Autumn & Winter wildlife - West Wales

Pembrokeshire coast seen from the Preseli Mountains

Views from the Preseli Mountains, Pembrokeshire
The wildlife of West Wales offer the full life spectrum at this time of year: births, deaths, babymaking and beyond! Some aspects, like the baby seals born on the beaches of Pembrokeshire, are super cute. Other moments, such as when the fallow deer get amorous at Margam, well... you don’t know where to look! Here are some of the spectacles you might spot here during these colder months. 

The deer rut at Margam Park

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 becomes 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. Meanwhile, the ladies stand around pretending to be less than impressed. 

Waders at Llanelli Wetland Centre

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. 50,000 wintering waterbirds arrive there 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.

Autumn colours at Cwm Clydach

Cwm Clydach is a good place for an autumn stroll. It’s 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.

Grey seals on the Marloes Peninsula

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 cliff tops. Nowadays, Marloes Mere is a good spot for winter waterfowl and birds of prey, though it used to be famous for supplying leeches to the medical profession.

Waterfowl at Kidwelly Quay

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

Veteran trees at Dinefwr

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, with many 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. 

Preseli Mountains starling roost

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

Winter birds at Swansea Bay

During winter the coast guard hut at Blackpill turns into a Wildlife Centre, offering binoculars and lots of advice on the 70+ 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.

Autumn colour at Gnoll Estate

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.