey Seals, for an adventure you’ll never forget. Go on a journey with Dolphin Survey Boat Trips to see the amazing Welsh coastline and wonderful wildlife in action. Witness Dolphins, Porpoises and Seals in their natural environment. Contribute towards our vital conservation work or just sit back and soak it all in.
In late autumn, starlings flock together in massive numbers and can be seen swooping and swirling in their thousands before going down to roost in the reed bed at the Teifi Marshes. It is a sight not to be missed!
8. Red Squirrels
Until the early 1960s, the red squirrel was a common sight across the country; an integral part of the Welsh landscape. Sadly, since the grey squirrel colonised these lands, a misconceived introduction of the Victorian era, red squirrels have largely vanished from Wales. We now have only a little over a thousand red squirrels hanging on in Wales, in Anglesey, in the north east of the country, and here in mid Wales.
The red squirrels in mid Wales are one of only three significant populations in the whole of Wales. Genetic research seems to support the theory that the mid Wales red squirrel population is the remnant of a greater Welsh population.
So why not take a walk around the area centred round Llyn Brianne reservoir, bordered by Pontrhydfendigaid, Tregaron, Lampeter, Llandovery and Llanwrtyd Wells which was approved as our focal sight for conservation, and if you see any Red Squirrels report your sightings through the MWRSP website or directly to Becky on 07972 201202.
9. Waterfall Wonders
Melincwrt Waterfall is nestled amongst a mature upland Oak woodland which ascends steeply from the narrow gorge of the Melincourt Brook. Sessile Oak is interspersed with gnarled Silver Birch, Small-leaved Lime, Wild Cherry, Rowan and Crab Apple, whilst Alder dominates the stream bank.
The woodland floor is carpeted with Bluebell, with Enchanter’s Nightshade taking over later in the year. Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage and Tutsan are confined to the wet flushes.
The spectacular eighty feet high waterfall on a tributary of the Neath River was sketched by Turner in 1794.
Due to the local humid atmosphere in this narrow valley, twenty species of ferns have been recorded from the reserve including Green Spleenwort, Brittle Bladder-fern, Hay-scented Buckler-fern, and Wilson’s Filmy Fern, and bryophytes are well represented.
The breeding bird assemblage, typical of this habitat, includes Redstart, Wood Warbler, and Pied Flycatcher, with Dipper and Grey Wagtail regularly seen along the stream at all times of the year.
It is a beautiful place for a wild walk any time of year!
10. Dippers in Taf Fechan
The Taf Fechan Nature Reserve comprises about 2.5 km of river with steep valley sides of Carboniferous limestone. The river has eroded the limestone into a narrow gorge in the centre of the site. A mosaic of deciduous woodland on the slopes with a canopy of Beech, Birch and Ash, gives way to Alder and Grey Willow closer to the river, together with Hawthorn scrub, calcareous grassland, heathland, wet flushes, and tufa formations. The valley is one of the best recorded sites for bryophytes in Glamorgan.
The area of grazed grassland to the south on the east bank of the river is particularly rich in flowers such as Wild Thyme, Common Spotted Orchid, Rough Hawkbit and Mouse-ear Hawkweed. On the western bank, the limestone is overlain by acidic soils where heathland and Birch woodland is developing, and Bracken, Heather and Small Scabious occur.
The woodland attracts a variety of birds such as Tawny Owl, Buzzard, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Nuthatch, and Treecreeper, while Dipper and Grey Wagtail are frequently seen, and breed, on the river Taff Fechan. Dippers can be seen swooping through the gorge along the river. Keep your eyes peeled for flashes of their white chests.
Share your experiences with us on social media so we can see what wild things you get up to in 2019!