Birds to see near fresh water in West Wales - West Wales Holiday Cottages
West Wales Holiday Cottages
01239 810033

Birds to see near fresh water in West Wales

In West Wales, certain birds can be seen near bodies of freshwater such as rivers, lakes, reservoirs and estuaries. The larger ones such as ducks, geese, swans and herons are easy to spot but look out for some of the smaller ones such as Kingfishers and Dippers, too.

Ducks

Many ducks and waders make their nests by freshwater in upland territory. Whether here in the UK or further north or east, it is unlikely that you will see them during the breeding season as they keep well out of sight.

The best time to see ducks is between November and March when large numbers of migrants arrive, descending to large inland bodies of water such as reservoirs, lakes and flooded gravel pits. Ducks which favour fresh water but can also be seen near the mouth of estuaries are Pochards, Tufted Ducks, Wigeon and Golden Eye. The first two of these often flock together and are bold enough to visit urban lakes; they can become quite tame when fed for some time and are resident at the Wetlands Centre. Of course, Mallards remain the most ubiquitous duck and are the ones which do the really loud quacking.

Other water birds

Other water birds are Coot and Moorhen, which pad about in the shallows beside lakes and in spring will often be accompanied by their tiny pom-pom black chicks.

There are numerous herons and swans as well as huge flocks of Canada Geese which are increasing in numbers and have a mixed reception in the Teifi Valley. In late summer and autumn they form massive V shapes across the sky flying to and from their feeding grounds. In flight, they constantly call out to one another with typical goosey honks.

The two most common Grebes - Little and Great Crested - favour fresh water and can be seen at several locations in the area.

Rushing streams attract the amazing Dipper, with its talent for standing on the riverbed underwater whilst searching for food. Grey Wagtails also favour this environment so watch out for a flash of brilliant yellow and a bobbing tail.

We’ve also had an influx of Little Egrets over recent years, so if you see a huge, pure white bird a bit like a heron - that’s what it is.

The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Centre at Llanelli is home to 600 species of birds and hosts events and activities for all the family. Cycle the paths or canoe the waterways to spot wildlife.

Grey Heron

Resident
A large bird with a very long neck which is often hunched up while it stands stock-still looking for fish. Huge wing span. Unmistakeable.
Size: 90cm
Where: Fresh water

Little Egret

Resident
A recent arrival in the area, this is an elegant bright white bird very similar to but much smaller than a heron. When it flies, it tucks its neck in and sticks its legs out to the rear.
Size: 53-58cm
Where: Fresh water

Canada Goose

Resident
Brown speckled body, black neck ending abruptly. Very distinctive white cheek patch. In autumn, see them fly across Teifi Estuary at dawn and dusk in gaggling formations which are lovely to behold.
Size: 100cm
Where: Sea coast, Fresh water

Reed Bunting

Resident
Mostly beside water but may appear in winter fields. Male: black head in summer (grey/brown winter) with white collar. Streaky brown/black back tinged with yellowish brown. Freckled greyish underparts. Female: dark crown and white eye stripe. Tail: blunt. Black with broad white patches on sides.
Size: 16cm
Where: Inland, Fresh water

Teal

Winter visitor
Likes the edges of lakes. Has large head with band of golden orange from base of bill leading over top of head down to base of neck. Face divided into green and wine red. Chest smart grey with thin black lines like Pintail. In flight: green rear wing, white mid wing stripe.
Size: 20cm
Where: Sea coast, Fresh water

Whooper Swan

Winter visitor
Only a winter visitor, it is larger than the Bewick, its bill is yellow with a black tip, the yellow showing all around the base (unlike Bewick where the black extends all the way up at front). It's white all over with black legs. Feeds in fields, on estuaries and lakes. Also on fringes of hills. Bewicks like lowlands.
Size: 145-160cm
Where: Fresh water

