Avocets at Goldcliff
The RSPB chose the avocet as its symbol because this bird shows what conservation can achieve. Extinct in Britain until the 1940s, this beautiful wader has now established a breeding colony at Goldcliff lagoons on the eastern edge of the Newport Wetlands reserve.
House martins at Nash Point
Nash Point, the last manned lighthouse in Wales (until 1998) guides the way to a lovely clifftop walk along the Glamorgan Heritage Coast. The multi-layered cliffs are beloved of geologists and house martins, a relation of the swallow and swift. House martins, as their name implies, usually nest on buildings these days, but cliffs like these are their original home, which they share at Nash Point with ravens, jackdaws and fulmars.
Orchids at New Grove Meadows
‘Improving’ grassland for agriculture has the unfortunate habit of wiping out diversity, but New Grove Meadows' blissfully un-messed-with meadows are a glorious sight in May and June when thousands of orchid spikes, set against other wildflowers, give a wonderful display of colour. The resident dormice also enjoy superb views across to the Black Mountains.
Native daffodils at Coed y Bwl
Our national flower is a staple of roadsides and roundabouts, but it’s still lovely to see native daffodil where it originated, in quiet woodlands. Coed y Bwl is the perfect place to enjoy a properly wild spring daffodil display, with a supporting cast of wood anemones and bluebells.
Bluebells at Brynna Woods
The ruined remains of coal mines have almost entirely been engulfed by woodland at Brynna Woods Wildlife Trust nature reserve. Now it’s managed entirely for the benefit of woodland flora and fauna, as well as providing a natural haven for local people. There’s a lovely bluebell display in spring, dormice live among the trees, and bats have made excellent use of abandoned mine shafts.
Dragonflies at Cosmeston
A pair of flooded quarries are the centrepiece of Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, another great example of industrial ruins given back to nature. The reedbeds are home to 16 different species of dragonfly and damselfly, and the woodlands and meadows give a great display of native flowers.
Rare butterflies in the Alun Valley
The high brown fritillary is a big, powerful butterfly which has gone into catastrophic decline in Britain. Local conservationists are making major efforts to boost its numbers in this last Welsh stronghold. Most of the works is on private land, but the public footpath across Old Castle Down is a great place from which to spot this rare beauty.
Reptiles at Parc Slip Reserve
Parc Slip Nature Reserve is the local Wildlife Trust’s HQ and flagship reserve, a 300 acre oasis with lots of cycle and walking tracks through its grassland, woodland and wetlands. In summer, the fields are ablaze with colour as oxeye daisy, ragged robin, orchids and many other beautiful wildflowers come into bloom. They hold lots of events here, including Reptile Rambles, with one in June and two in July, to discover the reserve’s great crested newts, slow worms, adders and grass snakes.
Nightjars at Beacon Hill
This former conifer plantation is being restored to the infinitely more biodiverse heathland which it once was. And the project is working beautifully, as Beacon Hill once more becomes a mosaic of plants like heather, bilberry, heath bedstraw and gorse, attracting birds like the nightjar, cuckoo, brambling, skylark and stonechat.