Biodiversity in Pontygwaith Nature Reserve
The Pontygwaith Nature Reserve includes a variety of different habitats, each supporting a wide range of plants and creatures. Our explorations and surveys have identified several hundred different species, but we are sure that there are many more that we have either missed or have not yet seen.
The river’s waters, which flow along the southern border of the reserve, provide a home for large numbers of mini-beasts, including freshwater shrimps, snails and the larvae of many types of mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies, all of which provide food for fish and birds. Little fish, like the Bullhead and the fry of trout, sewin and salmon, can all be found sheltering amongst the river-bed stones and gravels, whilst the larger fish might be found in the deeper water and pools. Dippers, herons and goosanders take advantage of this bounty, whilst other water birds might also be seen as they search the river for food.
Grey Heron Adult Stonefly Tadpole
Although the lower banks of the river are regularly flooded following heavy rains, the mixture of stony and woodland shores are brightened in spring by celandine, ramsons, wood anemone, primroses and violets, and small tortoiseshell butterflies flit between them. These areas are also visited by pied and grey wagtails searching out the river flies and other insects that live or feed on the banks.
Celandine Wood anemone
The steeper banks leading away from the river are generally occupied by a range of broad-leaved trees and ferns, although clumps of bluebells and wood sorrel provide welcome splashes of colour. A variety of birds, including long-tailed tits, great tits, nuthatches, dunnocks, wrens, chaffinches, blue tits and robins make these trees their home, and they can also be seen flitting around the grassland areas. The trees also provide a home and food for the caterpillars of many different types of moth and host lichens and fungi of several species.
The lower grassland areas are bordered by bramble hedgerows and small areas of woodland and currently include swathes of bracken and indian balsam, although these are gradually being cleared and replaced by native grasses and wild flowers. The occasional gorse bush is surrounded by harebells, stitchworts and yarrow, whilst neighbouring shrubs provide nectar for peacock, gatekeeper and red admiral butterflies. The area is also inhabited by wood mice, voles and shrews, whilst hedgehogs regularly pass through.
Wild flower meadow Red admiral
The upper grasslands have a number of tree nurseries, housing more than 700 tree whips of 14 different species. These trees include hawthorn, blackthorn, oak, rowan, willow, crab apple and elder, all of which will provide leaves, blossoms, nuts and berries which will support a wide range of insects, birds and small mammals, as well as allowing visitors to benefit from these fruits. Red campion, corncockle, buttercups, foxgloves, forget-me-nots, oxeye daisies, marsh thistles, and other colourful wild flowers are also plentiful in these nurseries. Slow worms, toads and common lizards can all be found on warm, sunny days in these areas, whilst goldfinches and other songbirds visit the teasels, knapweed and thistle heads to feed. An occasional kestrel has been seen resting in the trees, and buzzards regularly soar overhead.
Night time in the nature reserve sees large numbers of pipistrelle bats searching out flying insects along the tree-lined paths and tracks, whilst daubenton bats skim the river’s surface picking up river flies. Rabbits, hedgehogs, voles, mice and rats all explore the grassland areas and hedgerows, whilst tawny owls can be heard calling amongst the trees.
Pontygwaith Biodiversity Index
Throughout our work up in the reserve we have been keeping a running log of the different wildlife we spot. We have also completed a number of specific surveys to get a good idea of what live up in the reserve these entries added to the species recorded in previous management plans mean that over 330 species have now been recorded in the reserve. A full list of all species that have been recorded in the reserve can be found here Biodiversity Index PgNR 2017.pdf.
Brief analysis of the species list shows there is a wide range of taxanomic groups in the reserve, over 200 of the recorded species a protected by one or more conservation designations.