Wildlife, fungi and plant habitats in the Brecon Beacons National Park
A wide variety of birds, animals, fungi and plants can be found in our National Park. A long as you know where to look, who knows what you will see!
Biodiversity in the Brecon Beacons National Park
Our National Park is a semi-natural, cultural landscape, moulded by nature but influenced by mankind’s management of the land over thousands of years. The biodiversity that exists in the Brecon Beacons today is the result of these intertwined processes.
A stunning variety of habitats can be found in our National Park, from the exposed open moors of the uplands, to the gravel strewn beds of the River Usk. This variety provides homes for thousands of species of flora and fauna, including trees and plants which are found nowhere else on earth. The exact number of species present in our Park is still not known, as many insects and fungi have not yet been comprehensively surveyed.
Our management of the land over centuries has had a lasting effect on some of these habitats. For example, our tradition of raising livestock has led to the expansion of our grasslands. We have altered our woodlands, waterways and wetlands by cutting timber, replanting trees and building flood defences and drainage systems. Our urban areas, too, have created a habitat in which some species now thrive.
By exploring carefully and following common sense rules such as the Countryside Code and Waterways Code, you can spend many fruitful hours wildlife-watching in the Brecon Beacons. But be warned though, most of our wildlife species are shy and elusive – they rarely jump out at you like they do on television!
Where to watch birds
In the west of the Park, you’ll often see see red kites circling overhead with their distinctive forked tail. For a truly spectacular close-up show, you can visit the feeding station at Llanddeusant.
The uplands of the National Park are good places to try and spot some of the rarer birds. Look out for red grouse in the heather along Offa's Dyke, golden plovers and curlews in the grasslands and wetlands and ring ouzels and peregrine falcons near the cliffs and crags.
More common species that fill the air with song on a summer’s day are skylarks and pipits. You may also hear the mewing call of the buzzard, whose name in Welsh, bwncath, roughly translates as cat-bird.
The lowlands are also great places for bird-watching. Our farmland and woodlands, orchards and meadows, streams and canal are home to a wide variety of species. Look out for the red flash of a bullfinch near orchards, spotted and pied flycatchers in woodlands, yellowhammers singing from their perches and barn owls in the dusk.
As you wander along streams, rivers and the canal see if you can spot the blue flash of a kingfisher, dippers with their white bibs and sand martin colonies in sandy river cliffs.
A winter visit is well worth the trip. Our reservoirs and lakes provide important refuges for wintering wildfowl and waders. Look out for pintails, wigeon, teal, goldeneye and lapwings. You may even see the occasional whooper swan, especially at Llangorse Lake, where you can also see the amazing acrobatic displays of thousands of starlings as they prepare to roost each evening.
Where to watch animals
Keep an eye out for other wildlife as you travel around our National Park. On a summer's evening by a quiet stream, you might be really lucky and hear otters whistling to each other, whilst you can watch the salmon leap upstream on the River Usk as they pass through Brecon in November. And look out for bats chasing down insects along the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, or common lizards basking amongst the heaths and grasslands.
Where to find fungi
Our mosaic of different farmland, grassland and woodland habitats is home to many different fungi.
The pink meadowcap is a beautiful, bright mushroom, growing on short grasslands. All fungi live as tiny filiments in the soil and the mushroom you see is simply a means for the fungi to distribute its spores and start the next generation. Fungi like the pink meadowcap are easily killed off by any distrubance such as ploughing or changes to the soil chemistry such as the application of fertilisers. Pink meadowcaps can now only be found where the land has not been intensively farmed.
The olive earthtongue is a small fungus that pushes finger-like shoots above the surface of short cropped grasslands in autumn. Like the pink meadowcap, it too is easily lost in fields that have been disturbed and so is now rare across the National Park.
Where to look for wildflowers, mosses, ferns and rare trees
Our National Park is a wonderful place to look for wild flora. Highlights include the purple haze of heather, carpets of springtime flowers and amazing insectivorous plants such as sundews and butterworts.
Craig-y-Cilau National Nature Reserve near Llangattock is one of Wales's most outstanding botanical sites. It's famous for its exceptional variety of alpine plants and trees including whitebeams, which are extremely rare. Cwm Clydach National Nature Reserve is home to the largest native beechwood in south-east Wales, and Waterfall Country has many beautiful mosses and ferns.
Pwll-y-Wrach Nature Reserve near Talgarth is fresh and lovely in spring, with wood anemones, lesser celandines, bluebells and wild garlic. And of course in late summer, the hedgerows in our lowlands are stuffed with juicy blackberries.
These are just a few of the many gorgeous places where you can create your own botanical nature trail. To find out more, visit Nature reserves, woodlands, grasslands, farms and gardens.
Waterfalls and wildlife
This fifteen minute podcast contains interviews with Brecon Beacons National Park Authority staff who discuss the rich biodiversity found along the path between Sgwd Gwladus and Pont Melin-fach in Waterfall Country. A geologist from Swansea University also reveals more about the waterfalls found along this stretch.
It will give you a good sense of what can be found in the area, which we hope will tempt you to come and visit.
Click here to download the podcast as an mp3.
Find out more
Biodiversity Information Service for Powys and the Brecon Beacons National Park
Information about local biodiversity and what the National Park Authority and partners are doing to protect species and manage habitats, with up-to-date news on projects and surveys.
News of what’s been flying around our National Park recently.
Brecknock Wildlife Trust
Provides information on nature reserves and conservation campaigns.
Information on invertebrates and their habitats.
Glamorgan Bird Club and Gower Ornithological Society
Information on latest sightings with great photos.
Gwent Ornithological Society
Details of sightings and events.
Gwent Wildlife Trust
Information on nature reserves and conservation campaigns.
Natural Resources Wales
The national statutory conservation body.
All you need to know about bird and habitat conservation.
The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales
Information on nature reserves and conservation campaigns.
Information on woodlands, management and conservation.