There is a wide variety of wildlife in the Hiraethog area, brought together by the natural beauty and resources of the outstanding landscape of woodland and farmland, moorland and freshwater. Many of these variety of species can be spotted when enjoying one of the many walking trails in the Clocaenog Forest and around Llyn Brenig and the Alwen Reservoir.
Found on moor land edges where the moor meets grassy fields and in areas of woodland, Hiraethog has the ideal environment for you to find the increasingly rare black grouse. The male is an all-black bird, easily recognised from its red comb, white barring on its wings and short white feathers under the base of the tail. The female is grey/brown with black barring and speckling.
The black grouse is well known for the early morning displays of the male (blackcock). Blackcock gather at clearings in the woods known as 'leks', where they display to attract a female mate (greyhen) by strutting with their tails spread and heads held low. Leks are visited all year round, but the peak of activity is in spring when the females attend and mate with the males.
Fallow deer are the most widespread deer species in Britain, and can be found in the north-east corner of the Snowdonia National Park, in the Mawddach Valley and in forest areas of Hiraethog, spending little time in one area. The deer prefer mixed woodland and open grassland, and graze on grass, herbs, berries, acorns, bark and arable crops if accessible. The population needs careful management to control damage to young trees and vegetation.
Water voles have dark fur, a round body, a short, fat face and have long, fur-covered tails. They are sometimes referred to as water rats, and can be mistaken for the common brown rat, due to their colouring.
Water voles inhabit the banks of ditches, dykes, slow-moving rivers and streams, and grassland, and can be found in the lakes and reservoirs of Hiraethog. They are expert swimmers, and burrow into riverbanks to make their nests, which they line with grass. They are active both day and night and feed on grasses and other plant material, keeping close to their nests.
Otters are now on the increase in North Wales – so keep a look out on the lakes and rivers. Generally nocturnal, the otter is a long, slender bodied mammal with brown fur, often quite pale on the underside and has small ears, a long thick tail and webbed feet. Keep a look out for their footprints and droppings, indicating their presence.
Otters need clean rivers so that they can find a good, varied food supply, including frogs, eels and fish, as well as an abundance of bankside vegetation in isolated places, away from humans, which they can find around the lakes and reservoirs of Hiraethog. They are a protected species but river pollution and traffic are an ongoing threats.
The brown hare can be found on open farmland throughout Hiraethog where they live on a diverse diet – including grass, roots, bark and the produce of farms and gardens.
Brown hare live in very exposed habitats among long grass, where they spend most of their day, moving out to open ground to feed at night. They can run at speeds of up to 70kph, leaving just a small depression in the ground among the long grass.
The Brown hare has undergone considerable decline, the main reason is likely to be changes in farming methods.