As mentioned previously, I now have a blog on the South Wales Evening Post website from which I hope to encourage people who might not necessarily go searching for wildlife information to get out into the great outdoors. This is my first in a series of guides to the local area, and should be appearing on the Evening Post website in the next couple of days. Enjoy.
This post will start off a series of posts for the coming weeks where I aim to detail and explore some of the best places to go and view wildlife in the surrounding area. I will be covering not only those places that are relatively well known, but also those more secretive areas that can hold even greater delights.
To begin with I thought I’d take a look at the first site that I ever visited after moving to Swansea. This is the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve at Llanelli, which is also known as the National Wetland Centre Wales. Covering some 66 hectares in total and bordering the nationally important salt marshes of the Burry Inlet, the reserve is a haven for wildlife of all kinds and includes various managed habitats to cater for a wide variety of species.
At key points large and comfortable hides are provided to allow excellent viewing opportunities without creating any disturbance. The largest of the hides is the British Steel Hide which overlooks the Burry Inlet itself. During winter huge flocks of Widgeon and Greylag Geese gather on the surrounding water, whilst Little Grebes, Shellduck, Gadwall, Redshank and Little Egrets are all year visitors. This hide has also delivered some superb rarities over the last few months including Spoonbill, Cattle Egret, Spotted Redshank and Curlew Sandpiper. The observatory hide at the centre of the reserve has large glass windows that again allow excellent views. Regular feedings take place by a warden in front of this hide bringing the gathered Pochard, Tufted Duck and the resident family of Whooper Swans even closer. If you are very lucky you may also catch a glimpse of one of the resident Otters on the water here, or at one of the other pools. The best chance to see them is very early in the morning before the crowds have had chance to scare them into hiding.
For the millennium celebrations the reserve was extended dramatically to create the Millennium Wetlands, a large area of reed beds and pools, the centre piece of which is the Heron Wing Hide. At this time of year this is a favourite site for several hundred Black Tailed Godwits. Throughout the year you stand an excellent chance of seeing waders including Snipe and Greenshank, as well as Mediterranean Gulls and Cormorants. This is another favoured site of those elusive Otters, and has been known to hold a Bittern or two in the past. I have never had the chance to see one for myself here, but I know people that have. I have also seen Grass Snakes enjoying a swim across the water, and you can never rule out a passing raptor or even an Owl. Reed Buntings and Chettis Warblers also favour this area.
Away from the hides the centre holds 600 captive examples of some of the world’s most spectacular ducks and geese, many of which are tame enough to be fed from the hand. And of course don’t forget the Flamingos that are sure to brighten up any day. There are also vast numbers of smaller wild birds such as Bullfinch and Goldcrest that frequent the site, as well as several species of Butterfly and Dragonfly.
If you get a bit tired of walking then why not take a trip on the canoe safari to get even closer to nature, or take a bike to explore a little quicker. I have only touched the surface of what can be found here, yet there is so much more to see. I regularly record 45 species plus of birds after a couple of hours. It is also important to remember that the WWT is a vital charity, doing great work to ensure that our wetlands remain healthy and intact not only to the benefit of the wildlife that uses them, but also to our own benefit as well. And don’t think that you only need to visit in fair weather. When the cold or wet comes in the visitor numbers dwindle and you stand an even greater chance of seeing one of those elusive Otters!