Spring to life with birds, bees … and buffalos
Nia Stephens grew up on a farm just a few miles from the Welsh Wildlife Centre and Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve, where she now works as the People and Wildlife Officer, managing the reserve and sharing her passion for nature with visitors.
Early summer is a great time for nature here at the Welsh Wildlife Centre, because everything’s so active. It’s the breeding season, so all the birds are singing and building nests and being really noisy, the flowers are out, and it’s the best time to see our most popular animals, the otters and kingfishers.
Late May is a really good time to see the otters. The parents teach the young to fish in the lagoons that we’ve got in the marsh, so you can sit in the hides and watch a whole family of otters, which is amazing.
June’s perfect for seeing kingfishers. They have two broods of chicks, and after the parents have finished feeding the first brood they’ll kick them out so they can get started on the second lot. So the youngsters will come to the pond on the marsh and learn how to fish, and you can sit in the hides and they’ll come and sit on a tree right in front of you.
Kingfisher Threat by Tommy Evans
We use a herd of water buffalo to help maintain the reserve. They’re native to Asia, but they’re great at getting into the really wet bits of the marsh, and grazing the vegetation so that it stays nice and open.
This creates open pools on the marsh which damselflies and dragonflies love, and it’s really good for amphibians – frogs, toads and newts – which in turn provide food for the otters, herons and various other birds that live on the marsh. We’ve got really good populations of buzzards, sparrow hawks and tawny owls. We get occasional visits from marsh harriers, and we’d love to have them breeding here. Then there are all the wildfowl and waders. The curlews make such a lovely sound, it’s so atmospheric.
Blissful Buffalo by Nathan Walton
I went out for a walk this morning and the bluebells are amazing. There are lots of wood anemones and lesser celandines, so you’ve got the white, yellow and blue carpeting the woodland. Out on the marsh itself there are lots of marsh marigolds, which have a brilliant bright yellow flower.
Red campion will come soon, along with stitchwort and ox-eye daisies. Around the visitor centre itself we’ve planted wild seed mixes, so hopefully we’ll have lots of wild flower meadows later in the season.
A big part of my job is trying to engage children with nature, which can be a challenge, getting them away from their X-Boxes and Facebook. Catching them while they’re young is definitely the way forward, so we’ve got lots of stuff here for families - adventure playground, willow maze, a café that serves really good food, and always loads of events for children. So it’s not just a case of coming here and going for a walk. There’s so much to do.