Oystercatcher

Resident
Black and white with long, narrow orange bill. Black head and rump with white underparts. Flight shows broad angled white stripe on each wing and white rump with black tail tip. Large flocks often utter high-pitched twee-twee when in flight. They land in a big tumble and set to feeding on shore or mud.
Size: 43cm
Where: Sea coast, Fresh water, Island

Lapwing

Winter visitor
Numbers declining. Distinctive long head crest and loud ‘peewit’ call. Flocks swoop and wheel as if blown by wind. Distinctive broad wings with blunt end in flight. Dark greenish with purple of blue wings, white throat and belly plus inner part of underwing. Shows white band above black tail when in flight.
Size: 30cm
Where: Sea coast, Fresh water, Island

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Resident
Nests in many coastal locations. Like Herring Gull but dark grey back/upper wings and very yellow legs. Wingtips darker than rest of wing. Inner two thirds of trailing edge of upperwing is white. Bill yellow with orange spot. Red ring around yellow eye. Roosts on reservoirs and lakes.
Size: 55-60cm
Where: Sea coast, Fresh water, Island

Common Sandpiper

Summer visitor
Like a Dunlin but legs are dull colour (not black like Dunlin's). It has very white underside but speckly elsewhere and on chest. Bill: medium length, straight. In flight: wide white stripe along centre of wing and white sides on tail. Tail looks rounded/blunt and dark (not white like Green Sandpiper).
Size: 20cm
Where: Sea coast, Fresh water

Sand Martin

Summer visitor
Makes holes in sand or earth banks often beside water. In flight: brown upper, wings and breast band. Underparts white. Wings very pointy and tail has shallow notch. Much smaller than swift.
Size: 12cm
Where: Inland, Fresh water

Mallard

Resident
The duck everyone knows. Male with dark green head, grey and brown body with patches of dark blue. He goes much duller in the summer though. Female is dull brown with patches of purple blue on back of wing when in flight. The only duck which utters a loud 'QUACK'
Size: 58cm
Where: Sea coast, Fresh water

Shelduck

Resident
These are large and goose-shaped with very striking dark green head and red bill with a knob at the base. White neck, chestnut band at front of body then dark upper wings and white underparts. In flight it shows white bands at front of wings with dark band behind.
Size: 60cm
Where: Sea coast, Fresh water

Mute Swan

Resident
The most common swan. White plumage and reddish orange bill with black patch above it. Some birds stay in their territories all year; some move short distances to form winter flocks.
Size: 150cm
Where: Fresh water

Pied Wagtail

Resident
It's that little grey bird with black and white tail and head which you can see hopping about with wagging tail often in supermarket carparks or bits of wasteland. But they love water, too.
Size: 18cm
Where: Inland, Fresh water

Grey Wagtail

Resident
It's grey on top and male is very yellow underneath in spring. Tail is black with broad white edges. Belly goes paler in winter. The whole rear end bobs up and down. Very similar to yellow wagtail, but these are rarer.
Size: 18cm
Where: Fresh water

Dipper

Resident
Always near streams and rivers. They bob about on the rocks and dive into water to feed. They can even walk into water and hold on with their feet while looking for insects. Looks like a female blackbird with a big white bib. Unmistakeable.
Size: 18cm
Where: Fresh water

Kingfisher

Resident
Much smaller than you might imagine and hard to spot unless you’re in the right place! It prefers slow-moving sections of river with overhanging branches out of which it might flit for a few yards. Vivid turquoise and orange.
Size: 16cm
Where: Fresh water

Moorhen

Resident
Dark plumage. Bright red bill has yellow tip. White flank line and white patch under each side of cocked tail. Raises tail when on water or walking and has nervous, springy walk and often flicks tail. Babies are little black pompoms.
Size: 33cm
Where: Fresh water

Coot

Resident
Wetland bird with bright white facial shield; white bill, dark plumage, long pale green legs and very large lobed feet.
Size: 37cm
Where: Fresh water