Nature’s having a stag party in West Wales

West Wales can offer the full birth-death-marriage experience at this time of year. Baby seals are born on the beaches of Pembrokeshire, fallow deer get amorous at Margam, and… sorry to say this, but when a starling meets a peregrine falcon, there’s only one winner.  

  • A herd of deer at Margam Park
    Deer at Margam Park, Vale of Neath by HuwNeath

    The 850-acre Margam Country Park estate has loads of attractions all year round, but autumn is when the 300-strong herd of fallow deer become the star of the show.  They’re most active in October when the mating season, or ‘rut’, occurs. The bucks clash antlers with each other in sometimes vicious fights, competing for the right to breed with the does (who stand around pretending not to be that impressed). 

  • A Manderin duck seen in the WWT National Wetlands Centre in Llanelli
    A Manderin duck at the WWT Wetlands Centre, Carmarthenshire by Taracy
    You’d expect a good show at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust’s (WWT) Welsh HQ, and this wildlife hotspot on the Burry Inlet doesn’t disappoint, with 50,000 wintering waterbirds arriving each year. Highlights include the bittern, and the comical sight of too many little egrets trying to roost in the same tree. You may also spot all five native species of owl.
  • Dinefwr Castle seen peaking above the ancient oak trees in Dinefwr Park
    Dinefwr Castle and Park, Carmarthenshire

    Llandeilo was once an ancient royal capital, but it’s not the castle that makes Dinefwr nationally important today – it’s the trees. This is Wales’ only parkland National Nature Reserve, noted for its many ancient trees: almost 300 of them are over 400 years old here, and many are over 700 years old. The sheer size of the old oaks is jaw-dropping, and it’s unlikely, since the introduction of grey squirrels, that British trees will ever grow to this size again. 

  • Cwm Clydach is a good place for an autumn stroll: a woodland bird reserve on the banks of the Lower Clydach river. The myriad of leaf colours makes this a magical season, as siskins and lesser redpolls feed on the seeds of riverside alders and colourful fungi dot the ground. In winter, buzzards, red kites and ravens soar over the valley, redwings and fieldfares feed on hawthorn berries, and mixed flocks of tits, treecreepers and nuthatches move through in search of food.

  • A seal pup on Marloes Sands in Pembrokeshire
    A seal pup at Marloes Sands, Pembrokeshire by Andy Hough

    This jagged spit of land is the delivery ward and nursery for grey seals, who are born on the Marloes Peninsula during the autumn. It’s also a great place for winter birds, with plenty of playful choughs on the clifftops, while Marloes Mere (which used to be famous for supplying leeches to the medical profession) is now a good spot for winter waterfowl and birds of prey.

  • A red-breasted merganser flying around Kidwelly Quay in Carmarthenshire
    A bird flying above Kidwelly Quay, Carmarthenshire by Lloyd Green

    The Towy, Taf and Gwendraeth rivers empty into the three-pronged Carmarthen Bay, and each estuary has its star features. Llansteffan Castle is the Towy’s, while the quirky town of Laugharne is the Taf’s big draw. The prong is formed by the Gwendraeth Fach and Fawr rivers is the least visited… at least, by people. This means it’s a superb habitat for waders and overwintering wildfowl, and the best place to see them is Kidwelly's old quay, a remnant from when ships used to dock here centuries ago.

  • Pembrokeshire coast seen from the Preseli Mountains
    Views from the Preseli Mountains, Pembrokeshire

    They hardly deserve the title ‘mountain’ (neither struggle over 180m high) but this pair of hills in North Pembrokeshire have one of the biggest starling murmurations in Wales. The birds perform in spectacular clouds at dusk, before settling in to a small conifer copse for the night, while trying to avoid the attentions of the local peregrines and hen harriers. 

  • Blackpill and Swansea Bay seafront
    Blackpill, Swansea by

    In winter the coastguard hut at Blackpill turns into a Wildlife Centre, offering lots of advice on (and binoculars to watch) the 70-plus species of birds that can be spotted on the beach, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) that’s just a short walk from Swansea city centre. Blackpill is an important feeding station for migratory waders such as sanderling, ringed plover and oystercatcher, who stop here to refuel on their journeys to far-flung places like Africa and the Russian Steppe. 

  • A waterfall at Gnoll Estate Country Park
    A waterfall at Gnoll Estate Country Park, Vale of Neath
    Back in the 18th century, you weren’t proper gentry unless your estate had its own arboretum, follies and stunning water cascades. The Gnoll Estate Country Park has all three, set in 240 acres of woodland and wide open spaces, which makes it the perfect place for an autumn ramble.

More information on wildlife in Wales