Wildlife and Nature
There is a wide range of wildlife in the Bala & Penllyn area, such as otters, badgers, foxes, squirrels and many types of birds including Red Kites and Buzzards. A short drive away you can see Ospreys and visit RSPB nature reserves. There are many conservation areas such as National Nature Reserves and Bala Lake is a Ramsar wetlands site of international importance. The Berwyn National Nature Reserve (NNR) lies to the east and north-east of Bala - it is an important breeding ground for many upland birds, including: Merlin, Hen Harrier, Peregrine falcon and Red kite.
Bala Lake has 14 species of fish, including the Gwyniad (Coregonus lavaretus), a species of whitefish which is unique to Bala Lake. Around the lake and some rivers, are otters. The lake is also the home of the glutinous snail - Myxas glutinosa. This is the only location in mainland UK where this snail is found. Bala Lake is managed by the Snowdonia National Park Authority (SNPA) as a recreational resource. The Authority also conserves the lake and its special biodiversity. For more detailed information about Bala Lake or the wildlife visit the Warden's Office on the Lake Foreshore (Bala).
The RSPB Glaslyn Osprey viewpoint, at Pont Croesor, has been in use since 2004 - high power telescopes and remote TV monitors allow a close up view of the Ospreys. The RSPB provides a visitor centre at Lake Vyrnwy and an observation point at Penmaenpool in the Mawddach Valley. The RSPB manages reserves at Coed Garth Gell and Arthog Bog, both in the Mawddach Valley. At Llechwedd Slate Caverns there are Choughs and viewing by RSPB remote TV monitirs; nearby it is also possible to see Kestrels, Red Kites and Buzzards.
The Berwyn National Nature Reserve (NNR), is managed by the Countryside Council for Wales, and boasts vast areas of moor-covered upland, totalling nearly 8,000 hectares – within the 24,000 hectares of the magnificent Berwyn Mountain range. The Berwyn SSSI (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) is the largest area of heather moorland in Wales and stretches from near Llangollen in the north to Mallwyd in the south. The area is treasured for its upland heather-moor habitats, which include upland breeding birds and birds of prey - as well as many rare and scarce plants. Red squirrels have re-established themselves in some woodland areas particularly where the indigenous spruce has regenerated. Spruce is the natural habitat of the red squirrel. There are also Pine Martins in the Berwyns.
The Berwyn SSSI has eleven special features of interest which include:
Found on the deep peat, blanket bogs can be found on the ridge tops and plateaux of the Berwyn. The bogs are characterised by plants that are dependent on soil conditions that retain water continuously.
These include a variety of peat forming mosses, known as Sphagnum, while heathers and cotton grass can also be found - interspersed with such species as sundew, bog asphodel, and the famous cloudberry.
Two other rare Berwyn species - bog rosemary and tall bog sedge - are also found in these habitats.
The peat beneath the vegetative surface of the mountains has formed over several thousands of years and preserves within it a unique and detailed record of local and wider environmental change, in the form of plant and animal remains.
The dry heath communities are usually seen on the slightly steeper slopes and drier ridges of the Berwyn. The vegetation is predominately a mixture of heather and bilberry.
Upland Breeding Bird Populations
The moorland and grassland habitats of the mountains are home to populations of a wide range of upland birds. Indeed, Berwyn is one of Wales’ most important remaining upland species strongholds. In other areas these birds have disappeared, as their moorland habitats have been lost to issues like past agricultural improvement, or planting of conifer forestry.
Notable among these are populations of:
- Hen harrier
- Peregrine falcon
- Red kite
These birds are of crucial national and international importance as they comprise a major proportion of the Welsh and UK populations of these species.
Other characteristic upland birds that breed on the Berwyn include:
- Red grouse
- Black grouse
- Golden plover
- Short-eared owl
- Ring ouzel
Many of these species are either resident on the range throughout the year, or migrate to nest and rear their young among the heather. Others breed away from the site, but are dependent on the moorlands for hunting and feeding.
The Berwyn area also includes a range of other important habitats that house a rich range of wildlife:
- Cliffs, screes, and quarries – all host their own communities of breeding birds, such as ring ouzel, raven and peregrine falcon, as well as plants like the rare rock stonecrop.
- Woodlands and woodland edges – these are important habitats for birds like the black grouse. One of the few populations of the rare Welsh Clearwing moth survives in a very restricted area of Meirionnydd and southern parts of the Berwyn Mountains – it spends its early life as a caterpillar inside large mature birch trees.
Large areas of unimproved grassland, lakes, streams, bracken and scrub.
This mixture of habitats, along with the blanket bog and heath, form a crucial part of the upland ecosystem.
For events in the area have a look at the North Wales Wildlife Trust site - The North Wales Wildlife Trust is one of 47 Wildlife Trusts across the UK and one of 6 Welsh Wildlife Trusts. Their vision is a North Wales rich in wildlife and enjoyed by all. Pictures (Buzzard, Snipe, Otters) thanks to North Wales Wildlife Trust.