Dee Estuary & North Wales Coast
Starting close to Chester on the North Wales Coast, the broad Dee Estuary is recognised as a nationally and internationally important wetland that supports up to 120,000 waders and wildfowl in winter. Unusual species seen here include pink-footed geese, black-tailed godwits, Bewick and Whooper swans, short-eared owls and water rails.
At Talacre, near the Point of Ayr, natterjack toads have been successfully reintroduced. During the mating season, the calls of the males can be heard a mile and more away.
The nearby Gronant Dunes support lime-loving wildflowers including sea holly, yellow horned poppy and several varieties of orchids. Wales’ only surviving colony of breeding little terns also return to a shingle spit on the shore each summer.
Unexpected winter visitors to the promenade at Rhyl are snow buntings that resemble scraps of paper blown in the wind.
The Great Orme‘s prominent limestone headland supports a host of unusual wildflowers, the rare silver-studded blue butterfly, and a herd of feral long-horned, white Kashmir goats.
Isle of Anglesey
Separating the mainland from Anglesey, the tidal Menai Strait supports everything from waders and otters to grey seals and sponges.
At Penmon, offshore Puffin Island no longer hosts more than a handful of puffins but is home to more than 750 pairs of breeding cormorants.
Red Wharf Bay is a vast tidal inlet that supports large flocks of waders and wildfowl as well as occasional otters.
Red squirrels are often seen in the Dulas Estate‘s broad-leaved woodlands.
Anglesey’s north coast cliffs are home to huge colonies of seabirds, acrobatic choughs and breeding peregrine.
In summer, the lagoon at Cemlyn Bay supports a large and noisy breeding colony of common, Arctic and sandwich terns.
Huge numbers of seabirds – gulls, fulmars, guillemots and razorbills – nest on cliff ledges at the South Stack RSPB Reserve.
The huge Malltraeth Sands and marshes support huge numbers of waders and wildfowl and were a firm favourite with wildlife artist CF Tunnicliffe.
The adjacent Newborough Forest, Llanddwyn Island and Newborough Warren are home to red squirrels, one of Wales’ largest winter raven roosts, and all sorts of rare and unusual nesting birds and wildflowers.
On the Llyn peninsula, keep an eye out for wild goats on the scrubby flanks of Yr Eifl.
Grey seals favour the quiet rocky coasts around the Llyn and can be seen ‘hauled out’ on rocks, especially at Porth Gwytheryn and Porth Dinllaen, near Nefyn.
The short, clifftop grass and lowland heath beyond ‘Whistling Sands’ and on Mynydd Mawr are a great place to spot choughs.
Bardsey Island is an internationally-important summer haven for nesting Manx shearwaters, while the Ynysoedd Gwylan (or gull islands), off Aberdaron, support nesting puffins.
Watch for brown hares, common lizards and adders on Mynydd y Craig, above Hell’s Mouth.
Good places to ‘sea-watch’ for dolphins and porpoise include Bardsey Sound, Tywyn yr Wylfa near Porth Ceiriad, and the waters off St Tudwal’s Islands.