The Ceredigion coast is a popular breeding site for Atlantic grey seals.
The bee orchid is just one of many wild flowers found at Ynys-las.
Like salmon and sewin, this lamprey is a migratory species that feeds in the sea before swimming up rivers to spawn.
Cardigan Bay’s reefs are covered in a wealth of colourful sea life such as this sun star.
The Ceredigion coast boasts a diverse range of habitats, including estuaries, coastal cliffs, storm beach, sandy bays and the sea; which in turn host a wide variety of plants and animals.
Sea birds commonly seen along these areas include herring gulls, lesser black backed gulls, oyster-catchers and cormorants. At Birds Rock near New Quay, large numbers of guillemot, razorbill, kittiwakes, fulmars and shags nest each summer. Coastal cliffs are also the haunt of the peregrine falcon. You may also see the chough - the red-billed and red-legged member of the crow family which is a Ceredigion Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP) species.
In summer, the flowers of the cliff faces and coastal slopes are at their most colourful. Plantlife includes thrift, sea campion, common scurvy-grass, sea mayweed, vetch and the sea plantain. Maritime Cliffs and Slopes habitats, a Ceredigion LBAP habitat, are found all along the Ceredigion coast.
The coastal path is also home to a large variety of insects, from bees to butterflies to beetles providing an interesting display of colour and life, particularly through the summer months. In particular, the only two populations in Ceredigion of another LBAP species – the pearl bordered fritillary – are found along the coast.
Much of the coastal path also goes through land notified as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) either for their special wildlife or geological/geomorphological resource.
To the northern boundary of the Ceredigion coast is the Dyfi. The international importance of the Dyfi Estuary and surrounding areas are recognised by the large array of designations and protections afforded to it. There is the Dyfi SSSI, Dyfi National Nature Reserve (NNR), Dyfi Special Protection Area (SPA), Cors Fochno and the Dyfi Ramsar, Cors Fochno Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and the Dyfi Biosphere, currently the only one in Wales. These protections cover a variety of species and habitats including Greenland white-fronted goose, sand dunes, raised bog and water voles.
The sand dunes at Ynyslas bordering the Dyfi Estuary are the largest in Ceredigion, showing all stages of dune formation. They are rich in flowers (including various orchids), insects and spiders (including one nocturnal hunting spider Agroeca dentigera which is unknown elsewhere in Britain) and have recently been the location of the re-introduction of the scarce sand lizard.
An area of saltmarsh, by far the largest in Ceredigion, lies along the southern shore of the Dyfi estuary. The saltmarsh and adjoining mud flats are sources of food for birds, especially over-wintering migrants such as teal and wigeon.
The Teifi estuary, marking the southern Ceredigion coastal boundary, is another area recognised for its plethora of wildlife. The Afon Teifi itself is an SAC and a SSSI in which there are features including the European otter and Atlantic salmon. There is also the Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve which attracts a large number of wildfowl and is also host to various dragonflies, numerous frogs and toads and also grass snakes and adders. In addition, there is an ancient oak woodland NNR – Coedmor NNR – just inland of the estuary.
The Teifi estuary itself boasts areas of salt marsh, sand dunes, shingle banks and slumping clay cliffs and various overwintering wildfowl.
Cardigan Bay is home to an amazingly rich variety of marine animals and plants, from reef-building worms to the celebrated bottlenose dolphins. The area is home to Europe’s largest population of these iconic animals and there are few places where they are more easily seen in the wild, especially in the summer months.
Cardigan Bay is about more than just dolphins however; its estuaries, reefs, sandbanks and caves are recognised as being important in their own right, and its population of grey seals and lampreys are also of international importance. Most of the bay is designated as a special area of conservation (SAC), with Cardigan Bay SAC stretching from Pembrokeshire north to Aberarth and Pen Llŷn a’r Sarnau SAC from Clarach right around the north of the bay and the Llŷn Peninsula.
The area is also home to a large population of harbour porpoises, but they tend to be harder to spot than the more showy dolphins. Basking sharks, sunfish, whales and even leatherback turtles are also occasionally seen from the cliff tops.