Wildlife watching in Snowdonia is great fun as there are so many diverse habitats and species to study. Bird watching in Snowdonia is particularly good – there’s so much to see, birders understandably ‘flock’ to the area!
If you’re interested in birds – all wildlife, for that matter – Snowdonia is the ideal place to visit. The beautiful and plentiful habitats of coast, mountains, woodlands and hedgerows offer many opportunities to study the varied and fascinating wildlife and bird life of the region.
All over Snowdonia, wherever you are, you’ll see a wonderful variety of birds. Along the coast oystercatchers are a delight to watch. Buzzards are plentiful, especially over farmland. Owls can often be heard calling on quiet nights. And in gardens throughout the region, a wonderful array of finches, tits and other garden birds – both common and uncommon – bring delight to all who watch them.
But some places are decidedly better than others for bird watching – particularly if you’re keen to spot specific species like ospreys and choughs – so here are five excellent spots for observing birds in Snowdonia.
Dyfi Osprey Project
The Dyfi Osprey Project (DOP) at Machynlleth does fantastic osprey conservation work. The project, run by the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust, is based at Cors Dyfi (Dyfi Bog), a nature reserve that is teeming with wildlife all year round.
The ospreys are usually in residence between April and September, and in 2011 they bred on the reserve for the first time. These magnificent birds are highly skilled at catching fish, which they bring back to the nest to share with their chicks.
With over 12,000 fans, the DOP Facebook page is one of the best you’ll find on the social networking site; it’s very well-run – like the project’s website – and is very engaging, with plenty going on every day. The page has a very strong community of fans, who join in every little drama (like the recent disappearance of a newly-fledged chick, Cerist – fans and supporters joined the search party and the bird returned to the nest, safe and well, over 50 hours after disappearing).
As well as the ospreys there’s plenty of other wildlife to see at the reserve, including lizards, nightjars, grasshoppers and even dormice and otters if you’re lucky.
If you can’t visit the DOP in person, you can watch the birds on their nest via high definition live streaming at the Dyfi Osprey Project website. It’s pretty addictive though – don’t start watching if you have other things you should be doing, as you’ll find it’s pretty hard to tear yourself away from the live footage!
Glaslyn Osprey Project
Like the DOP, the Glaslyn Osprey Project exists to protect and observe local ospreys. The Glaslyn Osprey Project is based at Pont Croesor, close to Porthmadog, and is part of ‘Aren’t Welsh Birds Brilliant!’ – a partnership between RSPB Cymru, Forestry Commission Wales and the Countryside Council for Wales.
The large hide at the Glaslyn Osprey Project has three widescreen plasma monitors so you can watch the nests, as well as treasure hunts for children, a picnic area with tables and plenty of other wildlife to watch – including over a hundred whooper swans that can be seen feeding in nearby fields.
But Bardsey is also a breeding ground for red-billed chough and Manx shearwater, and the seabird colony on the east side of the island’s mountain supports kittiwakes, storm petrels, razorbills and guillemots. There are also oystercatchers, wheatears, little owls and long-eared owls.
The Bardsey Bird Observatory will be the highlight of any trip to this part of Snowdonia for bird watching enthusiasts – why not stay the night? There’s accommodation on hand at the observatory (this needs to be pre-booked), and although the facilities are a little on the ‘basic’ side – for example, there’s only electricity between 7pm and 10pm every evening – it’s definitely an experience that bird and wildlife watchers won’t want to miss.
Gwaith Powdwr Nature Reserve is another place to watch wildlife of all sorts – not just birds. But the bird life at the Reserve is very varied and interesting, so if you’re a fan of birds it’s well worth a visit.
In the summer, look out for linnet, stonechat and nightjar. Green woodpeckers can also be seen at Gwaith Powdwr, as can nuthatch, woodcock and treecreeper.
Other wildlife you might see at Gwaith Powdwr includes bats, otters and shelduck, newts, dragonflies and a fascinating array of plants including wild strawberries.
Uwchmynydd is one of the best places in Snowdonia to see the chough, a member of the crow family that’s the official emblem of the Llyn Peninsula. This red-billed, red-legged bird can be a little shy, so you’ll need to be patient and keep quiet and still – but with a bit of luck and perseverance you will hopefully see one at this wonderful beauty spot.
This area is popular with wildlife watchers because aside from the choughs and other birds (including peregrine falcons, kestrels and puffins) it’s also a good place for watching dolphins, porpoises and seals. Keep an eye out for adders too.