“I have travelled all over the world in search of fascinating wildlife, but I keep coming back to Gwynedd. For its wonderful diversity of stunning wildlife set against the dramatic background of its mountains and coast there is nothing quite like it!”
For some of Gwynedd's best wildlife take a look at the Species Database where you'll find some beautiful photographs of the region's wildlife along with interesting facts about their habitat and behaviour.
Iolo Williams, Naturalist and TV Presenter
This small shearwater has long straight slim wings and is black above and white below. It flies with a series of rapid stiff-winged flaps followed by long glides on straight wings over the surface of the sea, occasionally banking or 'shearing'.
It breeds in colonies in the UK, on offshore islands where it is safe from rats and other ground predators. More than half the world's population of manx shearwaters can be found in Wales, with up to 16,000 pairs on Bardsey Island at the height of the breeding season. Birds leave their nest sites in July, to migrate to the coast of South America, where they spend the winter, returning in late February and March.
The best time to see them is from March to July.
Best places in Gwynedd to see them are in the Bardsey Sound, from Mynydd Mawr, and from Criccieth Beach and Black Rock Sands.
Atlantic Grey seals are the largest breeding seals found in Britain with approximately half of the world’s population found around the UK coast.There are two seal species found here, the other being the harbour (or common) seal, however the grey is the most common around the coast of Gwynedd. They are curious creatures and can be often be mistaken as fishing buoys. Although they may seem ungainly on land, underwater they can move deceptively fast and are incredibly elegant and playful.
They can be spotted all year round but the best time to see them is when they are onshore to breed or moult. They tend to pup from September to December with the peak months being October and November, so keep an eye out for the white coated pups during these months.
Best places in Gwynedd to see them are at the two major grey seal colonies of the Llŷn Peninsula which are located in the St. Tudwals' archipelago and along the shores of Bardsey Island.
Harbour porpoises are well known for their affinity with tidal races and currents such as those seen from headlands and rocky promontories of the Gwynedd coastline. They are often found frantically feeding at running tides where seabirds follow their every move. They are the smallest and by far the most common cetacean (whale, dolphin & porpoise) species to be found in Welsh waters and are stocky with a dark grey body blending into a white chin and underbelly. They have a small triangular dorsal fin and lack an obvious beak, and unlike their boisterous cousin, the bottlenose dolphin, tend to shy away from boats.
They can be seen all year round in Gwynedd waters however they are often seen more easily during the summer months when the waters tend to be calmer. Look out as they surface with a rolling motion.
Best places in Gwynedd to see porpoises include Mynydd Mawr on the tip of the Llyn Peninsula.
Gorse scrub occurs in Gwynedd wherever soils are light and free draining, in areas that are relatively free from severe frosts. Its bright yellow flowers coconut-smelling flowers are a real feature of Gwynedd. Gorse is very important for birds and invertebrates. Its year round flowering led to the phrase; “When gorse is out of blossom, kissing's out of fashion".
Western gorse is in flower July to September, while the larger European gorse flowers January to August.
The coastal heathlands of the Llyn Peninsula are a fantastic setting to see gorse in Gwynedd.
While its black plumage identifies it as a crow, the chough (pronounced 'chuff') has a red bill and legs unlike any other member of the crow family. It has a restricted westerly distribution in the British Isles and because of its small population size and historically declining populations, it is listed as a Species of European Conservation Concern. Despite this, numbers in Gwynedd are increasing and the loud, ringing chee-ow call is becoming a familiar sound along the coast, as well as in the mountains. It readily displays its mastery of flight with wonderful aerial displays of diving and swooping.
Choughs can be seen all year round but they tend to flock in autumn and winter.
Best places to see them are Mynydd Mawr, Mynydd Anelog and Mynydd Carreg, Trefor, Llechwedd Slate Caverns, Mynydd Cilan, Porth Ysgadan to Traeth Penllech, Penrhyn Cwmistir, Nant Gwrtheyrn, and Carreg y Llan Quarry,
This large, all-black member of the crow family is found across the northern hemisphere and is the most widely distributed of all corvids. It’s larger than a buzzard in size and has a large bill, long wings and in flight, shows a diamond-shaped tail. The sound of the raven’s deep croak, echoing off the rock in the mountainous environment that makes up much of Gwynedd, evokes the vast, harsh beauty of the region as a whole. Eking out a living here year-round, and nesting on remote crags, on a mountain side or sea cliff, these intelligent, powerful and territorial birds can often be seen pursuing one another over the land, sometimes flipping acrobatically on their backs in mid-flight.
These birds can be seen all year round and are best spotted in mountainous areas such as Cwm Idwal. More often than not, a walk up Snowden will also provide rewarding views of ravens in flight.
Heather is one of the most important plants of the uplands heaths and moorlands of Gwynedd. It is a shrub which rarely grows higher than a metre, and can survive through moderate grazing and regular burning. In late summer purple flowers clothing the uplands are a true spectacle of Gwynedd. Red grouse thrive on the young shoots and moths such as the Emperor feed on the leaves. Heather honey is highly valued, so beehives are moved onto the hills in the summer months.
Best time to see heather is when it is in flower in late summer and the best places in Gwynedd to see it is along the coastal heaths of the Llŷn Peninsula and on the slopes of mountainous areas such as Cwm Idwal.
Otters are semi-aquatic mammals and well adapted to life in the water. They have a long, streamlined body which can grow up to 1.2m in males and 1m in females.They mainly live in freshwater rivers, lakes and streams, where the banks are lush or there are suitable islands, reed-beds or woodlands for foraging, breeding and resting and they also inhabit coastal areas. Their habitats need to support adequate food supplies - namely fish, but also birds, small mammals, amphibians, crustaceans and molluscs.
During the 1950s the otter population suffered a massive decline largely as a result of pollution of water courses caused primarily by a new range of new chemicals called organophosphates. Luckily, in recent years the otter populations have started to increase especially in areas in and around Gwynedd.
Otters can be seen all year round and the best places in Gwynedd to see otter is the Porthmadog area around the Glaslyn Estuary.
The Sessile Oak is characteristic of north and western Britain and so a speciality of Gwynedd. It is so-named because its acorns are not carried on stalks (peduncles) but directly on the outer twigs (sessile). It is one of the most important trees of the Gwynedd’s Atlantic woodlands, which are remaining fragments of an ancient woodland type that was once more widespread around the oceanic western rim of northern Europe. Often described as 'temperate rainforest' due to their wet, humid climate and abundance of lower plants and ferns, they have a particularly high nature conservation and scenic value.
Oaks can be enjoyed all year round but to get a real feeling of the ‘temperate rainforest’ the oaks must be in leaf, this is from spring through to autumn.
The best places in Gwynedd to see sessile oak woodlands are around the Porthmadog area and along the Vale of Ffestiniog. Much of this area has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, for the woodlands themselves and for the many species associated with them.