Within the Gower Peninsula, bordered to the south by the Bristol Channel, the west by the Atlantic Ocean and to the north by the Burry Estuary and the River Loughor, are an almost infinite variety of landscapes and habitats. Whilst the rich terrain of woodland, pine forests, sandy beaches, sand dunes, pebbly coves, salt marsh, rivers, caves, commons and fields are a prize draw for the tourists who flock to the peninsula each year, they also provide Gower with a bewildering number of both native and visiting wildlife.
So important are some of these species that certain areas of Gower have been protected in order that their environment is not faced with the modern-day pressures that threaten to destroy so much of the rest of the UK countryside. Whilst securing the future of these species in Gower, this in turn also has the effect of preserving Gower's unspoiled landscapes for future human generations to enjoy and ensuring the area's interest to the tourist industry for many years to come.
Many species of bat have been identified in Gower. Amongst the most common are:
Many of these haunt Gower's numerous south coast caves and are difficult to spot by the average holidaymaker.
Thankfully, several organisations offer guided tours of certain areas where bats can be sighted (contact the Bishop's Wood Environmental Education Centre, based in Caswell and The Gower Society for more details).
With the diversity of habitat already mentioned, Gower is a bird-watcher's paradise. In a matter of a few minutes drive between locations, the visitor can study bird species as varied as herons, guillemots, kingfishers, buzzards, woodpeckers and nuthatches.
Across the marshlands from Gower bordering the immense Burry Estuary there is also The National Wetlands Centre of Wales where there are specially constructed hides to view birds such as the shelduck, oystercatcher, redshank and curlew as well as visiting merlins, marsh harriers, ospreys and hobby's.
Other places of interest to the 'twitcher' in Gower is the whole of the south and west coastline for gulls, fulmars, cormorants, jackdaws, sanderling and pippets.
Bishop's Wood, Parkwood or Cwm Ivy and Betty Church for birds like tree creepers, nuthatches, pied and green woodpeckers and other woodland birds, and rivers like the Killy-Willy in Ilston for the brightly coloured kingfisher.
Most farm and common land in Gower also has its fair share of birds of prey such as buzzards, various species of owl, sparrowhawks and kestrels.
The Gower Peninsula offers several important breeding habitats for butterflies, amongst the most important Mumbles Hill (small blue, grayling, brown argus), Oxwich (small blue, brown argus and marbled white), Welsh Moor, Llanrhidian (marsh fritillary, small pearl-bordered fritillary, common blue, green hairstreak) and Whiteford Burrows (silver washed fritillary, small blue, grayling, common blue, brown argus, marbled white).
Overton Mere, Port Eynon is also home to the rare silky wave moth, which is only present in two other locations in the whole of the uk.
For anyone with an interest in fresh water life on the Gower Peninsula, Broad Pool on Cefn Bryn must be the first stop. This is the largest pool in the area and is home to numerous fish, amphibians, insect larvae and water plants.
Another site of interest is Oxwich Marsh but this is a more difficult area to explore. Gower also has many rivers. With a pair of waterproof boots and a small net, a visit to the Killy Willy, Ilston, will reward you with finds of bullhead (miller's thumb) fish, eels and plenty of minnows - be sure to return these fish to their native waters before leaving though.
The Morlais river in Crofty is also fun to explore for trout, eel and baby flounder. The pond outside the cockling factory at Llanmorlais on the Burry Estuary is host to the three-spined stickleback as well as frogs and toads in great number. this pond is also frequented by both blue and red dragonflies.
The small pond midway along the industrial estate, Crofty also contains the nine-spined stickleback, but in recent years this pond has become overgrown and is not easy to access.
A sad loss to the area was the large pond located at the base of the graig between Penclawdd and Crofty. These once teemed with newts but was filled in during the 1980s when two sports fields were constructed on the site. The species is now far rarer in the area.
Mammal life in Gower is typical of that found across the whole of the UK. The grey squirrel, red fox (introduced to the area for the purposes of fox hunting), rabbit and hedgehog are all common, the hare and badger less so, but can be spotted in certain woodlands and fields, especially in the northern half of the peninsula.
Various species of mouse are spread across Gower as a whole, as is the brown Norwegian rat, weasel and stoat.
Otters have also made a tentative return here and their welcome presence is monitored and protected. For this reason, the exact locations where these particular animals can be found cannot, at the moment, be disclosed.
Being washed by the Bristol Channel, the Atlantic Ocean and an estuarine tide along the Burry Estuary, Gower's coast attracts a fine variety of fish to its shores.
Angling is a popular pastime here amongst locals and visitors alike, with an average catch including any number of the following species - bass, cod, flounder, mackerel, mullet, pollack, thornback ray and whiting.
Along the peninsula's southern and western coast, it is sometimes possible to spot the occasional whale and porpoise and a few of these animals have unfortunately landed upon the beaches here to meet their untimely ends.
Closer inland, amongst the numerous rockpools of beaches like Caswell and Port Eynon can be found a myriad of smaller marine life. Sand smelts, hermit crabs, plumose anemones, wrasse, long-legged spider crabs and prawns are amongst regular finds at Mumbles, whilst brittle stars, snakelock anemones and the young of most coastal fish number amongst the rockpool community of Port Eynon.
For starfish, arguably the best beach is Caswell Bay whilst the causeway at Worm's Head regularly has a fine residency of baby turbot and rays.
Though there are no rockpools as such on the Burry Estuary coast, Salthouse Point, Crofty offers some interesting discoveries of crab and baby bass, flounder and herring. two of the most popular lifeforms found on nearly every Gower beach are the limpet and the barnacle. Most sea-washed rocks here are literally encrusted with these molluscs and crustaceans and these can make quite hard (and rather destructive) work of clambering over rockpools etc.
Two varieties of snake reside in the Gower countryside - the grass snake and the adder - the former being by far the more common of the two. The common lizard also populates the region in fair numbers, especially at Hillend, Llangennith. The slow worm can also be found in Gower, but their number has dropped considerably in the last twenty years.