The river Wye and Wye basin is home to a huge variety of wildlife from aquatic life through to mammal and plant. Much of the Wye Valley is designated an SSSI or Site of Special Scientific Interest in recognition of its sensitivity and its need for preservation. We're enthralled by the small to the larger presence in, for example, a veteran Oak. Browse the page for a snap shot of the natural world amid the Wye and where best to enjoy it.
Commonly known as just an Otter these Otters can be found all over Europe and in the Wye. We've seen Otter in Herefordshire and up at the Elan confluence. It's habitat are shallow rivers with overgrown banks. The otter eats fish although it will eat almost anything from Water voles, rabbits, snails, ducks and carrion. Young animals are blind at birth and weigh about 80 to 100 grams.
The Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) recognizes the Wye as a precious habitat.
The Wye was once one of the greatest salmon rivers in the world. Atlantic Salmon migrate from the sea to breed in the tributaries of the Wye. Spawning takes place in a gravel depression called a Redd. They have a homing instinct that draws them back to spawn in their birth stream after 1-4 years in the sea. Some of the tributaries they head for in the Wye are the Irfon, Marteg where this picture was taken, the Tarennig & Bidno and Ithon. They've been found in the Lugg and Arrow but not all the way up because of barriers. In Mid November they can be seen leaping up the river Marteg. To visit check out details here.
The Water Vole below is predated upon by the non native American Mink. Found along our waterways and in lakes such as Llangorse they're similar-looking to the brown rat.
The fastest bird in the sky
The Wye Valley is home to the Peregrine Falcon the fastest bird in the sky. They have been measured at speeds above 83.3 m/s (186 mph) when diving. The falcon feeds almost exclusively on medium-sized birds such as Pigeons and Doves. Typically, the bird nests on cliffs in a shallow scrape on a ledge. The female usually lays 3 or 4 eggs. They are slightly smaller than a chicken egg, and are mottled with a dark, reddish-brown pigment. Incubation of the eggs is about 33 days whereupon the chicks will stay in the nest for about a further 6 weeks. The best place to spot them in the Wye Valley is from Yat Rock.
Nature can play with sunlight
The Kingfisher is widely known but rarely seen by most. It is our mascot and logo. The key to seeing a Kingfisher is to notice its sound. Once aware you'll see them regularly. The Kingfisher is a tropical migrant widespread throughout the Wye catchment. They measure from 16-17cm and nest in deep burrows in river Banksides. They hunt by diving into the water for small fish, such as minnows, as well as invertebrates like dragonfly nymphs. They breed from March to May and have 2-3 broods with seven eggs in each. Interesting fact: Their turquoise color is the result of sunlight and not the pigment in its feathers.
"Choose only one master—nature."
White Clawed Crayfish
The Wye Valley is said to have been instrumental in saving the Red Kite population in the UK. They're a majestic bird that are now common place in the skies above the Wye. White Clawed Crayfish are very rare but have been recorded in the Ennig, Clyro Brook (good population) and the Llynfi among a few others. The introduction of invasive non-native species of crayfish has led to the 50-80% decline of White-clawed Crayfish. Keep an eye out for Grey Partridge in our valleys and vales, which are endangered. If fortunate enough to come across a nest in the ground their eggs are a light colored brown as featured above in the Frome Valley in Herefordshire. Muntjac were brought from China to the UK in the early 20th century. They are expanding their territory and can be seen in deciduous or coniferous forests or even in Urban areas. We have seen them in the Wye Valley and Hereford City. Mind you they are shy and illusive.
Water Crowfoot is part of the buttercup family, It's flowers are like white, buttercups with yellow centers. During the summer they form large mats in the Wye and are a sign of the rivers health. As William Barnes (1801-1886) said about Water Crofoot and the ecosystem of such a river: 'There are few more captivating sights than a river reach swathed in water crowfoot flowers, for what delights might be hidden beneath?
O small-feac’d flow’r that now dost bloom,
To stud wi’ white the shallow Frome,
An’ leäve the clote to spread his flow’r
On darksome pools o’ stwoneless Stour,
When sof’ly-rizèn airs do cool
The water in the sheenèn pool,
Thy beds o’ snow white buds do gleam
So feäir upon the sky-blue stream,
As whitest clouds, a‑hangèn high
Avore the blueness of the sky.
Water Crowfoot is a big player in the ecosystem as it provides nutrients for invertebrates, fish, insects and birds and on through to mammals. For more on this awesome river plant see: Communities created by crowfoot?
Other Wildlife to Look Our For
Lesser Horse-shoe Bat
The Wye Valley is also home to the Wild Boar who were controversially reintroduced to the UK after being absent for centuries. Look out for uprooted and disturbed soil, which are signs of wild boar presence. The greatest concentration in Europe of Lesser Horseshoe Bats, a quarter of the UK’s population, is found in the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley area. If out Wild camping or walking at dusk in woodland spot them feeding along woodland edges. The top spot to see them is Puzzle Wood in the Forest of Dean. Roa Deer are our native deer and can be seen in woodland up and down the Wye Valley. Both sexes have a white rump with no visible tail apart from the Females who will exhibit a small ‘tush’ or tuft of hair similar to a tail at the base of the rump patch during the winter. The rut, or breeding season, occurs between mid-July to mid-August. They're active throughout any 24 hour period but look out for them at dawn and dusk, which is their peak time of activity. We had to mention the Mute Swan - what a bird to see on the Wye or its tributaries. Mute Swans form long-lasting pair bonds. Their reputation for monogamy along with their elegant white plumage has helped establish them as a symbol of love in many cultures.