Our favourite places to walk to watch birds this springPublished on 1 Mar 2023 by Amy Greenwood
Our favourite places to walk to watch birds this spring…. It’s happening. It’s really happening. There is a definite whiff of spring in the air, and we’re spending more and more of our time in the great outdoors.
The first lambs of the season are starting to make an appearance, the daffodils are serving up sunshine to our grass verges, and was that really a big bumble bee we heard buzzing around the garden this morning? Slowly at first, and then all of a glorious sudden, spring is most definitely on its way in North Wales.
One of the things we love more than anything else about this time of year is seeing old friends returning to our landscapes. Yes, we do love seeing our human friends, but in this instance we mean our feathered friends. The big spring migration – the return to North Wales – has begun.
It’s a fantastic time of year to get out into our landscapes. From early spring, you can expect to see Arctic, Common, Sandwich and little terns flying around our coastline. Puffins, guillemots, razorbills and gannets all reappear at their breeding grounds on rocky cliffs or islands after spending the winter out at sea.
On shore, you might be lucky enough to see insect eaters like wheatears, chiffchaffs, sand martins and ring ouzels from early March. Swallows, willow warblers, blackcaps, redstarts, tree pipits, yellow wagtails and house martins will arrive slightly later, in April.
With all this in mind, we thought we should share some of our favourite places to walk to watch birds this spring. All of the locations we’re recommending are beautiful places we think you’ll enjoy exploring on your next holiday in North Wales. As an added bonus, you are almost guaranteed to see some beautiful bird life – as well as plenty of other wildlife – whilst you’re there.
RSPB South Stack, Anglesey
This is a must-do for anyone who loves wildlife and nature. Enjoy a close-up view onto a wonderful cliff-side nesting colony, with binoculars and telescopes provided. You’ll be able to watch guillemots, razorbills and puffins all raising their young, while live television pictures give you an even closer view of the nests! Rare choughs can also be seen on the reserve. There’s a cafe, toilets and a shop. More here.
Cemlyn Nature Reserve, Anglesey
Cemlyn is one of North Wales Wildlife Trust’s star reserves. It is valued for both its scenic qualities and its unique range of wildlife and is as popular with general visitors as it is with birdwatchers and naturalists. It includes a large lagoon, separated from the sea by a spectacular, naturally created shingle ridge. During the summer months, Cemlyn is home to one of the most important tern colonies in Wales, including Sandwich Terns and Arctic Terns. The reserve also offers some great winter bird watching opportunities. If you enjoy water sports, it’s worth knowing that it is also a great base to kayak from. More here.
RSPB Nature Reserve at Conwy
The Conwy reserve was created by the RSPB after the opening of the A55 Conwy tunnel. Shallow pools next to the estuary provide ideal feeding and roosting places for ducks and wading birds. There is a network of nature trails from the centre, leading you to watchpoints with views over the lagoons, estuary and the magnificent Conwy Castle. The wildlife changes throughout the year, with birds from Africa in spring and summer, from the Arctic and Russia in winter. Get close to bees, butterflies, dragonflies and plants throughout the summer. More here.
Ynys Hir, Machynlleth
The RSPB nature reserve at Ynys Hir near Machynlleth is a wildlife haven in the heart of Wales. With the mountains of southern Snowdonia to the north and the Cambrian mountains to the south, the reserve is stunning whichever way you look. Summer brings wading birds, such as lapwings and redshanks and some very special butterflies. Come the colder months, ducks and geese move in. There are up to seven hides available to the public as well as a visitors centre, picnic area and miles of nature trails to explore. More here.
The Dyfi and Glaslyn Ospreys
The Dyfi Osprey project has an excellent visitor centre as well as a hide and spotting telescopes, and always lots of very friendly volunteers at hand. This enthusiastic group also has a fantastic website which includes a live webcam overlooking the nest. Further north, the Glaslyn site is a mile or so to the west of Llanfrothen on the B4410. Again, friendly volunteers will gladly help you with the spotting scopes and answer any questions you may have. As you watch the ospreys, don’t forget to also take in the amazing views of Snowdonia and surrounding mountain ranges – the Glaslyn Valley offers you some of the most scenic and wildlife rich areas in Wales. More here.
Newborough Forest and Warren, Anglesey
Rolling down to Llanddwyn beach on the south west coast of Anglesey, Newborough forest is well known for its thriving red squirrel population. Less well known is that during the winter months, it becomes home to the largest raven roost on the planet. It is well-worth visiting just to watch the aerial acrobatics of these wonderful birds. In the summer, the forest is filled with the song of skylarks, meadow pipits, stonechats and blackcaps. Newborough’s grasslands and woodlands support a wide diversity of butterflies, and you will see plenty of them fluttering about. There are loads of trails and paths to explore, and the forest is a lovely place for a day out on foot or two wheels. There is an Animal Puzzle Trail for younger visitors, two family friendly cycle trails, a trim trail and a waymarked running trail. More here.
Traeth Lafan or Lafan Sands is one of the most popular locations for bird spotting in North Wales. The area runs along the North Wales coast between Llanfairfechan and Bangor. This huge expanse of mud flats can attract up to 15,000 wading birds in winter. These include curlews, oystercatchers, redshanks and the great crested grebes. The best places to view the birds include Morfa Madryn near Llanfairfechan, Morfa Aber near Abergwyngregyn, and Aber Ogwen near Penrhyn Castle just outside Bangor. More here.
Ynys Enlli – Bardsey Island – near Aberdaron
From March – October, you can take a boat trip to Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island) from nearby Porth Meudwy just outside Aberdaron. A haven for wildlife, Ynys Enlli is a beautiful National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Follow the marked paths around the island to explore the island’s abundant wildlife, including eye-catching sea birds like choughs, puffins and oystercatchers. A gorgeous mini-adventure of a day out. More here.
Coed Garth Gell in the Mawddach Valley
The nature trails through the woods of Coed Garth Gell are located within the beautiful Mawddach valley, about a mile east of Bontddu. This forgotten nature reserve is home to all three of the UK’s woodpeckers as well as Redstarts, Wood Warblers and Pied Flycatchers. Abandoned and ruined buildings bear testament to the gold mine that once thrived in this area. So keep an eye out for anything yellow that catches the light in the river. The path up to the top of the reserve is quite a climb in places but the effort is well worth it as visitors can enjoy spectacular views across the valley towards Cadair Idris once out of the trees. More here.