Montgomeryshire’s magnificent and varied landscape still holds a wide range of habitats supporting some of our most common and threatened species. The flat river plains in the east contrast markedly with the high mountains and exposed hills to the north and the west, and also with the more extensive rolling hills dissected by river valleys elsewhere.
One of the most important wildlife habitats is heather moorland - a rolling mosaic of heathland and grassland, mire, lake and bog. Being confined mainly to oceanic western Europe this habitat has a very restricted world distribution. The diversity of vegetation across heather moorland supports a number of nationally and internationally important species, including birds such as Hen Harrier, Red Grouse and Black Grouse.
Once one of the most wooded of counties, Montgomeryshire’s deciduous woodlands are now mainly restricted to areas with steep valley sides. Dormice have nevertheless clung on in the remaining woody habitats. The western oak woodlands, dominated by the Sessile Oak with Ash or birch, are of conservation importance both in their own right, but are also home to important characteristic communities of birds, mosses and lichens. In the summer they are alive with the songs of Pied Flycatcher, Redstart and Wood Warbler.
Other characteristic features of mid-Wales are the river valleys and flood plains. Montgomeryshire holds the source of the Wye and the Severn, both of which are nationally important rivers. In the past, the meandering of these rivers across their flood plains naturally generated oxbow lakes, willow carr and mires. Although many of these features have now disappeared as the rivers have been modified, there are still places where wet meadows, river shingle and earth banks provide homes for Otter, Sand Martin, Little Ringed Plover and Goosander.
Back in the east is the Montgomery Canal, a nationally important waterway, quite different to other running and still water bodies. It supports one of the widest ranges of water plants and invertebrates known from any canal in Britain, and includes notable rarities. This is due to its long abandonment as a commercial transport thoroughfare, the consequent lack of motorised boat traffic and the relatively unpolluted nature of its water.
Ffridd, a mosaic of grassland, scrub, woodland and bare rock is also found in the east of the county and this habitat is important for declining butterflies and birds, such as the rare Pearl-bordered Fritillary.
Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trusts’ nature reserves are wildlife-rich hotspots and are a perfect place to start exploring the area. From the 230 hectare lake and upland heather moorland at Glaslyn to the 1 hectare field full of uncommon Meadow Saffron at Llanmerewig Glebe. Llanymynech Rocks is Montgomeryshire’s only bit of limestone and as a consequence is packed with unusual wildlife, such as rare orchids and beautiful butterflies. At Cors Dyfi, the Dyfi Ospreys have successfully nested every year since 2011. If you haven’t visited all our nature reserves yet, make that your resolution for the coming year!